Software dev, tech, mind hacks and the occasional personal bit

Migrating from Palm OS to Android

Palm and its Demise
I’ve been using Palm organisers and smart phones since the year 2000. I enjoyed developing for them, writing several medical applications, and using them extensively for calendaring, contacts and memos (PIM). The Treo smart phones were visionary at the time, providing integrated phone and PIM functionality, plus push email and basic web browsing.

I was at the lavish developer conference in Sydney, when Palm was the market leader, and announced they were splitting into two separate businesses – software and hardware, and developing a new OS (Cobalt), which never saw the light of day. After that, Palm slowly lost its lead. I would have been interested to try out Palm’s last throw – the Pre and WebOS – but it never made it to Australia. Now Palm has been purchased by HP, and it is abundantly clear that Palm has had its day, and it’s time to move on. Goodbye Treo 650 and Palm OS Garnet!

Where to next?
Well, major contenders for smart phones at this point are iOS and Android (sorry Windows Phone 7, maybe next release :)). The iPhone is a nicely crafted piece of consumer electronics, and it’s the obvious choice for many people. Personally, I like the polish, but find the limitations of the OS and clumsy notification system, vendor lock in and tightly controlled environment does not appeal. Android, especially with 2.2, is pretty smooth. It requires a lot more tweaking than an iPhone to get it to a good state, but once set up, it’s a really nice experience and lets you do quite a lot of stuff you can’t do on an iPhone. I chose a HTC Desire HD and Android 2.2.

Android Migration
What I particularly want to share is how I migrated my data across from Palm OS to Google services and Android 2.2, and what applications I chose to replace the beautifully crafted Palm PIM system. There’s still some Palm users out there hanging on, and I’d encourage you to take the leap and move over to Android.


  • Powerful calendar app on the Phone with hour by hour day view, easy and quick to add/change events, and ability to include additional public calendars. Synchronisation with a desktop application.
  • Contacts synced with Google mail / Google contacts and a desktop application.
  • Memos/Notes synced only with a desktop application (not cloud)
  • Push email

Apps & Architecture
After quite a bit of research and trial, I decided to go with:

  • Google services for Calendar and Contact storage in the cloud
  • Business Calendar for android calendar app. Uses Google services, day by day view and supports multiple calendars. It works pretty well though still in Beta, and has frequent updates and improvements.
  • Built in contact app from HTC. It syncs with Google contacts (links to facebook too) and works well with the phone app. It’s meant to sync with twitter too but HTC apps for twitter don’t seem to have been updated for new Twitter authentication system.
  • Outlook 2007 for the desktop PIM application (I prefer Palm desktop, but yes, no future there)
  • gSync to synchronise Outlook with Google services for Calendar and Contacts (this works pretty well, though not 100% reliably for things like deleting one occurrence of repeating events). I also set the synchronisation for the calendar to only be 100 days in the past and future as this made it a lot faster to sync)
  • B-Folders Android app and wireless sync to desktop for memos/notes (B-Folders works ok for this but is a bit clunky for editing notes on the phone and requires you to enter a password frequently)
  • Built in Gmail app works well for email and I use the Gmail web client with offline sync on my PC

Data Migration

  • First, sync data with Outlook. Only outlook <= 2003 is supported. I installed Outlook 2000 for the sync. To change from Palm desktop to Outlook for HotSync, on Windows, run PalmOne > PIM Conduit Sync > Sync with Outlook from the start menu. If you don’t have this app, you can download the latest version of Palm Desktop from the Palm site and it will include it.
  • I had a lot of errors during sync but managed through largely retrying to get a clean sync to happen.
  • After a clean sync, I upgraded my outlook to 2007 as this has a better user interface and works with gSync.
  • Next, I used gSync to sync about a year of past calendar data and all contacts into Google services. It works pretty well. Some calendar events seemed to get duplicated but not enough to be a major hassle. I did try syncing more years of history in Calendar with the cloud, but it seemed to slow down my Business Calendar start up time significantly, so I cleared out everything and only synced a much smaller length of time – about a year. I then changed the sync to only 100 days in the past and future to make it run faster (takes about 3 minutes). I currently have the sync run a few times a day automatically but sometimes kick it off manually too.
  • Use ‘Google contacts > More actions > Find & Merge Duplicates’ to clean up and combine your contacts. I had a lot of email addresses in Google contacts which also had contact records from the Palm. This command did a good job combining them.
  • I exported all memos using Palm Desktop into individual text files (one per category), and then imported them into B-Folders as per these instructions. I had to manually change line endings (\r\n to \n) to avoid double spacing. A few days later, a new version of B-Folders was released which can import all exported Palm memos from a single categorised file. I haven’t tried this but feature, but it sounds like a time saver! The B-folders sync between phone and desktop app is manual and initiated from the phone. It has worked well so far.

In conclusion, I now have my data and quite workable PIM functionality on my Android phone. Business Calendar has a great multi-day view that my old palm didn’t, but it is a bit slower to add new events. The HTC Contacts app gets pictures from Facebook which is pretty cool, and syncs with my gmail so I don’t have to maintain email addresses in two places. It is a bit more clunky to edit and add contacts though. On the memo/note front, B-folders encrypts notes which is cool… but a bit irritating to need to enter your password every time you launch the program. Also it is more clunky to edit notes and does not save your last open note, and position in the note between launches. The rest of the phone functionality is great though and a huge step forward from the Palm. It’s really for a separate post to talk about these, but good web browser, GPS with maps, train timetables, movie times near you, twitter client, etc make it an amazing device and well worth the upgrade.




Short Talk: Starting Android Development


  1. Lori Houck

    I, like you, was an early Palm user. Palm was so friendly and the Palm Centro was my dream phone because it combined all the features of Palm with a phone. Tried the Pixi Plus for 8 months and just last night became a Droid user (Motorola Droid X). Thanks for the information concerning B-folders. I plan to check on it as soon as I send this comment.

  2. I started as a user of the PALM III, in 1997 when it was launched, and have since migrated the data to a few newer devices, namely PALM V, and TREO 650. I still continue to use the TREO 650 and the Palm Desktop, though it has reached the end of life, and is probably going to die soon! The only reason, is that I am yet to find any device/desktop application which will migrate the data and serve the same purpose. I found your post interesting and would try out the Android 2.2, though I am wondering how the features listed below will be satisfied, and would like to hear your views:-

    1. Text comments inserted along side the phone numbers (which are ignored when the number is dialed by the phone.
    2. Ability to choose multiple numbers for mobile/work/home, etc.
    3. Various additional fields in the PALM address book
    4. The To-Do-List that with priorities and recall dates that can be changed
    5. I have several hundred memos. I am hoping that the new version of B-folders works for such a large number. Editing a large number is not an easy task.

    Would like to hear your opinion on these.

  3. Hi Sunil, happy to help out another long time Palm user 🙂

    1 & 2: It depends on your phone dialler app. This is different between different phone models. In my HTC desire, you can’t put text comments in phone numbers. But you can add notes to the address record, and choose the type of phone number (yes, for 2).

    3: I think so.. don’t use it myself though. You can check out what you can do through the google contacts gui. That’s pretty much the same as what you can do on the phone.

    4: I don’t use TODO lists on my phone (use memos or calendar for that) but I’ve heard GTask (sync with google tasks) is quite good.

    5: I have a lot of memos and B-folders handles this fine.

    All the best,

  4. My Treo755p has died (taps playing in the background, and perhaps a piper playing “Amazing Grace”). Thanks for your suggestions, as I seriously consider an Android phone rather than waiting to try WebOS 3 sometime this summer/fall. Just curious regarding Memos, because I too have a couple hundred, many of which I update regularly. Have you heard of or tried the apps I’ve read about on other blogs, to see how they compare with B-Folders? The two I hear about most are called Note Everything and Spring Pad. One comment that interested me was that Note Everything will organize voice memos as well as written memos–and I use a lot of voice memos too.

  5. Hi Doug,

    I was looking for a note app that could sync with the desktop without going via the cloud. Note Everything doesn’t have a desktop client I think, and Spring Pad is cloud based, and does a lot more than I was looking for. I haven’t tried either though so depending on what you want they might be good.

    By the way, did you see this video? Maybe palm is not completely dead..


  6. Vipin

    A very good article.
    I am in the same boat. I have been using palm since 1998.
    Its desktop features and native syncing with palm phone is amazing.

    This is the closest so far from palm system but is still far from what we could achieve in palm like

    1) a very good contact GUI in desktop. out look contact is really bad
    2) Global search for all the applications both in phone and desktop but in the above system, when we are collecting all the applications from various sources, it is not possible.
    3)easy data entry in palm phone
    4) Don’t want to keep by credit card, bank account and other important info on the cloud. Even If the company is honest, we can not trust the admins(dba’s) who are working for the company will be the same as company.
    5) All new phones, like Androd, webos (palm), windows 7 are forcing the users to put their data on cloud. Why i should not have a choice ?

    there are still many issues, which I am not able to think at this time.

    But it is a shame that what we were able to use 10 years back, is not available now with so much of advancement in the technology.

  7. As a palm user since the late 90’s, I am still using my Palm 650, but it’s starting to go crazy once in a while, so I decided that I will go with the Motorola XPRT (Sprint).
    After a lot of research, I am considering the combination of Companion Link ( and Deja Office, (, which will allow me to use the Palm Desktop on my PC and have all the Palm Desktop features on the Phone.

    Any reason you did not choose this route?

  8. Hi Manny, when I tried out Deja Office on the phone, it didn’t feel very good (calendar in particular) and did not integrate well with the phone dialler and suchlike. It may have improved by now.

    Also companionlink had a lot of bad reviews around data corruption so I was a bit wary of it.

    If you do go that path, please let me know how it goes 🙂

    Btw, very happy with BusinessCalendar now – in many ways better than Palm one.


  9. As a quick follow up – over time I have started using the google tools more and outlook less (it is so slow!). I use outlook now just for back up. gSyncIt generally works OK but has messed things up from time to time, when doing 2 way sync. Now with just one way sync from Google to Outlook it seems more reliable. Very happy with BusinessCalendar. B-Folders is OK and has all the features you need, but it is a bit clunky to use still.

  10. mellur

    I used Casio, Sharp, etc long before Treo. What about this Treo/Palm OS function? I call it: ctrl F. Basically, if you search on a string in Palm OS, the return is the first few words of every memo/calendar/etc containing that string. Choose one, and you are taken to the exact string, HIGHLIGHTED. No matter where in the memo/calendar event, you are taken to the string. In a second, you know if you have chosen the correct memo/calendar entry. It is like Find in Word.

    So, my question is: Is there an app for android that can do this?

  11. mellur

    I used Casio, Sharp, etc long before Treo. What about this Treo/Palm OS function? I call it: ctrl F. Basically, if you search on a string in Palm OS, the return is the first few words of every memo/calendar/etc containing that string. Choose one, and you are taken to the exact string, HIGHLIGHTED. No matter where in the memo/calendar event, you are taken to the string. In a second, you know if you have chosen the correct memo/calendar entry. It is like Find in Word.

    So, my question is: Is there an app for android that can do this?

  12. George

    Hi. It´s very good to find other long term Palm users facing similar situations to share. I started with the Palm IIIc in 2001, migrated to T5 and currently use a Centro, which is in its final days. I was waiting for the Pre 3 launch, when HP informed that would quit the smartphone production. Although I love Palm OS´s effectiveness and simplicity, it´s time to move on to other platform! I was inclined to go to Android, and your article helped to take that decision.

    To start the process I am facing some problems and maybe you could help me. I have the Palm Desktop (PD) installed in an old PC running Win XP Pro. Some time ago the PC crashed during a sync and, since then, I could not manage to have a successful sync. I have plenty of data in it (more import are the hundreds of Contacts and the Calendar/DateBook info since 2001). When I try to sync after the crash, it keeps running and never finishes (although does not seem to freeze). I have tried for up to 12 hours, and then I have to stop for any reason. Both the Desktop and the Centro HotSync applications accept the Cancel, but after that both freeze. Last time I tried, all the data in the PD disappeared.

    I tried to install the PD in my Dell notebook, which will replace the PC (running Win 7 Home Premium in Portuguese OEM), but it did not work (I read about issues on 64-bit Win versions). So, to have my data in PD for the migration, last weekend I downloaded and installed a new version of PD (6.2.2), from the HP webOS site, in my Toshiba netbook (running Win XP Pro English OEM), and then tried to sync (Centro overwriting PD). Again, more than 12 hours in Calendar sync, never ending, and I had to stop due to a travel. No data transferred. Should I wait more?

    Do you have any suggestion on the data transfer to Palm Desktop so I can start the migration to Android? Any other route suggested route? At the moment, the only place that has updated data is the Centro.


  13. Hey George,

    I’m guessing that the sync is breaking on Datebook? I had this every few years. The palm datebook database occasionally gets some sort of corruption that breaks sync. What I usually did was sync daily, and when I hit that point, did a hard reset and synced everything back again from the desktop. It was then good for another few years. One time I did solve the issue by sending my pdb files to a fix it site which then processed them and sent them back fixed. I think it was this one but not 100% sure:

    I never tried
    but may work?

    There’s also the repair option in recent versions of Palm desktop but that never worked for me – still worth a try.

    Good luck!

  14. Catherine

    I too am finding some comfort in your post and the comments.

    I moved from my trusty Palm IIIx to a Treo600 then my current Treo680 and am slowly coming to terms with the idea of migrating to another platform.

    Having played with the pretty shinyness of the iPod touch that my toddler plays with I’ve resigned myself to the knowledge that Apple does make lovely toys, but I’m not keen on the idea of using one as anything but a toy so Android it is for me I guess.

    An Android version of Agendus should be released sometime. I hope my Treo can last until then – I don’t know how I’d keep my life organised without it!

  15. ABE

    i still use my palm TX i have build a lot of database in smatlist to go i can’t find away to transfer this information to android

  16. Mark Williams

    Having happily used Palm OS for ten years and an increasingly wobbly Tungsten E2 for the last two, I too am urgently considering moving to Android. However unlike James and it seems everyone else who has commented, I use an Apple Mac (OS 10.5) and neither have nor have ever used Outlook. So my question is, can one use another bridge to migrate data to Google (which is my email provider) and Android? I should also add that I’m not very techno-savvy and certainly not a geek, so the simpler the better, please!

  17. Avneesh

    I was using atrology software in my Palm treo 650. How can i run this application to andriod or some other presently available OS. Any way to migrate.

  18. Avneesh Gupta

    I was using astrology software in my PALM Treo 650 . Any way to migrate this application to presently available OS like andriod etc.

  19. CJ

    I have been using Palm OS since the late 90’s and I’m just now thinking about switching over (I know…step into the 21st century!)–very nerve racking! I like having my data backed up on my own computer vs online and I like the standard SD option that my PDA offers vs the micro that smartphones have. Thanks for this article as it’s helping me to make my decision–sigh…I love my Palm!

  20. danola

    Thanks so much … exactly what I was looking for.
    So for me now its goodbye palm pda … hello android smartphone

  21. Terry

    Fantastic article, I do so wish I’d found it earlier!!

    Spent three complete days (I’m retired) migrating all my PALM 650 data manually to an HTC Incredible (Android 2.3.3)

    Initially used Google calendar but after trying out many others settled on “Business Calendar” as you did – there is just nothing out there as good.

    Also totally agree with your choice of “B-Folders” as I’m not ready to completely depend on the Cloud just yet.
    This is another superb app with massive capability and cheap too!
    “Keeper” is very slick but just way too expensive.

    Well done!

  22. Carl

    When I switched to an Android phone, I was quite shocked to discover just how stupidly rudimentary it’s PIM capabilities were. I have no intention of storing any information in the cloud. I trust no one in this regard. So, I’m looking for a PC to phone sync PIM (especially recurring tasks / calendar) solution. Anyone know of any?

    There is one exception. If there is a company that provides a completely encrypted cloud solution (and by that, I mean even from the company) , I might try that.

  23. Carl

    BTW, mail should sync with Thunderbird

  24. I would like to correspond with someone with the same problems and interests to discuss the best path forward AFTER we are no longer able to get cell phone service for our Treo 650+++s. I may have some simple solutions which have not been thought of by all. First – GoSync will sync all of your contacts to Google Cloud as well as your calendar. I have not tested to see if old history prior to current date is added. I know all of the contacts are added. So- If you Sayonara you can make one last sink – and then sink the new android phone to Google and download all of your palm stuff. Then go on from there. I will NEVER USE OUTLOOK due to mistrust of the source and the so called security issues which I believe are intentional in BIG MS software. I use a T5 for Word Processing due to bigger screen. I can beam or blue tooth files between Treo 650 and T5. Have been told that Android will accept Bluetooth transmission of word processing or database info files from Treo 650 and other Palm devices. Question- Have any Andronaughts tried to transfer Palm files by using SD card – from Palm to Android? Also I was told today by Verizon business that Nationwide Access Internet service would be cut in two to three years – but that depends on how many of us stick with the Treo. Even if I switch to Andoid there is no way I am going to repurchase word processing software, a keyboard, and all of those other expensive add ons. The T5 will feed the Android. Being a fan of analog TV instead of High Definition (that square screen gives me a head ache) I am keeping my movies and music on the T5 with its 2 gig switchable and cheap SDs. Some discourse concerning Bluetooth syncing or file transfer with Android from Palm or vice versa would be appreciated. I hope the Brits and Aussies and Zacs and other Europeans who recognize the value of Palm and its embedded software base act as a drag on cut off of service which is quite possible since we will all be on the world network with the new chips. Cutting them off will discourage quite a bit of GSM traffic.? tnx for listening. [email protected]

  25. I and my workers are still using 755p’s. I do not know how long this will go on….as long as I can keep it going for sure. I am a huge Palm OS die hard…started with the treo 90 (I now have several spare 755p’s as back up to keep this thing alive untill I can have an acceptable alternative). At Anacortes Electric we all have palm 755p’s for the handheld device stuff and are using android for phones. I personally have two phones…palm 755p and HTC and I keep them both with me. I am attempting to learn as much as I can about the new ways of life but I am very heartsick that Palm died. I can’t give it up yet and I need to be smart about the migration. I was hoping that someone would have developed software to help us Palm users migrate all our stuff. I am dissapointed that android did not transfer the address info from my treo contacts…only the phone #’s and email addresses. The memos are very very important….I need to be able to have all that info at my fingure tips and wuld like it to be on the HTC if I can. Does anyone know where I can get professional help along these lines…in order to migrate?

  26. Former Palm User

    Just a sort-of update on B-Folders, and its “kind of clunky” editing performance … hahahaha

    I, too, was a long-time palm user and couldn’t face making the switch to a smartphone. I researched like crazy until I found that B-Folders app. I was able to just *import* all of my memos (over 1,200) and contacts from Palm desktop (no re-keying) – no messing with line endings or anything, and the Contacts even put stuff into the right fields!

    Since 1994 I’d been using some form of Palm device – I had a LOT of data and a lot of familiarity, but I wanted to get rid of “contact” duplication and add the phone/texting/email options to my “Palm” system. I didn’t want my stuff on “the cloud” – I’d run an encrypted program to store my passwords on Palm (and on my MacBook Pro) and I didn’t want to give up that security just to have everything in one place.

    Regarding having to enter the password a lot … you can set it to stay open on your desktop forever, but the Android does close it down like it does with all its other apps. The layer of security is worth it to me. 🙂 The editing has improved with its latest update – double-clicking opens the Memo/Note in edit mode.

    I really like it better than PalmOS for its customizations: no limits on “number of categories” or “number of characters in the category’s name” – everything is *very* open-ended. Their development seems to continue – with free updates being released often. The latest feature is a check-box Task List that, again, offers more options than I’ve even explored.

    • @FormerPalmUser Thanks for your comment and update. I agree with you B-Folders has been improving with each version and it is under active development. Much nicer to use now and the sync is is easier to do as well.

  27. Bernie

    An impressive job, James! Bravo! Thanks for the trouble you took in order to share, and also to all the comments. It feels good to know I’m not the only Palm widow. I started with Pilot in 1996 and now with Zire31 and Z22 (my small favorite). The trouble is both screens are frozen. The desktop is up to date but I can’t sync to outlook since I can’t point to sync on the frozen screen. Like James, and others, I hate the idea of a closed world like iPhone, and figured I should move to Android. My problem is to go straight from the desktop to…whatever, since the Palm is out. And I’m not that clever a geek! Any suggestion? I’ll also look into the B-Folders.
    In any case, thanks to all your ideas from a less desperate Frenchman.

  28. Hi Bernie!

    Can you do a soft reset on your palm and then have it boot up normally so you can sync it to the desktop?


  29. Bernie

    Thanks a lot for your answer, James.
    I did try this and hard reset as well, to no avail. Until I read one suggestion: to use an adhesive from top to bottom gradually and remove it the same way.…54/tapbuga.html
    Suggested by Desperate Maia, on feb 28, 2007, on the Palm attitude Forum.
    And it worked!! at least on the Z22, not the Zire 31.
    But I feel this is a frail victory. I’m now trying to have it in Outlook (I got the 2003), without too much mess, with the help of your suggestions.
    Ah! these great Palms, they drive you crazy!
    Thanks again,
    all the best,


  30. Bernie

    I rejoiced too fast! you tend to believe in miracles when toying with Palms but miracles don’t last. It’s over for me at the moment, may be until I find a more powerful adhesive.

  31. You learn the Martial Arts discipline because of training, the more discipline you have to the Martial Art the
    more successful you become. This is usually a very subconscious area for a lot of people and they very often start
    working harder and concentrating more without realising.

    The respect comes from the sparring, the harder you hit someone
    the harder they are going to hit you back, the more you respect that fighter the more they will respect you.

  32. James

    Hello, As a Palm user since the Palm Pilot Professional through my current Tungsten E2 I too have recently joined the smartphone user ranks. I have been able to duplicate many of my applications used daily (i.e. Epocrates) to my android easily. What I haven’t been able to figure out is how to transfer my Calender easily from my Palm to my Samsung Exhibit II. Can you offer any tips for the less computer savy? I Love and use my gadgets but am not the most computer literate of them. Thanks. I was truly sad to see Palm ride into the sunset as my devices have served my needs very well over the years.

  33. Hi James, you’ll need to synchronise your Palm with some sort of desktop software which can then synchronise with google calendar in the cloud. Eg, Outlook or Apple Calendar (iCal).

  34. Rav Y

    Being a longtime Palm user I went to ios (confining, but good sync with outlook), now android,(can tweak up nice, but alot of work to get a half decent PDA), but would still rather have my Palm. Comon complaint with android- syncing outlook and notes, I guess man people don’t care about this anymore. I almost gave up on android because of this, BUT found finally found My Phone explorer, from Germany- flawless Palm like sync of all the above, no cloud, no nonsense.
    First Nokia made a phone and Palm made a Pda, Palm added a phone to the PDA perfect for me, then Apple added a phone to a music player, then google added a phone to its search engine advertising business, in a roundabout way way via an operating system. We now have a lot of sizzle and very little steak for some people. Good telephony qualities, and PDA and desktop syncing are all now substandard afterthoughts.

  35. sandro

    I am a Palm user since 1998 ( 100, zire, now tungsten t3). Decided to change OS. Android is my future. B. Folders is quite good but too slow to manage big folders, in my opinion. Is it a program bug or my smartphone fault ? Htc explorer.. Besides, some problems synching through mac desktop…sorry for my English …

  36. I’ve been using palm products since the beginning of the palm III, moving to a treo 200 and finally to a treo 600. I am now trying to move to a Samsung (att) Galaxy appeal. The main thing I require is a calendar that supports floating events. I use this feature rather than a todo list.

    I’ve also been having trouble getting all my calendar data across to google. It seems that most, but not all of the appointments that do not have an alarm set are not transferred. Most events that have been marked as done do not get moved to google either. I can see them on the PD and when I sync with outlook, they are all there, but they just don’t move.

    I tried several programs to sync, PD to android, Outlook to android, PD to google, Outlook to google, all with similar results. Since I can see the entries on both the PD and outlook calendars I assume that the data is not corrupt, but it may be.

    Thanks for your posting, it gives me some other aps to look into.


  37. alan

    I am another longtime devoted Palm user having to migrate platforms – and I’m going to Android. I’d love to be able to keep the Palm Desktop and sync it to Google calendar, contacts etc in the cloud. Ive also read multiple conflicting reviews of CompanionLink software – does anyone have a recent review? or is it a pipe dream? thanks in advance

  38. Young Snodgrass

    Wore out Original Palm; Wore out Palm II; Wore out Treo 700 and now on Treo 700P (Verizon) that I bought new on line for $25! Looking to move to Android. Really appreciate your article!!! Thank-you!

  39. Fine way of telling, and fastidious post to get data on the topic of my presentation subject matter, which i am going to present in school.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén