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Notes for anyone upgrading from a Psion Series 5mx to a Nokia Communicator

The Nokia Communicator (9210/9300/9500) is a pretty logical upgrade from an old and ailing Psion Series 5 or 5mx, as one of the few current devices to sport a proper keyboard and with most of Psion's top PIM and office applications more or less intact. Plus you get a good colour screen and built-in telephony, with one less box to carry around.

But what are the downsides and how do you get round them? And what about getting your data and applications across onto the new device? Read on. There are a few hurdles to overcome, but once you're established in this new 'Communicator' generation, you won't look back, trust me. There are two or three things that a Psion Series 5mx is better for, but there are far more for which the Communicator is better. Just remember that no device is ever perfect and that you're simply taking one more step on a continuing journey!

Unicode issues The 9210 range was the first real Symbian device, sporting the new 'Unicode' version of the EPOC operating system. Instead of using just 16 bits per text character, with different code pages for each country, you now have 32 bits of data per character, the same set for every market. While this benefits the manufacturer, it's a pain for you, the user, as it means that all text created on an earlier, 16-bit character palmtop is now incompatible and needs to be converted. The best path for each data type is determined by the application concerned, as you'll see below.
Hardware One thing you'll obviously have to get used to is that all your old Psion CF cards and accessories are totally incompatible with the 9210i/9500. On the plus side, MMC cards are now ridiculously cheap and many of the connectivity accessories for the Psion aren't needed anymore because everything's now built-in.
RAM Yes, yes, Nokia skimped a lot when putting RAM (8MB) into the 9210i, but unless you're trying to run all the most ambitious games, you shouldn't get hit too hard by RAM limits. Just be aware that opening up something memory hungry may cause apps in the background to save data and close down, meaning that you'll have to wait a few seconds next time you want them.
On the newer Nokia 9300 and 9500, of course, there's four times more RAM (32MB), so you won't hit any limits.
Agenda (Calendar, Tasks) Just as on the Psion, these two functions are all part of the same application. If you've got less than 20 or 30 entries in the next year, it's quicker to retype them on the Communicator than to mess around trying to convert anything.
If you have more than this, beg or borrow a copy of Microsoft Outlook, re-install PsiWin 2.3.3 if needed, sync over your Agenda entries using Psion Synchronizer. Check Outlook has your Agenda/Calendar information intact, complete with entry notes, and then do a similar sync between Outlook and your new Communicator, a process which is normally rock solid. If you're not an Outlook user, you can always junk it after this one use if you really want to.
Contacts Very similar to Agenda, by far the easiest way to move everything across is to use Outlook synchronisation, described above. Again, check that notes on individual entries are preserved and that all fields are carried across.
If your Psion contacts were in a Data file, you can always use the DataContact utility first.
Alternatively, by exporting addresses from Psion Contacts into vCard (.vcf) files, you may be able to import them (individually, or en masse) into the Windows Address Book, as used by Outlook Express. You can then set up a PC Suite sync to this.
Finally, if all else fails, or if you have relatively few entries (less than 50?), just take an hour or so to beam each contact across by infrared. It's more or less foolproof, just a bit tedious!
Word, Sheet These applications are nigh-on identical to their Psion brothers, but you'll be hit by the Unicode thing mentioned above. So you'll have to go via your PC, with PsiWin handling the character conversion as the files go through Word/Excel formats on your PC hard disk.
When finally on your Communicator, you can leave them in PC Office formats or, better, maintain them in the Communicator's native Word/Sheet format, which will open and close far faster.
Data Unaccountably, Nokia specified the Communicator without a port of Data, but there are at least four third party databases now available to help fill the gap.
Getting your data out of Data will involve using 'Export as text file' on the Psion and then importing into your chosen database on the Communicator, either directly or via a PC-hosted importer utility.
See also my 9500 tips page for a way of using To-do lists in lieu of Data.
System screen With the Series 5, Psion introduced the System screen as both a launcher and file manager. You can work in much the same way on the Communicator, organising things by folder as you see fit, using the built-in File Manager instead. On the 9210i, it's especially useful to assign it to Ctrl-Office, so that it's never more than a keypress away.
Sketch A bit of a show-stopper, this one, as the Communicator has no touch-screen, making Sketch rather pointless. There's pretty good support for all standard image file types though, arguably more useful than the Psion's monochrome doodling utility.
OPL Although Program (the OPL editor/translator) wasn't included by default, you can add it easily to the Communicator, giving you the ability to create your own applications and run dozens of others created by people like... err... me.
Jotter Essentially just a freeform database on the Psion, you'll have to export content as text. What I did was keep each jotter note as a separate .TXT file, putting them in named sub-folders to group them by subject. Then copy the lot onto the Communicator, opening the notes in Viewer or Documents or Internet or any installed text/ebook reader.
Third party software One of the strengths of the Psion world was the thousand (literally) or so freeware, shareware and commercial programs, ready for downloading and using.
Although the number for the Communicator (i.e. Nokia Series 80) is much lower, perhaps not much more than a hundred, bear in mind that because the device can do more, quite a few of the old Psion programs aren't needed anymore. Then take away programs that were essentially duplicates and those to do with the touch-screen and the numbers aren't too far apart.
Most importantly of all, most successful shareware (and many freeware) programs, especially those created in OPL, have been converted into Series 80-compatible form. You may even be able to persuade the author/developer to give you a free 'upgrade' registration code for the Communicator version, although it's also common to pay an upgrade fee, typically half the original purchase cost.

To buy a 9500 new at a subsidised price, see here

If you have anything to add to (or ask about) this article, please email me!