Palm Basics Tutorial

[Picking the right PDA] [Ram vs. Rom vs. Expansion Memory] [Important Folders] [Medical Programs]

[Copying Files to the expansion Card]

First pick the right PDA.  There are two main platforms to choose from, PalmOS and PocketPC. PalmOS has led field and for medical purposes remains the most desirable due to the widespread adoption and the vast catalog of programs and databases available.  PocketPC has been gaining momentum and may be worth watching in future years.  I recommend currently purchasing a PalmOS compatible device.
I have been using my PDA as an adjunct to my medical practice for a couple of years now.  I have found it very useful.  To take full advantage of your PDA will require some effort and some basic knowledge of PalmOS.
There are 4 companies that make PalmOS devices: Palm, Sony; Handspring, and Handera.  I will not go into details into all the models available as that changes frequently is the market, however here are some basic points to consider:
Look for the following features: processor speed, expandable memory, built-in RAM, screen resolution, size.  These are probably the most important for physicians.  With the current software available, networking and wireless features are not priorities.  In general, I have found the Sony products to be of superb build and quality.
RAM vs. ROM vs. Expansion Memory

(click link for explanation)

Important folders on your expansion card

This folder on the expansion card is the default folder PalmOS v4.x recognizes.  PalmOS recognizes executable programs located in this folder.  Executable programs are those that end in .prc.  Database files are those that end in .pdb.  The PalmOS program launcher (what you see after you tap to home key on the grafitti area) will display an icon for any .prc file located in this folder.  It will quickly copy over a copy of the program to the main ram and execute it.  When you leave the program it deletes the copy on the RAM, however the original on the memory card is preserved.  I find this useful for programs that I don't use that much such as games. NOTE:  PalmOS does NOT recognize databases located in this directory.  Individual programs must be enable to access database files here.
iSilo is a useful document reader with many available medical titles.  You can load all the database files into this directory on the memory card.  iSilo will automatically access these databases without the use of 3rd party software.
/palm/programs/isilo also has many commercially available databases that can be accessed from the memory card if located in either /palm/launcher or /palm/programs/msfiles
/palm/programs/sguide Sanford Guide 2002 is VFS aware and you can store the database files on the expansion card in this folder
There are several programs that currently do not support VFS.  PiDirect will enable you to continue to take advantage of you memory card for database file access.  See below for more details.
Medical Programs

Epocrates qRx and Epocrates qID

Both of these programs can be download for free at These programs help the adoption of PDAs as a tool for physician. Both of these programs are updated frequently via a hotsync and are quite complete. Unfortunately due to the complex nature of the databases, these programs must reside in the RAM. Using PiDirect is not possible. Epocrates qRx occupies roughly 1 mb in RAM and Epocrates qID occupies 500 kb.

the Skyscape Medical series

Skyscape is a pioneer and leader in medical software delivery. They offer several adopted medical texts including 5 Minute Clinical Consult, the Washington Manual, Harriet Lane, the Ferri Guide as well as many proprietary programs such as 5 Minute Emergency Consult, 5 Minute Ortho, 5 Minute Peds, 5 Minute Toxicology. The list is immense and impressive. Full versions of Skyscape products can be downloaded for a trial basis at Follow the websites instructions for installation of these programs.

Skyscape products take advantage of VFS. Therefore, you can install the entire program to your memory card, or just the database. This can be accomplished in 3 ways.

the series also offers several medical texts. These are in more traditional format and read like a book. They also offer 5 Minute Clinical Consult, the Washington Manual, but also Degowan's and Degowan's, OB pearls, the Redbook for Pediatric ID, and the Merck Manual. Their offerings can be download after purchase from Handheldmed makes a special program, called Reader to access their medical texts. This program should generally reside in the PDA's RAM, however, the database files may be copied to the either of two directories on the expansion card. It can be stored in /palm/launcher or /palm/programs/msfiles. There is no difference in the two folders except you cannot directly hotsync to the /palm/programs/msfiles folder. You would have to use the first method to copy databases to the desired location.


iSilo is a document reader which is very powerful. It can be downloaded at There are many databases available that can be purchased via shareware that use this reader. iSilo boasts hypertext linking abilities and hi-resolution support. You can create your own documents using iSiloX (available at There are several databases that are available at such as LyteMeister, AshtmaMeister and the entire Carl Weber series. Carl Weber, M.D. is an independent physician who has compiled a very complete medical reference series that utilize hypertext. His products are updated frequently and is generally quite accurate. iSilo is VFS aware. iSilo looks in the directory /palm/programs/isilo. Copy any iSilo database to this folder.


PEPID developed initially as a tool for emergency physicians but has grown quite popular. It utilized the hypertext technology of iSilo. There are several versions of Pepid now available of emergency physicians, medical internists, nurses and EMS. A 14 day trial can be downloaded at Pepid is NOT VFS aware but the large databased can be access on the memory card by utilizing PiDirect. Just copy the large databases to the /palm/pidirect folder (you may have to create the folder using McFile). Enable PiDirect and you're up and running.

the Sanford Guide 2002

Sanford guide is THE definitive source in prescribe antimicrobials, fungals and virals. Available at

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