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View Full Version : Web Browsing News as of 10/18/2007: new Opera Mobile, Picsel, Spb Pocket Plus

10-19-2007, 08:54 PM
A lot has happened on the Web browser scene in the last month. Let’s go over the news!

1. Opera Mobile 8.65 Final released!

Since this March, there have been two beta versions of Opera Mobile, without doubt the BEST, fastest and most standards compliant Web browser for the Windows Mobile platform. Now, almost half a year after the release of the first Beta, the final version has, finally, been released, of which I was also a (closed) betatester, working closely together with the developers and decision makers of Opera.

Compared to the 8.65 betas, which I thoroughly elaborated on in the Web Browsing Bible (http://www.pocketpcmag.com/blogs/index.php?blog=3&p=1828&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1) (and, therefore, in here, I don’t elaborate on these new features – make sure you read my roundup above), there are only few changes. There, on the other hand, have been several bugfixes; for example, the really annoying DEFBROWSER bug I’ve, independent of some other people doing the same, discovered and reported HERE (http://www.pocketpcmag.com/blogs/index.php?blog=3&p=2084&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1)).

Design decisions

Single column layout removed. This is a design decision I don’t really agree with. Particularly if you have a VGA device, you MAY find the lack of the single column mode annoying, particularly with sites / pages that, otherwise, would work much better with a well-working One Column mode. An example: a Wikipedia article in PIE’s One Column mode on a VGA device in Landscape mode (http://www.winmobiletech.com/102007WebNews/PIEWikipediaOnecol.png) (Largest charsize, High Resolution enabled) (the same with Fit to screen (http://www.winmobiletech.com/102007WebNews/PIEWikipediaFitto.png) – as can be seen, it’s pretty much useless) and the same in Opera Mobile (http://www.winmobiletech.com/102007WebNews/OpMWikipediaFitto.png) (Minimum font size: 8; Zoom: 100%). As can clearly be seen, One Column modes will ALWAYS be able to present more information. You can, of course, use zoom facilities so that the horizontal screen estate is fully filled in but, then, the character size will also grow and, what is worse, the images will also become pixelizated. (Also see THIS (http://my.opera.com/community/forums/topic.dml?id=207466) thread for more info / discussion.)
Desktop view, which has been made the default (!) viewing mode, has been made much friendlier. Now, it’s using a bit smaller characters than before. Should you still find them too big, switch to the default (fit to screen) viewing mode because setting Menu / Tools / Settings / Minimum font size to even 8 (http://www.winmobiletech.com/102007WebNews/OpMob865MinFontsize.png) doesn’t seem to do the trick. Thanks to the, most of the time, excellently working new wrapping functionality, makes it possible to live without having to scroll around. This is shown in the following (VGA Landscape) screenshot with the View menu shown:


Now, the cache is stored on the same drive as the executable program itself. While this is what many people have been asked for (particularly with devices only having 64 Mbytes of Flash ROM, meaning only 10-11 Mbytes of it available to the users – for example, the HTC Oxygen / s310 Smartphone is one of them –, you will definitely like this.

Note that, however, this approach might have negative consequences. As has been explained in my Web Browsing Bible (http://www.pocketpcmag.com/blogs/index.php?blog=3&p=1828&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1), storing the browser cache on a slow-to-create-files-on storage card (most non-high-end cards are like this) may result in the slowdown of the page loading. If this is a concern to you (because you visit pages that contain a LOT of different images, which are all cached), make sure you manually (!) relocate the cache to somewhere else – or, for that matter, completely disable it in Menu / Tools / Settings / History / Cache Size as can be seen in HERE (http://www.winmobiletech.com/102007WebNews/OpMob8650cachesize.png). To relocate it back to the main storage (or even a RAMdisk, if its being completely deleted each reset and the decrease of RAM memory isn’t a problem either because, for example, you use a 128M RAM model), just follow my previous Opera cache relocation tutorial (http://www.pocketpcmag.com/blogs/index.php?blog=3&p=916&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1).
Problems I’ve discovered and/or fixed in the meantime
On MS Smartphone (Windows Mobile Standard) phones, when you have really low RAM memory (you’re running out of it), problems may occur with keyboard shortcuts. Namely, no matter what hardware shortcut button you press, the same functionality (in general, Reload and / or Back) will be executed. This can lead to confusion – at first, it caused me a lot of headache too until I’ve understood how this all works.

All in all, if your hardware dialpad buttons don’t do what they’re supposed to do, you may want to shut down (some) other apps and / or Opera Mobile tabs. This will free up some RAM, which will result in the buttons working again.
There’s still no hardware application button support (you can only tie button shortcuts to dialpad / keyboard buttons), but now that I’ve published a FULL tutorial and explanation of all decent Windows Mobile button enhancers, including how you can configure your hardware buttons to simulate the pressing of numeric (dialpad) buttons, this isn’t that big an issue. Just make sure you read the Button Enhancer Bible (http://www.pocketpcmag.com/blogs/index.php?blog=3&p=2246&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1) and do what’s there.
There had been a problem with non-English operating systems because of the wired-in (English) directory names with the initial release. This, along with manually fixing it (http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=335628), has been fixed in the meantime (http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=337822); that is, current builds no longer have this problem.


Opera Mobile is and, as it seems, definitely remaining the best browser for both Pocket PC’s and MS Smartphones. While there still are some glitches (the worst of them, the lack for hardware app buttons, having been fixed by me), these problems are nothing compared to the generic sluggishness and/or Web standards incompatibility with (most of) the other browsers. Make sure you get at least the trial version.

2. New (1.0.5) Picsel version released!

There is (see THIS (http://www.pocketpcmag.com/blogs/index.php?blog=3&p=1864&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1)) also a new version of the Picsel Web browser. s (see THIS) also a new version of the Picsel Web browser. EDIT: Unfortunately, there is no way to legally acquire this title unless you buy the device it's coming with. Therefore, I give you no links - you'll need to purchase for example the Samsung BlackJack to get it.


As opposed to some XDA-Dev folks, I haven’t found much improvement. For example, the CSS (http://www.pocketpcmag.com/blogs/index.php?blog=3&p=1241&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1) compliance is still very bad (the result of the Acid2 test (http://www.webstandards.org/files/acid2/test.html#top) is HERE (http://www.winmobiletech.com/102007WebNews/PicselAcid2.png); that of the CSS1 test (http://www.w3.org/Style/CSS/Test/CSS1/current/sec5526c.htm) is HERE (http://www.winmobiletech.com/102007WebNews/PicselAcid1.png)). The Ajax compliance isn’t a tad better either (tested with THIS (http://www.w3clubs.com/mozdev/httprequest_test_xml.html) and THIS (http://www.easy-designs.net/books/WDN3/27/Ajax1/) test suite).

All in all, there isn’t much improvement. You may still want to give it a try if you are a big fan of the GUI. I, myself, would still stick to either Opera Mini or Mobile. Don’t necessarily believe the hype :)

3. New Spb Pocket Plus

Spb Pocket Plus (http://www.spbsoftwarehouse.com/products/pocketplus) (SPP) has always been one of the best Pocket PC (Windows Mobile Pro / Classic) system enhancers. The brand new, just released 4.0 version boasts, in addition to a lot of new functionalities, a, compared to the much less significant changes during the 2.x-3.x version jump, considerable updates.


(screenshot showing the four tabs, all populated, and the drop-down list (now, only having one element) of the invisible tabs in the upper right corner. For comparison: a screenshot of the context menu of the old, 3.x-series version HERE (http://www.winmobiletech.com/032007WebBrowsers/SPPLinkCtxMenu.bmp.png), also showing there haven’t been any new buttons / any tabs in it.)

It has received the following niceties:
screen dragging mode; note that the autoscroll can be a bit of a pain in the back; it’s sometimes the best to disable it
tabs (with a pretty welcome context menu (http://www.winmobiletech.com/102007WebNews/SpbPPTabCtxMenu.png) – very few other products have the same, as can also be seen in the “Tab context menu (if any)” row of the chart (http://www.winmobiletech.com/032007WebBrowsers/chart.html) of the Web Browsing Bible)
adding the ability to switch off / on stylus dragging in the context menu (http://www.winmobiletech.com/102007WebNews/SpbPPBPagePanEnable.png)
a separate quick access button (http://www.winmobiletech.com/102007WebNews/SpbPPNewButton.png), next to the “Action” button of the address bar; note that “Search” here makes a quick Google search with the text you enter in the address field.

The settings screen has remained similarly simple (http://www.winmobiletech.com/102007WebNews/SpbPlusPIEPluginSettings.png) – as you can see, there isn’t much to choose from. The same stands for Menu / Spb Pocket Plus, which didn’t change either as can be seen in HERE (http://www.winmobiletech.com/102007WebNews/SpbPPMainMenu.png). As far as saving Web pages is concerned, you can still only save them as simple HTML files (http://www.winmobiletech.com/102007WebNews/SpbPPSaveAs.png) – no MHT or full HTML page saving is possible. Incidentally, as can also be seen in the last screenshot, the new SPP version has a system-level (not only available when saving pages, but from every app that would, otherwise, use the system-level, default, very dumb file dialog) file dialog box like that of Mad Programmer, whose FileDialogChanger I’ve often recommended (http://www.pocketpcmag.com/blogs/index.php?blog=3&s=Mad+Programmer+FileDialogChanger&sentence=AND). HERE (http://www.winmobiletech.com/102007WebNews/SpbPPFDC.png)’s a screenshot of the Setup program where you can en or disable it. (note that, as opposed to Mad Programmer’s FileDialogChanger, you can’t define exceptions – there’re no configuration capabilities of the new “File Open/Save Dialog”).

Compare this to the immense setting / menu options of PIEPlus or even MultiIE and you understand why I still recommend either of these for the serious Internet Explorer Mobile user, as opposed to Spb Pocket Plus. Not that SPP would be THAT bad any more. Now that it has received tabs, it's pretty usable, albeit indeed a bit basic. If you don't want to fuss with a separate Today launcher / button enhancer / Safe mode utility / file dialog enhancer / IEM enhancer on your device, SPP might be the best choice for you.

It also has some bugs, but, knowing how great the Spb folks at bugfixing are, I’m pretty sure they’ll be fixed VERY soon:

clicking the cross in the upper right corner (to close the IE window) doesn’t work if there are more than one tabs open. You MUST manually bring up the Start menu and switch (in cases, re-run so that the execution is switched to it) to the program you want to. Of course, if you use a third-party task switcher (for example, the highly recommended Magic Button (http://www.trancreative.com/mb.aspx?page=whattodownload), PHM’s Alt-Tab or almost all the hardware app button enhancers reviewed HERE (http://www.pocketpcmag.com/blogs/index.php?blog=3&p=2246&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1))
the smooth scrolling mode, on some devices, isn’t really doing what it’s supposed to: in Landscape mode, it’s, in general, scrolling more than it should or even scrolls multiple pages. Some people have also reported other problems with it; see for example THIS (http://www.pocketpcmag.com/blogs/index.php?blog=30&title=spb_pocket_plus_4_0_released&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1).

4. New version of jb5

In the MS Smartphone Web Browsing Bible (http://www.pocketpcmag.com/blogs/index.php?blog=3&p=2084&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1), I’ve elaborated on the brand new web browser jb5 (http://www.jataayu.net/), which, back then, only had a Smartphone version. Late August, a brand new, 5.0.79 version has been released for both the Smartphone and, now, the WM5+ Pocket PC’s. While it’s still having problems and I still consider it much inferior to Opera Mobile / Mini, if you need the special features (for example, in-page text search, which, on the Windows Mobile platform, is only supported by the currently unavailable NetFront and the memory hog & on several handheld models super-slow Minimo) jb5 offers, you might want to check it out. I’ll let you know as soon as it receives a really useful and recommended version.

5. Web Viewer for WM5

There is a brand new multitab IEM plug-in, “Web Viewer for WM5”, HERE (http://www.anbsoftware.co.uk/viewproduct.php?id=11).

Unfortunately, this title still has a lot of problems and, consequently, I don’t recommend it. As with jb5, I’ll announce when a useful, bug-free version is released. I also recommend the comments HERE (http://www.pocketpcmag.com/blogs/index.php?blog=18&title=want_tabbed_browsing_for_pie_check_out_w&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1).

6. Other stuff

In some of my earlier articles, I’ve already elaborated on two not really recommended newcomers: TeaShark (http://www.pocketpcmag.com/blogs/index.php?blog=3&p=2186&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1) and UCWEB (http://www.pocketpcmag.com/blogs/index.php?blog=3&p=2188&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1). IMHO, it’s, currently, pretty useless to bother about these browsers. I’ll let you know when a considerably better version is released.

Cross-posted to (might be worth checking out for additional info / discussions!): PPCT (http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=444198), AximSite (http://www.aximsite.com/boards/applications/219835-web-browsing-news-10-18-2007-new-opera-mobile-picsel-spb-pocket-plus.html), XDA-Developers - 1 (http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?p=1598712), XDA-Developers - 2 (http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?p=1598714), FirstLoox (http://www.firstloox.org/forums/showthread.php?p=72372), BrightHand (http://forum.brighthand.com/showthread.php?p=1595174), HowardForums (http://www.howardforums.com/showthread.php?p=10080625), SPT (http://forums.thoughtsmedia.com/showthread.php?p=125780), MoDaCo (http://www.modaco.com/content/Smartphone-General-Discussion/260711/Web-Browsing-News-as-of-10-18-2007-new-Opera-Mobile-Picsel-Spb-Pocket-Plus/).