HP Palmtop Software Picks

Here is a collection of what I consider must-have shareware or freeware programs for the HP 100/200LX and/or the HP 95LX. As these small machines have rather limited storage space, the list is very short. Still, every program on this list deserves a very serious consideration.

Note: these programs do NOT run on the HP LX series 600 computers, which use Windows CE! This is strictly a 95/100/200 LX selection!

If a program has a support page on the Web, I'm giving a link to it. Otherwise, I'm providing an archive for download from here.

If you know about a more recent version than the one I'm providing here, please drop me an email message for the benefit of our fellow palmtop users. If you think I should have added some program to my list, let me know as well I'll have a closer look. Thanks.

Buddy | Toddy | Diet | VDE | Ex

This is by far the most popular third-party enhancement program for the HP Palmtops and justly so. It installs itself in the background, watching the keyboard input and what is being sent to the screen, and then it modifies one or the other or both.

First of all, it makes the tiny palmtop keyboard almost usable by reducing the need for use of the Shift key. Double-pressing a letter, for example, will enter that letter in uppercase. If you type something in the built-in Memo application, Buddy can do a good job of capitalization for you, too.

Second, Buddy introduces small but useful changes into the behavior of all built-in palmtop programs. The behavior becomes more consistent between applications, more intuitive; frequently performed operations require fewer keystrokes, and some additional ones are assigned to the function keys (with the appropriate screen labels provided).

This may not sound like much, but after having used Buddy for a week or so, there is no way back: a "naked" palmtop will feel, well... naked and hard to use. This is especially, but not only, true for the 95LX (quite a few improvements in the 100/200LX interface seem like inspired by Buddy).

Just try Buddy out and you will see what I mean.

  • Program: Buddy
  • Category: Shell and Keyboard Enhancement
  • Compatibility: separate versions for 95LX and 100/200LX.
  • Author: Jeffrey Mattox
  • Registration: $40
[Download] bud95.zip - Version 3.1 for the HP95LX
[Download] buddy.zip - Version 2.1 for the HP100LX and HP200LX

It took Microsoft eight years to come up with a version of DOS (or, more exactly a DOS add-on, named Doskey) allowing the user to (hear this!) edit the contents of the command line and to use the arrow keys to recall previous commands.

Toddy is a DOS memory-resident utility doing everything Donkey does, and quite a few things more. It allows for command line editing, history scrolling (or recalling it in a pop-up menu), defining your own command aliases (witch sequence chaining), file name completion and some other neat things. For a lousy typist like myself (or for all of us, using the tiny LX keyboards), Toddy makes our interaction with DOS much less painful.

Toddy does more than Doskey, is better designed, takes less memory (just 6k) and is much more configurable. It also comes with detailed instructions.

I have used this program on my 95LX from the very beginning, later on the 100LX, without logging in any complaints. The tiny thing just sits there, activated with a line in the autoexec.bat file and does its job.

If you do not spend any time in the DOS mode on your palmtop, then you do not need Toddy, but if you do, you will find it more than useful - just indispensable.

  • Program: Toddy
  • Categories: DOS Command Line Enhancement, Macro Interpreter
  • Compatibility: 95LX, 100LX, 200LX
  • Author: Eric Tauck
  • Registration: Free
[Download] toddy.zip - Version 6.12 of Toddy distribution

Sooner or later you will run of RAMdisk storage on your palmtop. This is the moment when you start appreciating every kilobyte of disk space. Here is where Diet comes to the rescue.

Diet will compress most of the DOS programs (.COM or .EXE) so that they automatically decompress into memory upon execution (more exactly, upon loading) - the only difference you will notice is a slight (one or two second) delay when you run such a compressed program. For example, my own Ex shrunk from 116k to 60k in the process, quite a savings!

In principle, Diet can be also used to compress data files; to acces such data you have to install Diet as a memory-resident accessory so that it will decompress the files on the fly. I haven't found much use for this mode on LX machines so I haven't really used it, limiting myself to compressing the executables.

This is quite an old program, developed for DOS before the advent of HP Palmtops, but in the four years of using it on the LX machines I've never run into any problems with it. If an application cannot be successfully compressed, Diet will issue an appropriate warning. It can also uncompress the "dieted" programs back to the original state.

As a matter of fact, you do not even have to keep Diet on your palmtop: programs can be compressed on another DOS computer and only then moved to the LX. Unfortunately, Diet does not shrink any Application Manager compliant .EXM programs. Oh, well...

The number of program switches and options shown in the accompanying documentation may seem intimidating, but one can just ignore the more advanced (or exotic) settings. Just type "diet myprog.exe" and forget about the techie stuff - your myprog.exe program can be still executed as usual, but its size on your RAMDISk will be cut in half. Not too shabby.

This is a nifty little program, doing just one thing but doing it well. No palmtop user should be without it.

  • Program: Diet
  • Categories: Compression
  • Compatibility: 95LX, 100LX, 200LX
  • Author: Teddy Matsumoto
  • Registration: Free
[Download] diet.zip - Version 1.44 of Diet distribution

The text editor built into the 95LX was, let's face it, quite a dog. The one in the 100/200LX is much better, but some people it still may be not powerful enough.

VDE (Visual Display Editor) is not just a text editor; it provides quite a lot of functionality of a word processor in a very small package (75k). It is also very, very fast.

This is a DOS program which started a new life on the HPLX platform and has some palmtop-specific nonfiguration options. In particular, it can be configured for 80-, 64- or 40-column display; it also behaves just fine when run from the Application Manager.

The user interface is not too intuitive, but power usually comes at a price. On the other hand, the function keys (and the corresponding on-screen menus) can be flexibly configured to your liking, and it allows for user-defined macros (command sequences) to be assigned to selected keyboard combinations.

VDE supports adjustable margins, proportional spacing (which I've never used); it will center or justify and reformat parts of text; it allows multiple document editing (switch or split screen) and multiple windows into the same document.

I was also able to configure VDE as a shell for the Turbo Pascal command-line compiler: pressing Escape-P would recompile and run the program being just edited. Nice.

The only real limitation is that the largest document size VDE will handle is about 80k (about 40 pages of text) - you have to split longer documents into parts.

The program is still being improved and updated; the most recent version, released in January '97, adds a number of new, palmtop-specific features.

VDE comes with a very detailed user manual and rudimentary on-line help. Registration brings you, among other benefits, a spell checker. If you do any serious writing on your palmtop, VDE deserves a close look.

  • Program: VDE
  • Category: Text Editor
  • Compatibility: 95LX, 100LX, 200LX
  • Author: Eric Meyer
  • Registration: $35
[Download] vde.zip - Version 1.82 of VDE distribution

Putting Ex on this list and, at the same time, having myself written the program, I can be accused of lack of objectivity. I guess I will have to live with it.

Ex was born because I needed a more powerful and easier to use scientific calculator for my HP, and I think it serves this purpose well.

Besides, the popular vote cannot be ignored: Ex has more than 2100 downloads on the CompuServe HP Palmtop Forum; only five applications (Buddy and VDE in this number) and two game programs have more. Not bad for a math program.

Anyway, Ex is an expression calculator, unit converter, graph plotter and a numerical Swiss Army knife for the HPLX machines and if you do any scientific or engineering math on your palmtop, you should try Ex and draw your own conclusions. The link below leads to the Ex distribution page where you can get more information and find the program itself. 'Nuff said.

  • Program: Ex
  • Category: Scientific/Engineering Calculator
  • Compatibility: 95LX, 100LX, 200LX
  • Author: J. Andrzej Wrotniak
  • Registration: $30
More info and download

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Posted 1997/05/28; last updated 2002/06/15 Copyright © 1997-2002 by J. Andrzej Wrotniak.