Thursday, September 17, 2009

webOS Tip: Use Universal Search

After having used Palm OS 5 day in and day out for many year, the arrival of the Palm Pre and webOS was like a breath of fresh air. For the most part, all of the Pre owners that I have talked to have had an easy transition to the new operating system. Want to take your game to the next level? Master using the Universal Search feature.

Universal Search is an easy way to find a contact or application on your Pre. To use Universal Search, simply switch to Card View mode (press the Center button to reveal your open cards) and then start typing your search string. Palm webOS will begin searching your Contacts database and the names of the installed applications for a match. Search results are shown in real-time and the results set narrows as you continue to type more specific information. When you see the contact or application you want to use all you need to do is tap the object on the screen.



When you are searching for a piece of information that is in a contact record, when that page appears, you can tap on a phone number to initiate a phone call; tap the SMS balloon icon to initiate an instant message; or an email address to start an email.

But what happens when what I'm looking for isn't available on your device? If Universal Search can't find what you are looking for on the Pre, it offers to search online resources. So for example, if I type in "Sh" on my Pre, I will see all of the contact records for all of the people whose name starts with the letters "Sh" and the homebrew application "Shopping List". When I change my search term to "apple pie" (it is September after all) Universal Search offers to search for "apple pie" on Google, Google Maps, Wikipedia, and Twitter.

If I happen to be in an application, let's say Memos for example, if I started typing "apple pie" while in the list view (cork board and sticky notes view) and I just happened to have a memo called "Apple Pie Recipe", Universal Search will filter the list and show my just that memo.

Universal Search could stand some improvements. For example, it can't search my calendar or email messages meaning that there is no quick way to use the search term "sales meeting" to find out when the next meeting is being held or the email that had the Excel spreadsheet attachment that I might need to review before going to the meeting. As time goes by, Palm will no doubt refine and enhance the Universal Search engine in webOS, knowing today's limitations will prevent hours of aggravation later on.
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