New-fangled Jornada not as good as old-fashioned notebook

The Jornada 680e may come with some nice features, but none of them are very practical. It’s more of a novelty than anything else, and that soon wears off.

We looked at the Jornada handheld form-factor, and for someone who travels a lot Hewlett-Packard Co.’s device might be a light, easy and handy way to check e-mail, but its many other features aren’t as convenient as they first appear.

First of all, there’s the keyboard. It’s 76 per cent the size of a desktop PC keyboard, but it’s much too small for me. Forget typing on it like an ordinary typewriter. You’re better off with a one-fingered or two-fingered approach – unless you’re particularly fond of typos.

And while the keyboard might be too small, the Jornada itself wasn’t small enough. The Jornada is designed to be easy to carry, but by the time I got that, the extension cord, the synchronization cable, the phone cord and docking cradle into my already bulging bag – well, I decided it was time for a bigger bag.

The stylus is one of the many fun features of the Jornada and the InkWriter program, which lets you write hand-written notes by scribbling on the screen with the stylus, is in many ways easier to use than trying to type on the teeny keypad. But the handwriting recognition software isn’t the best. As I was writing, the program kept making funny lines on its own inclination. Trying to read my notes afterwards was like trying to decipher a doctor’s note. And if you’re anything like me, it’s only a matter of time before the stylus gets lost.

The Microsoft Voice Recorder was also good in theory, but not very practical. The sound quality was very poor, but that’s excusable – I’m not exactly going to use the Jornada to record a music CD. It’s meant to be practical, but just how practical is it? I could only retrieve my messages in private, as I didn’t particularly want to annoy co-workers and fellow commuters with my voice memos to myself. So if you work out of a cubicle, forget retrieving memos to yourself at work.

The synch capabilities, which allow users to synchronize the calendar on their PC with the one on the Jornada, also came with some headaches attached. I only have one serial port on the back of my now ancient three-year-old computer, and the only way to synch my Jornada with my computer was to disconnect my mouse. This isn’t HP’s fault, but annoying none the less for a mouse-dependent soul like myself. Make sure you know all the important macros for operating your Windows system before disconnecting your mouse and hooking up your Jornada.

Which ever way you try to keep notes on the Jornada – typewritten, hand-written or voice – there’s a problem with each. I suggest an old-fashioned, handy, easy-to-access notebook. It may not be as much fun, and it may not raise looks of interest from co-workers and friends, but it’s more practical.