Updates and Solutions
Office on the Go - The Treo 700w
Sunday, December 10, 2006
A few months ago a lawyer friend of mine asked me to help him find a phone that would solve several problems for him.
First, he wanted to be able to dictate into the phone and somehow get the dictation to his secretary instead of having to use a micro-cassette recorder and regularly Fed-Ex his tapes back to the office when out of town.
Second, he wanted to have access to his office calendar and contacts while out and about. But he said he didn't care about email.
I spent some time comparing phones that would handle dictation and would sync with Outlook, and I narrowed the search down to the Motorola Q and the Palm Treo 700w. I ended up going with the 700w because it ran Windows Mobile 5 operating system and I knew it would offer a cleaner path to working with Outlook and Exchange server. Both phones support EVDO, or Verizon's Wireless Broadband service, which we would need, as you shall see.
The phone has a built-in ability to voice-record, but this user needed as easy a transition as possible into technology and didn't need to be digging around in the phone's file system for .mp3 files, so for the dictation functionality I opted to use Pocket Dictate ($65) made by NCH Swift Sound. It installs on the phone and then one of the side buttons on the phone can be programmed to run Pocket Dictate as needed. Once a dictation has been taken, a couple of keypresses sends the dictation (using an SMTP client internal to PD) to a pre-defined email address using a highly compressed format. An EVDO connection is made, and the dictation is sent.
The only problem I ran into was that the Pocket Dictate program wasn't able to initialize the internet connection properly, and so to send out a dictation, the EVDO connection needed to already be up and running. So the working procedure ended up being as follows:
1 - Push the button to start Pocket Dictate
2 - Tap the record button on the screen
3 - Dictate as needed
4 - Push the stop button on the screen
5 - Open up Internet Explorer to initialize EVDO, then close the browser window
6 - Push the send button on the Pocket Dictate screen
7 - Push OK
NCH makes a free companion dictation player application that installs on the secretary's workstation and allows her to transcribe the dictations. I installed a USB transcriptionist's footpedal for her that integrated well with the app, and she was able to get rid of the old transcription machine entirely.
Teamed with the law office's Windows Small Business Server 2003, I was able to set the phone up to use Exchange ActiveSync, which allowed my client to access calendar, email, tasks and contacts on his phone while in court. His secretary was able to edit his calendar and contacts as needed, and his phone synced with the server on its own every 15 minutes.
I'm personally using this phone myself now, and here are the top four things I do with it besides make phone calls and use the sync functions:
- Listen to audio books I've downloaded from Audible using the EVDO connection
- Use the Notes feature to take down the titles of books I want to remember to look up later
- Text message Google's SMS service to find information I need while out like movie times, restaurants, and banks. Just send a text message like 'pho, boise id' to the number 46645 and you'll get a list of Vietnamese noodle houses local to Boise.
- Look up the definitions of words on Dictionary.com. Yesterday I was in an antique shop and there was this old clock that looked like it was made of wood, but when you touched it, you realized it was made of some sort of stone. A guy who seemed to be a friend of the proprietor was telling her that it was made of "adamantine." I was pretty sure that you wouldn't make a clock out of that, and I quickly used my phone to confirm that you might as well try and fashion a clock out of a diamond. But I didn't say anything. I just had to know.