Migrating from Palm to Android: essential apps

November 30, 2011

I’ve been gradually moving from Palm to Android. In some ways this is a step back, because Android is a lot less polished than Palm. On the other hand, it’s a platform where people are actually writing code.

My perspective is a little different from most: I didn’t want to rely on Google to sync my calendar, contacts, etc. I wanted to do that myself. Palm makes it easy; Android makes it hard.

I’m running a Samsung Infuse with Android 2.2.1 currently. Here are the apps I’ve discovered so far to make the Android experience easier. Because I’m cheap, they’re all free unless otherwise noted:

  • The calendar app is the most obvious place where Android flunks. I’ve been able to get by with aCalendar for calendar display. It is a lot like the Palm app, and is actively supported. Android also sucks with alarms, so I use Calendar Event Reminder (paid app, around USD 2.50) so I get more than a single “ding” when the alarm goes off. Finally, I use iCal Import/Export to get my calendar events out to the SD card. This is no longer supported by its author unfortunately. It relies on unsupported API as well to get calendar data – but so far that’s the only one. (I heard from the author of aCalendar that he’s thinking about adding export code, though, so there may be hope there. He’s got a Pro verison due out soon, and I’m hopeful. I’ll definitely pay for it when it comes out.)
  • To see a percentage representation of battery life (similar to what you’d get on a Palm when you tap the battery icon) I use Battery Indicator.
  • I had Noah Pro on my Palm, so I wanted a good dictionary app. ColorDict Dictionary Wikipedia includes all of Noah Pro, and additional files and the ability to do web searches if you’re online. Very nice. (One hint: you need to install dictionary files separately, then run them before you can use them. Looks like a lot of Android users can’t figure that one out.)
  • Of course, you’ll need Graffiti for the real experience. I was happy enough with it that I went to the paid version, Graffiti Pro.
  • I had Yaps for password storage on the Palm. I eventually migrated to KeePassDroid. Here are more details about migrating from Yaps to KeePassDroid.
  • Android search is also pretty lame, especially in contacts. I use Power Search when I really want to find something.
  • On Palm, I loved EasyCalc. The best calculator I’ve found so far is RealCalc Scientific Calculator.
  • For games, I installed the Ken Magic Solitaire, since it seemed least likely to want to leak my info all over the world.
  • To back up applications themselves, I use ASTRO File Manager. This app is able to copy existing apps that don’t have the copy-prevent bit set onto the SD card.
  • Finally, to copy all the files up to a server, I use the SAMBA client AndSMB rather than messing around with USB or swapping out SD cards.
  • I’ve installed Memento Database as a replacement for JFile, but so far have not transferred my data over, so I can’t say how good it is.

The most surprising thing is the app I haven’t found a replacement for yet – the Notepad! All the apps I have seen so far want to sync to the cloud, rather than letting me export to SD. Bummer. I did use What’s for Dinner Premium for my notes which are recipes, and I think it’s great. (I got this free on the Amazon app store for their free app of the day; normally it’s about USD 2.00.) Right now I’m using the Samsung Memo app (installed with their Android builds) for the rest, but it can’t export so I’m not using it for much. If you know of a Notepad app that doesn’t want network access, please let me know in the comments.

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