Probably one of my favorite aspects of using a PDA over the years has been the ability to use and download so many various types of software. While most of these applications were nice for awhile, there are some programs that were so good that they have become a mainstay for me over several models. One such program that has been on every Palm OS model I have owned since roughly 2003 is KeySuite from Chapura.
KeySuite is essentially Microsoft Outlook on one’s Palm OS device. While it keeps the look and feel of the built-in PIM applications (Calendar, Contacts, Memos, and Tasks ), it increases the value of this information because you are able to do things such as link to contacts from calendar and task items; you can have almost 250 categories for organizing information (some of us actually use that many); and it has a pretty slick interface to get from one part of the application suite to another. All in all, I have liked it a lot and it has certainly been a life saver for me on the occasions that I have been left without a computer.
But the harsh thing about KeySuite, and many other applications on both the Palm OS and Windows Mobile, is that when you decide that you no longer want to use that application, you end up with information that is difficult to put into another format, or into another system, without a whole lot of work (and usually costs).
I’d like to try out a good many of the applications that use the built-in PIM information in order to display my information. However, with KeySuite, this is not possible because the format that it uses for the data is closed. Yes, this application can hold more information the way I want it, but I cannot move out of this system easily at all, nor expand its uses, without some major cost to myself.
Now granted, many of us don’t think about this. We use Word documents because everyone does. We use vCards because it’s accepted. There are advantages in having a closed system. But the disadvantage of that system is that you can end up with information that is no longer usable if the program is no longer supported (see MS Reader’s current situation), or information that is just not usable on another device (it’s not easy to find a device capable of playing iTunes’ AAC files that’s not named iPod). This is why I think being locked in is a bad thing, and something that will happen more and more as the idea of digital data becomes a reality for more and more people.
So what am I going to do? Seriously, I don’t know. I like KeySuite a lot. Much of the reason I am well organized comes from this application being so much like Outlook, but simple to use like the default applications. I don’t see myself giving it up any time soon.
I just hope that the MP3 files I have, the Word documents that I use, and plenty of other data files that I interact with do not come to the same point in the future. Changing one’s system is a hard thing to do. But when it is made harder by the manufacturer, the garden we enjoy our mobility in becomes a walled prison where no one really wins out.