In this article, I compare the Today plug-ins of Resco Explorer 2005
(Resco for short) and Spb Pocket Plus 3.0
(Spb for short).
I was faced with the pretty huge dynamic memory consumption (1.34 Mbytes) and the consequent slightly-slower-to-redisplay of Spb while writing my round-up of PPC Web browsers
; this, and a Resco-related discussion thread over at PPCMag
made me directly compare the two solutions to find out the weaknesses/strengths, and, eventually, the better of the two.
(Please note that, while it indeed takes for Spb a bit more time to appear than for Resco, the time is still not measurable with tools like a stopwatch, not even on a PDA underclocked to 104 MHz (my favourite clock speed to measure load times like this - see for example this
article). That is, even underclocked to 104 MHz, it's well under a second to appear. This means it'll be fast even on slow devices.)
First, a screenshot of both plug-ins, peacefully co-existing:
Now, the direct comparison of the two plug-ins as far as their capabilities are concerned.
1. Basic functionality
1.1 Backlight setting
In this respect, Resco definitely lacks (compared to Spb) because it doesn't directly allow for setting the backlight level from the Today
It, however, allows for putting the direct link to the Backlight applet on the Today screen. This means that you will still be able to set the backlight brightness level with considerably fewer screen taps than doing it in the 'standard' way (tapping Settings/System/Backlight
1.2 Memory size displaying
In this, in my opinion, Resco is clearly better than Spb because:
- its pre-defined CF/SD/File Store icons require no post-hacking (because you'll see at once what they refer to), unlike those of Spb, where the icons not only have nothing to do with the CF/SD card they refer to, but may also require re-assignment after enabling them if you have more than one memory cards. That is, with Spb Pocket Plus, you'll need to assign a physical card to one or two of the three storage card icons in order for it to display the right one:
Also note that this context menu doesn't offer any way to change the storage card icon to something better like the Resco CF/SD card .PNG
Unfortunately, Spb's indicator set-up screen is not as clear as that of Resco (of the latter, I'll show shots below) and, again, may require post-assignment of the physical card, if there is more than one of them:
- with Resco, you can display both the Program and Storage memory at the same time. This may not be important for most people, though.
Unfortunately, however, unlike with Spb Pocket Plus, in Resco, you can't just rotate between the free space and the percentage of free space with a simple tap while on the Today screen. You can only choose from two pre-defined actions when you click the storage icons:
Upon configuration, however, you may choose displaying percentage too:
Also note that Resco, unlike Spb, uses red (as opposed to green) to show when a card is close to full (note that, in this screenshot, I've switched to using the 'Compact
' skin with Resco; this is why its indicator icons are far smaller, compared to other screenshots):
1.3 Putting the icons of user-defined applications on the Today screen
In this, Spb fares much better if you don't turn to hacking the registry. You can put an icon of any program/system setting applet (CPL)/any file (referred to as document by both programs) on the Today screen. Unfortunately, neither of the apps allow for textual annotation of the icons to make it easy to differentiate between programs/documents that have the same icon. An example of this case is, for example, changing the system-level proxy quickly, using at least two registry import scripts
This is how the Resco Favourite Application
setting screen looks like:
If you choose to add an application (Add/Application
), you can not
choose functionality that doesn't have a separate EXE file like Rotate Screen
under WM2003SE. This means you won't have access to anything between < and > in the Settings/Buttons
applet - not that there would be that many of them - prolly, only Rotate Screen is the only useful of them, and you can always assign it to a hardware button - that is, you don't lose much by not having this capability. You can only choose 'real' applications (that is, applications that have their own, self-standing EXE files):
A bigger problem is that you can't put settings applets in here either. In Resco, you can only choose Connections, Screen and Running Programs as the only applets available, while in Spb, you can have a shortcut to all standard (!) Settings applets:
Note that third-party Settings applets - .cpl applets that are shown in the Settings/System tab (for example, applets of Pocket Controller
, Mad Programmer's File Dialog Changer
etc.) - won't be visible in Spb's list(s) either. Fortunately, you can always add these CPL files as 'Custom' files to Spb (but then, you need to know the exact filename). In Resco, there is no way of adding .cpl files directly - without directly hacking the Registry. With that, however, they will be accessible from the Today screen too.
As far as applications (link/EXE files) are concerned, you can add them from here. The same stands for the small applets installed by Spb (see \Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Spb Pocket Plus Actions
It should also be stressed that Resco (unlike Spb) doesn't see the small utilities PHM Powertoys
installs to \Start Menu\Programs\PHM Tools\PHM PPC PowerToys\
either. If you plan to use them (they're just great, especially the soft reset tool!), make sure you move the link files to a directory that is at most one level deeper than the \Start Menu\Programs\
directory (for example, \Start Menu\Programs\PHM Tools\
will already work). Yes, it's a bug with Resco I've found: it doesn't go into subdirectories deeper than one level under \Start Menu\Programs\
If you choose Add/Document
, you can add any document inside \My Documents
The fact that you can only use files in the RAM-based \My Documents
in Resco a bit more restrictive than Spb's approach, where you can choose any file from anywhere in the file system (also from external cards):
Incidentally, to relax this RAM-based \My Documents
restriction, you may want to post-edit the values in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Resco\REToday\Shortcuts
(after you've added the file - to do that, just move the file to \My Documents for the time you add them in Resco; if it's too big/you don't want to copy, you can add any file in there and just overwrite its path and filename in the registry). For example, if you have a registry import file on your Today screen that you'd like to relocate to your storage card and it is referred to as by
here, just modify the \My Documents
This means, with some additional, manual hacking, you can link in any document file (or, for that matter, any kind of file - for example, .cpl
files from \Windows
) from anywhere inside Resco, just as with Spb.
Incidentally, Spb doesn't store the links of the Today plug-in in the Registry but in a binary file \Windows\plustodayitems.dat
. This means you can't easily hack it (not that you would need to hack it any time - the GUI-based application/document adding of Spb is excellent and needs not be post-hacked, unlike that of Resco.)
2. Extended functionality
Here, I discuss the functionality that can make using/configuring the plug-ins easier but in no way that important.
2.1 Setup-time categorization
In Spb, upon adding a user-defined icon on the Today screen, the user is greeted by a well thought-out categorization of the shortcuts that can be added:
Note that you can
assign (almost) the same programs to Resco as to Spb, but it's not categorized - you'll need to hunt for them yourself. (Please also note that I've listed the shortcomings/bugs in Resco above, in section 1.3.)
2.2 Runtime tabs
In Spb, you can define a lot of (exclusive) categories, which will be seen as tabs on the Today screen. This allows for greatly reducing the number of icons in a group.
You can add any number of additional tabs on the Today screen:
Resco completely lacks this feature.
Spb supports dynamic switching of Today icons/indicators based on the (extended) skin you use. This means if you create a theme with
Spb Extended Theme Generator
, you'll be able to include/define indicator icons to be used by the Spb Today plug-in. (You may also want to read this article
on Today themes.)
Resco doesn't support this directly. However, it also has skinning capabilities:
These skins are located in the file system under \Program Files\Resco\TodaySkins\
. Unfortunately, I haven't managed to find out whether you can add your own skins to the existing two; it seems you can't (that is, if you, for example, create a third directory here, it'll simply be removed upon the next reboot. There're no skin-related configuration values in the Registry either.).
Also note that there is no help for the Resco Today plug-in at all - Resco should do something to better document the features of this application.
Should you want to redefine one of the two skins delivered with the app: it's very easy to do because icons are in separate files and the file, Skin.ini
, that describes the usage of these icons, is also very easy to understand. I recommend the one in the Default
directory because it has a lot of comments. As can clearly be seen, if you learn configuring your skins by editing Skin.ini
, you can actually far more thoroughfully fine-tune your skins than with Spb!
2.4 Other goodies
Spb supports drag-and-drop icon relocation; switching between enlarged/default icon size for any program/doc icon and manual icon change/assignment (except for indicator icons, unfortunately.)
3 Compatibility with USB hard disks
Some Today plug-ins are active (and, therefore, actively polling the free disk/memory area) even when they aren't visible (example here
). This makes them useless with most USB hard disks - the constant polling for the free size grinds them to a halt. Fortunately, neither of the two applications are like this - they just shut down when inivisible.
This also means they won't cause any slowdown in any other applications (that is, when they're inactive) either; again, unlike some, worse plug-ins.
a little feature comparison table.
First, the Resco plug-in seems to be pretty good for a tool that is only version 1.0 (the current, 5.20 version of Resco File Explorer is the first to contain a Today plug-in), particularly because it consumes way less memory and offers almost the same basic
functionality (maybe except for the lack of the direct backlight slider and some other, more advanced features) than Spb. Sure it doesn't have extra features like drag-and-drop icon rearrangement or categories (tabs), and, may require a lot of registry hacking (to, for example, add .cpl control panel applets or files outside \My Documents
) but, at least, it consumes far less memory than Spb's solution, which may be an important thing on memory-constrained devices like the iPAQ rz1715.
As with most PPC applications where there's no real winner, you need to consider the pros/cons of using the Resco Today plug-in when compared to Spb yourself. I, who don't want for example drag-and-drop support or tabs, Resco seems to be a bit better because of its smaller dynamic memory consumption. However, the lack of the on-Today backlight slider and the need for manual registry hacks for adding 'special' icons may be a showstopper for many.
- much less (almost an order of magnitude less!) memory consumption: 200-210 kbytes vs 1.34 Mbytes
- much better CF/SD-related icons
- doesn't need to be hacked
out of the main memory - it consumes way less static RAM (about 70 kbytes) than Spb.
- while it doesn't offer the same application/document adding capabilities than Spb, with some manual registry hacking, you can achieve the same functionality as with Spb.
- no on-Today backlight slider
- definitely worse user-defined application add-in dialogs than with Spb
- no categories (tabs)
- it's not possible to change icons of user-defined apps
- no additional non-Today tools like Reset, Safe Mode, PIE plug-in etc. (you can use these Spb Pocket Plus tools even if you disable the Today plug-in.)
Another Resco vs Spb comparison
- image viewers (Resco clearly wins in that)
My other roundups/comparisons/articles/tips at Windows Mobile Technology
and the Tips forum of PPCMag