Sunday, January 18, 2004

Proporta 3-in-1 stylus Review

Proporta are marketing a replacement stylus for the T|E which has a ballpoint pen under the stylus tip (it is called '3-in-1' because it has a rest pint as well). Now I have never been a great fan of these multi-function replacement stylii because the designers have either been focussed on making a decent pen and end up with a second-rate stylus, or they make a decent stylus but the pen is fiddly and uncomfortable to use. I am pleased to announce that the Proporta model has neither of these vices. In use as a stylus it is almost indistinguishable from the perfectly good one which comes with the T|E, and because you access the pen by simply pulling off the plastic stylus tip, which is held on by friction alone, the pen function is just as well balanced and easy to use as the stylus.

Proporta 3-in-1

Here are a few detailed observations:
1. It feels solid and well-balanced but actually weighs slightly less than the original stylus (8 as opposed to 9 grams). I guess that this is because the shaft is made of aluminium, not steel.
2. The plastic stylus-tip is considerably longer than the one on the original and hollow to incorporate the ballpoint. The consequence of this is that it has a little 'give': if you press moderately hard the tip bends very slightly. While this feels a little odd at first, it is actually a benefit, since it makes writing feel more natural (a pad of paper will give slightly when you write on it).
3. The reset pin is very long and takes quite some time to unscrew - If you often have soft-resets, you might want to install Crash.
4. There are no instructions for changing the pen refill. It took me a few minutes to work out that you have to unscrew the reset pin and then push the ballpoint up the barrel. It helps to have an instrument to do this: I used a 2mm Allen key.
5. Kudos to Proporta for the packaging. Though it is plastic, it is easy to open with your bare hands and is easily resealable, which answers the question: where do I keep the original T|E stylus while I am using this replacement?

Ballpoint Tip

Reset pin

At only �6.95, and with Proporta's very low shipping charges, this is a must-have if you regularly find yourself without a pen, and a good value, good quality replacement if you lose or damage your original stylus.


I have been trying out Slap from Handshigh again - I say again because this must be the 3rd or 4th time I have thought to myself: 'That is a really good idea for an app. I am sure it will be useful.' And again I have been disappointed.

I am generally a great fan of Handshigh software, and have been using ToDo+ and ThoughtManager since I got my first Palm. ToDo+ has been largely superseded by the Tasks app on the T|E, but Thoughtmanager is still my favourite place for lists. There are list managers and outliners out there with vastly higher levels of functionality, but Thoughtmanager comes closest to the pen and paper experience and that clinches it for me.

Similar thinking seems to have gone into Slap: paper users tend to write everything down on a sticky note or the back of an envelope, then transfer it to to-do lists, diaries, address books etc. later. Slap is just that, a scratchpad where you can write down information as it comes in, which allows you to transfer it to the appropriate place on your Palm at a later date. Just highlight some of the text in Slap and tap the relevant icon for Calendar, Contacts, Tasks or Memos and Slap does the rest. If there is a date in the highlighted text, it will make your appointment or to-do at that date, and similarly for times. And if it can work out which bits of your notes are names, which address, and which phone numbers, it will automagically put those bits in the relevant fields of a new contact.

Very clever, and good value at $12.95, but somehow I can't quite get on with it. And if I strain my memory back to the time when I used a Filofax, I can work out why. I personally feel much more confident if, the first time I write down some information, I put it straight into the right place for it. Only that way am I sure that I will not miss or lose something. Which brings me round to one big criticism of Slap. When you tap the 'Clear' button to clear the scratchpad after you have presumably transferred all your data elsewhere, it gives no warning and does not archive what was there. So if you have accidentally missed one of the items on your list, it will disappear forever. It is much much safer to use a memo as your scratchpad. (In all fairness I should mention that Slap does have an 'Export to Doc' option in the menu, and it is easy enough to copy all the text to a memo before hitting 'Clear', but these are things you have to do. If you use memos, there is no need to remember to save, since there is no need to delete anything in the first place. And if you are tidy-minded and do not want to have all those virtual backs of envelopes littering up your Palm, they will be archived on the PC.)