Palm Applications from Your PC

Pendragon Forms 3.0 makes it easy to design a simple database on your PC and turn it into a Palm application to your Palm handheld. Use your Palm for data input, then easily re-sync the data between Palm and PC. It’s slick, and it’s simple, once you get the hang of things.

The database design process is quite simple. Pendragon Forms lets you define the standard field types: text (255 characters maximum), numeric (up to 15 digits, with support for scientific notation up to e308 and down to e-324), 9-digit currency, option 1-to-5 (the Palm application lets you choose 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5), popup list, multi-selection (using checkboxes), date, time, date and time together, Yes/No, and signature. New records are automatically filled with date/time, user name, and record IDs. If you don’t want to start from scratch, you can generate a form from a database table.

You are limited to 250 fields per form – far more than most well-designed Palm applications would use anyway. The company says you can have a theoretical limit of 32,000 records, but recommends no more than 5,000 for speedy searching and sorting.

Pendragon Forms 3.0

There are several special features you can invoke, such as creating a cascading popup. In such a relationship, a selection made from a popup list determines which list of values is displayed for the next field. For example, on your Palm device you could choose “Washington” in the state field and see a list of Washington cities displayed in the Cities field which follows; answer “California” and you’ll see a different Cities list. You can also create what Pendragon calls a Jump Popup field: Answers to a question can automatically take you to different sections of your input screen.

You can specify a field is read-only or required, and you can specify a default value. For numeric fields you can specify minimum and maximum values and limit entries to integers, while text fields can be set to a maximum length and specify an edit mask.

The Palm user can quickly sum, average, and count the values. You can also define calculations using Pendragon Forms’ scripting. Fortunately, scripting is fairly easy to learn, and the user guide is amply illustrated.

On the Palm side the generated application also lets you quickly find values in a particular field as well as sort the list of records by any field. Your application can run only any Palm handheld with OS 3.0 or higher with HotSync 3.0 or higher, including the Palm III, V, and VII series.

There is limited multi-table processing. You do this by creating a parent form and a subform. Each must share a field (the key to the one-to-many relationship).

Synchronization is simple, and the program gives you control over which records on the Palm stay there. For example, you may be using the Palm application as a data collection device and want all records transferred to the PC. In my test application I wanted a complete synchronization between PC and Palm; all records were merged. You also have several filtering capabilities; used in a multi-user environment, for example, you can select which records are sent to Palm user #1 and which go to user #2. You can also create user groups to make repetitive synchronization tasks easier.

Though the program will work without Access 97 or 2000, you may want to have a copy loaded on your system. Once you’re ready to implement your design, you must “freeze” it, meaning you can only make minor changes. If you need to add a field, you’ll have to copy your design and work on the copy. The trouble is you can’t copy the data as well, so you’ll need a database tool such as Access to perform that task.

Pendragon Forms includes a tabular option for display and edit of data on the PC, and you can export to Excel or ASCII formats with the click of a button. The program can work with both DAO (Access 97) and ADO (Access 2000) database engines, as well as ASCII files.

Overall I found Pendragon Forms easy to use, thanks in part to my experience with databases. My developer background also let me quickly grasp the principles of Pendragon Forms’ application creation; a little experimentation was all it took to get the hang of things in about an hour. If this is your first development tool, expect to spend an hour or two more to get your first flatfile (single form) application created and working. But remember, you’ll want to experiment with, and test, your application in great depth before you deploy it. Unlike other database tools, once you deploy your application your flexibility virtually disappears.

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