Palm Reader Pro

by PocketGoddess on October 1, 2003

Of course when you buy books at the Palm Digital Media store, the Palm Reader program is included for free, or you can download it just to read your Palm DOC files. I’ve wondered for quite a while though about Palm Reader Pro, which adds a few extra features for $14.95. I recently took the Pro version for a spin in order to see if those extra features are indeed “worth” the purchase price when a free version is available. This review covers the Palm OS version, though there is also a Pocket PC version with virtually identical features. There are also Windows and Mac Palm Reader Pro applications, in case you prefer to do your reading on the desktop instead of a handheld.
 


The main features of the Pro version of Palm Reader are the dictionary, color theme support, and font smoothing. For the $14.95 purchase price of Palm Reader Pro, you get a copy of Webster’s Vest Pocket Dictionary, which includes 12,500 entries. It’s very well integrated into Palm Reader– as you’re reading along in an ebook, you can tap and hold on any word to bring up a popup menu that allows to look up that word in the dictionary. If the word isn’t in the dictionary, the dictionary will still be opened to the right spot, in case it’s just a matter of that particular form of the word not being in the dictionary. You can also enter other words to look up at that point, or choose another reference work if you have one installed, by tapping on the little arrow at the top right hand corner of the screen. When you’re done using the dictionary, just tap the Done button at the bottom left hand corner of the screen. If you find that the Vest Pocket Dictionary just isn’t large enough, the Compact and the College versions of Webster’s Dictionary are available for an additional charge.
 


The Theme support adds a few nice touches. Sometimes black text on a while background can be hard on the eyes, and sometimes you just want a change. Palm Reader Pro comes with four color themes as well as the standard one. A couple of them don’t make that much sense to me, like the Van Gogh theme with a black background and beige text that’s almost impossible to read. Fortunately you can create your own themes for a custom look. Under the Options menu choose Color and then New. You can choose the background color, the text color, and the link and toolbar colors. If you don’t like the options that pop up first when you select an color, just choose other to be taken to a much larger palette to choose from. Even better, though, is the font support–if you paid an extra $10 for the Agfa font pack. Choose Font from that same Options menu in order to pick the font that you want to use. The three choices are Gill Sans, Bell, and Utah, in various point sizes and styles (regular and bold). I’d suggest tapping the Font Smoothing box in the middle of the screen as well. It makes the text look just a little lighter, instead of plain black, but it is much easier to read.

 


The Pro version adds a few other nice little touches, such as the ability to use full justification in your books. I happen to like that option, as I would prefer for the lines to be a little uneven between the words than at the end– something about my eyes makes them want to follow lines of exactly the same length every time, never mind the fact that the actual spacing between the words isn’t always exactly the same. Most everything else in the program comes with the Free version of Palm Reader– the ability to read Palm DOC formatted files and ebooks, autoscroll capabilities, and the like. One nice touch in both versions is the popup help feature on the toolbar– those icons at the bottom of the screen can be hard to figure out sometimes, and tapping/holding on one of them for just a second pops up a handy page that explains what all of them mean. You can also add notes to your books and export them to the Memo Pad for use on the desktop or in other applications. And I love being able to set a quick bookmark by just tapping the upper right corner of the screen, which also causes a little “dog ear” bent corner to appear.

The bottom line question, of course, is whether or not Palm Reader Pro is worth the purchase price, considering that there is a free version. There isn’t any one answer to this question, however. If you have a low res greyscale device and a large vocabulary, you may not find that you really need a dictionary or the font smoothing technology, and color themes won’t do you too much good. If you’re a student though, the dictionary might be a great idea. And if your eyes are pretty bad, as mine, you may think that $24.95 isn’t all that much to pay for a slightly better display and some nicer fonts. I personally really like the enhancements, but I’m not sure that the price tag for the Pro version of Palm Reader isn’t just a bit too high for the average reader. Many voracious readers might rather have another $14.95 or $24.95 of books in their library instead of investing in a better reading application, but I personally appreciate the improvements.

PocketGoddess Rating for Palm Reader Pro: 4.5 out of 5

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