Jul 20, 2023

Perl 5 modules for reading and writing Palm database files

This is a set of Perl 5 modules for reading, manipulating, and writing the .prc and .pdb database files used by PalmOS devices such as the PalmPilot.
It is fairly easy to extend the functionality of this package by writing parsers for any .pdb type that you like. This package includes sample modules to parse the databases created by the built-in applications Address, Datebook, Mail, Memo, ToDo.

These modules were written to support ColdSync, a Palm synchronization tool for Unix.

WWW http//www.coldsync.org/

The FreeBSD operating system is known for its robustness, performance, and advanced networking capabilities. One of the integral parts of FreeBSD is its port’s collection system, which serves as a simple and effective method of installing additional software packages.

One of these ports is the p5-Palm, categorized under palm in the FreeBSD port’s collection. It’s a Perl module suite that eases developing applications for interacting with data stored on Palm handheld computers as well as other PalmOS compatible devices.

The primary use case of p5-Palm is to enable software developers to create applications mainly in Perl that can access, modify, or manipulate databases and other data types directly on PalmOS-based mobile devices, such as PDAs or early smartphones.

This article will guide you through installing and using the p5-Palm port on your FreeBSD system, describing its main benefits and possible applications.


Firstly, you need to ensure that your FreeBSD system is properly set up, and that you have administrative permissions. Doing so will allow you to modify the system at the level necessary to install ports.

You’ll also need a basic understanding of Command Line Interface CLI commands, as FreeBSD is typically managed via the CLI.

Installing p5-Palm

To install the p5-Palm port, you will have to use the FreeBSD port’s system. Navigate to the palm/p5-palm directory in the ports collection

cd /usr/ports/palm/p5-Palm/ 

Once you are in the correct directory, use the following command to install p5-Palm

make install clean

This command will compile the port on your system and create a package for future installs. It may take some time, depending on your system’s speed.

Working with p5-Palm

The p5-Palm module consists of several smaller functional modules, each responsible for handling different types of data. Here’s how to use a basic module

Using the module in your Perl application is as simple as including it at the start of your script

use PalmPDB;
use PalmStdAppInfo;

The above tells Perl to use the PalmPDB and PalmStdAppInfo module, which helps to handle standard Palm databases and application information.

With this, your Perl script is now capable of interacting with Palm-format databases.

Benefits of p5-Palm

The p5-Palm’s greatest benefit is its specialized functionality for interacting with PalmOS data, which is especially beneficial for developers building applications that need to communicate with legacy PalmOS devices.

Another advantage is that p5-Palm is a Perl module, a widely-used and respected scripting language. Its popularity means extensive community support and a readily available mass of resources and documentation.

An Eye on Security

Like any software that interacts with local or networked databases, it’s crucial to ensure your data’s security when using p5-Palm. If your application requires network communication, consider implementing additional security measures.

For network security, we recommend [nmap]https//freebsdsoftware.org/security/nmap.html, another FreeBSD port. Nmap is excellent for enumerating network protocols, scanning open ports, or running security checks against your FreeBSD system – it’s a good security practice to ensure the safe use of p5-Palm.


The p5-Palm port is a powerful tool for interacting with PalmOS data on your FreeBSD system. Its integration with Perl makes it a flexible option for developers, and its particular specialization can be invaluable when working with PalmOS devices or data. Remember to take into consideration security practices when implementing it.

Whether you’re interested in retro computing, working with legacy systems or in need of a solution for a specific use-case scenario, the p5-Palm offers a unique solution in FreeBSD’s extensive arsenal of ports.

Checkout these related ports: