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Imagine having all your contacts, appointments, and notes from your computer with you all the time. It was just a dream a few years ago, and even two years ago it was still an expensive dream. With new technology and less expensive products, this dream is now a reality for less than $200. I’m speaking of the new little assistant that fits in your pocket, also called PDAs or Personal Digital Assistants. These little marvels can do quite a lot for anyone’s organization, especially a court reporter on the go. You don’t have time to read your e-mail? Take it with you and read it during the breaks in your day. Most PDAs will automatically download your e-mail from your home PC so that you can read it anytime and anywhere. Talk about convenience!
There are many features that PDAs come with standardly. Most importantly though, it must hook into your home computer. Most of them use a USB Port to hook into your home PC, but some older models use other methods. This way you can type in most of the info at home, and download or SYNC the existing info in your computer into the PDA. Most of the pocket organizers will work with Microsoft® Outlook®, an organizing, calendar and e-mail program for your PC. Some computers are not compatible with some PDAs, so make sure they work before you spend the money.
Other features to look for are memory (how much info the PDA can store), screen quality (some are black and white, others are color), and battery life (most last for a day or two). Memory is usually standard at 8 MB (about 6 floppy disks). This is plenty of memory for the average court reporter. As for your display screen, color is great, but about $200 more to purchase. If a color screen is important to you, then go for it. If not, the monochrome screens are very functional. Battery life is important, so make sure the PDA will keep working long enough to make it through the day. Most will sit in a cradle and charge overnight., but there are those that take regular batteries. I recommend one that is rechargeable, as batteries can really be costly.
One quick warning about batteries: If your PDA runs out of battery life before it is charged, it can lose all the data that is stored. You should have all your data backed up on your computer, so it can be recovered.
The costs on PDAs with these features range from $100 to $200 for a very good brand and model. Make sure that you test it out in the store or ask a friend how they like theirs. Please do some research before you go looking. The internet is a great place to start. One website which gives reviews of computer products is www.zdnet.com. There is an article called “Pocket Pleasers” which tells about five PDAs they reviewed that are under $200. Of the models they reviewed, I like the Sony CLIE PEG-s320 (which looked like the best one for the money), and the world’s smallest PDA, the Xircom REX 6000. There are literally hundreds of models out there, but these two should give you a starting point to begin your search. Other brands to look at are Palm and Handspring.
I hope this helps you find that perfect organizational tool. Take the time to learn it, and you’ll be surprised how organized you can be.