Glossary definition of Personal Digital Assistant

Also known as: PDA, PIM, Personal Information Manager

PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) is a small, mobile, handheld computing device capable of transmitting data, and which can be used in personal or business activities as a personal organiser and communicator.

These devices typically provide their owners with a range of possible functions and services for communication, computing, information storage and retrieval. Common facilities featured in PDAs are a word processor, spreadsheet, address book, diary / calendar, scheduler, paging, data messaging, electronic mail, computing, facsimile, and other information handling capabilities. PDAs are also increasingly being combined with telephones and paging systems as wireless communicators to a cellular network service or desktop system.

Some PDAs come complete with all the necessary communications equipment on board, but others need to be operated in combination with a separate mobile phone or other network connector, in order to access facilities such as email and Internet whilst on the move.

Most PDAs have a small keyboard, but they can also have an input method using a touch-sensitive screen, on which information can be entered by handwriting and character recognition, or drawing. Many applications have been written for PDAs and some offer their own operating system, a very common one being based on Microsoft Windows, called Windows CE.

The term PDA may be interchanged with PIM (Personal Information Manager). The Hewlett-Packards Palmtop and 3Com's PalmPilot are examples of a PDA or PIM