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Notes for anyone upgrading from a Psion Series Series 3 (3mx, 3c, 3a) 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. And, if price is an issue, with the release of the 9500 there's no better time to pick up a 9210i at a steal of a price (£140 suggested) from someone else going for the new model.

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 3 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 SSD cards and accessories are totally incompatible with the 9210i/9500. On the plus side, MMC cards are now ridiculously cheap (1GB for £40 last week) 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 9500, of course, there's four times more RAM (32MB), so you won't hit the same 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
If you have more than this, you need to:
  1. Borrow a friend's Psion Series 5, 5mx, 7 or netBook. Make sure you're using a recent copy of PsiWin (2.3.3) and then drag and drop your Agenda file from your Series 3 backup onto the newer Psion. PsiWin should convert it to EPOC Agenda format.
  2. Beg or borrow a copy of Microsoft Outlook, re-install PsiWin if needed, sync over your Agenda entries from the borrowed newer Psion, using Psion Synchronizer. Check Outlook has your Agenda/Calendar information intact, complete with entry notes.
  3. 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 above:
  1. Copy and convert your Psion Series 3 Data addresses file onto a newer Psion 5mx/7/netBook/Revo.
  2. Use the DataContact utility to bring your names and addresses into the native EPOC Contacts database.
  3. Perform an Outlook synchronisation, described above. Again, check that notes on individual entries are preserved and that all fields are carried across.
  4. Now use the PC Suite sync to get all your contacts across to the Nokia 9500 or 9300.
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 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.
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.
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.
Third party software (e.g. Act, Dataview Pro, various shareware and games) 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 even less 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 the numbers aren't too far apart.
Many successful shareware (and many freeware) programs, especially those created in OPL, have been converted into Series 80-compatible form, just contact the same developer.
Quite a few commercial programs were never updated for newer Psions, let alone Symbian-age devices, so you'll have to export their data in as generic a form as you can (e.g. CSV, QIF, TXT, or whatever) and then re-import it into equivalent applications running on the Communicator.

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