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Total PDA

Get to Grips with PsiWin

The following article was originally written by one of the FileSaveAs team for the handheld computing magazine Palmtop in 2000. We'd like to thank Palmtop User for allowing us to publish this on our site.

Before reading: This article discusses using PsiWin on a PC and was written some years ago. We're publishing as-is, in case it's of use to Psion users. See our PsiWin FAQ for more help with PsiWin.

When I talk to a Psion owner for the first time, one question above all gives me a snapshot idea of the kind of user I'm talking to... "What do you think of PsiWin?". Power users have a love/hate relationship with this essential piece of Windows software, a 'lite' user tends to find it "quite useful", and some, in their rush to get their 5mx or Revo out of the box, ignore the CD altogether. Hopefully, this article will give those of you that have yet to fully explore the features of PsiWin an insight into its basic features, and prevent the CD from becoming a fashionable drinks coaster.

PsiWin runs on Windows 95/98 and NT and is essentially a small collection of utilities cobbled together to perform the following functions, which we'll explore in this article:

  1. Backup and Restore
  2. File Management
  3. Printing via PC
  4. File conversion
  5. Contacts, Agenda and Email Synchronisation
  6. CopyAnywhere
  7. Application installation
  8. Machine Manager


There have been several versions of PsiWin over the years. The most recent public release of PsiWin is v2.3.1 (which shipped with the Revo Plus), although a new version that supports Windows 2000 is currently under development. (See the boxout for details). For the purpose of this article, we'll be covering version 2.3 onwards, but note that due to the complexity of PsiWin, some of the features may not be available if you don't have the very latest version.

Installing PsiWin

If you've not yet installed PsiWin, do so now. Installation is straightforward, and the setup program (SETUP.EXE) on the PsiWin CD is fairly intuitive, walking you though most of the installation without too many surprises.

Once installed, you need to make the physical connection between your Psion and the PC. The cable supplied with your Series 5mx and Revo comes with a 9-pin connector that should plug into one of the ‘COM' ports at the back of your computer. You might find that your computer has more than one 9-pin socket - use any one of them, but note the number, e.g. "COM1", as you will need to tell PsiWin which COM port to use when talking to your Psion. In the event that you don't have a spare COM port, or you have the wrong type of connector, you may need an adapter, or you'll need to install a new serial card into your computer - your computer supplier, or a friendly 'expert' should be able to advise you.. Assuming that you are able to make the physical connection, let's move onto getting the software running...


Connection time

With the software installed, and the machines physically connected, you should notice that two new icons have appeared on the system tray, next to the clock on your toolbar. There's a red and blue icon for CopyAnywhere, which we'll cover later, but for the moment, we need to concentrate on the wiggly line icon.

This icon shows you whether or not you are connected to a Psion. If not connected, the icon is a flat line, when connected, the icons shows a curvy waveform, which 'wiggles' when data is being passed in either direction. The icon also lets you access the PsiWin Properties dialog, allowing you change how PsiWin works. Right-click on this icon and you'll be presented with a menu with has 'Properties' as it's first option. Select this to get to the 'My Psion Properties' dialog. Take a look at the 'Connections' dialog and you'll see two settings of importance - the 'Baud rate' (that you'll normally set to 'Maximum attainable', although you can drop this to a lower speed if you experience problems when transferring data), and the port settings. You should see a list of ports (COM1 to COM4). If you know which port your Psion cable is plugged into, tick that box only. If you swap ports, have more than one Psion, or are not sure which port to use, you can tick more than one box, and by clicking on a port, you can use the up and down nudge buttons to change the search order.

Before you try to connect with PsiWin, you'll need to switch on the Psion's remote link (to allow communication between machines). To do this, go to the System screen, select 'Remote link' (Ctrl-L), set it to 'Serial', then tap 'OK'.

With all of the settings in place, it's time to connect. On the PC, click on the Start button, and go to ‘Programs | PsiWin 2.x'. Select the ‘My Psion' icon to start your connection.

If it's the first time you've connected, you may be prompted to "add a new machine". This process links your machine to PsiWin, which makes it easy to manage more than one Psion device without changing your settings each time you swap to another machine.

If all has gone well, you'll now see some icons in a 'My Psion' folder (see below)


Connection problems

If you can't make the connection, you'll see a box asking you to retry, or change your properties. PsiWin has a reputation for sometimes being a little temperamental when connecting, so it's worth pressing ‘Retry', just in case, otherwise you may need to look in 'Properties' again to make sure you have selected the right port. Other devices can sometimes 'upset' PsiWin, such as a connected modem or another device plugged into a different COM port. If the problems persist, you should consider either changing to a different COM port, or change the order of the COM ports that PsiWin is searching, using 'My Psion Properties' as explained above). The last resort if you still have no joy, is to reboot your PC and try again.

A recent discussion in a Psion newsgroup refers to this problem as 'Psiwinitis', and highlighted a very handy solution to some of PsiWin's connection problems. "Enditall", a small freeware program called for Windows 9x and NT4, allows you to shut down all non-essential Windows programs and processes that are currently running. In a lot of cases, PsiWin can work perfectly after this small program has been run, especially if another application has stealing resources or a port that PsiWin needs. Enditall is available from Closing Windows programs in this way can cause data loss, and you are advised to read the supplied Help file.



My Psion

My Psion, which appears as a shortcut on the desktop as well as in the Programs menu, is your main link to all of the features of PsiWin.

There are icons for your Internal and CompactFlash drives, a link to your archive of backed-up files, plus icons to allow you change your PsiWin properties and to configure and run synchronisation tasks. From the menu you can view a list of any Psion files that may be open on the PC, start a backup, convert files, install a new program, or restore files to your Psion.

To take a look at your Psion's C drive, click on the 'Internal' icon, and you should see your Documents folder, plus all of the other files and folders you've created. You're looking at the files currently on your Psion, and, just like other folder views on Windows, you can copy, delete, rename and change the properties of any of the files.

Of use to most PC users, is the ability to open, copy or convert files from the 'Internal' drive. Windows users familiar with drag-and-drop will be pleased to know that you can drag files between your Psion folders and folders on your PC. Try this out by opening any folder on your PC from Windows Explorer or My Computer. Now, open the My Psion 'Documents' folder and drag a Word document from your Psion to a folder on your PC. When you do this, a dialog should appear which gives you the option to copy the file, or to copy and convert it to a Windows format (which we'll talk more about later).


Backup and restore

If you are not using PsiWin for at least backing up your Psion, ask yourself just how safe your data really is. If you have a 5 or 5mx, you may already be backing up to CompactFlash cards, but for Revo and Mako users, there is little choice but to back up to a desktop machine. If you haven't taken a backup for a few weeks, months, or, dare I even say it, ever... do it now! Psions are seen as stable computers where data loss is pretty rare, but without a backup, you're playing Russian roulette with your information - sooner or later, you'll lose it. Trust me.


If you use PsiWin for nothing else, use it for taking regular backups of your data.  Briefly, here's how to start a backup:

  1. Connect your Psion and turn the link on
  2. Go into My Psion, and select 'Backup' from the Psion menu
  3. At the next dialog, place a tick beside each of the drives you want to back up (internal plus any CF cards)
  4. Start the backup


When a backup is run, it's necessary for PsiWin to shut down all of the open files on your Psion. To prevent any data loss, you should save any open documents before running a backup, just in case.

Worthy of note are the settings to be found behind the 'Options' button (or in the My Psion Properties ‘Backup' tab). This dialog gives you the option to set an automatic backup every day, once a week, or, for the cautious, whenever the Psion is connected. You can also specify the number of file versions to archive (maximum of six) so that you can restore older versions of backed up files that you may have updated between backups. Backups are stored on your PC hard drive in a folder that is specified under the 'General' tab of My Psion Properties.

File conversion

We briefly touched on the main way of converting a file to and from a Windows format earlier on. The click-and-drag approach to file conversion works very well for Psion users, as the system is intelligent enough to work out what you're trying to do. The conversion routine takes a look at the file you're asking to copy to see if it matches any of the document types that it knows about. It'll pick a converter and give you the option to select another if the guess wasn't right. If you're always likely to use that converter in the future, you can click on the 'Set as default' option.

As well as the click-and-drag route, Psion have supplied a stand-alone converter program that allows you to convert between file formats on a PC without connecting to a Psion. This can be especially useful if you want to access a file saved in your backup directory, or you want to email some information stored in a PC format to Psion user who can only handle EPOC files. The 'Convert files' program can be accessed via the PsiWin folder accessed via the Start button | Programs route.

It's possible to select a default conversion for each document type by ticking the 'Don't show this dialog again' option prior to conversion. A more global setting that lets you choose whether or not to display the converters, is available from under the 'General' tab of My Psion Properties.

PsiWin hints

  1. You can copy or move a file quickly (without displaying the conversion dialog) by holding down the right mouse button as you drag the file from My Psion or a Windows folder. As you release the mouse button, click the 'Copy Only' or 'Move Here' option.
  2. You can use PsiWin to ensure that your PC and Psion clocks are set to the same time. To do this, from My Psion, click on My Psion Properties, select the Connections tab and tick "Synchronize PC and Psion clocks at connection (not Series 3)".
  3. Worried about your data? Think about automatically scheduling a Backup (See the ‘Backup' tab in My Psion Properties)
  4. If syncing with PIMs such as Outlook or Schedule+, look for the PsiWin synchronisation option that will have been installed in the PC application's menu... a useful shortcut!


Those of us with busy lives need to keep our information at home, work and on the move perfectly synchronised. It's no good having a diary if it's stuck in the office, or several days out-of-date. To address this, PsiWin allows you to synchronise your Psion Agenda, Contacts and Email data with PC PIMs (Personal Information Managers) such as MS Outlook, Lotus Organiser and Lotus Notes (via the InSync Pro plugin).

You can set up one or more different synchronisation tasks from the 'Psion Synchronizer' icon in My Psion. It's worth exploring all of the options and tabs to get the most out of this feature, for example, the 'Advanced' tab of the Email synchroniser allows you to specify how many days worth of mail you should work with, and whether to synchronise your Outbox, Drafts and Sent items folders as well as your Inbox.

Once configured, you can run a synchronisation at any time, or define an automatic synchronisation of any event, which will then be actioned weekly, daily, or each time PsiWin connects.

Email synchronisation isn't built-in to PsiWin; you have to install a separate component from the PsiWin CD. This copies files to both your PC and your Psion machine.

The various options for each type of synchronisation can look a little complex, but experiment until you get things how you want them. Also, consider backing up your Agenda and Contacts (c:\system\data\contact.cdb) files, just in case you don't achieve the result you were looking for!

If you make any serious use of synchronisation on your Psion, you're advised to make sure you have the very latest version of PsiWin, as some of the earlier versions are known to be 'buggy'. If you're not using version 1.15 of the Email synchroniser (See 'Add/remove' in the Control panel), you can get this from the Psion website at



For me, this is probably the most useful, and often forgotten, part of the PsiWin package. When CopyAnywhere is running, a small icon appears on your taskbar next to the clock. It's either 'enabled' (two boxes and two arrows), or 'disabled' (two boxes and two crosses). Essentially, when enabled, it allows you to copy and paste text from your Psion to your PC, or vice versa. As an example, you've been taking notes throughout a meeting at the office, and you want to copy them onto your PC to forward to someone else. With PsiWin connected and CopyAnywhere enabled, select the text you want from Jotter by holding and dragging the stylus, then press 'Copy' (Ctrl-C) on the Psion. Moving to the PC, position the cursor in a black document, or Notepad, and select 'Paste' (Ctrl-V) from your PC's keyboard... all being well, there's your text! No need to copy and convert the document or transfer a file, the text you want hops from machine to machine quickly in either direction. Note that CopyAnywhere uses each machine's clipboard (a temporary working area of memory), and it's only possible to copy plain text with this method - any formatting or images you try to transfer will be ignored.

Worthy of note is the option to use sound with CopyAnywhere. It caught me out the first time I tried it, and it's often the source of questions from new users. Performing a 'Copy' on some text causes the computer at the other end of the link to beep. If you've forgotten that your Psion's still plugged in and carry on using your PC, moving text around will cause your Psion to 'beep' for apparently no reason, and the other way around. Sound is a useful way of checking that the copy has worked, but annoying when you're using the machine for other things and wonder what's beeping!

To enable or disable CopyAnywhere, or turn the sound on and off, right-click on it's icon for the menu.


Printing via PsiWin

This feature allows you to print to a desktop printer that's connected to your PC. The feature must be configured first to select the printer and font to be used. This is done from the My Psion Properties dialog. Once configured, you can print from any application that supports printing by changing the printer to 'Print via PC' from the 'Printing | Print setup' 'Printer' dialog.



Application installation

The EPOC software and shareware featured within the pages of Palmtop is normally distributed as a SIS (Software Installation System) file. When double-clicked from a PC with PsiWin loaded, the EPOC Installer program will start up, attempt to connect to your Psion and then copy the files across to the correct location on your machine. More details about this unexciting, but vital PsiWin component can be found in Issue 21 (Page 57)


Machine Manager

This little application lets you add or remove associations with Psion machines. If you own more than one machine, PsiWin will create a profile of that machine, storing any custom settings. You can also see the machine's unique ID and the date that the last successful backup was taken using this feature.


PsiWin CD

Finally, it's worth a brief mention that there are a few more goodies to be found on the PsiWin CD. The PsiWin CD comes with an Installer program that is a multi-tabbed menu showing other installable programs, but not all of the files are shown in this installer. If you want to see what else is on your disk, use My Computer to 'Explore' the CD. Depending on which version of the PsiWin disk you have, you may find the Spell application, WAP browser, Symbian and Opera's web browser, Java runtime engine and some technical support documents.

Armed with this information, we'll hopefully see a few more power users and a few more stained coffee tables.


Thanks to Palmtop User for permission to reprint this article. See our PsiWin FAQ for more help with PsiWin.


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