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Old 10-07-2005, 03:55 PM
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Default TIP: Hide the Software Input Panel - a roundup of 3 null-SIP's

TIP: Hide the Software Input Panel - a roundup of 3 null-SIP's

You may already have noticed that every time your PDA is waiting for input, it also displays the actively selected Software Input Panel (SIP), taking about 30% of the valuable screen estate in Portrait (and even more in Landscape) at the bottom of the screen. If you use an external keyboard of any kind and, therefore, don't need to use any SIP at all for data entry, you will SIP's not to be displayed at all automatically, which is impossible by default the SIP area will be reserved for the just-active SIP even if you don't need them at all.

If you use the ThinkOutside StowAway keyboard, you may want to set the keyboard driver as the default SIP; by this, you can greatly reduce (but can't completely eliminate!) the unnecessary screen estate usage:



If you use another external (say, USB) keyboard or even if use your PDA through a desktop-based controller app and you don't have the StowAway keyboard driver, you will suffer a lot from the pop-up screen area you will always need to hide the SIP by clicking its icon at the bottom right every time you activate a text input field/area.

This is where third-party "null" (because they don't take up any screen estate) SIP's (from now on: null-SIP's) come into picture. They make it possible to automatically hide the SIP when they are activated. (Note that the Windows Mobile operating system still allocates a screen area when you activate a text input component even when you use these SIP's. This is why you can still encounter strange behaviour sometimes. In some cases, the programs won't be able to switch back to fill in the entire screen area. I've seen this mostly with NetFront 3.1 used in the forced VGA mode and the built-in MSN Messenger. Both only on VGA devices. This means you may still encounter problems like there's garbage in the lower part of the screen while using them.)

As a lot of people still use non-VGA-compliant null-SIP's and others have problems with one of the null SIP's, the PHM one (because it can't be separately installed by default), I've decided to test these applications on all my Pocket PC devices and also publish my latest, never-ever-published hack that makes it possible to install the PHM null-SIP driver separately, keeping the system clean.

The three null-SIP's are the following:

1. PHM External Keyboard PowerToy (PHM)

It comes in a bigger package, the PHM Pocket PC PowerToys 0.18, offering tons of goodies (for example, the Reset or the task switcher tool, which are really useful and are very good alternatives for the similar functionality of Spb Pocket Plus 3.0). I really recommend this package.

Unfortunately, the external keyboard can't be separately downloaded and, as it's not just a EXE/DLL file to save (actually, as the SIP DLL's are always locked, you can't even access it for copying after the install) before uninstalling the entire application (in order to get rid of the other parts of the application), but also several, vital registry entries (SIP DLL's heavily depend on the registry, where they register themselves as SIP's) to be kept.

In addition to the null-SIP, it also has other SIP's one, PHM Clipboard Pane , for implementing advanced cut/paste capabilities and PHM Character Map to input any installed Unicode font. Unfortunately, these don't work OK in standard (SE) VGA:



In native VGA, they work perfectly:



Naturally, they work OK in QVGA devices.

Separate PHM SIP install

If you don't want to install the entire package (which is pretty common; see for example this thread), just get this DLL (then, you won't even need to download the entire install package from the PHM homepage).

If you don't want to download DLL's from third-party sources (in this case, my homepage), do the following to extract the DLL from the official installer distribution on your local desktop device:

1, execute PHM Pocket PC PowerToys.msi; do not let it install anything on your PDA!

2, go to C:\Program Files\PHM\PHM Pocket PC PowerToys\

3, rename PHMPPCPT.Rpr_ARM.CAB to .ZIP and step in it (for example, with Total Commander)

4, extract PHMPTSIP.006 and rename it to PHMPTSIP.dll

Now, just copy the above-downloaded/extracted PHMPTSIP.dll to the \Windows directory on your Pocket PC. You may want to use, for example, Total Commander with the WinCE FS plug-in, which, in case you don't know, offers free and unrestricted access to the file system of Pocket PC's and is really recommended.

(Please also note that, instead of the precious RAM, you can also put the DLL in the File Store/Built-in Storage, in the System Path. Please see this article (or, more generally, the articles at Windows Mobile Technology) on setting up System Path. Please note that you can relocate the DLL's of all the three null-SIP's. You will, however, end up editing the \Windows paths in all the three cases in the Registry.)

After this, install a registry editor that has registry import capabilities. Please read this article on the subject if you're unsure about which one to choose. I recommend Resco Registry Editor because it'll definitely read the registry file(s) I provide next, while other reg. editors may not.

Now, get this file (or, alternatively, this one if you don't need the additional PHM Clipboard Pane and PHM Character Map functionality). Transfer it to the PDA and just click them from Pocket File Explorer (or, in Resco Registry Editor, choose File/Import... and choose the file. In this case, the .reg file must reside in \My Documents to be seen, unlike with the case of just clicking outside Resco Registry Editor.)

After the next reset, the new PHM null-SIP (and also the other two, if you downloaded the first registry import file) will be usable. Congratulations on saving about 200 kbytes of RAM!

2. Nullkb 1.0

Also see onfreewareppc.com. Unfortunately, the banner/popup-free pocketpcfreewares.com , my favourite source of Pocket PC freeware (you may also want to read this Pocket PC Thought-frontpaged article on this), doesn't have the app online.

Unfortunately, this application can't be used on VGA and non-ARM devices. An example of it on a VGA PL720:



Otherwise, it's perfectly OK and has the least storage memory requirement (not that the other two would take that much memory...) Therefore, VGA users, go for something else.

3. ZeNoKeyboard 1.01

This, as opposed to Nullkb, works OK in VGA and also has SH3/MIPS versions and doesn't have the overhead of PHM.

4. The comparison chart of the three null-SIP's can be found here. The rows should speak for themselves.

Also note that I've tested generic system friendliness (CPU usage) of the three SIP's; none of them caused problems: they don't actively use the CPU when not needed. I haven't elaborated on their price either they're all free.
 
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