Magazine article The CPA Journal

An Office in the Palm of Your Hand

Magazine article The CPA Journal

An Office in the Palm of Your Hand

Article excerpt

Personal digital assistants (PDA) are now commonplace in the business world. They help organize daily tasks and keep professionals connected to essential software and information.

The PDA as a Personal Information Manager (PIM)

The traditional function of a PDA is a mobile companion to a personal information manager (PIM). A PIM such as Microsoft Outlook or Lotus Organizer is essentially desktop software that replicates and extends the functions of a traditional paper organizer. PIM software seamlessly organizes users' business and personal lives through its electronic calendar, address book, to-do list, memo pad, and e-mail. As a mobile companion to the PIM, a PDA keeps vital notes, appointments, and contacts in reach. Virtually all PDAs will synchronize data with the major PIM applications used on desktop PCs. E-mails can be written on the go and sent upon the next synchronization, or even sent immediately if the PDA has mobile Internet access.

Advanced PDAs include features such as one-touch voice recording for brief audio memos that can be replayed through built-in speakers or standard earphones. Infrared beaming allows contact information to be passed between two PDA devices. Newer PDAs can be beamed directly to a printer equipped with an infrared receiver.

PDA as Mobile Office

With increased storage capacity and processing power, PDAs have become palmtop computers rather than just electronic organizers. Both Palm and Pocket PC (Windows-derived) devices now have mobile office features or software for word processing, document viewing, spreadsheets, presentations, databases, and the Internet.

Palmtop word processors allow users to edit a document directly in the PDA and later update the original document through synchronization. PDAs often include the basic functions of spreadsheet software so a spreadsheet can be updated on the road, then synchronized with the original desktop copy of the spreadsheet at the office. Document viewers lack an editing capability but do allow for quick reference of documents, such as .pdf files, on a business trip.

Presentation capabilities are relatively new to PDAs. Presentations developed with common desktop software can be downloaded and edited directly in the PDA, right down to choreographing the animation between slides. The presentation can then be transmitted via various hardware connections to a projector. Certain PDA software also allows the PDA to be used as a remote control for the presentation.

Software such as AvantGo, which is available for most PDAs, allows users to synchronize information with specific Internet websites. The information is stored in the PDA for portable access. For example, the PDA could synchronize with your favorite news website before leaving the office, to be browsed on the way home. For users that need more timely information, many PDAs either come equipped with or can easily accept wireless modem expansion modules for mobile Internet access.

PDA Expandability

PDAs are becoming incredibly expandable through memory slots that accept hardware modules or add-ons. Miniaturized devices allow PDAs to expand without a considerable increase in bulk. Removable memory expansion cards can store anywhere from four megabytes to one gigabyte of data, on media smaller than a matchbook. …

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