I recently spent a week in Kansas researching at the Kansas State Historical Society. Like many institutions, they limit what can be brought into the research room to a few papers, pencil and computers. A Pocket PC or any handheld computer devise has many advantages over a laptop computer. A Pocket PC is small and light, most fit in a pocket; fast, instantly on and off, there is no need to keep it on constantly so the battery lasts all day; and they are relatively inexpensive with programs that are reasonable.
There are different types of Pocket PC programs that can be used for genealogy. Below are examples of programs that I have found useful. These examples are not the only or the best programs, they are simply the ones that I prefer.
Genealogy Program- The Pocket PC genealogy programs do not take the place of your current desktop genealogy program. Data is kept on the desktop system in the genealogy program (PAF, TMG, Legacy, Family Tree Maker). To transfer the genealogy data to a Pocket PC, a GEDCOM file of data is made and copied into the Pocket PC genealogy program via the desktop. The exceptions to this are the genealogy programs Legacy and The Master Genealogists which can both be imported directly from the desktop program without the use of a GEDCOM file. I use Pocket Genealogist. One of the best features of this program is the “Find People” and “Find Location” tools. These “find” tools are especially helpful when you are at the library looking at indexes.
Word Processor- Word Processors are a basic necessity for any computer, including the Pocket PC. I use Pocket Word. Transferring documents from the desktop version of Word to the Pocket Word takes only a few seconds. Notes and research summaries are a good example of the types of documents to have on the Pocket PC when researching away from home. It is advisable to keep to simple text documents using a font of 7 or 9 point. Although documents can be made on the Pocket PC, I generally make them on my desktop and then transfer them to the Pocket PC.
Spreadsheet Program- I use Microsoft Excel because it was included with my Pocket PC. Research Logs and Research Plans are examples of how these spreadsheets can be used for genealogy.
List & Information Manager- A list manager is exactly what it sounds like–it is a list keeper. I use a program called ListPro, made by Ilium Software. This program can keep track of genealogy books, subscriptions, and research “to do” lists. I also use it for many non-genealogy related lists such as sizes and gift lists for my family and friends.
Security/EWallet- These programs store personal information. I use EWallet by Ilium Software. This is a convenient way to store online subscription passwords and account numbers so that you have access to the numbers when away from home. EWallet has security features that have two protection layers- password and data encryption which keeps the information safe if the Pocket PC is lost or stolen.
Personal Information Management- These programs are used for organizing personal and business information and are commonly called Planners/Day Timers. I use Outlook which includes a calendar, contacts, notes and tasks. This program can be used to keep track of when and where research was conducted and the address and hours of repositories.
Photo Viewer- This program was built into my Pocket PC system. I use it for scanned documents as well as photographs. It is especially helpful on trips to visit relatives.
Miscellaneous Uses- Calculator; Dictionary/Thesaurus; English/Foreign Language Dictionary; Maps; GPS (Global Positioning Systems); Built-in Dictation-recorder; E-mail; Infrared -Transmit and receive from other Pocket PC's; Power Point presentations; Phone; connection to digital camera. Some PDA’s have a camera built-in.
There are many Web sites with information on Pocket PC hardware and software. My personal favorite is Pocketgear.com. This site has information, advice, products reviews and discussions about Pocket PC products. There are many items in the marketplace to spend your genealogy money on. You could buy a lot of CD’s and books for the $300+ that a good Pocket PC will cost. But if you want to carry a lot of information with you in a small package, you can’t beat a Pocket PC.