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PDAs and GroupWise: Taking It On the Road

Novell Cool Solutions: Feature
By Dave Strickler

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Posted: 16 Nov 1999

Whoever said "you can't take it with you when you go" has never used a PDA. Everyone's got one, whether a Pilot, Psion, or WindowsCE machine, these things are everywhere; almost as bad as cell phones. The problem is, if you've ever tried to put all your data in one, you realize you can only stuff so much in these little fellows.

So here I sit, spending countless hours each day inside GroupWise Remote, zipping off e-mail, organizing my calendar, and checking off my tasks. Because of GroupWise, I'm organized and efficient. But I'm still tethered to my laptop; my "Ball and Chain", my Albatross. I wanna lose this thing like a bad habit.

So here's the dilemma. I want all of the cool features of GroupWise in a tiny little package called a PDA. It's got to fit in my hand, and be the most impressive communication tool on the planet. OK, maybe I ask too much. But in this world, you gotta ask. It's just the way it is.

So when PDAs came out, I knew I had found my GroupWise security blanket. All I had to do was get all the features of GroupWise into this little box, and my GroupWise existence would be untethered for ever. No more laptop. No more waiting for Windows to boot. No more dead batteries. OK, a guy can dream can't he? But wait - it really does work, I promise.

Today there are easy solutions for getting your GroupWise synchronized to Palm Pilots, Psions and WindowsCE devices. But before we dive in, let's make an important distinction; note I said synchronized. GroupWise will not run (yet) on a PDA. Their operating systems and memory are too small to accommodate the breadth of GroupWise. However, you can make sure all the basic data you have inside of one, exists in the other. Much like GroupWise Remote, it doesn't matter which end you use, because your data is synchronized. So, on to the details.

Using a Palm Pilot
Lets assume you have a Palm Pilot (don't worry, I'll address the other PDAs in a bit). Like any good therapist, the first thing you need to do is to get GroupWise and your Pilot talking. This is accomplished through the "Palm Desktop" that came with your Pilot. Once you've got that up and running, take a look at the fabulous software from Puma Software called IntelleSync. It works like a champ at synchronizing GroupWise's calendar, address book, and tasks. For those of you that want to read and write e-mail on your Pilot, Puma has a new version that will synchronize e-mail too. But don't get too excited, with a Pilot's limited RAM, you can only fit so much e-mail on its tiny memory. Such is life with a PDA.

Using a Psion
For those of you with a Psion, you'll want to check with Advansys who makes a slick synchronizer that works with PsiWin for the Series 3 and the Series 5 Psion. Both work very well, and synchronize the GroupWise calendar, notes, tasks and address book. Because of the Series 5's standard 8 megabytes of RAM (eat your heart our Pilot users!), you can cram lots of GroupWise data into a tiny footprint, including all the text from the calendar entries you've got in GroupWise. This means if there are important details in the body of a GroupWise appointment, such as your flight information, you'll be able to take it with you on your Series 5. OK, maybe you'll still miss the flight, but at least you'll have all the information when you have to walk up to the check-in counter and beg for the next flight out.

Using WindowsCE
As for WindowsCE users, you can get your synchronizer from Puma also. Just like the Pilot synchronizer, it supports the GroupWise calendar, tasks and address book. So does this mean Outlook, which is the organizer application on WindowsCE that holds the data, can now talk to GroupWise? Well, yes it can, but not this way. Before you get too excited, remember that you really don't have Outlook on your WindowsCE machine, just a crippled application that looks like it. Hey, we've warned you that living in a Microsoft world won't be fun?

Some PDA Tips
So once you've bought the synchronizing software, which is usually under $100 US street price, you're wondering if installing this thing will cause all your carefully entered GroupWise data to go poof. Well, I didn't write the software, so I can't say for sure, but I'll tell you they're pretty stable (although I have heard some horror stories). Wanna be sure? Back up your GroupWise calendar, tasks and notes. While how to do this is a long story, you might try using the Archiving feature of GroupWise.

For the address book, just save use the Export feature. Or, for a totally different method, you can create a new GroupWise Remote client, enter some test data and try the sync with your PDA. In either event, once you're ready to try a sync, there are a few tips you should know.

What gets synced is the lowest common denominator. This means that if your PDA doesn't support an entire body of text in an appointment, that information won't sync to your PDA. Don't blame the software developers, if they had a place to put it, they would.

Only sync from one PC. While how a synchronizer works is a discussion for another time (and another pot of coffee) you need to know that it keeps data locally on the PC's hard disk that helps it synchronize faster. The problem is, if you decide you want to run a sync from home during breakfast, and then at lunch at the office, you're probably going to be doing it from different machines and thus different hard drives. If you do, you risk the possibility of having duplicate data show up on both your GroupWise calendar and your PDA. Cleaning up this data is slow and tiresome. Be forewarned: Only run the synchronizer software on one machine.

If you're lucky (or is that unlucky) enough to have a laptop, then your synchronizing problems with two machines may be over. After all, if the same machine you use at the office is the same one you use at home, presto, your synchronizer is only running on one machine! However, if you travel, you now have a time zone problem. When I travel, I change the time on my laptop to the city I'm in. This makes all of my appointments change times in GroupWise, and lets me work in a nice "localized" mode. However, most PDAs don't have this feature. This means when I set my PC clock back 3 hours and synchronize to my PDA, all my appointments get duplicated, simply offset by 3 hours. Again, you can clean this up, but I'm guessing you have better things to do. The solution is simple; just don't change your clock, or don't sync until you return back home. Hopefully PDAs will be able to handle this problem in the future, considering they are "mobile" devices. Hint, hint for all manufacturers reading this article.

So, now you have the knowledge to synchronize GroupWise to a PDA. Its not a perfect world and you don't get all of GroupWise in a tiny footprint. However, you can do most of your personal GroupWise calendar and task work on the road, and hopefully leave your laptop behind. Untethered yes, unburdened, well, I'll let you solve that one yourself.

About the author
Dave Strickler, President of DWS. Strickler founded DWS in 1985, which is the worlds largest, dedicated provider of GroupWise consulting services, assisting over a quarter million GroupWise mailboxes in 16 countries. He has an Engineering background, speaks 12 computer languages, and is the inventor of MailWise? and PulseWise?, two GroupWise service offerings. He currently lectures around the country on the technical and business aspects of GroupWise, and is often quoted in PCWeek, InfoWord, and PCMagazine. Strickler can be reach via e-mail as

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