Those of us who own a Mac have a few disadvantages when using handheld computers. For Palm owners it’s not so bad, although you’ll miss many a conduit, including the ubiquitous AvantGo. More worryingly, PalmSource have dropped Mac sync support for Cobalt, so the future does not look so cheery. For Pocket PC owners it’s much worse – Microsoft doesn’t even supply a conduit - they even go as far as to supply Palm conduits for Office 2004! Luckily, the good people at Mark/Space are at hand to save both camps with their MissingSync product range. They’ve been providing Mac support for Sony handhelds for some time now, and this has grown into MissingSync 4.0 for Palm, which they were kind enough to provide for this review.
MissingSync offers a number of niceties over the standard HotSync, including WiFi (wireless LAN) synchronisation, the ability to mount the handheld card as a desktop drive and Internet sharing, as well as maintaining compatibility with existing conduits. You even get a configurable HotSync reminder. And if you’re lucky enough to have a Garmin or Zodiac then you’ll also get map download and high-score conduits respectively.
Mark/Space have two rather nice touches to their ordering process I should mention. The first is a 20% cheaper price if you buy a downloadable copy rather than buying the disc. The second is that they allow installation on two machines. This is fantastic for those of us who sync at work and home. They also include a handheld-only copy of SplashPhoto, and offer a discount for those who wish to upgrade to the full version.
Installation is installer based and very easy – a brief ReadMe covers off the process nicely. The main thing to be aware of is not to install HotSync after installing MissingSync, but for the majority of users upgrading this should never be an issue. I had no problems – the installer ran and all my conduits were exported to MissingSync. Mark/Space is even good enough to provide a list of manufacturers that provide Mac compatible conduits and supply a handy conduit to synchronise your handheld’s time with your Mac. And for your Palm there are a couple of small programs – a controller for the time synchronisation and a small program to initiate the card reader.
Once installed it sits nicely in the background and isn’t at all instrusive However, even those not using the extended feature set will notice a couple of niceties over HotSync. Firstly, the synchronisation dialogue lists the progress for the current conduit as well as overall progress – a nice touch missing from PalmSource’s program. It also takes advantage of the Dock and shows an overall progress bar upon the Dock icon.
Conduit synchronisation progress
The application itself offers two main screens – a dual windows device/card install window, very similar to the HotSync one, and a conduits setting window. On the bottom of this are three buttons controlling the application functionality. You may allow synchronisation; share Internet connectivity with the handheld or you may ‘do nothing’. The ‘do nothing’ option is actually misnamed, as it allows you to use the handheld as a card reader and mount the current card as a Mac OS drive - very handy for those without stand alone readers.
Internet connectivity finally gives Mac OS X users a way to synchronise AvantGo. Once your Internet connection is shared you may use the online sync from AvantGo or any other Palm program with Internet support. They make both this and the AvantGo synchronisation as simple as can be by offering ‘wizards’, which guide you through the configuration process screen-by-screen. And this can provide a cheap solution for WiFi-less Palms when using a Bluetooth connection.
On the subject of wireless, while the product supports WiFi synchronisation I was unable to test it thanks to the lack of a Palm WiFi card. If you are keen enough to try it, be aware it is not secure, however this is well covered in the documentation.
Easy to follow instructions for Bluetooth synchronisation
The only problem I encountered was with the card reader functionality. Should you run the client on your Palm while MissingSync is not in ‘do nothing’ mode it will still say it’s connected, and offers a dire warning when disconnecting. The same happens should the device not be in its cradle and could be vexing for users who haven’t partaken of the manual. And about the only complaint I can make is that real AvantGo synchronisation would be nice, rather than just using Internet sharing.
However, minor complaints aside, it’s a great, polished product and well worth the money for anyone wanting more than Palm HotSync offers. It’s easy to use, stable, has a clean, well designed interface and takes full advantage of Mac UI features. The documentation is excellent and easy to read and they were very responsive to my queries. Great work, Mark/Space!
Much more feature rich than Palm HotSync.
Likely to be the only option for Mac users if we ever get Cobalt.
Stable, easy to use and takes advantage of Mac UI features.
The Palm side card reader application can be misleading.