Which PDA: just for typing up plaintext?
January 9, 2006 8:58 AM   Subscribe

PDAfilter: I know essentially zero about PDAs except generally what they do and what they look like. I'm looking for one pretty much just for...

...typing up ideas when I'm at work so I don't have to write it all out by hand, and I think of quite a bit. I also have a blog and think of good ideas to write about, so I could effectively write the whole blog entry at work. Is there a cheapish PDA (color screen doesn't matter much) that I can use one of those nifty portable foldout keyboards, and upload stuff to the HD at home like a USB drive (or with an SD card)? I pretty just need a plaintext editor.
posted by vanoakenfold to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I love my 2-year-old Dell Axim X3i with wifi. The foldable keyboard works pretty well, if a bit cramped. I'll bet you could pick one up cheap on Ebay.
posted by LarryC at 9:15 AM on January 9, 2006

Honestly, if that's all you're going to use it for, I'd suggest the Hipster PDA. It's what I've switched to after years to every PDA under the sun.

Affordable, rugged, lightweight, low battery usage, writes in any language. :)
posted by unixrat at 9:21 AM on January 9, 2006

Best answer: Since you want to use a keyboard, I think you're going down the same road I went down a couple of years ago.

I wanted something as small as possible, instant on, simple file transfer, text file only, decent battery life, cheap.

I've found that true PDAs suck for this kind of thing. The foldout keyboards will kill you in short order just from having to carry two things and attach them, and the thumb keyboards are even worse.

I tried a number of things (Tandy Model 100, HP Jornada, Palmpilot w/thumboard, alphasmart laptop, etc), but found my favorite to be the NEC Moblilepro 7xx series. I have an ancient 750, but I find it perfect for writing txt files to a Compact Flash card, which I then unplug and transfer to my desktop in seconds. I've been using it for years now, and can't imagine anything better.

Now, this is not a palm-sized machine. It's a tiny tiny laptop, just bigger than a VHS cassette. However, it's the smallest instant-on machine with a nearly-full-size, very usable keyboard you'll find.
The later models, 770/780/790 are readily available on ebay from $60 to $150.
posted by Pliskie at 9:21 AM on January 9, 2006

I got an IBM branded Palm M500 on eBay for a song and a dance. It's called The Work Pad C500.
Monochrome for longer battery life.
I got it, a 56k SD card and the full size Palm folding keyboard for less than $100. After that I bought the WordSmith word processing program that's compatable with MS Word and have never looked back. LOVE it.
Highly recommend this barebones set up for any working writer who loves working any other place besides his home desk.
Like me, who has an affinity for coffeehouses and bookstores.
posted by willmize at 9:47 AM on January 9, 2006

Since I always carry a phone with me my goal was one that's as useful as possible. I'm on my third Nokia based on the Symbian 60 platform (6682 now, 6620 and 3650 previously) and very happy with it. If you get one with bluetooth you can get one of a couple of folding bluetooth keyboards.

You don't define 'cheap' so that might not qualify, however my personal mental calculus on the matter is that I'm going to be spending money on cellphones anyway...
posted by phearlez at 9:49 AM on January 9, 2006

if you're not too concerned about price (which you said you were but maybe others aren't) I just got a sprint 6700 and love love love it. it's basically a mini computer with a phone. in fact i'm doing this from it on the shuttle to work over cellular.
posted by bikergirl at 10:05 AM on January 9, 2006

I use a Tungsten T5. I have it mostly for reading books. The T5 is handy for that, because it has a large screen that can seamlessly switch between portrait and landscape mode.

I've also got the folding keyboard for it. I like the keyboard, it reminds me of the old Sinclair QL, and is painless enough to use. It's not too chunky, but unlike the T5 itself, won't fit into a trouser pocket.
posted by veedubya at 10:06 AM on January 9, 2006

I use a Zaurus SL-5500 ($150 refurbished on eBay). It has a built-in thumb keyboard. Runs Linux, so it's kind of a do-it-yourself machine; if you want to use something like the Pocketop IR keyboard (which I haven't tried myself), you'll need to spend some time downloading, installing, and fiddling with drivers.
posted by russilwvong at 10:35 AM on January 9, 2006

Stick with paper. I thought about getting a PDA but luckily ditched the idea. I own a mobile phone, an iPod, a laptop computer (actually two when I count the laptop my employer provides me with). Think about it: Do you really want another electronic device stealing your time? Synching problems... compatibility... remembering to charge... remembering to take it with you... taking it with you (addtional to all the other gizmos you're already shlepping around)...
Lifehacker had a good article about it:
posted by ollsen at 10:57 AM on January 9, 2006

Paper is unacceptable if you expect to create blog entries...you have to write it twice! Plus, it's much easier and faster to type than to write by hand.

I've used a lot of PDAs, and generally I'm dissatisfied with every PDA/portable keyboard I've ever used (though I still use them now and again). Now, when I'm not typing on a PC, I'm typing on my Alphasmart Neo ($250, www.alphasmart.com).

Older models (the 3000 is the best) are available online, but the Neo is thinner, has variable sized fonts, more text storage and a much nicer keyboard. Three AA batteries last forever (advertised at 750 hours). It transfers data to a PC or Palm via IR, or to PC via USB (older models could only output to a word processor/text editor by acting as a keyboard device, quite slow; extra software was required to transfer from PC to Alphie; the Neo comes with management software to make transfers back and forth quick and easy).
posted by lhauser at 12:06 PM on January 9, 2006

palm m130 goes for $60 used on amazon (cheaper on ebay?). You can get a keyboard connected to it, connect to your pc via usb cable, contains a slot for an SD-memory card to store your data.
posted by indigo4963 at 12:39 PM on January 9, 2006

I use a treo 600, as I found myself at a point needing both a new phone and a pda. The week after I plunked down the cash, the 650s came out. Go figure.
The big downside to the 600 is the lack of a removeable battery, which means that I am thoroughly hosed should the battery ever die.

I do have a sort of hipster pda, too. I got a freebie notepad with a faux leather slip. That thing has been invaluable. Much quicker to just jot down someone's number or address than attempt punching it into the treo. The main reason I need it is for catching messages on the move, email, text, or otherwise.
If you can honestly justify needing a pda, I'd also recommend in getting something that either has a keyboard you are comfortable with, or has the optional accessory of one. I can bang out a reply or an entry with one in a fraction of the time it takes to attempt to use the buttons (and I have tiny hands!).

Oh, and of course: make sure that whatever you settle on is compatible with your current computer system.
posted by blueneurosis at 1:15 PM on January 9, 2006

Given your stated desires, I'll ditto the recommendations of a used Palm (say an m505) and a Palm Portable Keyboard. (But for me the PITA factor of setting up the keyboard and device, putting it away again, and having to sync the Palm and cut and paste or otherwise use a special application to get at the document on my desktop was too much to do it much.)
posted by Zed_Lopez at 3:08 PM on January 9, 2006

I posted a similar question a while back. Most of the responses are duplicated here - I'm just linking to it for completeness.
posted by whatnotever at 4:30 PM on January 9, 2006

I have a Stowaway XT, and it's very comfortable to type on, and gets very small when folded. They make versions compatible with either Palm or Clie (and others). I've used it with 3 Clies; an SL10, a TJ25 and a TJ35. For your needs, I'd recommend a used SJ20 or something similar. What I like about Clies is the built in support for using the memory stick as an external hard drive. I also like their form factor. But, you are best off going to one of the electronic superstores, try out the Stowaway - if you like it, then you can compare the various models of PDA that it works with to find your perfect fit (size, shape, features, price).
Good luck.
posted by birdsquared at 7:36 PM on January 9, 2006

If you like Pliskies idea of an instant-on, one-piece, B/W, long battery-life, CF equipped, nearly-full-size keyboard device I'd also check out the Psion 5mx. They may actually be smaller than a VHS cassette.
posted by Akeem at 4:15 AM on January 10, 2006

Response by poster: I ended up getting a NEC Mobilepro 770, and it's exactly what I'm looking for. WaytogoFilter & Pliskie! I got it for $70 on eBay.
posted by vanoakenfold at 8:20 AM on January 19, 2006

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