BugMe! Notepad for Palm OS 5

Reviewed by: Jack Reikel, June 2004, send e-mail
Published by: Electric Pocket, go to the web site
Requires: Any PDA running Palm OS 5
MSRP: $19.95

BugMe! Notepad is a multimedia notepad program with a range of productivity and communications capabilities for your PDA. It's different from your calendar, memo pad and to-do list in that it provides you with a means to jot handwritten notes, create quick drawings or sketches, format text in color, enhance notes with clip art, import and annotate screen shots from any Palm OS program, include photos stored on a memory card, attach a variety of alarms, dial phone numbers and send notes via MMS, beaming or Bluetooth.

We reviewed BugMe! Notepad on a shiny new Sony Clié TH55 and a Palm Zire 71. Both PDAs use Palm OS 5. The software installed easily and ran well, especially on the Zire 71. Note that this version of the software is designed specifically to take advantage of Palm OS 5 and higher.

The decision to use a PDA, as opposed to a day-timer, simple scheduler or the calendar built into your cell phone should be predicated on the need for something more than just basic time management. PDAs in 2004 are powerful little devices capable of managing a lot of data and enhancing your day-to-day endeavors with information, tools, time management, contacts, communications, education and occasionally a little fun. That's why the Palm OS software list is miles long. That's why so many people are finally moving away from printed pen & paper daytimers towards the digital PDA versions which offer so much more versatility. My PDA contains two different (large) dictionaries, a camera, work and home schedules, to-do lists, memos, photos, reference works, birthday and anniversary reminders, holiday reminders, games, utilities, calculators of every description, conversion tools and you name it. I can't count the number of times that PDA-less people have asked me if I can convert, calculate or look something up for them specifically because they knew I was carrying a well-stocked PDA. Unfortunately, it all gets boring from time to time, just like anything else with which we become over-familiar. Enter BugMe! Notepad.

The difference between BugMe! Notepad and everything else I use on a regular basis is mainly that it can be personalized in unique ways. It's not meant to display a whole day's worth of appointments and notes. It's not meant to replace my copy of DateBk5. But it is meant to provide you with a way to create the most versatile and interesting notes for items worthy of such effort. For example, a sketch of a wooden bench overlayed on a photo (taken with the camera built into the Clié) of a section of my backyard helped me explain the idea to a local carpenter. It's a good example of the ways in which you can use all of these integrated tools. The additional notes I printed onscreen provided a reminder about the size, position and finishing I wanted. The carpenter was able to quote the job at his office without having to visit my backyard (which also meant I didn't have to take a morning off work to meet the man). Nice. What else is there? How about taking a photo of a piece of furniture, loading it into BugMe! Notepad and annotating it with a proper description and specs, then sending the note via e-mail (it turns into a JPEG file attachment) to my wife through a WiFi access point. She called me on my cell phone twenty minutes later after receiving the e-mail and told me to buy the table. Nice. Saved her a trip that was really far out of her way and she was able to make an informed decision based on a photo, measurement notes and my written description. There's more, but you get the idea.

You can certainly do a lot of what BugMe! Notepad does using individual programs. The nice thing about BugMe! is that it's all in one place: photos, notes, annotations, sketches, drawing tools, color, handwriting recognition, alarms, reminders and communications access. The software is easy to use and is mainly icon driven although a full menu bar is also provided. Making notes is just a matter of printing or writing onscreen. E-mail addresses, URLs and phone numbers that you enter in a note are recognized automatically so that you can tap them to launch your e-mail client, web browser or phone dialer - very handy. I tried the suggestion in the BugMe! Notepad product literature and entered the URL for an eBay auction along with a reminder alarm set for 1 hour before the scheduled close of the auction. When the alarm went off I tapped the URL in the note, which launched the NetFront browser bundled with the TH55 and checked the auction action. Worked like a charm.

Cons: The virtual graffiti silkscreen on the Clié TH55 gave BugMe! Notepad some real fits. Try entering printed text using the text entry tool - it doesn't work in the latest version. Writing text anywhere onscreen works perfectly, but text entry through the TH55's virtual graffiti silkscreen is hopeless. It's a BugMe! bug. If you've got a Sony Clié TH55, look for Electric Pocket to update BugMe! Notepad for better compatibility with that particular PDA. You can't beam or transmit an active note via WiFi or Bluetooth; you have to go into the note list and beam or transmit from there.

Pros: Well it's fun. I mean we're just talking about notes, memos and reminders here, but it's still an enjoyable break from even the best of the time management programs out there. I've been using BugMe! Notepad alongside the superb DateBk5 for about two months now and it's a great combination. Anything that doesn't fit into my regular work day goes into BugMe! Notepad, which makes for a refreshing change and also helps to separate work-related schedules, memos and to-dos from everything else. Easily combining handwritten notes with photos, clip art, drawings and other details, then coupling the whole thing to alarms and reminders is useful and effortless. Excellent alarm function with lots of default timings and a versatile custom alarm dialog. Lots of possibilities. Try it.

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