Programming break – vidlist for Palm

So, I’ve made some headway on my programming to-do list, and thought I’d share some more details about it – I’ll try not to get too deeply into the techy stuff, since this isn’t a programming blog, and describe a bit of what it’s like to write a program for an old-school Palm handheld.

So, at my windows computer, I start the NS Basic for Palm developer program. I’ve found this to be a great line of products, giving me a lot of freedom to make programs that do what I want them to, for many kinds of machines, without having to get deeper than I like into the guts of what’s going on inside the machine. Though the programming languages for the different NS Basic products are different, they’re all pretty close to the Visual Basic and VBscript that I use in my day job.

Inside NS Basic, the first job is using the graphical form designer to figure out the interface layout – where the entry fields, labels, buttons, list boxes, popup list triggers, and other things go on the palmpilot screen. With vidlist, I was originally thinking of having a really tall listbox on the left that only went a little over halfway across the screen, but quickly figured out that with the kinds of things I was going to need to store in it, it would be better to have the list wider than it is tall. (You can page through palm lists using the little arrow icons, but can’t page or scroll them side to side.)

After arranging the layout, it’s time to write your own code to specify what happens for each event in the program – what messages show up, what information goes from the visible controls to the database in the palmpilot memory and comes back the other way, and so on.

And once that’s all done, you can pick the ‘compile’ option from the NSB menu bar, which takes your program and turns it into a PRC file that you can transfer over to your palmpilot – or to a palmpilot emulator program running on windows, which is usually easier to do your first testing on:

So, there’s your five-minute summary on programming for palm handhelds. I suppose some people may be asking ‘why bother’, but I feel that palm is really still a good operating system, with a lot of flexibility and power, and some handy little devices still out there – the Alphasmart dana, for instance, and some of the tungsten handhelds, which include miniature keyboards as good as a Blackberry’s – without the headache that I get from trying to get a Blackberry to learn a new trick.


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