Palm Desktop 4.0

Palm Desktop 4.0, the software that syncs a Palm handheld with a Mac running OS X, has finally arrived. But besides the program’s synchronizing capabilities and Aqua look-&-feel, there are few improvements. While it’s good that Palm owners no longer need to sync in Classic, a big problem for Palm Desktop users is that the Mac OS 9 and OS X iterations of the program cannot share a data file. So, if you install Palm Desktop in the OS 9 and OS X Applications folders, and then synchronize under each operating system, data will end up out of sync. You should also be sure that you want to upgrade to Palm Desktop 4.0 in the first place, as simply running the program’s installer removes previous versions of Palm Desktop from all mounted hard drives. For OS X users, version 4.0 takes a small step backward. In version 2.6.3, the Instant Palm Desktop extension generated an icon in the menu bar that showed and let you create events, to-do items, and contacts – even if Palm Desktop wasn’t open. This version doesn’t include a dockling – a helper component that stays in OS X’s Dock and provides a pop-up menu with information and commands – as Power On Software’s Now Up-to-Date and Contact 4.1 and later do. Instead, the Instant Palm Desktop menu appears only when you click and hold on Palm Desktop’s Dock icon. Synchronizing performance was generally quick, except for the initial sync, which took more than ten minutes. But our attempts didn’t always work. On several occasions, the HotSync Manager would work correctly one time, and then wouldn’t work again until we restarted our Mac. Synchronizing in OS X works only via USB. If you have an older Palm cradle that uses the Mac’s serial port, you’ll be able to connect it to your Mac with the help of Keyspan’s USB PDA Adapter (other manufacturers’ adaptors are not supported). At press time, Handspring didn’t support Palm Desktop 4.0 for use with any of its products. The release of Palm Desktop 4.0 has also allowed other companies that make OS X applications to update their conduits, which enable synchronizing with the Palm. Rewritten conduits for the OS X versions of Now Up-to-Date and Contact, FileMaker Mobile, Chronos Organizer, and Microsoft Entourage have been released or announced. And if you’re waiting on any of these, you should continue to synchronize with your pre-OS X system.


Palm Desktop 4.0 is OS X-native, but Palm left most of the program’s features untouched. If you use either OS 9 or OS X exclusively, then Palm Desktop 4.0 should suit your needs despite its idiosyncrasies, especially if you’re looking for a free solution. If you switch between operating systems, you’ll have to decide which OS will be the one for your Palm.

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