Forums | Reviews | Search | Full Version

For many of us, the one major missing PIM piece for webOS has been a real, functional memos app, with the key features (sortability, categories) and most importantly desktop synchronization of the Memos app from PalmOS with Microsoft Outlook Notes (or, for some, Palm Desktop). While it appeared that the reason for the lack was out of Palm's control (neither Exchange ActiveSync nor Google Sync support notes as a separate content type), it was still a major blow for people like me, who have notes dating back years (in my case, since at least December 1996) that were either taken on or edited with a PalmOS device.

My notes have stayed with me through multiple jobs, because I've always been able to carry my Palm handheld to the next job and set up synchronization there. I've got information, call records, family history, and creative and business written work stored in notes, and I'm very used to being able to check it whenever and wherever I needed to, via my PDA.

When MotionApps' Classic added HotSync to its feature set in version 2.0 a few weeks ago, it became at least somewhat possible to do two-way syncing between Outlook and the Memos app within Classic, but many users (myself included) have had some difficulty getting even WiFi HotSync (let alone Bluetooth) to work properly in Classic. More to the point, it was a kludgy workaround, since it required first running Classic and then launching the Memos app in order to get at the info., which was also unavailable to any native webOS app.

A few weeks ago, Mark/Space's FliqNotes hit the App Catalog, promising synchronization with Microsoft Outlook via a soon-to-be-released upgrade to its $39.95 The Missing Sync desktop package. I was looking forward to testing that, as it seemed to be likely to be the first webOS-to-Outlook notes solution, but Chapura has beaten Mark/Space to the punch with its latest update to PocketMirror, which now offers notes synchronization as part of the package. As soon as I spotted this in the App Catalog, I downloaded the app and the Windows desktop component, installed them, and began testing.

Now we get to the part where I describe some bugs with sync, but keep in mind that I'm a limit case: I started with over 8300 memos. I was initially concerned that my 8300+ notes in Outlook might pose a problem for PocketMirror, and my concern was justified. First, I discovered that entirely blank Outlook notes will derail synchronization, but a quick search and delete through Outlook eliminated the few blank notes I had. Next, I tried repeatedly to sync the entire set of notes, only to have PocketMirror repeatedly freeze up on me. Uninstalling and reinstalling did not help the situation. In looking at my notes, though, I realized that I had duplicates of many (most) of them, probably legacies of various HotSync problems over the years, but a quick trip to MAPIlabs' Web site and purchase of Duplicates Remover for Outlook brought my notes down to a more manageable and less redundant 3300. Unfortunately, I was still getting lockups, so I contacted Chapura's excellent technical support for assistance. After a number of back-and-forth e-mail exchanges (disclosure: when I mentioned that I needed an extension of the trial because I was trying to write a review for PreCentral, Chapura converted my trial to a full license), we came upon the idea of syncing my notes incrementally, copying all of them over to a second folder in Outlook, copying them back in pieces, and syncing each piece. That seems to have worked, and I finally (I think) got all my notes to my Pre this morning.

A few other caveats: First, I'm still having a problem where the synchronization works, but I only get a white screen when I try to actually launch my list of notes. I'm working with Chapura on this, but I suspect it's related to how many notes I have (I didn't get the problem with a less-than-full set on my Pre), and I don't think that people with a more reasonable number of notes will run into this. Second, PocketMirror tended to freeze when my Pre went into sleep mode or switched to a different access point on the network in the middle of a synchronization session; using the NoDoze utility and staying in one place during sync helped. Finally, the initial synchronization can take significant time, although followup syncs go very quickly.

UPDATE: The folks at Chapura have e-mailed me with an answer to the white screen problem above:

We have figured out what was causing your problem and have corrected it. Basically the WebOS system was killing our app during a sort because it exceeded a timeout they place on script execution. They appear to have a watchdog timer that kills any script that exceeds some time period. This fix will appear in the build that is release with Tasks.

In the meanwhile, I am following their suggestion to temporarily archive enough of my notes so that sorting doesn't trigger the timeout. Thanks to them for the quick investigation and information.

While PocketMirror has a cost advantage over The Missing Sync ($29.95 for a single PocketMirror license), it is still pricey for those of us who can already sync the other PIM apps in Outlook via Exchange ActiveSync. Chapura is aware of this concern, and is considering how to address it, even while it adds task syncing to the program.

Of course, my other main requirement (a Bluetooth keyboard driver) remains unfulfilled, even while this new notes functionality makes the keyboard driver that much more valuable, but the potential addition of real and sync-able notes to webOS bodes well for the future of the platform for business and educational use.

Bonus: Courtesy of my Pilot 1000, my subsequent Palm handhelds, and the many iterations of PocketMirror for PalmOS I used over the years which have allowed me to keep a continual set of information across multiple jobs and devices, here's the full text of the note I took on 12/5/96, the earliest one I have in my file:

"12/5/96 Sarah Redfield

Franklin Pierce Law School conference
Aug. 7th speakers needed

Liability topics  ~1.5 hours

she'll send materials

printing deadline in a few weeks"

As I recall, I ended up speaking at that conference, and it was lots of fun. Thanks, Palm and Chapura!