Ah, we are a dying breed, aren't we? Outside of the standout Treo (note this link takes you to Handspring's former site - the Treo is about all they have left!), there's not much good news in the Palm world. PDA sales are down, and Palm OS market share is WAY down. Sony, the maker of my favored Clié, has pulled out of the PDA market entirely.

But take heart, my bretheren, the Palm OS is still an incredible PDA platform, and there's still plenty of software out there to use - even some good FREE stuff. I've been asked about where to get the best goods before, so here's a list of my favorite apps and sites.

  • Numero Uno, you need to have AvantGo. I mean, I read this stuff EVERY DAY, and it's always refreshed when I sync. Kinda like carrying a magazine rack around.
  • Documents To Go is a suite that came with my Clié, and it's honestly the best way to work with Word, Excel or PowerPoint on your Palm PDA. So, of course, it's not free.
  • If you can't spend the money on DtG, you're going to need some kind of PDB Converter so you can work with documents and read some ebooks on your PDA. The one linked here is free.
  • Once you've got things converted to Palm Database Format (PDB), you're going to need some kind of reader. HandStory Basic has been highly espoused on download.com. I use ReadThemAll, because I like its auto-scroll function and small footprint.
  • Adobe Reader has a Palm OS format program, which I think is the best way to read ebooks out there. It has a desktop componenent for converting PDFs to a mobile format, and a reader you install on your PDA. I read the entire Harry Potter series with this program.
  • Putting The Bible on my PDA has been one of the greatest things for my spiritual life that I've ever done. The Bibles you mark in and highlight are just too big for comfortable reading late at night, and they certainly aren't backlit. I'm currently using Palm Bible+. Follow that link, and they've got great instructions for how to set it up and how to install multiple versions on your PDA. I've got four free ones on mine right now, and I love it. It's very cool to switch between versions on the fly to get better context while you're reading. Before I got Palm Bible+, I used Olive Tree Bible Software, which also worked just fine.

    All work and no play makes your PDA blow up, so let's talk about some games:

  • PopCap has some of the best portable games I've ever played, including the great Bejeweled. Go ahead and download their trial versions - most of them just have a "please register" waiting screen that gets longer the more you use them. For games like Bookworm, Bejeweled and Alchemy, there's no locked-off levels to worry about, so once the screen gets annoying, uninstall the thing and download yourself a new copy.
  • Dope Wars. A minute to learn, a lifetime to master, and lots of time wasted in the process.
  • Palm Boulevard has a number of games available for free download. Some are very good, some are very bad. Most are for Palm OS 4 and earlier, but you can find some good OS 5 files if you look around.
  • Card House is a great soliataire package, and the demo works just as well as the real-deal. If you've got some money to spend, though, go get Acid Solitaire.
  • I've tried Nintendo Gameboy and Sega GameGear emulators before, but never had much luck with them. Unfortunately, Sony's audio programming is different than other Palm OS PDAs, and so most of these emulators don't have any sound if you're using one. Phoinix is the most popular Gameboy emulator, if you'd like to try it.

    After that, there's tons of little do-dads and gizmos that you can stuff in there. After the big apps take up most of your memory, try tossing in a few things like:

  • There are lots of mirror programs out there - basically they turn your screen black (or dark grey if you have color), so you can see the natural reflection of the glass. Not perfect, but not useless. The best one is here.
  • The reverse of this is called Flashlight, which turns your screen all white (or all black if you're in grayscale mode) so you can illuminate the room. Remarkably useful when you're fumbling around at night after reading.
  • If your PDA has IR capability, there's a ton of programs you can use to make it control your TV, VCR, DVD player or whatever. Enjoy.
  • And finally, if I had an old Palm PDA that was just gathering dust, here's what I would do with it in a heartbeat.

"I dare you to move..."

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