Evolution of my PDAs

In the days before smartphones, the functions of PDAs coalesced into four basic Personal Information Management categories:  Calendar, Contacts, Tasks, and Notes.  Smartphones added email to the list, but Tasks and Notes fell by the wayside.  This is the story of my journey through the available hardware.
Through college and grad school, I kept an insanely complicated schedule on paper.  It worked pretty well.  After graduation, I got my first Palm, and it did the same things but much much better.  I used Tasks to rehab my first house.  Notes was like my personal hard drive, where I stored hundreds of things like my car's maintenance history and which color electrical wire is hot and which is neutral.  I had three Palms, but after some time with a Treo, I decided I didn't want to pay monthly data fees and switched to an iPod Touch.  The transition was not smooth, and the iPod doesn't take well to being used as a PDA.  A lot of the backup and sync solutions were pretty dodgy hacks.  I've chosen the Droid now because I use a lot of Google services.

There are some really delightful things about the Droid.  The app Locale does things like the MacOS 8 Location Manager used to do.  I've often wondered why my Windows laptop is too dumb to change the default printer when I take it home from the office.
(That's the Location Manager module on the Control Strip they put at the bottom of the MacOS 8 screen.  I found this image buried in a help file on a Cisco page.  We have such short memories.)

I thought I was doing myself a favor when I made a point to use Microsoft Outlook to sync all my PIM data between my iPod Touch and my PC.  But it turns out that the Droid's integration with Outlook is no better than the iPod's.  I'm now faced with manually transferring items--for some of the data, one by one--from Outlook to something the Droid has access to.  This feels like a huge miss.

So here I am, depending on technologies whose user interfaces keep changing, that go obsolete, that require me to trust companies with my data, etc.  I actually do trust Google with most of my data, but there are some things I'd rather keep to myself, and for that I want local backup and sync.  I suppose I could go back to paper.  To be honest, it might work just as well.


  1. Have you looked into GooSync? You could sync your Palm with GooSync and then transfer the data seamlessly into your Droid.

  2. I did use GooSync happily while I had the Treo. That was when I started using Google Calendar heavily. Unfortunately this transition is from the iPod to the Droid - the Treo is still chugging along as an MP3 player.

  3. I'm very happy with my Droid Incredible. I've migrated a lot of my PDA dependency to Google services over the past several years and it was an obvious choice. The flexibility with Palm data has been replaced by the flexibility of Google's services. Regrettably that means the cost of a cell phone data plan. That said, I'm still thrilled with Google's openness vs the proprietary nature of Apple.

    Still a little hung up on note-apps. I think SpringPad seems good, but seems complex. EverNote is nice, but not lean. Messed with GNote in an attempt to keep data from oozing from my Google accounts into other services. Still shopping...

    My PDA lineage:
    Palm Pilot
    Palm III
    Handera 330
    Palm Zire 72
    Palm Treo 700p
    HTC Droid Incredible

  4. I had a PDA years ago and realized, right after the battery died and I lost a lot of info, that it wasn't for me. I still maintain my Week at a Glance appt. book and am happy for it. I have had a Blackberry for 18 months. The Google calendar feature that I use to coordinate my schedule with my secretary fails on a regular basis. I don't alwways get the appointments that she schedules for me and she doesn't always know where I plan to be. This causes me to routinely verify our records.
    All of these systems seem to be perfectly fine as long as perfection isn't required.

  5. I have a Droid Incredible. While the Sync app with my laptop is not great, it is alright. I sync my calendar in Outlook with Google Calendar Sync. It then updates automatically with my Droid. I am thinking of leaving Outlook entirely. I manually update my google contacts once every couple of months and then my phone syncs with that. I especially like how it pulls data from Facebook, Twitter, and other social media apps, but the downside is a series of entries for the same person that have to be manually linked. I think these issues will resolve themselves in the next couple of releases, and with the new version on MS Office-after all the patches, of course. Android is my favorite new operating system and browser. Google is my God.

  6. Kevin, have you tried using Google Docs for notes? I have over 100 little plain text notes in there, sorted into folders. Once you have them in there, editing is quite easy on the PC web interface. On the Droid, I access them using either the mobile web or Docs To Go.

    Dave, I'm surprised you have problems with Google Calendar. In my experience it's the most rock solid product Google offers, right up there with Gmail - make no mistake, many of the others have bugs or missing functionality. But then I have no experience with the Blackberry end of your system.

    Robert, I've got a very similar setup. I've now migrated my contacts entirely to Gmail, I no longer use Outlook to upkeep them. Calendar too.

    The only thing left that really isn't working well is Tasks. I have them syncing with Outlook, but the app on the Droid side isn't very good. Most people sync to websites like Toodledo and Rememberthemilk, but I don't want to trust a small company with that information.

  7. I think GDocs forces all sync'd docs into one folder. My 700+ memos are better suited to tagging as opposed to being lumped in one folder. Perhaps my archiving skills should improve and that wouldn't be a problem ;)

    Robert - dump Outlook for Thunderbird. Add Lightning and Google Contacts to Thunderbird. All are free, cross-platform, and tie to Google. Use Lightning to tie to CalDav link of [multiple] Google Calendars. Google Contacts syncs to addressbooks within Thunderbird Addressbook as separate lists. They function as one addressbook, but don't force all of the contacts together.