SAN FRANCISCO (05/30/2000) - A handheld is only as useful as the software it runs -- otherwise, it's just an expensive paperweight. Since its introduction four years ago, Palm OS has amassed a rich following of developers, from amateur programmers to professional software publishers, who have created tens of thousands of programs for use on Palm Inc. and Handspring Inc. handheld organizers.
A peek at Web sites like PalmGear (http://www.palmgear.com) or the Tucows PDA site (http://pda.tucows.com/palm/) reveals tons of freeware and shareware, ranging from multifunction clocks to strategy games. Instead of trying to pick the best programs -- a daunting task that would surely mean missing out on a lot of worthy software -- we asked Macworld's Palm-using editors to choose some of their favorite apps for everything from productivity and organization to travel and games.
AvantGo, AvantGo, http://avantgo.com; freeWant to carry Web pages with you on your Palm? There's no easier way than the free AvantGo, which connects to the Web sites you've chosen to read and updates your Palm with their contents every time you HotSync. Even graphics and hyperlinks transfer over, making AvantGo a great way to read your favorite publications when you're on the go.
MultiMail Pro, Actual Software, http://www.actualsoft.com; $40If you've got a modem on your Palm, you can check multiple POP or IMAP e-mail accounts from the road with MultiMail Pro. It offers message filtering, multiple mailboxes, and other features we've come to expect from Mac e-mail programs. The MultiMail Conduit ($30; $20 with purchase of MultiMail Pro) can HotSync either MultiMail or the built-in Palm mail application with your Outlook Express, Claris Emailer, or Eudora mailboxes.
Actioneer 2.0 for Palm Handhelds, Actioneer, http://www.actioneer.com; $20Billed as "the easiest way to get information into your Palm organizer," Actioneer provides a notepadlike way to enter information on your handheld and then lets you include the note in any of the four native Palm utilities.
BrainForest Mobile Edition 2.1, Aportis Technologies, http://www.aportis.com; $30Those of us who relish the organizing capacities of an outline will certainly appreciate BrainForest, which gives you the ability to group action items (notes or to-dos) under common headings of your own choosing and then export those items to the Palm's native to-do list or notepad.
JFile Pro 1.0d, Land-J Technologies, http://www.land-j.com; $25FileMaker Pro won't run on your Palm, but this impressive database program will. Add FMSync Software's FMSync for JFile Pro ($38, http://www.fmsync.com), and you can even HotSync JFile to your FileMaker databases.
Launch 'Em 2, Synergy Solutions, http://www.synsolutions.com; $10Want to give your Palm a more Mac-like feel? This cheap utility is the answer.
It replaces your Applications program with a multitabbed, drag-and-drop interface -- complete with Trash Can!
TealLock 2.10E, TealPoint Software, http://www.tealpoint.com; $12Don't leave your personal information unprotected. TealLock is a clever security program for your PDA that picks up where Palm OS's Security program leaves off. It offers not only password protection but also password masking, and it allows you to add conditions (timed, by keystroke, power off) to Show/Hide Private Records and Turn Off & Lock.
Workout Tracker 2.19, Stand Alone,
Designed to co-opt your PDA as a mobile workout log, this application encourages weight-lifting aficionados and aerobics enthusiasts to log activity specifics and then analyzes the saved information.
Currency 3.0c, Henrique M. Martins,
Need to know the exchange rate for the Albanian lek, Costa Rican colon, Laotian kip, Surinamese guilder, or Zambian kwacha? This foreign-currency converter and calculator includes 165 currencies for everywhere from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, and you can download updated exchange rates daily. You can even define up to ten additional currencies -- perfect for when you create your island kingdom and start printing your own money.
Converter 1.1, Matt N. Marsh,
If you have trouble remembering just how many pounds are in a stone or fluid ounces are in a liter, or how to convert 30 degrees Celsius to Fahrenheit, you need Converter. This program converts most standard units of length, volume, area, weight, speed, and temperature. And even better, the program does all the calculations for you rather than just giving you the conversion factors.
EightBall 1.2, Jaler Group, http://www.wangner.net/babel.html; freeThis one's just the trick for anyone who has a hard time making decisions or needs a little advice. Wondering whether you'll meet that important deadline?
Ask the all-knowing EightBall, and then shake, roll, or spin the ball. Tap it to see your answer: "Outlook not good." Yes . . . it is very wise.
Planetarium 1.9, Andreas Hofer, http://www.aho.ch/pilotplanets; $19What star is that? When will the Moon rise? Where is Jupiter right now?
Planetarium knows these answers -- and a whole lot more. The positions of the Sun, Moon, planets, and 1,600 of the brightest stars, nebulae, and other celestial bodies are loaded into the 99K Planetarium. Scan the heavens in compass view or sky view. It's a little tricky but well worth the effort.
Pipeline Perils, Neil Pollard, http://www.antigone.demon.co.uk/pilot/pipeline/; $10In the classic Mac game Pipe Dream, you had to connect sections of pipe in various shapes quickly while keeping ahead of the advancing flow of water. Neil Pollard's homage is an action puzzle game worth playing.
SameGame 1.0, DejaVu Software, http://www.dejavusoftware.com/same/index.html; $10Like Tetris in reverse, this game starts with a screenful of patterned squares, which you must eliminate. When you tap a square, every adjoining square of the same pattern also disappears, and the remaining blocks slide down to fill the empty space. The more complicated the pattern of blocks you remove, the higher your score -- and the more addictive the game becomes.
TealInfo 2.22D, TealPoint Software, http://www.tealpoint.com; $17TealInfo is a handy application that allows you to view databases of everything from mixed-drink recipes to guitar chords to metric conversions. Posted on TealPoint's Web site, these handy little files can find out what names mean, how much of a tip to leave, how to put on a tie -- you can even set up your very own Pokemon card checklist.
Macworld Assistant Editor FRITH BREITZER, MacBuy.com Senior Editor SUZANNE COURTEAU, Macworld Assistant Editor KELLY LUNSFORD, Macworld.com Senior Editor LISA SCHMEISER, and Macworld.com Editor JASON SNELL contributed to this article.