The Psion Page

psion.jpg (21732 bytes)

Picture from the Psion UK web site.

I have found many key uses for the Psion 5mx that make it, for me, an invaluable tool.

This page describes some of those uses and provides some useful pointers for Psion users.

bulletThe 5mx vs the 5 - is it worth upgrading?
bulletPractical and valuable use of object embedding
bulletTaking notes whilst driving!
bulletProject planning
bulletEmail using infrared cellular technology
bulletMobile phone address book management
bulletSynchronisation with Outlook
bulletBanking, expenses and financial management
bulletRoute planning throughout Europe at street level with/without GPS support
bulletJump to any Document or Program
bulletSome useful Psion links

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The 5mx vs the 5 - is it worth upgrading?

I have found the move very worthwhile, despite some early evaluations saying that it was worthwhile buying but not worthwhile upgrading.

Here are some of the benefits that I have enjoyed:-

bulletThe 5mx is much faster. This was especially noticed on my banking application which was previously tedious and now nips along at speed
bulletGreater memory: the 5mx has 16Mb which is twice that of the 5. This means that either more data can be stored and/or more programs run simultaneously. It is interesting that the default options for the Psion assume that only one application will be run at a time, and yet one of its key benefits is that by running many applications at once you don't need to keep closing and opening documents - just leave them all open.
bulletThe email application is built in. To use email on the 5 you have to install Message Suite and this is an extensive and sizable application and so occupies a significant amount of the available memory. To have the application built-in saves all of that memory.
bulletThe Word application contains greater functionality including the very useful Outline View. It can be very difficult manipulating a sizable document on a small screen and by flipping into Outline View, expanding or collapsing the outline levels, it is easy to understand the structure of the document and to jump into the text at the desired point.
bulletThe Sheet application contains greater functionality including a Sort command.
bulletThe Agenda application contains greater functionality including a new Busy View.
bulletNew Jotter application.
bulletNew Contacts application that is integrated with the Email system and can be readily synchronised with any PC application that supports VCard. Psion ought to have provided a means of converting the 5's contacts database into Contacts, but they did not - however, and excellent shareware application is available to do this at no cost.
bulletThe Psion case on the 5 tended to peel. Although it looked great when new it rapidly became unsightly. The 5Mx has a much smarter silver and black case which is not subject to peeling.

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Practical and valuable use of object embedding

Object embedding is something that many people do not understand and cannot see a practical use for. Here are some useful ideas for object embedding:-

bulletCreate a database of useful facts ensuring that it has a field of type MEMO. Occasionally you will have so many notes that an individual record can become unmanageable. Occasionally you will wish to include private data in a record. Occasionally you may wish to have a table of data in a record. These are all instances where object embedding would be useful...
bulletTo improve unmanageable notes or to include private notes, in the MEMO field choose "Object / Insert Object / From Program Word". This will create an embedded Word document. The object will appear as an icon in the database record. To protect private information, whilst the embedded Word document is open, simply password protect the document. I usually then include a HINT in the database record somewhere to help me recall the password (because if you forget it then there's no way of recovering the embedded document information).
bulletTo include a table of information, proceed as above but choose "From Program Sheet" and set up the table in a spreadsheet. You can achieve impressive styling by shading titles, including borders, and then opting to turn off the grid and the grid labels. The result will appear in the database record as a formatted table of information. If the table grows to an unwieldy size then you can select it and choose "Object / Format Object" and then specify it to be displayed as an icon.
bulletUse the same idea to achieve tables in Word documents.
bulletChoose to embed Sketches to achieve drawings in Word documents.
bulletEmbed an emailed agenda in a diary entry so that you have all of the details immediately to hand. You have to do this by embedding a Word document and then pasting the email contents into the Word document.
bulletEmbed descriptive documents in Task entries so that you have all of the information about the task in a neat format without cluttering up the Agenda display.

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Taking notes whilst driving!

Have you ever tried writing down phone numbers and directions and other notes whilst driving? That could be fatal.

The alternative is that the Psion 5 / 5mx can be used as a voice message recorder without even switching it on. There are buttons on the exterior that can be pressed when picking up the Psion and you can simply talk to it. The voice recorder keeps note of the boundary between recording sessions, so if you've made several sets of voice notes in one file you can readily skip from one note to the other, and, if required, split up the file later.

If the notes are for your diary (for example) then you don't even need to re-key them later, you can simply embed them into the appropriate diary entries.

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Project planning

Projects are often under-planned. With an excellent planning tool running on the Psion, initial plans can be explored at a very early stage in the project discussions with excellent planning features.

I do this by using Plan 5 written by Andy Clarkson. This provides gantt charts, pert charts, task lists, resource usage, holiday - all the things that you would expect from a full blown project planning system. Another neat feature is that every task can have behind it a complete set of notes. Plan handles this by creating a directory of documents tagged back to the tasks - this is of no consequence to the user since the user is not aware of this mechanism, but it does mean that an entire Word document, including embedded objects is available for every task.

An unusual use of Plan is to create a dummy project, take advantage of Plan's ability to collapse the structure of the project, and use it as an indexing system to a complete and complex set of related documents.

Finally, Plan has the ability to transfer projects to and from PC tools such as Microsoft Project. So you can explore possibilities on the move and kick the project plan off using Plan on the Psion, even tackling feasibility issues in early project discussion meetings. Once the project is underway, or maybe about to be launched, then port the plan onto a PC and use higher powered integrated tools on the PC.

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Email using infrared cellular technology

Ever tried picking up your email from an airport departure lounge?

A really easy way of doing this is using the Psion's inbuilt email system in conjunction with a cellular phone containing an IRDA compliant modem.

I used to use a Nokia 8810 which is really tiny - about the size of a box of matches. Today I use a Sony Ericsson P990i.

You can place the phone somewhere near to the Psion and go straight online (you can do this with your laptop too). Read and write emails, just pull down selectively those emails that need your immediate attention, and also browse the web.

Since I haven't yet got synchronisation to work (see below), having only just started to look at it, I need to ensure that important business emails are properly filed on my PC system. To achieve that I follow this strategy: the Psion always shows you your remote inbox before downloading any email, mark up the important emails, and choose Copy to InBox - this leaves the original on the server to be downloaded later on the PC, the Psion will track which ones are new ones even if you leave them on the server; when writing replies then CC yourself - that way you will receive a copy of your own reply when you eventually download onto the PC.

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Synchronisation with Outlook

If for PC email you use a Microsoft Exchange Server then the 5mx is capable of interacting and synchronising email between Outlook and the Psion. This not only means the obvious, but a special service is created on the Psion for email that you wish to write on the Psion but send from the PC, that mail will be held separately on the Psion and synch'd back to the PC at the next session.

At present, it would appear that if you use Outlook with Internet Email (rather than linked to an Exchange server) then the synchronisation does not work. I believe that the document implies that it is only designed to work with an Exchange server and hence doesn't work at all with Internet Email, whereas in practice some items do get synchronised. I'll update this section later when I've bottomed out the issue.

All the software to do this synchronisation is on the PsiWin CD-ROM.

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Mobile phone address book management

If you use a phone like the Nokia 8810 then you can also maintain its internal telephone directories, synchronise them with your Psion Contacts database (which in turn can be synchronised with an Outlook contacts database) all over the infrared airwaves, and more by using PhonemanPro.

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Banking, expenses and financial management

I manage my finances with RMRBank. This is an excellent sophisticated finance management package including multiple accounts, budgeting, expenses, vehicle expense monitoring and more. It can readily interface with packages using standard accounting formats - for example Microsoft Money. Also includes bank reconciliation and archiving and password locking. The password mechanism is cleverly implemented so that if you switch away from the application and then switch back then you need to re-supply the password - prevents nosey people from poking around your accounts whilst you've left the Psion on your desk <g>.

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Route planning throughout Europe down to street level with/without GPS support

I recently purchase some brilliant route planning software by Palmtop Software.

I bought three modules, each at 49 (you can get them slightly cheaper if you hunt around on the internet <g>):-

bulletRoute Planner Millennium - Europe - provides sophisticated route planning throughout the whole of the UK and Europe. Most people have seen and appreciated Autoroute, and this package does at least as well if not better.
bulletStreet Planner '99 - UK - provides not only detailed street maps of every town and village in the UK, but (unlike Autoroute Express 2000) it can also plan street level routes, taking into account one way streets, or if you're walking allowing you to breach one way street rules but not to walk along main roads.
bulletStreet Planner '99 - Europe - provides the same street level planning but for 30,000 towns and villages throughout Europe.

These packages have truly sophisticated planning features - don't assume that because they run on a palmtop computer that they must be very basic - they are far from that.

The designers accept that you may not have room for all of these maps. You can place a CD in the PC and readily choose towns, counties, countries and load them onto the Psion. From the Psion Control Panel you can readily uninstall any that you're no longer using.

You can connect a GPS device to the maps and they will provide a moving map display (say in the car as you're driving along) so you can see your progress along the routes.

There are many overlays available enabling you to place railway stations, hotel chains, theatres, airports etc onto the maps (they all share the same overlays - so an overlay created for one will work with the others) and you can create your own overlays and add into them your favourite places - or maybe all of your company's offices.

Imagine arriving at an airport in (say) Italy late at night, picking up a hire car, and then wondering how you're ever going to find your hotel. This software will take you the quickest/shortest/preferred route to the street containing your hotel. If it's near an intersection of streets (you should ask the hotel) then it will take you right to your door; and it will tell you how long it's going to take to do that.

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Jump to any Document or Program

Macro5 will enable you to create an array of hot keys to launch all kinds of documents and programs at the touch of a button - well two buttons actually - the first key (for example: Fn-N) brings up a graphical menu of your macro keys (in case you've forgotten what they are) and the second key then brings up the required document launching it if it's not already running. The macro keys can also type text into an application (for example: an email signature), trigger a Psion OPL script, launch the web browser to a page, etc.

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Some useful Psion links

Here are some of my favourite sites and useful links:-

bulletPsion UK - www.psion.co.uk
bulletSteve Litchfield's 3-Lib site - 3lib.ukonline.co.uk
bulletRMR Software - www.rmrsoft.com
bulletPascal Nicholas's freeware site - http://pnicolas.epocboulevard.com/

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