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Pocket Pals

Thanks to personal digital assistants, you can take it all with you.

Don't have time to get organized? Time management theories sound wonderful, but they don't always work for mobile small-business owners who barely have time to grab their files before dashing out the door to handle sales calls and appointments. Being on the go usually means leaving your office-with all its neatly arranged files and electronic equipment-behind.

Or does it?

While laptops, cellular phones and other portables are slimmer than ever, they still weigh more than you might want to carry. Even that snazzy leather-bound daily organizer seems to get heavier and heavier as the day goes on. All you really need on the road are your files, a schedule planner, a notepad, a calculator, your address book, a reminder list, a travel itinerary . . . still sounds like a lot of stuff, doesn't it? Not if you can pack it all into a single electronic device.

Small electronic handheld organizers, also known as personal information managers (PIMs), have been around for years. But manufacturers recently went one step further and created personal digital asssistants (PDAs), which have greater capabilities than PIMs. Texas Instruments, for example, now offers a sophisticated new product called the PS-6800. Its optional docking-station add-on kit allows you to hook this organizer up to your computer so you can download data. While Texas Instruments refers to the PS-6800 as a personal organizer, this new feature takes it into PDA territory.

Several PDAs are powerful minicomputers that not only perform all your organizing duties but also have fax and e-mail capabilities and allow you to network with your computer. Some PDAs have slots for PCMCIA cards for extra memory or file backup.

The newest PDAs are pen-based devices with a message-pad screen. They allow you to create notes and drawings on screen, then they read your scribbles and translate them into neatly typed text. An add-on keyboard is generally an option with pen-based PDAs. Some PDAs can also be used as pagers.

Jill Amadio is a writer in Newport Beach, California, and ghostwriter of Help! I've Hired a Lawyer! (Emptypockets Venture).

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This article was originally published in the January 1996 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Pocket Pals.

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