The Zaurus Way

Daniel W. Rasmus

Pen Computing Magazine, Issue #10 May/June 1996

Project management, Zaurus-style

The new Zaurus ZR-5700 and ZR-5800 are shipping and the Zaurus community is abuzz about backlighting. Literally abuzz about the buzz generated when external power is applied to the ZR-5800. To people with Motorola alphanumeric pagers the buzz should not be a surprise since those pagers buzz on just one AA battery. The buzz is a trade off between new technology and customer desires. Backlighting is great, but you will have to decide for yourself if the high pitched whine bothers you or causes the neighbors dog to come looking for a snack.
You can read more about backlighting and the hefty new Zaurus ROM in my review of the ZR-5800 elsewhere in this month's issue. For now lets take a look at a technique for people trying to manage more than their personal schedule with their Z.

Project management, Zaurus-style
The Zaurus does not ship with project management software. In fact it's processor might be overwhelmed by the calculations required to perform critical path analysis. But just between us, do you really use Microsoft Project to manage projects or just to plan them? If you're like me, project management really takes place on a hundred scraps of paper somewhat loosely associated with a folder with the project's name scribbled somewhere near the tab.
Since I bought my Zaurus a year ago, I have moved almost all my project management to the Zaurus. One of the nice things about this change is I really don't have to change my relatively unorganized accumulation of stuff about a project. I enter handwritten notes, type agendas for meetings, maintain a project team list, and track tasks. I enter them in no particular order. Now the magic of the Zaurus: links. I link every entry to some other entry about the project.
Before I go any further, I'll share my one concession to order: a Data File set-up as an anchor for my disparate info. I just enter major tasks, the sponsor's name, expected completion date and any notes. Individual tasks assigned to individuals or teams, are created in the TO-DO function. Each TO-DO item is then linked to its major task in the Data File and any team member records. As the project progresses, handwritten notes, documents, outlines, spreadsheets and other items are linked to their appropriate task in Data Files. Since no hierarchy is available in Data Files, I store all the high level tasks together in a Filer project folder.
That's it. A complete environment for day-to-day task management. As the project evolves, major tasks act as convenient anchors for new subtasks and other information. The calendar view provides easy visibility into upcoming commitments. For long projects I create a meeting task and attach all meetings to that task. Overtime I accumulate a history of hours spent on the project and a record of events that shaped the outcome of the project. If you're a real stickler for detail, you can create individual tasks for each meeting, and attach attendees and minutes for an even more detailed historical account.
I find the Zaurus more than adequate for managing the plethora of information generated in a typical project. I even import rich text format (rtf) files, text documents and small spreadsheets from my Macintosh to complete the details. The Zaurus eliminates fumbling for notes during meetings, most the time. I haven't figured out a good way to input large presentations yet.
The 2 megabyte ZR-5800 certainly makes the Zaurus an even better information repository than its 2 megabyte cousins. You'll have to decide how much information you'll need in your pocket or purse and choose a model with enough memory to include your project data with all the other nifty bits you'll collect once you start living with your Zaurus.

Daniel W. Rasmus <> is a technology writer.