Web & communication software

Mobile Mac

Savvy business travelers know which clothes they can pack to keep their luggage light and manageable, but they should also know how to keep their electronic gear compact and easy to transport. Unless

you're working in Photoshop or editing audio and video files, a Palm OS–based handheld and a few accessories are all you really need. With a little effort, you can set up your handheld to work with Microsoft Office documents, check e-mail, and browse the Web. Today's handhelds make it practical to work away from the office with equipment that fits in your pockets.

Getting Online

If you don't want to feel as though you've been exiled to digital Siberia, your main concern will be getting online to use the Web and e-mail. You can connect to the Internet in three ways: via a cellular connection built into a Palm OS–based device, via a Wi-Fi (known to Mac users as AirPort or 802.11b) network, or through a cell phone that supports Bluetooth (a technology that enables short-range wireless connections).

Devices with built-in cellular capabilities -- such as the Palm Tungsten W, the Handspring Treo family, and Kyocera's 7135 Smartphone -- can connect to the Internet directly. You just need to enable digital-data features through your cellular provider, which will probably charge an additional monthly fee. Cellular connections tend to be much slower than your Mac on a standard 56K modem.

For people who need a faster connection, an 802.11b-enabled device such as the Palm Tungsten C or the Sony Clié PEG-UX50 can connect to wireless networks. Some Clié models also offer slots that can accept CompactFlash Wi-Fi cards. With a Wi-Fi-enabled device, you can connect to wireless networks at Ethernet speeds, in offices or public hotspots (such as those located in many airport terminals and coffee shops).

You can also turn to a handheld that supports Bluetooth, in conjunction with a Bluetooth-enabled cell phone (such as the Sony Ericsson T610, T616, and T68i), to connect wirelessly to the Web. Palm's Tungsten T, T2, and T3 models feature built-in Bluetooth, as do Sony's Clié PEG-UX50, PEG-NX73V, and PEG-NZ90 models. You can also purchase the $129 Palm Bluetooth Card, an SDIO (Secure Digital I/O) card that fits into the expansion slot of recent Palm handhelds (such as the Tungsten E).

Setting Up E-mail

Once you've established an Internet connection, you can use the e-mail applications included on recent devices to check your e-mail. (Check the installation CD that came with your model if the program isn't already loaded.) You can also download third-party clients such as Snapperfish's $40 to $50 Snapper-Mail ( www.snappermail.com ), Corsoft's $50 Aileron ( www.corsoft.com ), or Palm's $35 VersaMail ( www .palmone.com ). These clients can access POP and IMAP accounts and provide basic e-mail functions, including sending and receiving; however, they can't synchronize directly with Mac e-mail clients. Make sure the program's preferences are set to not delete messages from your mail server, so the mail you receive on the road can be incorporated into your Mac client when you return. If you want to keep copies of mail you sent from your handheld, add your e-mail address to the BCC line of outgoing messages.

Dealing with attachments, such as Microsoft Office, JPEG, or PDF files, shouldn't be a problem. The latest e-mail software can hand off attached files to other applications on the handheld. One cool bandwidth-saving option is to receive only subject and header information, so you can download the full text of only the messages you choose.

Web Browsing

If you can't start the day without a morning Web news fix, you'll be happy that you can browse the Web from your handheld. As you might expect, viewing most Web sites on a small screen -- even a high-resolution color screen -- isn't the most fabulous experience. Still, a Palm Web browser -- such as Handspring's Blazer or Palm's Web Browser (free with a new Treo or Palm, respectively, or downloadable from the companies' Web sites) -- can be invaluable for quick Google searches, news updates, or driving directions. You'll want to find out whether your favorite sites offer text-only or WML (Wireless Markup Language) versions of their content; then bookmark them.

Even if you don't go all the way and give your Palm OS device an active Internet connection, you can view Web pages on the go by transferring them to your handheld before you leave. To do this, feed URLs to programs such as DC & Co.'s $20 iSilo ( www .isilo.com ) or Sejoong Namo Interactive's $30 HandStory ( www.handstory.com ) on your Mac; these programs fetch the content of Web pages and store it on your handheld. (The former champion in this category, iAnywhere's AvantGo [ www.avantgo.com ], has not implemented Mac OS X support, but the free utility AvantGo USB Sync, available at http://homepage .mac.com/s_d/malsyncx/malsyncx_en.html, is a good workaround.)

Office, Out of the Office

Web browsing is one thing, but don't you have some real work to do? For lots of people, that means working with Office documents, traditionally a rough patch for Palm handhelds, due to memory restrictions and competing file formats. But new devices pack as much as 64MB of built-in memory, with more available if you use SD expansion cards. Adding DataViz's Documents To Go 6 Premium Edition ($50; www.dataviz.com ), will make it a breeze to take your Office files away from the office.

In earlier incarnations, Documents To Go converted Office files to a proprietary format, but the latest version supports native Word and Excel file formats, making it easier to edit documents on your Mac or your handheld. Excel users fare well as long as they don't mind frequent horizontal scrolling to view spreadsheet cells -- though the horizontal modes of the Tungsten T3, Sony Clié PEG-NX73V, and Sony Clié PEG-UX50 can almost justify the higher costs of those devices.

You don't have to use a tiny on-screen or on-device keyboard to work on your documents, either. Palm makes a compact $99 Ultra-Thin Universal Keyboard, for Palm devices that have the Palm's Universal Connector, and the $70 Palm Wireless Keyboard, which works with any Palm OS–based device that has infrared capabilities. Handhelds such as the Palm Tungsten C or the Sony Clié models that have their own tiny keyboards will do the trick if you're an adept thumb typist.

Bring It All Back Home

So it is indeed possible to be productive with a handheld device, but you'll be glad to come back to your Mac. When you HotSync the Palm to your laptop, Documents To Go transfers the edited versions of your documents to your hard disk. Although e-mail doesn't sync directly, you'll have copies waiting in your Mac e-mail client if you stored the messages on the mail server while you were gone. And most important, you can pack up your whole office again simply by slipping the handheld into your pocket or purse -- even if you're just headed home for the evening.

Thicker Skin

If you're a little tired of your iBook's all-white lid or the silver color of your PowerBook, it may be time for a change. MacSkinz -- which makes thin plastic coverings for the lids of 12- and 14-inch iBooks, 12-inch PowerBooks, and 15-inch Titanium PowerBooks (designs for the new 15-inch PowerBooks are coming soon) -- can give your iBook a brand-new look.

MacSkinz offers more than 30 designs, including clear skins for showing off your own pictures. Whether you want to proclaim your patriotism with the Stars and Stripes (or the Union Jack), express your inner beatnik with cool 1950s designs, or emblazon the word single on your iBook so lookers at the café know your marital status -- MacSkinz probably has a design you'll identify with. And for people who would never dream of obscuring the mark of the Mac faithful, there are solid-color designs with Apple logos in the center. You can even order custom designs.

Each skin comes with four adhesive squares that semipermanently attach it to your laptop, and each costs $30 ( www.macskinz.com ). -- jennifer berger

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Jeff Carlson is the author of Palm Organizers: Visual QuickStart Guide, third edition (Peachpit Press, 2004) and iChat AV for Mac OS X: Visual QuickStart Guide (Peachpit Press, 2004).

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Mobile Mac is the place for tips on making the most of your PowerBook, your iBook, or their sidekicks. We want to hear from you! If you've got secrets to share or suggestions for column topics -- or if you just want to tell us what you think of Mobile Mac -- e-mail us at mobilemac@macworld.com.

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