Phone Notebooks & Tablets Gaming Gadgets iPhone & iPad Shop Discussion





by Lisa Gade., Editor-in-Chief and Mac Geek, January, 2003

iMac 17"

Which PDAs Play Nice with the Mac?

OK, I'm a Mac addict, and started my career in high tech as a Mac developer back in the days when the Mac Plus was state of the art. I've come a long way since then, and so have Macs! And as much I adored the once venerable Newton, PDAs have evolved into complex little beasts who may or may not want to make nice with your Mac.

PDAs that Sync to both Mac OS and Windows PCs Out of the Box

With the exception of the Sony Clié line, all Palm OS PDAs come with Palm Desktop for Mac as well as Windows in the box. Even Palm OS Smartphones like the Kyocera 6035 can sync to the Mac, though you'll have to download Palm Desktop for free from Palm's web site. Palm Desktop is the software that runs on your Mac and serves as an address book, calendar, tasks manager and notes app all in one. It's also what syncs with your Palm OS PDA. Just plug in the USB cradle or use IR or Bluetooth if you have it on your Mac and Palm, and you can sync, install apps and backup all the info on your Palm. Cool. This means you can buy any Palm Inc. or Handspring (both Visor and Treo) and you'll be set. What about the Clié? Don't lose heart because there are a few inexpensive (sometimes free) ways to sync a Mac and Clié. That's great news because the Clié line offers some of the best screens, MP3 players and cutting edge features available on Palm OS PDAs.

Jaguar and iSync

Jaguar (Mac OS 10.2) has a nifty new app called iSync. It can sync your Mac to an iPod, cell phone (via Bluetooth) or Palm OS PDA. It even supports the Clié. You'll still need to install Palm Desktop 4, so have your CD or downloaded version ready. You can download iSync for free from Apple. iSync will sync your Palm OS device calendar and to-do's with iCal, and your address with the Mac OS X address book. If you prefer to have your info centralized in Palm Desktop, the iSync probably isn't the way to go.

Sony Clié does Play with Macs

Why Sony decided not to include Palm Desktop for Mac with the PDAs is beyond me! They are my favorite Palm OS PDAs and offer a lot of great features for the money, so I'm glad that there are reliable ways to get your Mac and Clié to be best buddies.

1) Always try the no-cost method first! For both Mac OS 9 and X: download Palm Desktop for Mac from Palm's web site, since you won't find it on the CD that came with the Clié. Install Palm Desktop, then connect the cradle and see if you can sync. Some folks have luck with this working with no added software.

2) MissingSync. If that doesn't work for you, you aren't alone, That's why the folks at Mark/Space developed a marvelous program called MissingSync. Believe me, it's worth the $30! There are both OS 9 and X versions (you get both), and it will mount Memory Sticks on your desktop just as if they were hard drives, and in OS X, integrate with iTunes and iPhoto so you can very easily send your MP3s and favorite photos to the Clié from you Mac. It also supports all standard Palm Desktop features and conduits, so all your PIM data will show up in Palm Desktop, and automatic backups will work just as for other Palm devices, and of course you'll be able to install new apps on the Clié using your Mac. This is what I've used for the past year because not all of the Cliés we have passing through our offices play with my Mac, I love the integration with iTunes and iPhoto, and the "no fuss, no muss" syncing it offers.

Unfortunately, the Sony CD comes with a lot of Sony desktop programs for the PC that you won't ever see or make use of. These are photo editors, sound editors and album makers. But don't feel too bad, because you can use iTunes, iPhoto and your favorite shareware sound editor to do all the same tasks, and the Mac apps have a much friendlier user interface! Most all of the add on programs for the Clié are on the CD in PRC format, so you generally won't need to worry about dealing with Windows .exe installers.

Pocket PCs

PocketMac Pro
These PDAs, running Microsoft's operating system, snubbed Mac users for years. There was just no way to get these guys talking. Virtual PC does not fully support ActiveSync. In 2002, things changed when PocketMac hit the scene. Initially, it supported only the iPAQ, and was a bit buggy. Since then it's been expanded, refined and can work with a variety of Pocket PCs (see the PocketMac web site for complete model listings). Version 2.0 supports Jaguar, as well as older versions of Mac OS X and OS 9.

PocketMac Pro costs $70 and syncs your PIM data (contacts, calendar, tasks, notes, but NOT email) to your choice of Entourage, Outlook Express or Exchange Server 2000. If you're running Jaguar, Entourage, or iCal + OS X Address Book is recommended. You can also drag Word and Excel files, as well as MP3s to and from your Pocket PC in the Finder.

MissingSync for Pocket PC
Mark/Space, the same folks who developed MissingSync for the Clié, announced a Pocket PC version at MacWorld SF in January 2003. Given how excellent the Clié version has been, I can't wait to see it and review it! Just as with PocketMac Pro, you'll be able to mount the Pocket PC on your desktop as if it were a hard drive. Like MissingSync for Clié, it integrates with iTunes and iPhoto, making the job of transferring images and MP3s to and from your Pocket PC a breeze. Stay tuned: it should be out Q1 2003, and it will likely cost less than PocketMac Pro. You can read preview information here.

What's the catch? If you want to install 3rd party apps on your Pocket PC, you may have trouble finding installers that aren't in .exe format. PocketMac offers a CAB extractor that can generally extract Pocket PC programs from Cabinet files, but many Pocket PC software makers are moving away from CAB files towards .exe installers because they're friendlier. If you are a Mac-only person, this is a drawback. However, if you have a PC available at work, or even a friend who'll let you use their PC once in a while, you can get around this problem. Pocket PCs, like Palm OS devices, can sync with more than one computer. Pocket PCs and their desktop software, ActiveSync, support both standard partnerships (syncing of all data) as well as Guest partnerships, where no personal data is synced. This means you can use a public work PC or a friend's computer to install software on your Pocket PC while in Guest mode, without leaving any of your PDA's data behind on the PC. Note that if you run Virtual PC, it won't help matters, because the installers look for the Pocket PC in order to complete installation. ActiveSync still doesn't work well with USB syncing under Virtual PC.



Back to Home Questions? Comments? Post them in our Discussion Forum!