By Joe Stoddard. Ask most contractors what they're actually using their hand-held computers for, and the answer will probably be "not much." Here are three applications for the Palm operating system that will transform your under-used PDA into a pocket workhorse.
Electronic Checkbook: If you're one of the many small contractors who use Quicken for accounting, Landware's $39 Pocket Quicken (www.landware.com) will let you enter job receipts or payments while you're at the job and then synch up with your office computer with one click.
Porta Docs: Cutting Edge Software's QuickOffice (www.cesinc.com) lets you view and edit Microsoft Word and Excel documents on your PDA--perfect for fill-in-the-blank change orders or preliminary budgets when you're walking a site. And, at $39 it's half the price of competing Documents to Go.
Track the Details: Strata Systems' Punch List (www.stratasystems.com) keeps track of completion details on your projects, synchs with your scheduling software, and generates fax or e-mail reminders for whoever is responsible--but at $199 it might be a little more than you need. If so, the company's Straw Boss performs many of the same functions but without the desktop component or notification features. And it costs just $19.95.