Palm Desktop 4.0, the software that lets you sync your Palm handheld with your Mac running OS X, has finally arrived. But besides the program’s synchronizing capabilities and Aqua look-and-feel, there are few improvements to its interface or features, making it a disappointing upgrade.
While it’s good that Palm owners no longer need to sync in Classic, a big problem for Palm Desktop users is that the OS 9 and OS X iterations of the program cannot share a data file, so if you install Palm Desktop in your OS 9 and OS X Applications folders and then synchronize under each operating system, your data will end up out of sync. You should also be sure that you want to upgrade to Palm Desktop 4.0 in the first place, as simply running the program’s installer removes all previous versions of Palm Desktop from all mounted hard drives.
For OS X users, version 4.0 actually takes a small step backward. In version 2.6.3, the Instant Palm Desktop extension generated an icon, in the menu bar, that showed and let you create events, to-do items, and contacts, even if Palm Desktop wasn’t open. This version doesn’t include a dockling (a helper component that stays in OS X’s Dock and provides a pop-up menu with information and commands), as Power On Software’s Now Up-to-Date and Contact 4.1 and later do. Instead, the Instant Palm Desktop menu appears only when you click and hold on Palm Desktop’s Dock icon. Inconveniently, the application must be running for this to work.
Palm Desktop now supports vCard and vCal files, making it easy to share address-book and calendar items, respectively, with other applications (including Microsoft Entourage and the new Contacts feature of Apple’s iPod).
Getting in Sync
Synchronizing performance was generally quick, except for the initial sync, which took more than 10 minutes. But our attempts did not always work. On several occasions, the HotSync Manager would work correctly one time and then wouldn’t work again until we restarted our Mac.
Synchronizing in OS X works only via USB. If you have an older Palm cradle that uses your Mac’s serial port, you’ll be able to connect it to your Mac with the help of Keyspan’s USB PDA Adapter (other manufacturers’ adapters are not supported). At press time, Handspring didn’t support Palm Desktop 4.0 for use with any of its products, although there were widespread reports that HotSync worked with Handspring devices.
The release of Palm Desktop 4.0 has also allowed other companies that make OS X applications to update their conduits, which enable synchronizing with the Palm. Rewritten conduits for the OS X versions of Now Up-to-Date and Contact, FileMaker Mobile, Chronos Organizer, and Microsoft Entourage have been released or announced. And if you’re waiting on any of these, you should continue to synchronize with your preOS X system and wait before upgrading to Palm Desktop 4.0.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
Palm Desktop 4.0 is OS X native, but Palm left most of the program’s features untouched. If you use either OS 9 or OS X exclusively, then Palm Desktop 4.0 should suit your needs despite its idiosyncrasies, especially if you’re looking for a free solution. If you switch between operating systems, you’ll have to decide which OS will be the one for your Palm.