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Web Sites Slim Down to Digital Assistant Size

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RALEIGH — Sometimes smaller is better, especially when it comes to carrying around important information while you travel.

Personal Digital Assistants, or PDAs, have been around awhile, but newer models offer more features including the ability to download Web sites.

WRAL OnLine now offers asmall, text versionof its site for PDAs.

"We create that snapshot once an hour so the information is still very fresh," says Jason Priebe, technical director for WRAL OnLine.

PDAs are growing in popularity. From a couple of hundred to several hundred dollars, they complement traveler's notebook computers.

"They can just reach in their pocket, pull out a little PDA, and there is their names, addresses, phone numbers, memos, tasks for the day, schedules," says salesman Charles Foushee.

The PDA synchronizes with personal or notebook computers with a cable.

"Just by hitting a button, the machine will start talking to the PC," Priebe said. "And then what will happen is it'll start downloading the latest version of all the sites I've subscribed to."

WRAL OnLine joins other news and information sites offering handheld editions.

"You just download a simple piece of add-on software," Priebe said. "And then to subscribe to any Web site that is offering a handheld version. It's usually just a matter of a single click to subscribe."

The sites do not offer much in the way of graphics, and most everything is black and white, but users can do a lot with a PDA.

"For example, with Microsoft Outlook, you can synchronize your calendar, your contacts, even your e-mail box," Priebe said.

The PDA is not hooked to the Internet, but it can be a great traveling companion.

New versions of PDAs are expected late this year. They will offer wireless Internet access, and even more features.

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Tom Lawrence, Reporter
Ron Pittman, Photographer
Jason Darwin, Web Editor

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