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Off Duty: My favourite gadget ... PDA folding keyboard

Model ThinkOutside Stowaway Bluetooth keyboard. Price £69.99. Available from www.widget.co.uk

When I replaced my much-loved Psion PDA with an HP IPAQ, I expected to struggle with the much smaller keyboard, so searched for a Bluetooth keyboard attachment, so I could easily enter consultations using Pocket Vision software. The ThinkOutside Stowaway Bluetooth keyboard fulfilled the essential specifications: cutting-edge design, potentially tax deductible, and obscure enough to convince my wife that it was essential for work.

The keyboard is well engineered, in a smart folding metal case and features full-sized keys allowing prolonged typing at a reasonable rate. Two extra shift-type keys allow for numeric characters and punctuation, though these can be hard to master. Set-up was easy, and connection is quick and automatic if Bluetooth is enabled on the PDA. Battery life is good, with mine running for several months on two AAAs.

A small stand allows the PDA to be set at a reasonable distance from the keyboard for the hypermetropic user. Alternatively it works quite well with the PDA lying on the patient's bed while you hold the keyboard in one hand and tap in details with the other.

I did find on visits, however, that it appeared geeky to use a separate keyboard and PDA, and after enduring odd looks and numerous questions from patients, I reverted to stylus and Graffiti writing input.

Doing this also overcomes one problem with the keyboard - that the PDA does not recognise numbers in passwords, presumably due to the shift key system.

I would not, however, give up using my folding keyboard for meetings.

Plus in the practice when the computer system crashes I can continue surgery while others are stranded.

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