Palm OS Database Review: Database
Professional, HanDBase, MobileDB and SmartList To Go
Posted December 2004
The information age is all about accumulating relevant data, turning
it into actionable information, and presenting it for decision-making.
That equation has many parts, but you can't get there from here without
the data. When amassed, these data classically inhabit structures
called databases. If you want a cornucopia of data available at your
fingertips, then those fingers better be wrapped around your Palm,
which in turn better have a good database application on it. After
all, information is power!
If I've peaked your interest, you've come
to the right place. MobileTechReview.com took
the most promising entries on the market for a spin around the information
byways. I loaded these gems on a Palm Tungsten T3 that HotSyncs to
a Windows XP Pro box running Microsoft Access 2002 SP3.
By their very nature, these applications
can be quite complex. Time and space doesn't permit exhaustive
coverage of every feature. Features common to all database programs,
e.g., sorting, filtering, categorization, et al, are not covered
in detail. I tried to concentrate on each application’s unique
or core features. I can happily report that they all support the
T3's variety of display modes.
MobiSystems Access 2004 Professional 5.62.60 with
Windows Desktop (Now Called Database Professional)
Mobile Systems has designed their entire office
suite to look and feel like their Microsoft Office counterparts--and
they're succeeding nicely. Database
Professional looked and worked most like its desktop counterpart,
which made it the easiest to use for those familiar with Microsoft
Access. It also retains a consistency with the rest its Mobile Systems'
office suite partners.
The screens in Access Pro provide an attractive graphic interface
similar to the desktop Microsoft products. The icons on the bottom
toolbar make sense without help. Tap on the icon you want to make
active, then tap on the database upon which you wish to act. If the
object resides on the card, a card icon appears in the last column
of the database list. The fonts and colors across the program may
The internal database structure of Access
Pro shares its layout with its desktop cousin. These objects include
tables, queries, and forms. The opening screen offers a list of
databases. Tapping on a database brings up the objects located
in that database. The types of objects displayed—tables, queries, or forms—may
be selected from the icons at the top of the screen or from the
menu. Selecting an object opens it for business. Databases may
be located on the card, but will those on the card will not update
on HotSync. They can also be categorized.
Tables may have images embedded in fields. To maximize the utility
of this, Access Pro includes a full copy of the $14.95 Mobile Systems
Paint. This app packs amazing power on your PDA, being a virtual
equivalent of Microsoft Paint on the PC. It works with and edits
JPEGs, bitmaps, and its own proprietary format, and even includes
a screen capture capability.
Access Pro packs considerable power in your
hand. It supports calculated and conditional fields, lists, checkboxes,
memos, dates, etc.—17
data types in all. Table fields may link with other tables’ fields
in a relational sense inside a given database, but not across databases.
Still, that stood above all but one the other offering, which at
most offer relations within a table. Remember that like Microsoft
Access and unlike any other app in this roundup, an Access Pro database
consists of more than just a single table. Your available memory
provides the only constraint to the number of records in a table.
As if that weren't enough, Access Pro will create
Palm apps from new and existing forms. This gives you access to important
data instantly from your Palm launcher without opening Access Pro.
The process proved trivial using an icon tool on the Forms screen
and the results were astounding. I built a "presentation" out
of their Palm Comparison example table and form. I could even move
through the data using the left/right on my T3's 5-way navigator.
Mobile Systems really put some thought into this system.
Access Pro protects your data using passwords, which can be assigned
separately for reading, beaming, and modifying individual databases.
This can be accomplished through the information icon for the database.
All this would be merely interesting without the ability to HotSync
with the desktop. Access Pro includes a desktop program that opens,
modifies, creates, and synchronizes databases on the handheld. The
look and feel corresponds to the PDA app. It can import and export
Microsoft Access, Excel, and ODBC-supported databases directly, as
well as CSV files. I HotSynced an Access Pro sample database to Access,
and imported an Access database to the handheld. Everything synced
perfectly with one exception. Images in data fields on the handheld
did not transfer to Microsoft Access, but I may not have found the
proper setting for that feature. You can sync only selected tables
in a database if you so desire for incredible flexibility.
Open Access stood as the only app in this
roundup that fully supported Microsoft Access queries on the handheld,
as well as treating Access objects as objects on the PDA. If you’re
looking for a database application that works flawlessly with Microsoft
Access or any ODBC-supported database, then MobiSystems’ Database
Professional with Windows Desktop may be your answer at
$49.95. With Mobile Systems’ Paint included and Access, Excel,
ODBC, and CSV import and export capability, you won’t find
compatibility an issue.
Attractive, easy to use interface
Relational capability within a database
Includes ODBC database support
Flawless sync with the desktop
Will turn a form into a Palm application
Full graphics support on the PDA through
Mobile Systems’ Paint
Sync to Microsoft Access occurs through the
desktop application, not directly in HotSync
Next -> HanDBase