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From the office to the classroom to the holiday wish lists of family and friends, handheld computers are just about everywhere these days. But are they more useful than a plain old date book? Will they be compatible with the computer I already own? And how, exactly, do you get information into a tiny computer without a keyboard? Today, New York Times columnist David Pogue stops by to answer Martha's questions about the next wave of high-tech gadgets.

Handheld computers are divided into two factions: Palm-compatible and Pocket PC-compatible devices. In general, Palms are more popular with consumers and are compatible with both Windows and Macintosh operating systems. Pocket PCs only work with Windows and are more commonly used in the workplace. Both Palms and Pocket PCs perform the same basic set of tasks admirably, combining your date book, phonebook, and calculator into one pocket-size package, with all of your information cross-referenced and at the ready.

Inputting information can happen one of two ways: You can transfer existing data from a personal computer, or you can write directly on the screen of your handheld via a slightly modified form of the alphabet. Once you've grown accustomed to your handheld's basic functions, software and hardware exists to turn it into a remote control, a document reader, a music player, a cellular phone-you can even access the Internet and your e-mail with a wireless modem.

Consider purchasing a handheld if you need a little help organizing the details of everyday life-or if you just want to curl up in front of the fire with a good e-book.

Personal-technology columnist

The New York Times

Stamford, CT

David Pogue

Author of the "Missing Manuals" series (O'Reilly)

"The iMac for Dummies, Second Edition" (IDG, 1999; $20)

"PalmPilot: The Ultimate Guide, Second Edition" (O'Reilly, 1999; $30)

"The iBook for Dummies" (IDG, 1999; $20)

"Crossing Platforms" (O'Reilly, 1999; $30)

"Macs for Dummies, Sixth Edition" (IDG, 1998; $20)

"More Macs for Dummies, Third Edition" (IDG, 1997; $20)

"Macworld Mac SECRETS, Fifth Edition" (IDG, 1998; $50)

Comments (1)

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January 4, 2019
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