Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Bear's PDA metamorphoses into a super duper writing machine

Bear has had a couple very rough days of illness, in bed mainly. But people were praying for the Bear, and she is so thankful. The Lord lifted her in the midst of the illness, and encouraged her in many ways. Plus, she got quite a bit of work done, even while stuck in bed, through His Grace.

In fact, she learned a lot more about how to use her little PDA to good advantage for writing, in times like those. She has an old Treo cell phone PDA that she got cheap off the Internet a couple years back, long after this particular model of Treo went out of style. She's never even had the cell phone part connected to a service. But it has been a very handy gadget for many things -- almost like a tiny portable computer. And she picked up a foldable keyboard for it some months ago, on sale also, although she hadn't gotten around to using that part for anything yet.

Bear has a laptop (even after she accidentally threw a cup of water on its keyboard last week), and had already set that up on a TV tray type of table right next to the bed, which helped a lot. But much of the time she was too tired to prop herself up enough to use it. It's heavy, and really is too awkward to use for long, directly in bed.

And she was frustrated and bored, wishing she could work on the Writing Challenge for the week, and other projects.

That's when she remembered the Treo's keyboard, and started playing around with it. It turned out to be perfect for typing in bed -- super light weight -- and sat nicely on a clip board she had on hand. Plus, the Treo has Pocket Word on it. So she got about half of the Challenge entry written up that way.

But then she remembered something she had tried out on one of the more ancient PDA's that she had had about 6 years ago. It was a piece of programming software that causes a little 9 square grid to pop up on the screen that has letters on it. All 26 letters of the alphabet (and most the punctuation symbols) fit on various locations in the 9 squares -- some around the corners of the squares, some at the sides, and some in the middle. If you tap the square, it prints the letter in the middle. If you slide your stylus to one corner of a square, it'll print the letter in that corner. Etc.

So she looked it up on the Net again, because she remembered it had been helpful when she had it on her older gadget. And was happy to find it's still available. It's called "MessageEase". And it works on cell phones of many sorts, and regular computers, and PDAs of almost all sorts. It works basically like the regular screen-popup keyboard does on most PDA's, but the grid with only 9 squares is larger and much easier to type faster on, with the stylus, than the tiny QWERTY keyboard that normally pops up on screen. Some people can type 50+ words a minute on MessageEase even.

By last evening, Bear had it downloaded to her Treo, and was practicing, starting to get the hang of it again. By this afternoon, she was up to about 20 words a minute, typing on it, and was able to finish the draft of the Challenge entry with even more ease, that way, than by using the keyboard. It was wonderful, because she could just turn off the PDA when she needed a break, and then when she picked it up later, and turned it back on again, the Pocket Word document was still on screen, right where she'd left off.

And Bear found that she really loves that way of writing and re-writing. It's much more relaxing than trying to do it all at once at the computer, yet she felt that the quality was just as good, or better than, while sitting at the computer. Pocket Word even has a Word Count function in it, so she could tell if she was going over the allowed number of words for the Challenge (which she was, as usual), and could edit the Word Count back down to the proper limits.

MessageEase was, of course, slower than the computer, although while using the PDA's actual external keyboard, she was able to type almost as fast as at the computer's keyboard.

But it was so much more relaxing, it convinced Bear to continue to experiment with it more in future, even while not sick. Once she synced the Treo to the computer this evening, when finally feeling well enough to sit up again for awhile, all she needed to do was a bit of final polishing and a double check of the Word Count (which exactly matched Pocket Word's), and she was set to submit the entry.

So she's thanking the Lord much for what turned out to be one of her most interesting and uplifting sick times ever.
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