pedit

technology

At some point I'll get round to a follow up to my What's on my Treo (Part 1) review, but the Palm application I'm going to discuss here merits a whole review of its own. When I got my new Treo 600, I wanted a sophisticated text editing application. Note that I didn't say 'word processor'. On the Palm, I don't want to be fiddling around with formatting — it's pointless and just makes it harder to export the file to the desktop.

The consensus on fora1 and bulletin boards seemed to be that pedit was the vi of the Palm world. Those who are regular readers will know that I'm a bit of a fan of vi, so I found that rather intriguing and encouraging. pedit comes in a number of different flavours, each with slightly different editing capabilities: pedit04 (aka pedit) can handle memos of up to 4K in size (the same constraint as the built-in Memo Pad on most Palm systems) and uses the Memo Pad database, while pedit32 can handle memos up to 32K. peditPro contains both of these versions in one handy package. I decided to live with the 4K limit of pedit04 because of another handy feature I'll mention later, and because it uses the built-in Memo Pad database, making import and export of memos very straightforward.

pedit has two features in common with its spiritual brother vi:

  1. it is extensively controllable via keyboard shortcuts
  2. it has innumerable features
  3. as a consequence of 1 and 2, it has a rather steep learning curve

pedit has two main states: a list view which displays all your notes, and an edit view in which you (unbelievably) edit notes. At the bottom of the edit screen are two rows of tiny buttons which are labelled with a single character. Most of the functions of pedit are available by pressing these or typing the 'escape' character (which you can set) followed by the character on the button. So selecting some text and tapping the T button (or typing esc T) sets the selection to title case. If the buttons irritate you or take up too much screen area, you can turn them off.

One of the strengths of pedit is the ease of navigation, and moving around the text is extremely flexible with the Jump and Select functions. Both call a window with numerous other buttons for jumping/selecting forwards or backwards by a given number of lines, characters, words, paragraphs and so on. All of the buttons in the window can also be triggered from they keyboard too, much like vi. You can also set markers in the text as bookmarks to go directly to a particular place. You will probably have gathered by now that use of pedit is optimised if you have a keyboard — either integral or external — as so many of the commands are easiest to issue by typing. This is fine as pedit is designed to make editing fairly long documents easy, which would be a real chore using Grafitti.

It would take thousands of words to describe all of the other functions and capabilities of pedit, so I'll just mention the ones I find most useful. First, the 4K constraint on memo sizes isn't a problem in practice with pedit because of the 'sky is the limit' function. This automatically opens a new segment (effectively a new memo) when you get close to exceeding the file size limit. pedit tags these segments so that if you scroll past the end of the first, it automatically opens the second segment at the top of the memo. If you export the memo to the Palm DOC format, it will automatically join the segments into one file. If you want to break the segment at a logical place — rather than an arbitrary one — you can choose to start a new Chapter, which does the same thing. It works very smoothly and transparently.

pedit has a wonderful Find and Replace function, which even does regex searches. Incredible — regex on a Palm! Even more remarkable is the ScriptPad function, which allows you to automate pedit commands, or even to launch other applications. It's really easy to write and then call a script which, for example, inserts a date or time stamp. MagiPad provides multiple pads which can be used to store frequently used bits of text and to paste them quickly into an open memo.

Finally, there's a special memo called myNotes which can be launched directly with a command, and automatically inserts a time stamp at the end of the file. You can use it as a repository of quick thoughts and notes that don't really merit their own memo.

The included manual is extremely thorough, so a careful reading will reveal a multitude of other exciting features. However, it isn't always easy to find what you want. The author of pedit is extraordinarily prolific, and seems to release a new version every couple of days. As a result, picking through the manual feels a bit like a archaeological dig, as you try to unearth the material relevant to your release. Exploration yields huge rewards — with or without the manual, the whole application constantly amazes me.

1 I'm never quite convinced that this is the correct plural.

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