Posted on 11 Nov 2004 at 11:53
Mark Needham finds that even after ten years there are still improvements to be made to the PDA diary functions
I've also tried walking along the street with a Bluetooth GPS receiver in one hand and the phone in the other, trying to follow their directions on foot. This didn't work quite so well, as not only is there a distinct possibility of bumping into a lamppost while peering at a tiny screen, but also on foot you don't move fast enough for the software to estimate your direction of motion accurately.
It's now more than ten years since the first Palm Pilot was released, and so you might be forgiven for thinking that everything that could be done to improve the layout of an electronic diary had been tried out several times over. Yet the urge to improve what's in front of us is so strong that new software writers are still trying. A few issues back I reviewed Agendus, an improved interface for Palm OS Organisers, and for the past few weeks I've been using Pocket Informant, a similar package for Pocket PC for which a free trial version can be downloaded at www.pocketinformant.com
To my mind, the best features of both Agendus and Pocket Informant are their improved Week and Month screens in the Agenda application. Screenshot 1 shows the normal Pocket PC Month view, while screenshot 2 shows the same data, in the Pocket Informant Month view. Not only does it look prettier, but each colour or bar means something different. For example, the blue bar on Monday 26 July is a birthday. A green bar across a day would mean an all-day event, while the white bars show appointments booked. A higher line means appointments in the morning (for example, 7 August) and a lower line means appointments in the afternoon (for example, 8 August).
Screenshots 3 and 4 compare the same data for a week, while Screenshots 5 and 6 compare the Tasks lists. Not only does the Pocket Informant screen display more information, but it also has a huge list of custom options - for example, in its Week view (screenshot 4) you can see that I've turned on the option to display ISO week numbers.
The use of computer databases to identify good and bad trends in the performance of medical procedures has a long history, and has been promoted by some important medical and nursing practitioners, so it's no surprise that handheld computers are now used in hospitals. eLogbook is a software product from Australia that allows surgeons to capture data about operations they've performed, and just as you might add photos to your Address list if you have a camera phone, doctors can now add pictures to their databases too. Not only can eLogbook record and find all the operations performed by a doctor, it can also store pictures of those operations.
I spoke to Dr Olivia Morris from Australia, who uses the product: 'Doctors are an unusually mobile workforce' she said. 'If I go to a different surgery or a different hospital, I always have my Pocket PC with me.' As well as being a convenient way to carry data, the program acts as an audit for the surgeon - it's now a requirement of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons that all trainees keep a logbook of operations they have performed, recording any complications or adverse events. There are advantages to keeping a logbook for qualified surgeons as well said Dr Morris: 'If you were challenged legally, you could produce statistics showing your rate of adverse events was average or below average. You could show how many of these procedures you had done, so that it was clear that this was not the first one you had done, and how many were under direct supervision of another surgeon.'
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