Shopping: The keys to an organised life

I Want To Own... A Personal Organiser
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Some people couldn't organise the proverbial piss-up in a brewery. It's this sort of person who makes the inebriated pre-January gesture of resolving to change him- or herself overnight: to fill in the tax form on time, make sure the MOT never lapses, invest profits prudently and pay all bills by direct debit. None of which, if these people are anything like me, they ever get round to doing.

So if you want to get off to the right start but you, too, find yourself scribbling all your January appointments in the small space allocated for 31 December 1998, then you could do worse than consider investing in the following items:

KEYS ARE GOOD

Name: Psion Series 5

Price: pounds 370 (or pounds 420 in a Mulberry leather-bound case), from Dixons

Stockists: 0990 143050

Description: The Psion Series 5 is the best pocket-sized palmtop PC on the market. Not the swishest in the stockpile - in fact its grey-scale LCD screen makes it look rather antiquated - and it doesn't have the fastest processor, but it is designed with practicality first and gimmicks second. Hence, it's not sold on its ability to cruise the Internet while on a bus to Barnet (who would really want to?), but on its solid personal-organiser capabilities (appointments, phone numbers, expenses), and business applications (spreadsheets, bar charts, sketching). Most important, though, is the fact that you can type on it without your fingers snapping off. Until the next evolutionary step for word processors, when we all speak to machines instead of type on them, a decent keyboard remains the essential element in the man-machine interface, and none of its peers matches the Series 5 for comfort.

The specs: 8Mb Ram; 6Mb Rom; Epoc 32 operating system; spellcheck; thesaurus; calculator; recorder; sketch pad

Style: KKK

Any others worth considering? Hewlett Packard's 620LX (pounds 599, 0990 474747). Although it has a less user-friendly keyboard, it does have a brighter, 256-colour screen and a bumper 16Mb memory, and runs Windows CE 2.0, an abridged version of Windows 95 (something you really could cruise the Net with). Psion, meanwhile, has also upgraded its series 3 model, the 3MX, with a faster chip (28MHz rather than its predecessor's 7.6MHz), which retails at a modest pounds 120. Its plus points are PC/Mac compatibility. The downside is that the keyboard is more fiddly. Equally tiresome on the fingertips, but 10 times more fun, is Sharp's HC4500 (pounds 700, 0800 262958) palmtop PC, another 16Mb machine using the Windows CE 2.0 system. But you'll probably be more interested in the fact that it has a nice colour screen, and for another pounds 350 you can buy a slot-in digital camera.

PILOTS OF THE FUTURE

Name: 3Com Palm III

Price: pounds 199.99

Stockists: 0880 7311064

Description: The previous small metal packets are basically micro PCs, but you may prefer something that works as an adjunct to your PC, rather than trying to emulate it. For those of you who don't want to write the next Trainspotting or The Horse Whisperer on the way to work, a keyboard- free PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) may be more useful. 3Com's Palm III is under 5in tall, looks a bit like a Star Trek communicator (doesn't everything these days?), can store 6,000 names and addresses and five-years' worth of appointments, and can be written on with a special stylus.

The specs: 2Mb memory; infrared data transfer; PC docking facility.

Style: KKK

Anything else worth considering? Philips' Nino 300 (pounds 300, 0800 961445) may seem steeply priced for a posh phone/appointments book, but it justifies why it's more expensive than the Palm III by boasting twice its memory, being twice as stylish (a nice, matt silver finish), having a nifty docking bay and being the first PDA to operate using Windows CE. Extra good points include neat short-cut command buttons and Pocket Communicator software that allows you tell the machine to perform certain basic functions. If Darwinian theory can be applied to machines, then it seems likely that the future of digital organisers will be evolving from this particular machine's DNA.

OLD FAITHFULS

Name: Mulberry Planner

Price: pounds 195

Stockists: 0171-491 3900

Description: If you still wonder why anyone would want an electronic organiser, when it's transparently quicker both to jot down and look up phone numbers and appointments in a book, then look no further than a Mulberry Planner, crafted in crocodile-styled Congo leather. Some of its nice touches include inner sleeve credit-card slots and a zip pocket, but it's in the stationary pack that the planner really excels. As well as the usual address and notes, Mulberry has included fact sheets with such essential information as the international dialling code of the United Arab Emirates, the date of the Henley Regatta, and how to start your first wine cellar. It's big, bulky and backbreakingly heavy, but worth the extra effort.

Style: KKKKK (if you liked the Eighties).

Anything else worth considering? Filofax (0990 143702 for mail order) offers everything from restrained traditional to the so-bright-you-need- to-wear-shades contemporary; and in mini, pocket, personal and A5 sizes. The crocodile-skin-styled, black leather Ascot (pounds 69.95 for the personal size) is suitably sombre for business purposes, while those of a more athletic bent may prefer the rubber-spined, zip-locked, vinyl Active organiser (pounds 19.95 for pocket size), which comes in khaki as well as yellow, red and blue options.

FINISHING TOUCHES

l Writing class: a good personal organiser requires an equally good writing implement. The Mont Blanc 14-carat Meisterstuck Classique (pounds 165, 0181- 232 3000 for stockists) has a streamlined feel and a piston converter to take ink cartridges for those who have never got to grips with inkwells.

l TV quick: The Casio CMD40 (pounds 60, 0181-450 9131) is the couch potato's ultimate organisational tool, with its infra red remote control to operate your hi-fi, the TV and the VCR.

l Digital Post-It note: Always thinking up million-dollar ideas on the bus? Like silly gimmicks? Sony's ICD-V21 (pounds 60, 0990 111999) digital notetaker is for you. Designed like a cartoon bubble, it records up to 99 short messages.

l Making light work: Forget fumbling for keys in the dark after you drop them in the car park. Solve the problem with a Hermes credit-card-sized halogen beam, neatly presented in a stitched leathery envelope (pounds 65, call 0171-823 1014 for details).

l Credit control: Your wallet has recently taken a battering, so upgrade the thing you keep your cash, receipts and used lottery scratch cards in with a sleek, black executive wallet from Land Rover (pounds 45, stockists 0181-202 5454), designed more like a Chelsea boot than a 4x4's rear end.

Shaun Phillips deputy editor, `ZM'

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