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View Full Version : Today launcher/meter plug-ins - the complete roundup

09-24-2005, 11:27 AM
Some days ago, I've written a comparison of the Today plug-in module of Resco Explorer 2005 5.21 (http://www.resco.net/pocketpc/explorer/default.asp) (Resco for short) and Spb Pocket Plus 3.0 (http://www.spbsoftwarehouse.com/products/pocketplus/?en) (SPP for short). Now, I take it even further by including some other Today launcher/meter plug-ins in the test.

You should read this article not only if you plan to choose a Today launcher/metering application but also if you want to know about the secrets of your current one. You'll indeed learn a lot of new usability areas. Also, I especially recommend my article to VGA device owners I've discussed native/SE VGA compliance a lot, with a lot of additional, never elsewhere published low-level configuration information to make switching between VGA modes/configuring orders of magnitude easier.

First: What is the point in using these applications?

In short:
you can put shortcuts to your favourite applications / documents on your Today screen just like on your desktop Windows. That way, you won't need to hunt them in the Start Menu, which requires far more screen taps/time.
if the given Today plug-in also supports resource metering, you can also use this for avoiding going to Settings/System/Memory and Settings/System/Power to know how much memory / battery you still have. All this information will be displayed right on your Today screen or, with more advanced plug-ins (SPP, iLauncher, Battery Pack), on the Program bar, which, unlike the Today screen, is visible in almost all applications.

What can you expect from this article?

Please note that I haven't written a full review of all the features of these applications. To find them out, you may want to experiment yourself with the apps or read 'real' reviews (use Google). In this test, I've tried to make a direct, objective, "everything compared" comparison, feature-by-feature, bug-by-bug, to greatly help choosing from what is available. With a simple, "I only review one application and don't really compare it to anything else" approach, this would be much harder for you, if not impossible. (Applications don't live in vacuum you need complete roundups and direct feature/bug comparisons to be able to choose from them as easily as possible if you know your needs.) This is also the reason why the roundup is so dependent on this comparison table (http://www.winmobiletech.com/092005FullTodayLauncherRoundup/table.html) a lot of the information can only be found in there.

To save space, I haven't elaborated on everything in the subsections I've tried to give a bird's view, much shallower overviews of applications, with several screenshots, than in the table. That is, make the table your friend as soon as possible, and, preferably, also read the section at the bottom first, which explains the meaning of the table rows.

Also note that, to avoid cluttering the article and making it very hard to follow, I've chosen not to include screenshots directly in the article. You must explicitly click the 'screenshot' links to be able to see them.

SPP vs Resco

Please read the above-mentioned article (links: PPCT (http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=42900), iPAQ HQ (http://www.ipaqhq.com/forums/showthread.php?p=110723), AximSite (http://www.aximsite.com/boards/showthread.php?p=822955), PPC Magazine (http://pocketpcmag.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=18135), FirstLoox (http://www.firstloox.org//forums/showthread.php?p=39369) or BrightHand (http://discussion.brighthand.com/showthread.php?s=&postid=777783)) for a direct comparison between SPP and Resco I won't repeat that information here.

Incidentally, a small correction: in section 3 (Compatibility with USB hard disks), I've stated the Spb Pocket Plus is disabled while not visible. Now that I've retested the application, I must say this statement is not true, unfortunately.

I also should point out that, much as the Today plug-in can be downloaded separately from Resco's page, you must install Resco Explorer in order to be able to use the Today plug-in. Otherwise, it'll complain of "Expired trial version".

In this article, I only discuss additional Today plug-ins (while, of course, I also compare them to SPP and Resco).

iLauncher 2.2.01 (http://www.sbsh.net/products/ilauncher/)

A nice Today launcher. Compared to all the other apps (except for cLaunch), it has really a lot of config options. Its major features are Program bar (like SPP and Battery Pack) meters (in this respect, it's even beats SPP on the configurability and flexibility) and offers another speciality: a full-screen view of icons (which, if you have tons of them, may be very handy). None of the other Today plug-ins are capable of this:

screenshot (http://www.winmobiletech.com/092005FullTodayLauncherRoundup/iLauncherFullscreen.gif.png)

As far as adding files are concerned, as can be seen on the next screenshot, you can choose any file from anywhere in the file system:

screenshot (http://www.winmobiletech.com/092005FullTodayLauncherRoundup/iLauncherChooseIcon.gif.png)

and all the standard control panel applets (cplmain.cpl) too:

screenshot (http://www.winmobiletech.com/092005FullTodayLauncherRoundup/iLauncherCPLChoose.gif.png)

As with the default program list, it, initially, fills in the list of Documents with the last-open ones:

screenshot (http://www.winmobiletech.com/092005FullTodayLauncherRoundup/iLauncherDefaultDocList.gif.png)

The storage cards meter icons are expressive enough (than those of Spb but far less than Resco's):

screenshot (http://www.winmobiletech.com/092005FullTodayLauncherRoundup/iLaunchMeterIcons.gif.png)

Incidentally, referring to this image, it must be pointed out that if you use a white(-ish) background, the titles displayed below the small meter icons won't necessarily be visible. This will also be a problem in native VGA mode, unless you explicitly switch to VGA support:

screenshot (http://www.winmobiletech.com/092005FullTodayLauncherRoundup/iLaunchMeterIcons-nativeVGA.gif.png)

This problem, along with the problem of small/large icons, will only go away if you explicitly switch the program into VGA mode:

screenshot (http://www.winmobiletech.com/092005FullTodayLauncherRoundup/iLaunchMeterIcons-nativeVGA-2.gif.png)

It really needs configuration saving between the two VGA modes using the registry as described here (http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/index.php?action=expand,43014), the application could really easily decide whether it's in native VGA or in plain SE (QVGA) mode. See:

screenshot (http://www.winmobiletech.com/092005FullTodayLauncherRoundup/iLauncherEnableVGA.gif.png)

Totally uncompatible with USB hard disks. If you connect a USB HDD while it's active, iLauncher may crash the entire system. The situation is, however, much better with other devices; you can even use iLauncher to monitor them:

screenshot (http://www.winmobiletech.com/092005FullTodayLauncherRoundup/iLauncherMapToUSBHardDisk.gif.png)

(Incidentally, in this screenshot, it's clearly visible how bad it looks in QVGA if configured to use VGA.)

Bottom line: not a bad one, but it has quite much memory consumption compared even to SPP. Also, it may prove pretty tiring to re-configure/disable again and again if you use a HDD with your USB host-enabled PPC a lot or, if you often switch between the native and the normal SE VGA mode on your VGA device without OzVGA.

Would I choose it over the other tested apps? Well, the program bar is a big advantage, which can make me forgive the problems of the app. I think, however, that I'd still choose Resco, despite its disadvantages/more meagre capabilities (no tabs, for example) because it's much cleaner (and has much prettier storage icons) and more compact, memory usage-wise.

OmegaOne Battery Pack Pro 2.0.4 (http://www.omegaone.com/batterypack/pro/default.htm) (BP for short)

Its clear advantage is

- the ability to tell the user the lack of battery power/memory (this may be one of the reasons of why it's running in the background, even when the Today screen isn't visible) in speech:

screenshot (http://www.winmobiletech.com/092005FullTodayLauncherRoundup/BPSpeechConfig.gif.png)

(Incidentally, disabling all the three checkboxes here and in the Power Bars tab won't stop it running in the background another oversight of the programmers.)

- the "real close" icon (just with, say, SPP)

- the program bar battery/memory meters

- numerous add-in applications, which, on the other hand, aren't that good standalone, third-party applications are, in general, far better than they. See for example this thread (http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=360617) for a comparison of the Power Clean and Power Adjust modules contained in BP).

- really nice battery graphing modules (if you do need them in general, you won't)

- network traffic meter

The configuration capabilities of its program bar, at first glance, not really spectacular:

screenshot (http://www.winmobiletech.com/092005FullTodayLauncherRoundup/BatteryBarProgramBar-1.gif.png)

Fortunately, you can access anything (docs (see records with NOTES: and WORD: prefix), settings CPL's (see records with Settings: prefix) from this list. You can also add anything else in here, in a rather cumbersome way (meaning: no tree view, unlike in, say, SPP, not even any kind of file chooser it's as complicated to use as, for example, PHM TrayLaunch PowerToy (http://www.phm.lu/Products/PocketPC/PowerToys/#TrayLnch) in this respect!), by directly entering the full path of the file:

screenshot (http://www.winmobiletech.com/092005FullTodayLauncherRoundup/BatteryPackAddCustomFile.gif.png)

Unfortunately, it'll get a folder icon (icons can't be changed!):

screenshot (http://www.winmobiletech.com/092005FullTodayLauncherRoundup/BatteryPackAddCustomFile-2.gif.png)

(Incidentally, I've also shown in this screenshot the way BP presents additional information on the link not only its name, but also its target and the additional description at the bottom - 'Lahetys" in this case).

You can map any drive to any storage image (and all types of memory cards and external memories even USB hosted ones! have their own, dedicated icon); this may be pretty hard for beginners because, unlike with, say, iLauncher/SPP, where you're presented the list of the mapping drive directories (with names that speak for themselves), here, you're only presented the total size of the drive:

screenshot (http://www.winmobiletech.com/092005FullTodayLauncherRoundup/BatteryPackCustomMappingOfStorageToImages.gif.png)

On a device with two (filled) memory slots, File Store and a USB hosted external memory, it may take quite much work recognizing everything in the list.

Also, you can monitor USB hosted drives (but, naturally, not hard disks they will stop working even when Today isn't active):

screenshot (http://www.winmobiletech.com/092005FullTodayLauncherRoundup/BatteryPackShowingUSBHostedCamera.gif.png)

(Incidentally, as can be seen in this screenshot see the leftmost, highlighted computer icon in the second row it has a genuine feature, a network traffic meter too. Just for this, however, it isn't worth installing/using there are other, much better and cheaper traffic meters.)

Its native VGA compliance leaves a lot to be desired, on both the Today screen, on the Program bar (see the absolutely messed-up power/storage bars and the close icon in the upper right corners!) and in the setup screens (see the screen; here; incidentally, I've also opened the 'add icon' drop-down list so that you can see some of the additional system-level applications/capabilities Battery Bar adds to the operating system):

screenshot (http://www.winmobiletech.com/092005FullTodayLauncherRoundup/BatteryBarInVGA.gif.png)

And, a screenshot of the Today screen:

screenshot (http://www.winmobiletech.com/092005FullTodayLauncherRoundup/BatteryBarInVGA-2.gif.png)

Note that there is only one 'Storage Card' you can't just tell BP just to put the icons of your CF/SD/main memory on your Today screen permanently. This may be a big drawback, compared to all the other meter-enabled Today plug-ins:

screenshot (http://www.winmobiletech.com/092005FullTodayLauncherRoundup/BMOnlyOneStorageCard.gif.png)

Bottom line: avoid it if you use a HDD with your USB host-enabled PPC a lot or, if you use your PDA in native VGA mode. There may also be some slowdown when entering/exiting the Today control panel applet (interestingly, this was only an issue with the Pocket LOOX 720 WM2003SE VGA PDA; on my PPC2k2 iPAQ 3660, I haven't encountered this problem). Also, the Today animation may be a bit tiring after a while I, personally, prefer static-looking screens (no flash for me :) ).

Would I choose it over the other tested apps? Nope. It's just too memory-hungry and the fact that it keeps running in the background even when its services (notifications) are not needed is a showstopper for me. In this respect, Resco and cLaunch are clearly better. For closing programs, there're better and completely free solutions too.

cLaunch 12.03 (http://www.pocketpcfreewares.com/en/index.php?soft=808) (official homepage (http://pachome1.pacific.net.sg/~welic/claunch.html))

screenshot (http://www.winmobiletech.com/092005FullTodayLauncherRoundup/iLauncher-main.gif.png)

This launcher (no meters!) application is free, but offers a lot of functionality (see the table). It has tabs, configurable height, even supports for naming icons, mass import of links in \Windows\Start Menu (or any directory). Here's a screenshot of the tab setup screen (in this case, that of "Main"):

screenshot (http://www.winmobiletech.com/092005FullTodayLauncherRoundup/iLauncher-mainSetup.gif.png)

There may be eight tabs at most; the pre-defined titles can be edited and individual tabs can be disabled:

screenshot (http://www.winmobiletech.com/092005FullTodayLauncherRoundup/iLauncher-mainSetupTabs.gif.png)

On the next two setting dialog screens, you can see what other config options are available:

screenshot (http://www.winmobiletech.com/092005FullTodayLauncherRoundup/iLauncher-mainSetupSystem.gif.png)

screenshot (http://www.winmobiletech.com/092005FullTodayLauncherRoundup/iLauncher-mainSetupTab.gif.png)

You can even change the icons of applications and pass parameters to them. That is, you won't need to create custom .lnk files to do so (also see this (http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=366103) thread on doing the same to/with voice commander applications the situation is the same with Today plug-ins). In this case, I've defined the command-line parameter 'command line param' to be passed:

screenshot (http://www.winmobiletech.com/092005FullTodayLauncherRoundup/iLauncher-mainEditEntry.gif.png)

Also, as can be seen, you can name your icons anything (see the "Name" textfield), independent of the filename this is also a big bonus, compared to the other apps, except for BP, which also supports this.

Tabs can be individually configured in the Settings menu margings, background skin, arrow skins and even the directory to auto-import link files from:

screenshot (http://www.winmobiletech.com/092005FullTodayLauncherRoundup/iLauncher-mainSettingExample.gif.png)

In this respect, it's even better and more configurable than any other tested app.

You don't need to use icon names at all (in most of the other screenshots, I use them) to pack the icons if you don't enable Settings/Icon/Icon name enable for the particular tab:

screenshot (http://www.winmobiletech.com/092005FullTodayLauncherRoundup/clauncherTitleAndIconSetting.gif.png)

You can use icons of any size; for example, in native VGA, using total screen usage of 300 rows and icons of 48 pixels:

screenshot (http://www.winmobiletech.com/092005FullTodayLauncherRoundup/clauncherBigIconsVGA.gif.png)


- the app isn't ready for making the predefined system control panels (inside cplmain.cpl accessible, unlike SPP, iLauncher and BP). However, third-party CPL's can be used without problems.
- on VGA devices, in QVGA mode, it uses pixel doubling in its client area. This may be a showstopper for many.
- it has major Today wallpaper problems on VGA devices, in QVGA mode. Following is an example of using a high-resolution today background image (I used the same test image as in my article (http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=361263) on Today wallpapers so that problems like clipping and uneven rendering can be easily spotted):

screenshot (http://www.winmobiletech.com/092005FullTodayLauncherRoundup/clauncherQVGA192dpi.gif.png)

setting HKEY_CURRENT_USER\ Software\Microsoft\Today\DPI to 96 (to tell the operating system to consider the Today image as a QVGA, low-resolution one; please also see the above-linked article on this registry entry) doesn't change much cLaunch will still use pixel doubling:

screenshot (http://www.winmobiletech.com/092005FullTodayLauncherRoundup/clauncherQVGA96dpi.gif.png)

In native VGA mode, on the other hand, it's displaying the wallpaper OK:

screenshot (http://www.winmobiletech.com/092005FullTodayLauncherRoundup/clauncherVGA.gif.png)

Therefore, if you have a VGA device used in the default QVGA (SE) mode, you may want to use a simple Today background for example, an all-white one like the one in most of the screenshots in this article. (Incidentally, I'm only using them here to reduce screenshot image sizes with 'real' background, their size would be around 80-100 kbytes. Now, they are around 10-30 kbytes.) And, again, you may want to read this article (http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=361263) on everything Today background-related.

Bottom line: if you don't need Today meters, this app is for you it really delivers a lot. If you have a VGA PDA and use it in either native VGA mode or, with a Today background that isn't screwed up by the different resolution of cLaunch and can live with the generic QVGA look of the plug-in/double-pixeled icons, give this app a go.

Would I choose it over the other tested apps? Definitely if I didn't need metering capabilities. This is by far the best pure launcher application, VGA problems and lack of cplmain.cpl aside.

I haven't tested the free QuickLaunch v1.00 (http://www.pocketpcfreewares.com/en/index.php?soft=1249) and Launcher - v1.35 (http://www.pocketpcfreewares.com/en/index.php?soft=68) because they're far inferior to cLaunch. I haven't tested the otherwise great PHM TrayLaunch PowerToy (http://www.phm.lu/Products/PocketPC/PowerToys/#TrayLnch) either because it's not a full-fledged Today, "just" a restricted tray launcher with, therefore, limited screen estate to store icons. If still interested, please see my article on CabInstl and its alternatives here (http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=356534); this article also shows the usage of TrayLaunch.

All of these plug-ins work with all Pocket PC operating system versions (except for PPC2k; there, you need to resort to Resco) and, except for some glitches with cLaunch/BP, on VGA devices too.

Here's the comparison table, in tabular form (http://www.winmobiletech.com/092005FullTodayLauncherRoundup/table.html)

Explanation of the table rows

Generic group: generic stuff like price, type, memory consumption, major features etc.

Type : here, I've listed what the application is just a simple application launcher, or something more too.

Static memory consumption: how much it takes from precious RAM. Note that it's only with Spb Pocket Plus that I relocated the plug-in from RAM memory (http://www.firstloox.org//forums/showthread.php?p=35348); I haven't tried doing the same to other plug-ins.

Dynamic memory consumption: how much dynamic memory it occupies when active. As can clearly be seen, there're two groups. Resco and cLaunch both take very little memory; the other three apps, however, take around 1.5-2 Mbytes. The latter may be just too much on 32M RAM WM2003SE devices like the iPAQ rz1715 or 64M RAM WM5 devices like the x51v and the HTC Universal.

CPU usage: I've tested this with XCPUScalar 2004 v2.86. Some Today plug-ins (see for example my article on advanced sound recorders (http://www.winmobiletech.com/mp3) for my comments on ViTO Sound Explorer 2005 it's one of the Today plug-ins that do this) really consume a lot of CPU cycles. None of the tested plug-ins do this. However, Battery Pack Pro really slowed down entering/exiting the Today control panel applet on the test VGA PDA (but not on a PPC2k2 iPAQ 3660, under very similar circumstances) this isn't shown in this row.

Tabs: to avoid having too many, sometimes totally unrelated icons on the Today screen at the same time, more advanced applications are able to groups icons into logical groups, represented by tabs. This way, you can greatly reduce the number of at the same time visible icons (and also separate them, based on their type). As can be seen, only Resco and BP fail in this even the free and lightweight cLaunch excelled here.

PPC2k2 compliance: I've also tested all these applications on my PPC2k2 iPAQ h3660. Surprisingly, all of the apps work flawlessly on such an already often-abandoned platform. (Please note that you'll need to download the "Pocket PC" version of the Resco installer of the Today plug-in to make it work on PPC2k2. If you download the standard (WM2003+) version, only the 'base' Resco Explorer will work, not the Today plug-in).

A screenshot of all these Today plug-ins working on the iPAQ 3660 at the same time (I've set the usable screen height to 50 in cLaunch so that all plug-ins can be seen on the same screen, peacefully co-existing on the same device):

screenshot (http://www.winmobiletech.com/092005FullTodayLauncherRoundup/iPAQ3660All.gif.png)

(BP at the top; Resco follows; SPP is the third; cLaunch is the 4th; finally, after the owner info, iLauncher closes.)

PPC2k compliance: Neither of the apps are compatible with PPC2k, except for Resco (image taken on my MIPS Casio Cassiopeia E-125):

screenshot (http://www.winmobiletech.com/092005FullTodayLauncherRoundup/RescoTodayE125.png)

Incidentally, as can clearly be seen on the image, Resco failed at identifying the storage card as a CF card in here it identified the card as an SD card. It's not a major problem, though. (Too bad you can't change icons in Resco except for manual image icon renaming.) For PPC2k-compatible alternatives to Resco, you may want to turn for example to PHM TrayLaunch PowerToy (http://www.phm.lu/Products/PocketPC/PowerToys/#TrayLnch) or some older versions of the other apps they may have PPC2k versions.

(Note that these apps are all compatible with WM2003/SE; this is why I haven't included related rows. I haven't had the chance to test their WM5 compliance HTC Universal/Jasjar is a lackluster product IMHO and I couldn't live with the 32M free RAM/screen of the x50v/x51v either, so, I keep waiting for something that is better even than my Pocket Loox 720).

Active polling while Today screen isn't visible?: decent Today plug-ins should conserve system resources while not visible. In this test, I've tested whether the tested plug-in still polls memory in this situation that is, when there're other programs running in the foreground.

I've used a USB hard disk in this test. USB hard disks become inaccessible if they are constantly polled for their available size this is why I've chosen them for the test.

Unfortunately, only the Resco plug-in is deactivated while isn't active. SPP is still a bit better than the rest of the apps: it only polls resources that are explicitly configured to be tracked it leaves other memories alone. iLauncher and BP have both failed this test, meaning that they must be explicitly disabled on a USB host-enabled PDA in order to be able to use any USB hard disk on the PDA. (Note that you must do the same to Resco too if you also plan to go to the Today screen while the HDD is actively connected.)

All in all, Resco is the most PDA-friendly not just because it only takes some 200 kbytes of dynamic RAM, but also because it doesn't poll anything when it's not needed.

Default items? : by default, most (except for cLaunch) of the tested apps fill in their tabs with default apps to make further configuration less necessary. In this row, I've elaborated on what these apps are. IMHO, iLauncher's approach is the best it only lists the last (really) used applications/accessed documents after install, while you may end up deleting a lot of unnecessary (unused) default icons from SPP and BP.

Backlight slider?: SPP has a great feature it lets you regulate the backlight level right on the Today screen. This is why I've explicitly listed this highly useful feature unfortunately, none of the other applications have it.

Fixed vertical size? If not, is it constrainable?: Especially in QVGA mode/on QVGA devices with restricted Today screen estate, it's preferable to be able to set the maximal vertical size the Today plug-in can use to avoid having to scroll the Today screen to be able to access other plug-ins/information. In this test, I've evaluated the applications in this respect.

The vertical size is fixed with BP: it'll only occupy one or two icon rows and isn't configurable. Of the other plug-ins, cLaunch (which uses a 100 pixel-high Today screen area area by default) and iLauncher are configurable to restrict the used screen estate. The other two plug-ins (Resco/SPP) don't have any means of doing this.

VGA compliance group: in these tests, I've tested the VGA compliance, particularly testing the icon sizes in the native VGA mode, which, if there is no way of incrementing them from their default, 16*16-pixel-size, may be a stumbling block for many because of the really tiny icons.

Automatically bigger icons in native VGA? : does the application notice being run in VGA mode (by just checking HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Drivers\ Display\GPE\LogicalPixelsX and HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Drivers\ Display\GPE\LogicalPixelsY in the registry as described here (http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/index.php?action=expand,43014))? Well-written Pocket PC applications could really easily decide whether they're in native VGA or in plain SE (QVGA). Unfortunately, only Resco does this the other apps all display tiny icons in native VGA mode by default. The lack of this (again, prgrammatically, very simple!) test is really annoying particularly with iLauncher, which has a dedicated VGA mode. That is, you must increase the icon sizes by hand with other apps (where it's possible at all).

Please note that you should use the VGA/QVGA-specific configuration handling features of OzVGA if you often switch between VGA and QVGA to avoid manual reconfiguration. Please read this article (http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/index.php?action=expand,43014) on using OzVGA to do this.

If icons are not automatically bigger in VGA, where are their sizes (and other settings that should be different between VGA and QVGA modes) stored?: in this row, I elaborated on what should be kept strictly separate in VGA and QVGA to avoid constant reconfiguration of the GUI to switch to bigger icons in VGA mode/smaller ones in QVGA. Please read this article (http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/index.php?action=expand,43014) (alternative here (http://www.aximsite.com/boards/showthread.php?p=827585) and here (http://www.firstloox.org/forums/showthread.php?p=39887)) on how the information I've supplied here should be used with OzVGA (http://oz.sciox.org/).

Incidentally, as can clearly be seen, the built-in SPP support of OzVGA isn't correct/sufficient for saving the full configuration it's only its, to a certain degree, iLauncher and cLaunch support that is sufficient.

As far as SPP is concerned, OzVGA only offers saving the entire subtree of the Registry key HKLM\SOFTWARE\Spb Software House\Pocket Plus\Today Items, while HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\ SOFTWARE\ Spb Software House\Pocket Plus\3 should be saved instead, and, additionally, \Windows\ plustodayitems.dat in the file system.

iLauncher only stores two VGA mode-related boolean values (TrueVGAOptions and TrueVGA) in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\ SBSH\iLauncher. They are correctly saved/restored by OzVGA, using the default, built-in Registry path. In most cases, saving/restoring these values will suffice if you switch between the two modes and the only difference is the enabled/disabled VGA mode - iLauncher doesn't store anything else (for example, its individual (!) icon sizes) under HKCU\Software\SBSH . If you would like to save/restore other settings too (and not just make iLauncher do switch between the QVGA and VGA mode), you need to add file system saving/restoring too: you need to save/restore \Program Files\SBSH\iLauncher\iLauncher.ini.

Manual switch between enlarged/default icon size for any launcher/meter icon?: several apps allow for choosing between 'large' (which are particularly important in native VGA) and 'small' icons. In this test, I've elaborated on this feature. In SPP, you must make each icon larger by hand which is quite time-consuming if there're several of them. In iLauncher, after you enable 'New shortcuts default to large' in Settings, all the icons added next will have the size 32*32 (or, alternatively, you can switch to VGA mode which, as has been pointed out in the iLauncher section at the top, wired-in; it isn't checked in runtime). Finally, cLaunch has the best and easiest feature of all: setting all icon sizes in a given tab to any size, in a moment (this is painfully lacking from both SPP and iLauncher).

Please note that I've also elaborated on how you can ease the enlargement of icons in the previous row (If icons are not automatically bigger in VGA, where are their sizes (and other settings that should be different between VGA and QVGA modes) stored?). This information may be particularly useful with iLauncher when you want to mass-convert your icon sizes in order to have a separate QVGA and VGA set.

VGA compliance in general?: icon sizes (that is, accessibility/easiness of using) aside, does the app display at all correctly in the two VGA modes? As can be seen, BP certainly fails in native VGA mode; also, cLaunch may have problems with the Today wallpaper and the generic double pixeling in QVGA. Otherwise, everything is OK.

Storage meters group: everything related to metering storage mediums.

Dedicated CF/SD/File Store/Memory icons? : if you see the Resco icons, you'll most definitely fall in love with them. In this test, I've tested whether the apps have decent icons that do show a CF/SD card, or just generic icons.

Unfortunately, none of the metering-capable apps had so pretty icons as Resco. SPP doesn't even have any icons resembling SD or CF cards. Unfortunately, you can't (easily) change metering icons either (unlike with standard app/doc icons) in SPP. This is certainly a big problem.

Dynamic mapping to memory types?: not all Today plug-in developers may have been made their plug-ins able to monitor external/unusual memory/devices on the USB host or even the File Store. In this test, I've tested whether you can explicitly monitor these types of memory.

Fortunately, all the tested apps can be explicitly configured to display all kinds of (today) available external memory/periphere types, except for the simple Resco. Resco, however, automatically senses USB devices and also starts monitoring them. An screenshot of Resco monitoring a USB-hosted external memory device (in this example, a digicam having a memory card with some 933 Mbytes 0.9Gbyte free):

screenshot (http://www.winmobiletech.com/092005FullTodayLauncherRoundup/RescoMonitoringUSBHostedMemory.gif.png)

Can it make a difference between storage (static) and program (dynamic) RAM?: in some cases, the ability to display the two RAM types separately may be advantageous too (see the Resco vs SPP article for this) but definitely not a showstopper for the vast majority of users.

Compliance with USB hosted hard disks?: unfortunately, USB hard disks hate it when they are constantly polled for the free size they become unaccessible, sometimes resulting in crashing the Pocket PC host too. In this test, I've examined whether you can connect a USB hard disk to a USB host-enabled PDA that runs the given Today plug-in. As it has turned out, iLauncher and BP must be explictly disabled in order to be able to use your HDD from other apps; Resco too if you will ever step to the Today screen. Spb is the only app that doesn't actively poll \Hard Disk unless you explictly tell it to do so.

Compliance with USB hosted other memory types? (Tested with a digicam) : in this test, I've tested whether you can use other (non-magnetomechanical) USB devices while the Today plug-in is active / while configured to polling it (SPP). This time, I've made the tests with a connected digital camera (I copied files from it to the PDA to see if the connection really works). Fortunately, all the (metering) plug-ins fared well in this test.

Able to monitor alternative USB memory types? : finally, I've tested whether you can monitor USB memories (if they aren't hard disk-based). Fortunately, you can with all of the tested apps. (Note that the previous test was about the ability to use a USB periphere at all while the Today plug-in is active, while the current is about metering them.)

Adding icons to launcher group: in this group, I've tested the way/easiness of how icons can be added to the launcher, how well they're pre-grouped (separated based on their category) to make finding them easy etc.

Traditional .lnk files in \Windows\Start Menu? : adding links from Start Menu / Programs. This being the most important aspect of adding icons, all apps are able to do so (with Resco having a little bug explained in the Resco vs SPP article).

Ability to add control panel applets (.cpl) in \Windows?: the ability to be able to add CPL files (their explanation will follow soon) aren't so widely demanded as adding "simple" applications. This is why some of the apps (for example, Resco) don't have any support for this. This would be, however, very important, in order to be able to access, for example, the backlight setter screen (if there is no dedicated backlight slider in the Today plug-in / a dedicated backlight program in Start Menu/Programs).

I need to elaborate on CPL files a bit. First, the standard controller applets (most of the stuff that you see in Start Menu/Settings), common to all Windows Mobile devices, are all contained in the cplmain.cpl file. Decent Today plug-ins should make available all the built-in controls in cplmain.cpl. All the Today plug-ins are capable of doing this, except for Resco and cLaunch.

Third-party programs like SPP, MS Voice Command (please see this article (http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=366103) for a review), Pocket Controller, XCPUScalar, Mad Programmer's Force Hi-resolution tool (http://www.firstloox.org//forums/showthread.php?t=3754) etc. all copy their own .cpl files in \Windows. The latter files are the ones I refer to as third-party CPL's. These third-party CPL's are directly runnable (unlike the standard cplmain.cpl.) This means if you add them to a Today launcher plug-in, you can click them and the associated applet will run just like as if you clicked them in Start Menu/Settings.

You can't directly add third-party CPL's to Resco without registry hacking (described in the Resco vs SPP article) either (but then, they will also be accessible from the Today screen); to cLaunch, you can.

Documents?: can you add non-executable files like documents (for example, a Word, a multimedia file or a HTML document)? All plug-ins are able to do this.

From anywhere in the File System?: app links/documents can not only be in \Windows\Start Menu or \My Documents, respectively, but anywhere else even on storage cards (think of lengthy multimedia audio, video files as documents, playable with just a stylus tap on the Today screen). In this section, I've elaborated on whether you can add files from anywhere in the file system. As can be seen, the Resco plug-in is the clear loser in this category too it's only by registry editing (again, this is described in the Resco vs SPP article) that you can add any file from "non-standard" locations.

Icons group: everything related to working with icons: rearranging them etc. (Note that resizing them is discussed in the VGA-related section because it's mostly at switching to the native VGA mode that this functionality is essential!)

Textual icon annotation?: it's essential to be able to differentiate between programs/documents that otherwise have similar icons (for example, a lot of Pocket Word documents). Most of the Today plug-ins are able to display the link file names if you tap-and-hold (and not just tap it starts/invokes them) the icons, except for the, in this respect, total loser Resco. cLaunch can even be configured to always display the name (which, incidentally, doesn't even need to be the same as the link file name), with a freely choosable label size/location. Another advantage of cLaunch.

Change icon?: it may be great to be able to change the default icon of any today'ed apps/docs, especially with plug-ins that, otherwise, can't in any way display their link filenames (Resco). Unfortunately, Resco, the loser of the previous test, fails this one too. You'll have a hard time with Resco finding out which icons belong to which apps/documents without actually invoking them if there're many of the same icons on the Today screen.

Rearrange?: is it possible to rearrange the icons? Yes, all the tested apps make it possible to rearrange them in the configuration dialog at least ("config list"), by pressing Up/Down-like buttons (not really intuitive and pretty time-consuming, but it works). Much more intuitive/quicker is drag-and-dropping; BP supports this in the config dialog. SPP goes a step further: it allows for this straight on the Today screen. Impressive!

Bottom line: I can't really tell you which one should you choose. You should consider your personal needs when deciding. Do you need, for example, an all-in-one suite of software? Choose from SPP or Resco, then, depending on what you really need. Do you need a battery (or, with iLauncher, even memory), always visible bar on the program bar? Consider getting either iLauncher or SPP. You have a heavily memory-constrained device, where every bit counts? Get either Resco or cLaunch. And, the list continues...

Hope this roundup helped a lot in learning about what these apps are capable of.

EDIT at 19:23 CET: elaborated a bit more on the OzVGA vs. iLauncher section.

PocketPC Addict
09-24-2005, 05:40 PM
Wow, you have really put a lot of work into this. I have been looking for a good launcher for today screen to replace SPP because it's not doing so well with my settings, I forgot Resco had added this feature. :) I'm gonna give it a good trial and see what happens.

Thanks :D

09-25-2005, 07:44 AM
An important addition for PPC2k2 + cLaunch users (this problem isn't present onWM2003+ devices): if you want to remove cLaunch from your PDA, you must first delete the entire contents of

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\ SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Today\Items\cLaunch]

from the registry. Then, soft reset your device; after this, removing the application will be successful. (This bug made some people even to hard reset their device; see for example samurex's comment here (http://www.pocketpcfreewares.com/en/index.php?soft=808).)

Please read these posts (http://pocketpcmag.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=16508) on choosing a decent Registry Editor.

09-30-2005, 08:55 PM
In the meantime, InMobile AllMyShortcuts (http://www.inmobile-solutions.com/Img/AllMy_Site.htm) has been released. Here's my quick review of it.

This is a plain launcher app no metering capabilities.

Memory consumption:
dynamic: 80k (Today plug-in only)
static: 10k DLL + 16k HTML help in \Windows; ~1 Mbyte in \Program Files\inmobile\AllShortcuts\ (caution, \Program Files\inmobile\AllShortcuts\Icons\More Images\ has 222 image files keeping them in RAM is not particularly advantageous for the health status of your Pocket PC (http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=36376), so, you may want to delete/relocate into a storage card the vast majority of them.)

Installation targets:
Can't be installed the non-DLL parts on a memory card. Then, it complains about it having been expired. I haven't tested installing it in the File Store because of the very high number of icons (it would have taken ages to install the app in a hyperslow-to-create-new-files flash ROM medium like the File Store). I bet it's getting its

The uninstaller is flaky too. It doesn't automatically stop the (active) plug-in DLL and it doesn't delete the home directory (which will have some additional files). This app certainly misses a custom uninstallation DLL...

VGA compliance: it displays icons double-pixeled in standard (SE) VGA mode:


What files can be added?:

You can add EXE files (the default). As far as adding settings shortcuts are concerned, you can only add some, pre-defined (see \Program Files\inmobile\AllShortcuts\TodayConfig.txt for the list) ones:


If you tried to add documents/CPL files to the applet, the file list is ordered by date, which makes it very hard to find anything (another very bad bug!):


(Incidentally, the time it loads filelists from directories is much larger than with other apps. Another disadvantage.)

Finally, if you choose 'Shortcut's programs' (sic!) (to link .lnk files instead of .EXE's, which it should offer at the first place), the app just crashes:


(Incidentally, the English of this application is certainly very bad. What is more, it not only has very bad English grammar, but also even spelling mistakes, also on their homepage. The former is acceptable from a non-English speaker; the latter isn't, especially if he/she is selling a commercial product.)

Does it offer anything at all?!:

The only unique feature of this app is the Phone Call feature:


It only works on Phone Edition (PE) devices that is, it can't, for example, utilize bluetooth to initiate a call on a paired BT phone on a non-PE device (see for example 'Dial via Bluetooth' in Contacts). It wouldn't have been very hard to implement. This certainly hampers its usability.

Bottom line: is the price of this untested, incapable rubbish a joke??? Even the free cLaunch is orders of magnitude better/more reliable! AVOID IT AT ANY RATE!!!

03-15-2006, 08:34 PM
I've just posted a genuine, never-before-published tutorial on fixing Resco's / cLaunch's inability to put standard .CPL applets on the Today screen:

My Pocket PC Magazine Expert Blog at http://www.pocketpcmag.com/blogs/index.php?blog=3&p=640&more=1

Also, cross-posted the article to the following Pocket PC forums (forums where I'm regular at and like giving content to forum mates without forcing them to visit my blog):

AximSite: http://www.aximsite.com/boards/showthread.php?t=120588
BH: http://discussion.brighthand.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=122606
FirstLoox: http://www.firstloox.org//forums/showthread.php?p=50541
MobilitySite: http://www.mobilitysite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=148113
PPCT: http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=47230
XDA-Dev: http://forum.xda-developers.com/viewtopic.php?p=248402

04-08-2006, 08:03 PM
Thanks again for your great article, Menneisyys! :D

One addition, that I didn't notice in your article. (If I missed it, sorry.)

There is an excellent, simple, low-memory-using Freeware Today screen launcher, called simply "Launcher" by Scott Seligman. (Put in Launcher and "Scott Seligman" in a Google search window, and you'll find it.)

It's an older program. I used it for years on my IPAQ 2210. Now I've installed it on my new T-Mobile MDA (HTC Wizard), running WM5, and it works fine there too.

Not a lot of fancy bells and whistles. A DLL is added to the system, launcher.dll, and a directory called Launcher is added. Any shortcut .LNK files that you put in that Launcher directory, will appear as icons to launch the programs on the Today screen. It works simply and well, uses little memory, and is FREE.

07-11-2006, 08:14 AM
Thanks again for your great article, Menneisyys! :D

One addition, that I didn't notice in your article. (If I missed it, sorry.)

There is an excellent, simple, low-memory-using Freeware Today screen launcher, called simply "Launcher" by Scott Seligman. (Put in Launcher and "Scott Seligman" in a Google search window, and you'll find it.)

It's an older program. I used it for years on my IPAQ 2210. Now I've installed it on my new T-Mobile MDA (HTC Wizard), running WM5, and it works fine there too.

Not a lot of fancy bells and whistles. A DLL is added to the system, launcher.dll, and a directory called Launcher is added. Any shortcut .LNK files that you put in that Launcher directory, will appear as icons to launch the programs on the Today screen. It works simply and well, uses little memory, and is FREE.

Thanks for the tip; I'll check it out and will also probably review it.

08-14-2006, 01:28 PM
When I copied your created lnk files to my device, cLaunch created standard default file icon (looks like the one you get when there is no file association) for each applet. When I tried to use cLaunch's icon changer function, it cannot show any icons. Is this unique to cLaunch? How can I get to the CP icons?