Justin_T_Call 4:30pm, 22 March 2018
I've seen a lot of pros and cons about using the Dana here on the forums, and I've been thinking about getting one recently (primarily because I envy that sweet day-glo backlight, plus the extra screen real estate without having to sacrifice text size). I'll admit, though, that I am a little intimidated by things I don't understand that well (and which may require extra effort, research, and potential pain).

If possible, could folks share their own insights into how to maximize productivity with the Dana? Even if it is just linking to stuff you've said elsewhere, it would be nice for a Neo user to have one place to look to find all of the relevant (or critical) differences between using a Dana over a Neo.

For example, I know:

(1) Dana uses Palm Pilot software that is antiquated and no longer supported by Palm, so you'll need a way to use their own writing software (which requires an access code or something), and that means doing some kind of hack that allows you to use the palm applications (since you can't get access codes anymore). This has been posted in the forums, but I don't recall where.

(2) Dana has a much shorter battery life than the Neo. However, Vance Fry has a popular battery hack that will let you convert the Dana's "rechargeable battery pack" into a regular battery terminal for AA batteries, which you can then use your own rechargeable batteries with. User irgendwiejuna has said: "I can only recommend the Dana power hack as Vance Fry describes here. I've done it two weeks ago, using it every day and still have more than 90% battery life left, using just regular rechargeable batteries." Gray447 also recommends that you "use the new low self-discharge Panasonic eneloop AA rechargeable cells. Get six; that's a working set of three, and a spare set of three."

(3) The Dana saves everything to its RAM or its SD card, but not directly to the machine like the Neo does, so sometimes folks experience a fatal error with their Dana and they lose the documents they were working on. Is there a solution to this? What have Dana users experienced? What work arounds are there?

(4) The Dana has a protective covering over its LCD screen which makes its letters less clear than the Neo's text. Some users have hacked their Danas and removed their screens, though, and that has improved visibility, though common opinion seems to be that the Neo still has better visibility (assuming the screen is tilted at the right angle and you have good lighting). So if folks want sharp text, the Neo is better at this, but there are some adjustments a Dana user can make to improve this potential problem.

(5) The Dana has a dedicated backlight for working in low-lighting (and darkness?). Can anyone say how easy it is to write with this in the dark? Is the light bright enough to still see your keys? I know many of us are touch typers, but it can be helpful to see keys now and then. Vance Fry has also said: "The back light is that old electroluminescent film from the PDA/glow-watch era. You won't be removing it or altering it physically."

(6) Along with having a (semi-blurry?) screen that has a second layer of (unnecessary?) protection covering the LCD glass, the Dana has a larger screen overall, which means you can read more of what you are writing (in comparison to the Neo). You can obviously make your text smaller on the Neo to make it comparable, but if you like larger lettering and you also want to see more lines of text (to remember what you wrote in the previous paragraph), the Dana lets you see more of what you are writing. Any idea how much more? How many lines?

What else am I missing guys? I'd love to compile this all in one place so I can decide if this is a good alternative to my Neo, iPad, etc.
H0OK Posted 4 years ago. Edited by H0OK (admin) 4 years ago
When I used a Dana (for about a year), I found the most productivity was achieved by using the Dana as a Neo+. That is, ignore as much as possible the Palm OS and Palm apps and simply go straight to Alphaword and use send, not hotsync or the SD card to save files (save to SD if you want for backup, but I just backed up the complete Dana to SD, which includes the writing). Bang. Bang, Done. You get the larger screen with little muss or fuss.

A few things to point out in your pros and cons:

(1) The Dana comes with all the writing software you need, although there is some nice freeware out there still. You do not need key codes for *any* of the bog standard Dana apps. VRF and others love the discontinued Wordsmith, a more feature rich version of the software the Dana's Alphaword (which is not the same as the Neo's Alphaword) was based on. If you wanted to use that or or Docs-To-Go, yes you will need key codes. Vrf has provided a key code you can use for Word Smith if you name your Dana the same as his (most Palm apps requiring key codes linked them to the hot sync name you used). For me, the big big downside of not using the Dana's native Alphaword is not being able to use send.

(2) While the battery hack is a more ecological way of doing things, just putting 3 AA Alkaline batteries in the battery compartment with no alteration required will get you about the same battery life.

(3) Your distinction between how the Neo saves and how the Dana saves is, I believe, a false one, but I might not know what I'm talking about here and, if so, hopefully someone will correct me. Both are saving to RAM. The Neo does it keystroke by keystroke whereas on the Dana you have to do it more conventionally by doing a manual save (keyboard shortcut or menu item). However, The Neo's memory is non-volatile, like an SD card, while the Dana's RAM is volatile, requiring constant power to be maintained.

(4) + (6) That layer you refer to is not a "protective" layer, it is the touchscreen (digitizer) that allows stylus input ( You can use a finger, but it is not as effective as these were resistive touchscreens rather than the capacitive touchscreens on your smartphones). While removing it (not an easy task) will sharpen the screen, if the Dana gets reset, there is a touchscreen test you can't easily get past if it's not there. I think a couple of folks have figured their way around this, but I really don't recommend it. Palm and palm apps are touchscreeen based, although the keyboard helps with a lot of getting around that.

The big screen is nice, I won't lie. But in the end, for me, simple won out.
vrf 4 years ago
I use a Dana because it's just a more familiar typing experience to me... typing over selected text, undo function, insert function, etc.

You can actually work directly from an SD card using Wordsmith. All changes are saved directly to the card instead of to RAM, so no need to backup data if battery drains. But it seems slower this way, and the couple times I've had an error was during the time I worked directly on the card. Maybe it was a card error, not sure, but it was enough to go back to working from handheld RAM and backing up using Backup Buddy, which allows you to re-backup single files at a time. Oh, and I just open the unformatted files in plain text editors on a PC or Mac.
billsmithbooks Posted 4 years ago. Edited by billsmithbooks (member) 4 years ago
My usage is similar to Hookmt, I use my Dana just as a Neo+ to write fiction.

I tend to use my Neo much more because of the significant battery drain. The backlight does a lot to get over the bad screen issue. One nice thing is that you can easily beam files between a Dana and a Neo as long as the files are below about 6-7,000 words to stay within the Neo's file length limit.

My workflow on the Dana is simple. I write in Alphaword using simple markdown formatting. Use the "send" key to send to my computers.

I always, always, always save to the SD card for backup. (I use both regular SD cards and MicroSD cards inside once of those SD card adaptors and both work great. MicroSD cards under 2GB are getting much easier to find than SD cards it seems.)

The only clunky part is getting files onto a Dana from my computers (since I use Linux and Chromebook, the Alphasmart software does not work but I don't really need it) -- I just load plain text files onto the SD or MicroSD card, open it in Sied (which I also have stored on the cards), copy and paste into Alphaword. Pretty simple and easy.

You can get Sied at:

(Download the zip, extract, just get the sied-dana-current.prc file at bottom and stick it on your card)
Roginald 4 years ago

(1) If your main reasons for wanting a Dana are the back light and the larger screen, then you don't need to worry about installing apps - the built-in AlphaWord will do you well. Just try to get a Dana with the v1.5 rom, which has the bug-fixed AlphaWord.

(2) The battery hack and Eneloops are an excellent mod. The standby time is huge and the writing time is so long that even though it's much less than the Neo, you probably won't feel short-changed, especially if you always carry at least one spare set of batteries.

(3) By default, AlphaWord effectively saves to RAM every time you switch the Dana off, or switch to another app. The most reliable way I've found to keep things working quickly and safely, is to leave it saving to RAM, but always have an SD card in the Dana, then whenever you finish a session or have written something you are especially proud of, back up the whole Dana to SD card. Vance's Dana setup which he's made available comes with an app called BackupBuddy which makes this process very easy.

(4) Not sure I've ever seen anyone say the Neo's screen is clearer than a Dana's screen once the touch screen is removed. My own opinion, having 6 Danas with 2 different manufacturers of screen, but just one Neo2, is that the Dana's screen (with no touch screen) is consistently better than the Neo2, even in very low light conditions. However, with the touch screen on, I don't like it at all. The best I can get it is when I used a headtorch, and even then it's frustrating. If you do remove the touch screen, it needs carefully doing (I ruined one by putting a finger through an incredibly delicate ribbon cable). Cold-booting a Dana with no touch screen is now perfectly doable, thanks to a certain someone (ahem!) finding a hack. You'll probably only have to do it once or twice a year at most and it takes about 30 seconds at most.

(5) The back light is very useful at times, but underwhelming. If there is much ambient light at all, your eyes will still be light-adapted and the back light is too dim to help out. Only in complete darkness, once your eyes are adapted, does the back light become really useful. And it's far too dim for any light spillage to illuminate the keyboard in the dark.

(6) It depends on the application and what fonts are installed. I think I got it up to 14 lines, and of course the screen is very wide as well. A quick check on my Dana now with my favourite font (Verdana, thanks Vance!) and it shows 12 lines in small text very clearly. You can get a heck of a lot more text on the screen on the Dana than the Neo, even if you've got the Nano font hack installed on the Neo as I have. I ended up preferring a very large font when typing on the Dana. I have Verdana displayed at its largest, that gives me 7 lines of very easy to read text. It's nice to able to quickly reduce the size when navigating around the document or editing, however.

Overall, the main thing I'd say from my own experience, is that I stopped using the Dana years ago because the screen became unbearable. I also didn't trust its file handling or the battery life.

The things that turned my Dana from a lump of plastic to something I now wouldn't be without are:

1) The screen goes from unbearable to lovely once the touch screen is removed.

2) The power source worries disappear once the battery hack is done and quality Eneloops are in it.

3) Installing Vance Fry's Dana image gives two instant benefits: BackupBuddy, which has been rock solid in backing up all files from RAM to SD card so far, and the Verdana font, which is joyous at all 3 sizes it can render at, whether bold or normal. Also, personally, I much prefer WordSmith to AlphaWord, but AlphaWord is fine.

In other words, I wouldn't be happy with a Dana that comes as-is, but do some mods and it's amazing.
heos41 4 years ago
(1) Dana uses Palm Pilot software that is antiquated and no longer supported by Palm, so you'll need a way to use their own writing software (which requires an access code or something), and that means doing some kind of hack that allows you to use the palm applications (since you can't get access codes anymore). This has been posted in the forums, but I don't recall where.

I agree that most Palm OS software is antiquated, and finding and registering 3rd party applications can be challenging and time consuming. However, having an operating system and possibility to extend the functionality with additional programs is definitely an advantage for me. For example, I use an outliner /Bonsai/ and diary-type program /DayNotez/ that allow hierarchical or date-based structuring of the text. I am no novelist and rarely do long writing sessions (and when I do - I prefer CM QuickFire XT keyboard ), so word processor like AlphaWord / WordSmith is way too much for 'dumping' ideas or thoughts. Plus, I don't care for the formatting (and if I do - I'll go with built-in memopad or CardTXT and some markdown syntax). So, having additional options for text structuring and the ease of file transfer thanks to the dual SD card slots made Dana / compared to Neo/ preferred choice for me.
billsmithbooks 4 years ago
I used to use CardTXT and swap data from PC to Dana on memory cards all of the time. A simple system that worked great for years. (I basically write all of my fiction in markdown and only go to Word .doc at the very final edit before I upload and publish.)

I don't really use AlphaWord's formatting options, I just write in markdown format for italics, bold and headers, so it might as well be plain text (as always, saving on the memory card). The only "trick" stuff I have to do is when i want to move a plain text file from my PC/Chromebook to the Dana, I just move the .txt file onto the memory card, put it in the Dana, open up the file in Sied, highlight and copy the whole thing, then paste in Alphaword and I am good to go for revision, editing and adding additional material.

I wanted to emphasize a very simple workflow that is not really dependent on special software. Sied is the only outside program not on the Dana that I need.
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