- the Wonder PIM?"
Little Organizer for those with Limited Needs
By Jim Bray
In this day of Personal
Information Managers that are basically miniature PCs, what can
you do if you merely want a relatively cheap portable contact book and
You could try Xircoms
$199 REX 5000 Pro, a PIM thats so small and handy you can carry
it with you in a shirt pocket and still have room for your pens and handkerchief.
REX measures an incredible
3-3/8" x 2-1/8" x 1/4", which is about the same size as a credit card,
though its thicker, and it actually doubles as an honest to goodness
PCMCIA card, so if your computer has such a slot you can jam it right
in (well, slide it carefully) and exchange data that way.
If you dont
have such a slot, REX comes with its own docking station that plugs into
a vacant serial port.
Xircom claims that
REX represents the next-generation in ultra-portable technology.
I dont know about that, but it sure works for people who dont
want a PIM that does E-mail, word processing, and all the other overkill
(I mean value added) features that make Palms and Pocket PCs
so flexible and pricey.
tiny size, REX can store thousands of names, phone numbers, appointments,
notes, and to-dos with little to do. The data can also
be synchronized with major personal information management programs like
Microsoft Outlook, Symantecs ACT!, Lotus Organizer and online PIMs
like Yahoo! Calendar and Excite Planner.
I use Outlook, for
now, and REX downloaded my contact and calendar information with very
little fuss, via the included TrueSync software. It didnt bring
in all the notes I keep in Outlook, but neither has any other device Ive
tried (including other PIM software), so the problem may be in Outlook.
With such a tiny size
youre going to sacrifice some usability, and I found REXs
interface to be a mite frustrating at times. Its just too small
to have any kind of decent keyboard (even a virtual one on
the screen), so you have to scroll back and forth through letters and
numbers, clicking the little button beside the screen to accept your choice.
It took a while to
get used to accessing those tiny buttons, too. Oh, they worked fine, but
it was weird learning to press em with the corner of a fingernail.
This scrolling and
clicking can be particularly tedious, but Xircom has done its best to
make REX as intuitive as possible by using tabs and menus whenever possible.
For instance, if you
want to schedule a new event, a menu comes up offering you choices of
Event, Recurring Event, All-Day Event, Multi-Day Event, and Annual
Event. You choose one and another menu pops up with choices like
Meeting, Conference Call, Presentation
etc. After a few more menus you can add the person with whom youre
going to meet, either from your contact list or someone new.
This is an admittedly
tiresome rigmarole, and I quickly learned it was far easier to plan my
days ahead so I wouldnt have to use the interface. This turns the
process into a relative snap, since you can do all you inputting at home
on your PCs PIM, using your keyboard, then synchronize the data
through the link without have to worry about hunting and pecking with
your fingernail on REX.
Once youve figured
that out, you can reserve the hunting and pecking for emergency additions
that crop up, whereupon life with REX changes from being horrid to pleasurable.
Besides contacts and
calendars, REX also has functions for keeping track of multiple To-Do
lists, memos (with that typing caveat front and center) and
a home/world clock with its own alarm.
Xircom says the pair
of little lithium batteries should last about six months, and the whole
unit carries a one year warranty.
You dont need
a PC to use the REX, but youd have to be some kind of nut to put
yourself through that interface by choice if you dont have to.
Despite my angst over
the interface, I have no suggestions as to how they could improve it besides
having it read brain waves.
REXs size and
shape limit the choices, but if you keep your wits about you and do your
data entry at home, REX could just be the perfect PIM for those whose
needs are limited.
Jim Bray's technology columns are distributed by the TechnoFILE and Mochila Syndicates. Copyright Jim Bray.
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