Monday, February 1, 1999

Converting Notes Address Books to the Web for Palm devices and pagers


By Dan Velasco

This article describes a project that started festering in my brain after I took an Advanced LotusScript class this past December. It came to the surface and wouldn't let go of me until I had proven it could be done.

Here was the challenge: get address information about individual users from a Notes database into a handheld device. There was a catch. I didn't want to use any third-party tools and I wanted to allow users to get the information from a Web page.

I had two handheld devices in mind, the Palm computer and the PageWriter 2000. Just about everyone knows about the Palm Connected Organizer (for those who don't, visit DominoPower's sister magazine PalmPower at Few, however, know much about the PageWriter 2000. The PageWriter 2000 is a two-way pager from Motorola that has a GUI and a little miniature keyboard. If you were one of those lucky people that got to go to Lotusphere this year, you almost couldn't throw a stick into the crowd without hitting somebody that had one.

I do have to issue one little disclaimer. I used to work for the Advanced Applications group at SkyTel, the company that provides the networks that all PageWriters are currently running on. I left last October before I had the skill set to create an application that created these address books online. Now, of course, I do -- and I'm going to tell you all about it.

Understanding the devices

What these devices have in common is the ability to import address book information into each device via desktop software. All you need to do is to put the information in the proper CSV (comma-separated values) format and then import that file directly into the desktop software. For the Palm device, I used the PalmPilot Desktop Software 2.0 (version 3.0 is now available as well) and for the PageWriter 2000, I used PageWriter 2000 Partner Software.

Here is the theory behind this. Sometimes there are just a few addresses that you really want and you don't want to have to go through the trouble of using a third-party tool to connect to that database and extract that information. Not every database is worth syncing with. Sometimes you just want to select a few key addresses and insert them into the address book on your device. Replication or performing a Palm HotSync is not always a priority or even practical.