Nibbles & Bits

by Charles Olsen

Project Management on the Palm

There are programs available that allow you to do project management on a Palm computer. This month I’m going to talk about one that you might not have considered for this task: HandyShopper 2.0.

HandyShopper is a freeware program from Christopher Antos. It’s a great shopping list program, allowing you to enter multiple stores, and all the items you ever need to buy from those stores. You can enter the aisle where the items are located, and you can easily sort by item name (handy when you’re making up the list) or by aisle (helpful when you’re going through the store). You can even assign a category and priority to each item.

It takes some work to get the initial list created, but once you’ve done that you can add items to your shopping list merely by clicking a checkbox. There’s also a Quantity field which is automatically set to 1 when you click the checkbox, but you can manually set the quantity to the number of that item which you need to buy.

If you enter the price for each item, HS2 will keep a total as you check off the items. You can specify whether an item is taxable, and the program can remind you if you have a coupon for an item.

HandyShopper would be an excellent program even if that’s all it did. But version 2.0 includes features that make it useful for managing simple projects.

HS2 added the capability to maintain multiple databases. When you create a new database, you are asked to specify the database type:

• Shopping

• To-Do List

• Dated List

• Checklist

The database type sets certain options to optimize the database for the type of list you’ve chosen. You can still go to the Preferences screen and change all of these options manually.

Most of us have several projects going on at the same time, and each project has multiple action items. You probably also find that you can work on items from multiple projects in one sitting. For example, you may need to make phone calls for several projects, and these calls could be made from your desk, with your cell phone, or even from home. Other action items might have to be done at your desk, while some require input from your boss.

This recognition of “context” can really help you keep your projects moving along. If you’re in a situation where it’s convenient to make several phone calls, why not take care of all your calls at once? You may need to talk to your boss about three or four projects, so it’s a good idea to take care of all that at once.

If this is the kind of situation you face, then HS2 can help you manage your projects. First, your project names can be entered as Stores. Items can be entered for each store/project, and you can select the store name from the drop-down to see all the action items for a particular project.

Use the Category field to define context, or where the action can be done. If it’s a phone call that can be done anywhere, as long as a phone is available, choose the Calls category. If it can only be done at your desk at the office, set the category to @WkDesk. If it’s one of the errands you need to do while you’re out, choose @Out&About.

Once this is set up, you can easily see all the things that you can do at the moment, given your location or situation. Just set the view to All Stores, and select the category that fits your current context. You can keep all your projects moving more efficiently when you can easily determine everything that can be done at the moment.

Any time you need to see all the items for a particular project, select that project from the Stores list and set the Category to All.

There are a lot of options you can set in HandyShopper, allowing you to customize the appearance, sort order and database options. Best of all, HandyShopper is free. You can download it from

There’s also a mailing list where people share ideas about what they’re doing with HS2, and upload files containing lists they’ve created. You can join the group by going to, or send an email to

There’s a much more sophisticated (and much more expensive) program for life and project management, called Life Balance. I’m evaluating Life Balance right now, and plan to write about it in the near future. In the meantime, I suggest that you take a look at HandyShopper. You may find that it does everything you need to keep track of your many projects.

Charles Olsen is a writer, trainer and IT professional. He presents classes on Palm computing and time management on the Palm, and writes a monthly column about handheld computing for the HAL-PC Magazine. He can be reached at

© 2001 by Charles M. Olsen

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Last modified: 2001:11:04