• Why would I need a PDA?
    A PDA might be helpful if you:
    • Have a lot of addresses and phone numbers that you need to have with you all the time
    • Have a lot of dates and appointments to keep track of, both personal and business, and need to see at a glance whether you have a conflict when you are trying to set up appointments
    • Have more than one calendar to keep up with
    • Are the busy or forgetful type, and could use automatic reminders of appointments
    • Spend a lot of time away from your desktop or laptop, but still need the information that is stored there
    • Need to check e-mail messages or the Internet frequently, even when you are traveling or just away from your computer
    • Can't afford a laptop but need some e-mail or word processing capability away from your desktop
    • Are willing to spend the time to learn how to use your PDA and transfer data to it

  • How much do PDAs cost?
    PDAs range in cost from about $150 to $1,000, depending on the features you decide to buy. Most are in the range of $300 to $500.

  • Can my PDA work with my desktop or laptop?
    PDAs are designed to work with desktops or laptops and to make the information in your bigger computers portable. So you need to keep the information up-to-date. PDAs have features that make this easier for you. The communication between PDA and PC is referred to as data synchronization or syncing. This is typically done through a serial or USB port on the PDA. Some PDAs have a cradle that they sit in while hooked up to the PC. Many PDAs also have an infrared communications port that uses infrared (IR) light to beam information to a PC or another PDA. Some PDAs also offer wireless methods to transfer data to and from a PC/PC network through a wireless e-mail /Internet service provider like those available on new models of cell phones. Finally, some PDAs offer telephone modem accessories to transfer files to and from a PC/PC network.

  • Which operating system is best for PDAs?
    Each operating system has its advantages. The Palm OS is the market leader, so there is a lot of software written and being developed for it. But developers are working on software for the PocketPC systems, too. Palm OS takes up less memory and runs faster, and users say it is easier to use. PocketPC easily supports color displays, graphics, standard Windows packages (Word, Excel), and other devices (such as built-in MP3 players or MPEG movie players). PocketPC takes up more memory and is slower, and users say it is more complicated.

  • If my PDA is stolen, which seems possible since they are so small, is there anything I can do to protect my personal data?
    If you keep your PDA data synchronized with your desktop computer, you'll always have a back-up copy. So if you lose your PDA, you'll still have the data. You can also do several things to lock up your PDA's information. In most models, you can use password protection. There are security programs available, too, that can keep someone from getting to your data. And some applications provide encryption.

  • How does a PDA work with the Internet? One thing that PDA makers have done to make their devices work better for Internet access is a process called Web Clipping. Instead of downloading whole Web pages, Web Clipping slices out bits of text information and sends it through the airwaves to your PDA. News headlines, phone numbers, e-mail and other information can be transmitted this way.

  • Can handheld computers get viruses?
    Viruses have infected some PDA models. The Phage virus, for example, overwrites some of Palm's executable files. Several companies have devised anti-virus software for PDAs. If you download programs from the Internet, you can be vulnerable to viruses. You have to watch out for the same things that you would if you downloaded a file to your desktop computer. Be cautious about downloading a file or program that comes from a source you don't know. To find out more about the viruses that have affected PDAs, read First Wireless Virus Found and New Antivirus Technology to Protect Palm.

  • How quickly will a PDA run out of memory?
    The data commonly stored on PDAs doesn't take up much memory -- it's mostly text without images, so you can store a lot before you run out of room. Some PDAs need more memory for their operating systems; and if you use your PDA for e-mail or accessing the Internet, you'll need more memory. If you worry about having enough, you could choose a model that has expandable memory.

  • Where can I find software for my PDA?
    The best place to look is on the Web. In the Links section of this article, there are several sites that offer software for the various PDA operating systems. The manufacturers also offer hardware and software that could enhance your basic PDA.

  • If I buy a PDA today, how soon will it be outdated?
    PDA development, like the rest of the computing world, moves very quickly. The models available today have more functions and can be less expensive than the models available a few years ago. Eventually, PDAs will merge with cell phones and use a cellular network to communicate via voice as well as text. It is also likely that PDAs will become faster and have more memory as computer technology advances. The key to buying a PDA that suits you is to consider what you will use it for, then buy the model that will fill that need. Think of the function rather than the form. For example, if your primary need is for an organizer to keep your appointments and contacts, you will be able to use any good PDA for years to come. If you are the kind of person who develops "computer envy," then you might look for an upgradeable model and watch for the latest software.