The collection of metadata in real time in the field can also be a real hassle, either distracting from the overall interaction with language partners, or with some details not noted down and forgotten. The process can be considerably simplified by using a pre-prepared but easy to use and easy to modify database system. In principle the database can be on any kind of computer, most usually a laptop. But in many field situations a simple PDA is superior to a laptop in terms of portability, power consumption, ease of handling, reliability, and inconspicuousness.
A metadata database for real time metadata entry on a Palm handheld is demonstrated (using a popular and inexpensive RDBMS, HanDBase). Maximal use is made of the entry facilities, including popup picklists, and time and date pickers. The database can be exported in a number of formats (including CSV and XML), for further processing, translation into more standard XML formats, and linking to signal recording files. The database has been used for a number of years to collect metadata for a variety of languages in Ivory Coast and Nigeria, including the endangered languages Ega (south central Ivory Coast) and Iko (Eastern Niger Delta).
Other handheld applications to linguistic documentation levels can be presented, from basic lexicon collation to parsing in LISP for grammar checking.