Relate for Palm OS

by PocketGoddess on August 14, 2003

Palm OS handhelds are simply marvelous for organizing the basics– your to do list, your addresses, your appointments, and your notes/memos. Where they sometimes fall a little short, however, is in letting you see the “big picture” as well as you can with a paper planner. It’s difficult to see all of your project information at once, for example, if it’s scattered across a couple of memos, several to dos and contacts, a few deadlines you’ve set up as appointments, etc. Sure, you can use your Palm OS device’s built-in find function to look for things, but that assumes that you’ve already set up a system of keywords that you’re very disciplined about using in all entries related to a specific project. Wouldn’t it be easier if you could just pull up everything at once, just as you might have a file folder for a project that contains all the information you need to work on it?

That’s where Relate comes in. It’s a “linker” application for Palm OS devices that allows you to link different kinds of entries to each other. You can link together a variety of data types with Relate, including to do items, contacts, appointments, and memos. (Even more is coming in a future release, currently in beta testing). After downloading and installing Relate in the usual fashion, simply navigate to something that you’re interested in linking. I’ll use a business meeting as an example. Due to a few limitations in the core Palm OS applications, it’s not possible to list multiple attendees or location information in a meeting description. You can name all of the attendees in a note attached to that meeting, of course, but it is not possible to see all of the attendee information at a glance, such as their titles, phone numbers, addresses, etc. With relate you can actually tie all of that information together in a more meaningful way.

Using Relate to link objects together is as simple as using the Graffiti Command function–when the shortcut bar pops up at the bottom of the screen, just tap on the Relate icon– it looks like several links in a chain. Once you do that, a little box pops up that allows you to define a link from any of the four core Palm OS applications. Choose the application and the next screen allows you to choose the specific record. I was very impressed with this part of the program– it’s very well laid out and easy to use. That’s important when you have literally hundreds of addresses to choose from. Relate lets me pick a portion of the alphabet and the category to very quickly narrow my search. For datebook items, the date is shown on the screen along with all of the appointments for that day. Tapping on that date quickly takes me to the “picker” screen so that I can select a future date. The screens for selecting to do and memo items are very similar. Once you’ve picked the item that you want to link. That item shows up in the Relate links box in the same application you were in when the linking process started. From here you can select more items to link, you can tap on the red X icon to delete a link, or you can tap close when you’re finished linking items to each other. The Key icon allows you to change the current privacy level,which is very handy if you want to link to private items that are masked or hidden.

Once the link is established, simply use the command stroke to bring up the command bar, tap the Relate icon, and the link or links are displayed. You can jump to that other application to see the actual item, make changes, etc. and then jump right back using the same process. Uses for Relate are limited only by your imagination: linking family members/department employees/soccer team players together, linking people to their birthdays & anniversaries in the Datebook application, and anything else that needs to be linked together for easier reference. I really appreciate this functionality, even though I use Agendus (which features the ability to link contacts to appointments and to dos) because Agendus limits me to only one contact link per entry and sometimes I just need more than that for better organization. I can’t make Relate links from within Agendus without going through the extra step of going to the item’s note and accessing Relate that way, but sometimes it’s worth it for the extra functionality that Relate offers.

There are some other nice benefits as well– for starters, Relate keeps the link information in a separate file, so there isn’t any “junk” in your contacts, to dos, etc. when you sync to the Palm Desktop, Outlook, or any other program. Back links are automatically created, so that you can access them for either end of the chain. And if your memory is less than perfect (which it probably is if you rely on your Palm to keep track of everything) you can even view a list of all of the links in the Relate application, accessible through your Palm OS launcher. There is one extra feature that I would like to see in future versions: some sort of visual reminder would also be great, but may not actually be possible (hard to tell, since I’m not a programmer). If there could be some sort of icon or visual cue next to items that have links, it would be just about perfect. As it is, if an item has links, you’ll be able to tell as soon as you use the command stroke to bring up Relate– the icon has a red highlight, letting you know that the item already has one or more links assigned. I’d also like to see Agendus support in the future (it already supports DateBk5).

Relate is a great option for almost any Palm OS handheld user, even those who use enhanced PIM applications like Agendus and DateBk5. I especially appreciate its ability to tie everything together, replacing in some small way that “paper organizer” view of things and providing more “big picture” utility on those relatively small screens of most handheld devices. It requires only 65K memory on the device, and it runs on anything that has Palm OS 3.5 or higher, including Palm OS 5. Relate costs $7.99 to register at either Handango or PDAGreen. For more information or a free trial, head on over to the developer’s web site.

PocketGoddess Rating for Relate: 4.5 out of 5

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