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Converting over to (and working with) Palm OS

Updated April 2001 - in need of rewriting!!

Palm organiserIt's a question that seems to be popping up more and more these days - "I used to use a Psion Series 5 or 5mx but now have a Palm organiser and wish to transfer all my information. How should I proceed?".

Also common is "I use an ultra-light Palm in conjunction with a Psion Series 5mx or Series 7. How can I transfer information backwards and forwards?"

There are a number of reasons why a Palm PDA makes a lot more sense than a Psion Series 5/5mx or Series 7: Size, weight, cost, robustness, clearer screen, quantity of available software, better desktop synching, etc. Of course, there are two reasons why the Psion is better, in the keyboard and larger screen, but if you can live without these then the Palm is often a better bet. (I'm excluding the Psion Revo from this simplistic analysis as it doesn't have a backlit screen, ruling it out of contention for most handheld users).

Note that if you intend to keep both platforms going simultaneously then you need to think carefully about how you accomplish the degree of synchronisation you need. The use of a desktop-hosted synchronising solution will probably work with care (e.g. via PsiWin and Microsoft Outlook, perhaps with plug-ins such as IntelliSync or PocketMirror), although I have no experience of these except that such a complex multi-platform synch is unlikely to be trouble free. You can, to some degree, do most of what you need using infrared beaming, although you'll have to make the Palm the 'master', as most of the possible beaming operations only work in one direction 8-( (though see the utility plbeam for a solution to this)

Contacts Contact information under EPOC can't be beamed 'en-masse', so I'd advise the procedure below.
If you intend to run both EPOC palmtop and Palm organiser at the same time, it's far better to use the procedure below to get information on the Palm and thereafter make that your 'master', periodically deleting your EPOC \system\data\contacts.cdb file and then beaming your contact set across to the EPOC device in one huge infrared block. Note that EPOC Contacts is very slow at importing and that your palmtop will appear to freeze for a minute or three after the beaming completes.

To go from EPOC to Palm as a one-off exercise, either:
Use standard synchronisation tools (e.g. PsiWin, Outlook, etc.) to get contacts onto the PC and then out to the Palm.
Beam contacts one at a time (if there aren't very many of them) to the Palm organiser.
Export all your Contacts as a single VCF (vCard) file, copy it over onto the desktop and then import it directly (by double-clicking on it in Windows) into Palm Desktop version 4.0 or later. This should work, although I had problems when trying it in practice.
Use the C2F utility to export all contacts to a delimited text file, then copy the file over to a PC and import it into the Palm Desktop (click on 'Address', then use 'File | Import'). Then HotSync as normal.
NB: If you have a Series 5 'classic', without the Contacts app, you'll need to export from your Data address book in text delimited form, as described immediately above and below.

Generic EPOC databases (e.g. Book/video collections, etc.) need to be 'Exported as text file', choosing suitable delimiters (which will probably depend on the sort of textual information in your file itself, i.e.quote and comma characters). Either reimport this text file into Palm Desktop (if you want the info in your Address Book) or import it into a PalmOS third party database application using their supplied import tool.

To export from a Palm OS database, use the conversion tool supplied with your Palm application. This will export as either a tab or comma-delimited file, which you'll be able to easily import into Data.


This is slightly more limiting. When working with both devices, make the Palm the master, as you can beam appointments and To Dos one at a time directly from the Palm into the Psion Agenda (but not the other way around).

Take a look at VCAL, from FreEPOC, which lets you perform a one-way export of all Agenda entries into a generic file for import into Palm Desktop.

Apart from this, you need to use desktop tools to achieve proper synchronisation. To go from EPOC to Palm, one possible solution is to use one of PsiWin's synchronisation filters to get your appointments into a PC-based PIM (e.g. Outlook) and then use PocketMirror (on the Palm Desktop CD) to HotSync the information through to your Palm's Date Book. To go the other way, just reverse the process.

All a bit of a hassle though, you might find it easier to either enter appointments, To Dos and anniversaries manually or to just accept that Agenda/calendar information exists only on your main PDA (which is always with you).


The Palm organisers don't come with a spreadsheet, alas, so you'll have to go third party here for sure, and use Microsoft Excel as the intermediary.

Despite the cost, I'd recommend CES's Quicksheet or iambic's TinySheet, both of which have transparent two-way synchronisation with Excel on the desktop.

If you're determined to keep your sheets on both handheld platforms, you'll be severely restricted in terms of formatting flexibility and functionality - the two stage conversion process will weed out everything but the simplest spreadsheet constructs.


One limitation here may be the 4k restriction for Memo Pad entries under PalmOS. There are also no styling or emphases of any kind. To get more, you'd have to go third-party, into something sophisticated such as WordSmith.

There are various ways of getting text onto a Palm:

  • If the amount of text is small (1k or less), insert it into a Contacts entry's Note field and beam it across to Address Book, where it can be copied out to Memo Pad or similar.
  • If between 1k and 4k, use PsiWin on the desktop to convert your EPOC Word files to plain text and then paste them into Memo Pad entries on Palm Desktop.
  • If more than 4k worth and you can live without formatting, do the PsiWin conversion as above and then use MakeDocW or any other DOC conversion tool to make a compressed Palm OS DOC etext, which can be viewed in any number of free and shareware viewers. In addition, CES's SmartDoc and QED allow full editing of these files.
  • If more than 4k and you want to keep basic styling and formatting, your best bet is WordSmith or DataViz's Documents To Go Professional. Your desktop intermediate format can then be Microsoft Word or Rich Text Format, with the Palm OS application maintaining much of your rich text information.

Your only option here is to go down a tortuous email synchronisation route. I know there are people who have got all this working, but for every one of those, I've seen ten who've wasted hours fiddling around.

Best advice is to just use the Palm or Psion for occasional 'away on holiday' use, logging into your POP3 mailbox using a standalone email client (such as MultiMail Pro on Palm OS, now part of Palm's Mobile Internet Kit) to check for urgent items. Trying to synchronise and maintain full email operation on a keyboardless PDA is strictly for masochists. And trying to keep two PDAs synchronised to a desktop's email system is probably nigh on impossible!


You'll want Jotter information mapped to Palm OS's Memo Pad. About the best that you can do, long-winded though it might seem, is to paste essential information into a Data file and then use the techniques above, finally importing from a delimited text file into Palm Desktop's Memo Pad module. PsiWin offers a Jotter to text conversion, but this doesn't really help.

Program Simple OPL programs can be very roughly adapted into the most similar PalmOS Basic-like environments, with NS-Basic. You'll mainly be just taking your algorithms and redoing the application from scratch, though.

Photos, doodles and sketches can all be converted via PsiWin to standard Windows BMP format and thence into TealPaint or Fire Viewer or Album to Go formats via their respective desktop import utilities. Screen size may well be an issue here though.

If your sketches are very simple and you have access to a Palm m100, note that the new Palm OS Note Pad application can provide a quick way to get black-and-white doodlings on the Palm backwards and forwards to the desktop and into other applications.

Third party applications

Luckily, virtually all EPOC third party applications and games have equivalents on PalmOS, though many are slightly simpler and more restrictive, usually because of lack of keyboard or screen limitations.

Hope all this is useful to you.