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10 Handy Handheld Hints

handy handhelds
Have a smartphone or personal digital assistant (PDA)? Read on, and this article will have you saying, “Wow, I didn’t know I could do that with my PDA!”

Here’s something you probably didn’t know about your BlackBerry: It can ask for directions. And your Treo? It can retrieve files from your PC, even when you’re away from the office. Your personal digital assistant (PDA) has been holding out on you, too: It can double as a GPS navigation system, able to guide you to any address in the country.

Yes, your phone can do a lot more than just make calls, and your PDA can do a lot more than just manage appointments. Let’s take a look at these and other ways to make the most of the devices riding shotgun in your pocket.

1 Find Your Way. Although an increasing number of PDAs and cell phones have built-in global positioning system (GPS) capabilities, many do not. If your device falls into the latter category, you can turn it into a robust navigation system by adding the TomTom Navigator 6 (www.tomtom.com). This kit combines a Bluetooth GPS receiver (one that can communicate wirelessly with your device) with maps and navigation software contained on a memory card—just pop it in, and you’re ready to hit the road.

Navigator provides both spoken and visual driving directions and even lets you navigate right to addresses in your contact list. The kit’s compatible with devices like the Palm Treo, Nokia N80 and Dell Axim X51; check the company’s Web site for a complete list. Another option is the Delorme Earthmate GPS Blue Logger & Street Atlas USA 2007 Bundle, which sells for about $150 (www.delorme.com).

2 Easy Mortgage Calculations. Every sales associate needs a good mortgage calculator. If you head to Handango.com, a site that sells software for all kinds of mobile devices, you’ll find plenty of choices. Just tell the site what kind of device you own; then search the listings.

Palm and Windows Mobile users may want to check out LoanExpert, while BlackBerry users can try Mortgage Utilities. These inexpensive programs churn out monthly payment figures, interest calculations and amortization tables, as well as other information. If you use one of them, your clients and customers will be duly impressed by all the figures you have at your fingertips.

3 Manage Your Tasks. Web site Remember The Milk (www.rememberthemilk.com) offers excellent (and free!) tools for creating, managing and completing task lists. The Web site can notify you by e-mail, text message or instant message when a task is due as well as show you location-specific tasks on a map. And, it lets you add tasks to a list just by sending e-mails to a special address. Where does your phone come in? Simple: You can access your task list right from your phone’s browser. Not a bad way to keep tabs on your to-dos.

4 Phone Yourself a Message. At one time or another, most of us have called our voice mail or answering machine to record a quick thought, idea or reminder. Instead of calling yourself, however, call the free BrainCast system (braincast.viatalk.com). Just like voice mail, it stores messages, but it lets you retrieve them online and sends you e-mail reminders.

This is great for saving, organizing and sharing personal reminder notes. You can add memos and tags to your recordings and even e-mail them to others. While you’re limited to calling from three different phone numbers (home, office and cell), this free service could definitely come in handy.

5 Access Your Office. Ever wished you could reach a virtual arm through the Internet to pluck an important file from your office PC? Avvenu (www.avvenu.com) grants that wish, enabling you to securely access documents, photos and other desktop files right on your smartphone. Just leave your PC—and the Avvenu software—running when you go out, and you’ll be able to view, download and even share (via e-mail) any files you want. Avvenu Basic costs nothing; the Plus version, which affords this invaluable access even if your PC isn’t on, costs $29.99 per year.

6 Instant Driving Directions. Can’t find your way to a listing appointment? Need a map of a particular neighborhood? Google Maps for Mobile (www.google.com/gmm) can help. Like its Web-based counterpart, this tool provides door-to-door directions, local business locations and information, movable maps and even satellite images. To download the program, load your phone’s browser and visit www.google.com/gmm. Google Maps for Mobile is free to download and free to use.

7 Text for Success.
Looking for the closest Bank of America? It’s easy when you type in the ZIP code of the area you’re looking and tap into 4INFO.net, a service that provides quick access to package tracking, flight times, business directories and other handy information. To find the nearest pizza joint in Kidron, Ohio, for instance, just text “pizza kidron oh” (but don’t hold your breath—it’s Amish country).

For movies, punch in the name of the flick or “movies” and a city or theater name. Looking for a Starbucks? Try turning in a circle—oh, there’s one. (Failing that, you can text “Starbucks” and the closest ZIP code.) Within 30 seconds or so, you’ll receive a text message with the requested information.

8 Dial with Your Voice:
Many modern cell phones support voice dialing—just press a button and say the name of the person you want to call—but Treos aren’t among them. You have to press the power button, load the address book, navigate your contact list, tap the person’s name and then press Dial. Who has time for all that?

Fortunately, Palm’s new Treo Voice Dialing application (software.palm.com) cuts out most of these steps. In fact, its voice recognition technology lets you call anyone in your address book just by stating his or her name—no training required. The software also lets you dial numbers by voice (“Call 8-6-7-5-3-0-9,” for example), run applications and even compose new e-mail messages. Not bad for a $20 program. Just one catch—although Treo Voice Dialing works with wired headsets, it doesn’t support Bluetooth headsets.

9 Back Up Your Treo. Making backups is like checking tire pressure—we all know we should do it regularly, but few of us do because it’s a hassle. Fortunately, your Treo gets backed up every time you HotSync with your PC—but what happens if you’re out on the road for days or weeks at a time? Or you’re one of those forgetful types who don’t HotSync regularly? Without a current, reliable backup, you could find yourself in deep water if your Treo gets lost, broken or erased.

You can save time—and your data—by subscribing to BackupBuddy.net (www.backupbuddy.net). Whenever you change or add data on your Treo, the new information is automatically, wirelessly backed up to your online account. This clever “trickle backup” system saves you from having to remember to make backups on your own. BackupBuddy.net costs $34.95 per year.

10 Books on the Go. Never have time to read anymore? The next time you’re stuck in line at the post office, pull out your PDA or smartphone and catch up on Stephen King’s latest. The next time you’re stuck in traffic, plug in your device and learn how to become a better salesperson. Thanks to Audible and eReader, two applications available for both Palm OS and Windows Mobile devices, you can listen to audiobooks and read e-books anytime, anywhere.

Fiction, nonfiction, sales and other e-books can be purchased online from sites like eReader.com and Fictionwise.com. To stock up on audiobooks, head to Audible.com, which is home to thousands of leisure and business titles. E-books and audiobooks are downloaded directly to your PC and then automatically copied to your device. 


Rick Broida is a freelance writer and the co-author of “How to Do Everything with Your Palm Powered Device,” 6th edition. Broida does not have any affiliation with the companies mentioned.

The Florida Association of Realtors® and Florida Realtor® magazine do not endorse any products mentioned in this article.