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Communicating with Beams of Light Using Infrared

Comm Link

By Chris De Herrera
May 25, 1998

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One of the most powerful functions built into each of the PC Companions powered by Microsoft� Windows� CE is something you never see: The ability to communicate via an invisible beam of light called infrared. Each of the PC Companions can use Infrared Data Association (IrDA)-compliant communications for data transfer. If you're not using this infrared feature, you're missing out on a rich set of wireless connectivity options.


The Handheld PC and Palm-size PC are both equipped to use infrared with Microsoft Windows 95 using ActiveSync� technology. You can make this type of connection with almost any laptop or notebook computer sold today that includes a built-in infrared port.

If you have a desktop PC and want to use infrared, you can install the Jeteye PC from Extended Systems, which converts your serial port into an IrDA-compatible infrared port. Corporate users will appreciate how this method makes it easy to synchronize devices with multiple machines from various manufacturers without having to use a serial cable.

Before using infrared for ActiveSync, you need to install the IrDA drivers on your Windows 95-based desktop or laptop PC. (The Microsoft Windows NT� operating system does not currently support IrDA-based communications.) These drivers are provided on the Windows CE Services CD-ROM under "Optional Components." Refer to the release notes and help file included with the infrared drivers for more details on how to install and configure this feature.

Once the drivers are installed on your PC, select the new serial port option that is created on the Communications settings screen of Windows CE Services. On the Handheld PC or Palm-size PC, select the infrared connection by changing the connection in the PC Connection tab of the Communications control panel.

Now line up those infrared ports and synchronize without wires!

File and data transfers

If you use a Handheld PC, you can easily share documents -- including Microsoft Pocket Excel, Microsoft Pocket Word and Microsoft Pocket PowerPoint� files -- via infrared with other Handheld PCs. To exchange files, use the Send and Receive commands from the File menu in the file browser on your Handheld PC. Select the file you want to send and use the Send to Infrared Recipient command to transfer it to another device. Or, choose the Receive command if someone else is sending you a file.

It's not widely known, but you can send Pocket Word documents from your Handheld PC to the Note Taker application on a Palm-size PC! Reverse the process to send a Note Taker memo to a Handheld PC as a text document. You'll need to select the option to view all types of documents from within the Open dialog in Pocket Word to view it.

Naturally, you can beam contacts between PC Companion devices. On the Handheld PC and Palm-size PC use the Send and Receive commands from the File menu in Contacts. While in the car, you can use infrared to input contacts from a Handheld PC or Palm-size PC to the forthcoming Auto PC. This way you can dial contacts via voice command using a supported mobile phone cradle, or use the address information for navigation.


The Handheld PC can print directly to IrDA-compliant printers such as the Hewlett-Packard LaserJet series. This capability does not require any special configuration for the printer or the Handheld PC. The H/PC supports PCL3-compatible printers out of the box, and you can use BSQUARE's bPRINT if you need to print to Epson-compatible printers.


If you've ever wanted to hold a private conversation with another Handheld PC user during a meeting, you're in luck. Just download Xoanan's freeware Chat client. With it, you can conduct text-based chats, a great digital alternative to passing notes.

The power of a beam of light offers connectivity across the various Windows CE-powered PC Companions without difficulty. This ease of use is the true beauty behind infrared - and it's available anywhere, anytime.

If you find an error or can add to in the information provided above, feel free to e-mail me at Chris@Pocket PC FAQ.

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