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Palm Office Suites
Posted Feb. 2004 by Tanker Bob -- Page 2, continued

MiniOffice 6.8 from Solutions in Hand

Solutions in Hand started by developing Pilot MiniCalc some years ago. Since then, it has set the standard for Palm spreadsheets. The original spreadsheet heritage remains visible today in the suite.

As you can see from the illustration, MiniWrite doesn't fit the bill as a word processor in the sense now used. Solutions in Hand bills MiniWrite as a text editor for standard Palm docs and that's exactly what it is. No advanced formatting support exists-no table, graphic, or footnote support. The good news? MiniWrite uses standard Palm text fields, so third-party macros, etc., work just fine. Although not a true word processor, there's still a niche for these apps.

MiniWrite sports a toolbar across the bottom of the screen. It provides the most useful functions ready at the tap of your stylus. It even comes with a help file that lines up arrow and labels with the toolbar for easy reference.

MiniDict furnishes one particularly interesting feature. Available separately or as part of the pro package, it ties tightly to MiniWrite through an icon at the bottom of the latter's screen. Although it does not spell check, it will look up words quickly in a large WordNet 1.71 database.

Because MiniWrite supports Palm fields, I took most of my notes during usage testing in it. It automatically saves documents when exiting the docs, so protects the user from accidental losses. It also comes with a desktop conversion tool that translates text files to/from Palm doc format.

MiniCalc stands as a well established leader amongst Palm spreadsheets. MiniCalc supports 86 built-in functions, including financial, scientific, statistical, and others. The spreadsheets can be up to 256 columns x 9999 rows, with a 12K character limit per individual cell. Text in cells can even be word wrapped or extend across columns if there is no adjacent data. MiniCalc supports multiple sheets per workbook, and also supports external links. The interface is graphical--very similar to MS Excel. Tapping and holding on row or column labels, but not on individual cells, brings up context menus similar to Excel.

MiniCalc supports rich formatting similar to Excel. Cell sizes, fore/background colors, number formats, alignments and word wrapping, font sizes/effects, and locking can be done on a sheet, row/column/, and individual cell level. Sheets can also be passworded for security and compressed to save space.

Speaking of Excel, MiniCalc synchronizes seamlessly with the desktop standard in its 97/2000/XP iterations. It interfaces through menus added to the Excel menu bar. Importing and exporting spreadsheets is straightforward from the menu through a graphical dialog box. MiniCalc fully supports VFS natively to store it data files on memory cards, as well as Sony and now Palm OS5 color hi res displays. Like most programs, only data in RAM will be synchronized, so you'll have to move changed sheets from the card to RAM if you want to save their changes on the PC. MinCalc also supports passwording individual sheets apart from the Palm OS system. The included manual is excellent.

MiniCalc ships with MiniChart. Creating a chart is similar to the Excel process, but most of the text formatting derives from the originating sheet. MiniChart supports clustered and stacked columns, plain and marked lines, xy scatter, and pie chart formats. Charts act just like they were embedded in the originating sheet itself. I plotted the battery life of my old T615C and T665C with little difficulty, but found the text part of the chart, especially the labeling of series, to be less than straightforward. The charting module could use an upgrade to increase the usability of the text formatting and series labeling, but the actual data charts very well. MiniCalc allows the user to extend the selections to non-adjacent cells, facilitating the creation of more complex charts than its competition.

Solutions in Hand includes additional font support for small and tiny fonts in addition to normal fonts. These provide the ability to view large sheets easily on the handheld, or enlarge the fonts for easy reading for older eyes. Again, this can be done at the cell level.

A bonus that ships with MiniCalc and MiniWrite is the McCalc calculator. This gem has scientific, transcendental, financial, and graphing modules which can interact with each other to write equations. It takes algebraic inputs, including equations to plot or just to provide numerical answers. I elected to illustrate the charting screen displaying sin(x/2). I was legitimately surprised by what this little program could do, but the docs are almost non-existent. It requires MiniCalc installed to function.

Solutions At Hand provides MiniCalc, MiniChart, MiniWrite, and McCalc as MiniOffice for $34.95 (normally $39.95) until Feb 29, 2004. Adding MiniDict makes MiniOffice Deluxe for $39.95 (normally $49.95) until Feb 29, 2004. MiniCalc still stands as the best spreadsheet for your handheld, but MiniWrite is simply a Palm doc editor rather than a full-blown word processor.

Pros:
The best Palm spreadsheet with excellent desktop synchronization
Powerful cell formatting options in spreadsheet
Spreadsheets can be compressed
Nice graphing calculator

Cons:
No real word processor
No PowerPoint support

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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