, developer of the excellent BlueMusic
application (see for example this article & the links
), has just come out with a brand new
suite, Smart Bar
, of system management applications. I decided to give it a try as itís a pretty capable suite of utilities with some really excellent modules.
They even promise
an application capable of recording both (!) parties in a phone conversation (so far, this has been impossible
with all Pocket PC Phone Edition devices of both HTC
)); I think itíll work by directly ďtapping intoĒ the Bluetooth unit as can be seen for example in here
The suite is available here
. To review the (pretty good and recommended) manual, visit this link
. There is a(n unfortunately, pretty restricted) trial version too.
The ďpriceĒ of the suite is 200 credits; that is, between 20 and 25 euros (depending on the amount of money you transfer to your online credit account). The registration is a one-device only (that is, CPU ID- and not PPC owner name-based); licenses can be transferred to other devices in case of a device change (for example, when the previous one bites the dust and gets exchanged).
for pre-WM5 and the CAB files for WM5; see install.en.txt
for the latter case.
Itís stated to be compatible with strictly QVGA devices with at least the WM2003 operating system. (Iíve also tested it on Pocket PC 2002; it indeed doesnít work.)
You can, of course, try to install it on VGA devices, but I donít think you should give it a go. Iíve tested it on three different VGA devices (Dell Axim x51v A12, WM5 iPAQ hx4700 2.01, WM2003SE Pocket Loox 720
). On the hx4700
, the PowerPlugin Today screen plug-in was absolutely useless; on the two other devices, it was shown, but not anything else. On the Dell Axim x51v
, Iíve received frequent gwes.exe
crashes after a reboot, because of which I had to entirely disable PowerPlugin.
Of the PowerPlugin, few features were accessible on these VGA devices; in the following chart, Iíve summarized all this (note that it also contains HTC Wizard-related info):
Note that, as far as the Wizard is concerned, Iíve listed two ROMís: the O2 18.104.22.168 WWE (3/9/0) ROM and the ďcookedĒ, widely known AKU3.2 one by KTamas / bepe
. This means there are differences between different ROM versions / builds Ė all icons may work with your particular ROM version. The developer has promised they would test the suite with other ROM versions.
As can clearly be seen, the majority of the features PowerPlugin
has canít be used - not even on the QVGA HTC Wizard (with some ROM versions).
One of the central features of the application, Smartbar
, wasnít accessible either on any of my VGA devices. Self-standing apps like the screen capture, the network troubleshooter and the task manager applications, however, did work on VGA devices.
Also, itís very important that you BACKUP
(see the Backup Bible
if youíre unsure) your device before installing the application
. My absolutely clean, freshly hard reset WM2003 HP iPAQ 2210
, after the install, couldnít boot in at all and I ended up having to hard reset the PDA (Iíve tested this two times). I havenít tried to boot into Safe Mode
(read this roundup & tutorial
if interested in Safe Mode
on the Pocket PC); it may have helped .
Today plug-in (PowerPlugin)
Itís a simple plug-in with shortcuts to en/disable wireless units, suspend the device, show whether it's connected to the Net (IMHO, this is pretty useless on a WM2003+ device - after all, the Connectivity icon is always visible on the taskbar) and a backlight slider. It doesnít contain for example battery or memory meters, unlike most other Today launchers (please see this iLauncher review
and the links to earlier reviews to find out what a decent Today launcher should offer.)
Unfortunately, the majority of the functionality itís supposed to offer didnít work on my test devices. For example, as far as en/disabling wireless functionality is concerned, it was only on the x51v
that it was able to both en- and disable Wi-Fi; on the Wizard
, it was only able to enable it and on the PL720
, wasnít able to do anything. As far as Bluetooth is concerned, it didnít work on any of my test devices in any direction. The backlight slider only worked on the PL720. (See the chart at the top, in the Compatibility
section for more info.) The only exception is the HTC Wizard with the O2 ROM, where everything worked. (Again, more information on the compliance with other HTC Wizard ROM versions will be published / announced later.)
Also note that, while it has, in addition to the backlight slider, a backlight icon. It, now, doesnít do anything. Hope the Teksoft folks wire it to the backlight / brightness applet of the device as is the case with all the other, similar Today plug-ins.
This is one of the best features of the suite.
Pretty cool. Better than the built-in task manager: it lists the memory used, whether itís a windowed app/process and if yes, is it visible; the title and the window class name
. However, it doesnít display other advanced & useful stuff like CPU usage and has no ďStop all processes
Ē. Also, itís not possible to ďhideĒ system processes either Ė that is, for a newbie, this task manager can prove pretty dangerous.
This is probably the most unique feature of this suite: it allows for controlling some functionality using the keyboard. The most important of this is text insert macroing capabilities, which has always been missing from Pocket PCís (except for some, not very capable Software Input Panels (SIP's) like Resco Keyboard Pro
ís CopyText Pro
; also see this thread
for more info if interested).
When you use text insert macroing and assign a macro to, say, the series of characters ďbye
Ē, Smart Bar
will constantly monitor the keys you press on the built-in (or external) keyboard of your PDA and when it sees the keys b, y
pressed in order, itíll delete back the three characters and insert the replacement text.
It's really cool but, unfortunately, only works with built-in keyboards or external ones (like those of desktop-based PDA controllers; see this roundup
for more information on them.) Even in this case it can prove useful - most built-in thumb boards are pretty awkward to enter text on them.
You can initiate the following functionality from the keyboard: Replace with phrase; Execute a file; Turn device off; Reset device; Call number
and Screen Capture
. Note that if your keyboard has a different layout than your current ROM language, the default layout will be used. For example, if you have a German MDA Vario
(= HTC Wizard
) with English ROM but use the keyboard in German mode so that you find all keys at once, you will need to enter Ďbze
í instead of Ďbye
í for the Ďbye
í script to be executed. Also, note that not even in this case will everything execute Ė that is, try not to use anything that have relocated letters.
In my tests, all these functions worked OK.
This is a shortcut bar at the bottom of the Today screen for accessing active apps (closing / activating them) and activating other built-in apps (and the Desktop
mode) of the Smart Bar
suite. Unfortunately, task control-wise, it is probably the worst module in the entire suite; hope this will be greatly enhanced in subsequent releases.
Compared to (better) task managers like iLauncher, Magic Button
or Spb Pocket Plus
, its disadvantages are as follows:
- It can only be accessed on the Today screen, not on the taskbar (and / or the Close / Minimize icon itself)
- It supports no mass operations like ďclose all but this oneĒ, ďclose allĒ, unlike with Magic Button or the built-in iTask of Compaq / HP iPAQís
- It doesnít override the Minimize / Close (x) icon
Hope these disadvantages will be soon be fixed and the task management functionalities of the application greatly enhanced.
Note that while it doesnít have explicit scrolling icons / menus (unlike Magic Button as can be seen in here
but NOT iLauncher
3, which is suffering from the complete lack of scrollbars as can be seen in this
screenshots), you can scroll the active task icon list if there are more than five (Portrait) / seven (Landscape) of them.
Iíve also tested the CPU usage of smart.exe
to see whether it causes any CPU load, particularly with more than a handful programs active. (For example, Magic Button
causes a constant CPU usage of about 1-3% all the time.) The results are acceptable and not much worse than those of Magic Button:
Yes, a WisBar Advance Desktop
(WAD) clone! Itís in no way so advanced as WAD; still, if you like these kinds of applications, you may find the one in Smart Bar
Smart bar also contains built-in screen capturing capabilities. Please see the Screen Capture Bible
for more information; in the following pros/cons list, I build on the information and explanations of that guide.
Compared to other screen capturer applications,
- Uses a 3-second delay by default; that is, it can be used to make menu screenshots (without using the periodic screenshot capabilities)
- Able to capture images periodically (albeit with some limitations, particularly when it comes to the frequency of taking shots). Note that itís the ďStop intervalĒ drop-down list that lets you fine-tune the interval itíll take screenshots (between 10 seconds and 10 minutes as can be seen here and here)
- If you use it on a device with a built-in thumb/keyboard and you enable screen capturing through Ultra Keyboard, you will be able to capture almost any game screen any time (!) by just entering the Ultra Keyboard shortcut (ďCAPĒ by default). In this respect, the suite is unbeatable and unrivalled.
- Periodic screenshot capturing is fast and, therefore, gaming-friendly (unlike, say, BeniSoft ScreenShotCE)
- Both BMP and JPG output; the latter with settable quality
- Can save files to anywhere, not just the main storage
- Can capture images, in addition to the original (100%) size, at double and triple (200% / 300%) size Ė very useful on QVGA devices to avoid further enlargement and unique among all the screen capturer applications
- Landscape & VGA compliant even in SE VGA mode
- Multishot (periodic) capabilities are a bit limited Ė you canít instruct the app to make shots less frequently than every two second
- While the screenshot utility is a self-standing app, it cannot be invoked from a custom-written nScriptm script to fine-tune periodic screenshot making parameters
- (Trial version useless: it inserts a message in the captured images)
All in all, the screenshot capabilities of the app are excellent, especially when you take the price of the suite into account and the only problem with this module are the too frequent screenshots in auto mode. Also, as has already been pointed out, the ability to make hardware keyboard-based screenshots of games is unbeatable and unique.
The suite also contains a simple (itís in no way as advanced as, say, vxUtil
) network troubleshooting utility, Network Tools
Itís able to ping
to find out possible networking problems. It also uses DNS lookups; that is, if you for example enter www.yahoo.com
, the contents of the input field will revert to 22.214.171.124
(or something very similar, with a different ending), showing the IP address of the given computer (it doesnít do the reverse).
It also exports the traceroute results to a file
. (Note that I didnít have a ďrealĒ wireless connection during the tests and the utility had problems accessing the net via USB (in both WM5 AKU2+ networking modes
); I could only access the desktop computer my PDA was hooked up to; this is why there is only one entry in the tracelog.)
Itís pretty cool to have if you donít happen to have Windows Mobile Network Analyzer PowerToy
This app is certainly promising. Hope subsequent builds / versions will fix the issues / implement the missing functionality (most importantly, overridden Close / Minimize
button) Iíve elaborated on. Then, Iíll recommend it heartily, without conditions. Now, in the present state, I do recommend it too Ė but conditionally.
First, the bad
. It does have compatibility issues. If it does work on your PDA model, it wonít likely to support all the features of the Today plug-in (PowerPlugin
) and has no for example storage meters. Also, the task management functionalities / program shutdown capabilities of Smartbar
are certainly inferior to most similar apps like iLauncher, Magic Button
or Spb Pocket Plus
. I find this the biggest stumbling block of the application.
Second, the good
. Itís, as an all-in-one application
, is really good. That is, if you donít want to struggle with installing many applications (say, WAD + Magic Button
+ some advanced (!) screenshot app + vxUtil
) to achieve the same (or even better! See for example the screenshot utility) functionality (without keyboard macros, of course), give it a go. Also, if you need keyboard macroing (again, it wonít work with on-screen keyboards, only hardware ones!), this is the application to go.
The same stands for taking screenshots: this application clearly excels in this area (except for the too frequent screenshot taking in repetitive mode Ė hope the developer fixes this too), particularly when it comes to making screenshots of anything (most importantly, games) that inhibits hardware button access and, therefore, renders hotkey-based screen grabbing impossible. Then, Ultra Keyboardís excellent keyboard-based shortcuts will prove highly useful.
All in all, if you still donít have any application to implement the above-listed functionalities or, for example, losing the excellent task management functionalities of other task managers isnít a problem, definitely give it a go. Remember, however, that
- do NOT get it if you are a VGA user; wait for the soon-to-be-released VGA-specific / compliant version
- do backup your device before installing or, at least, make sure you have an active Safe Mode application