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COLUMN: My favorite Pocket PC Applications on the Smartphone - Today Ilium
Posted by Arne Hess - on Tuesday, 22.05.07 - 13:29:26 CET under 09 - Thoughts - Viewed 10976x
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(By Helio Diamant) Let's continue with the series of articles of the use of my favorite Windows Mobile Pocket PC applications on the Windows Mobile Smartphone. Today I will write about Ilium Software's NewsBreak, another application by Ilium that made my life so easy on the Pocket PC, and now made me happier when I saw it exists for the Smartphone as well.
NewsBreak is an RSS feed reader. For the users that are not acquainted with RSS, here is a short explanation: many websites offer the ability to syndicate the content of the site as an RSS feed. RSS is a standard XML format (actually there are some 3 different RSS standards).

An RSS feed reader is a software package that, when installed in your computer, will either keep itself updated in the background or update itself every time you use it. In the first case, you will get alerts every time there is new content available. You can create a list of RSS feeds that covers your area of interest and be always up to date. This is one of the ways I use to update my website, Pocket PCFreak.com. I have news from around the world popping in continuously, and all I have to do is to choose which of them are of interest to an Israeli technology website and write my own story about it, pointing to the source of the article. Just like newspapers did with the old Telex machine that ejected Reuters notices during the whole day.

NewsBreak is such a RSS feed reader, as I said, and supports viewing RSS feeds. In its latest version, which is also available for Smartphones nd Pocket PCs, it also features support for Podcasts (news in audio format) and Vidcasts (news in video format). So the whole package can be very interesting. I will not cover the Podcast and Vidcast features in this article. (First, it is out of the scope of the article, which is about usability on the Smartphone. Second, I haven't found yet a podcast or vidcast that won't bore me to sleep. It seems I am more of a reading type of character, so why write about something that doesn't give me the kick? Anyway, Podcasts and Vidcasts lovers know that it is there.)

So let's see how the software is used on the Smartphone. When starting NewsBreak, we get the list of feeds that we are set to receive:

However, at the first time the list will be empty and we have set up the new feeds we want to receive:

NewsBreak offers a variety of choices, from searching for RSS feeds in the Internet up to entering a URL manually already known:

I was able to write the URL, and the name was brought to me for verification that this is the feed I want. To complete the process, press "Done" and will be back to the list of configured RSS feeds:

Clicking "Refresh" will manually search for new articles at the previously selected or added feed source. To read a received article I now either use the BlackJack's jog wheel or the D-Pad to move up and down to the desired feed. By pressing the wheel or action button, NewsBreak opens the selected feed.

Now we get a list of headlines. Maybe this is the time to note that if the webmaster has taken the care to specify the character-set to be displayed on the feed, NewsBreak will know how to display it as long as the support for this language exists in the device. In the case of the picture bellow, we see Hebrew, but the same can be true for Russian, Arabic, Greek, Thai and many others.

Navigation through the list of headlines is done in the same way described above. Clicking the "Channels" option on the left softkey will take us back to the list of feeds in order to go to another feed:

If I click on an article headline I get the full article. It can include pictures and everything. In the case of Pocket PCFreak.com, users get all the content of the part of the article residing in the home page. If there is any extended content in a specific article page, there is a link to press and NewsBreak will launch Internet Explorer Mobile to let you read the full article with one click:

As you can see above, right-to-left content is still aligned to the left, but it is still displayed in right-to-left formatting, so there is no mismatch in the order that the words are displayed. We can see meaningful sentences which mix Hebrew and English words in the text above.
Pressing the "Headlines" softkey will bring us back to the headlines of this feed.

Final Conclusion

As you can see, NewsBreak has only one function that contains a kind of interactivity: the definition of new RSS feeds you want to receive. So in terms of operation engineering it didn't surprise me to find it is working on the Smartphone platform with the same ease of use as it is on Pocket PCs.

The user interface of the Smartphone version is very clean and very professional and the text size is good enough even to my old-tired eyes. Support for exoteric character sets is very good, even without aligning the text right-to-left when needed. And, for the real enthusiasts, there is also the support for Vidcasts and Podcasts.

If you are a RSS junkie and use a Smartphone, you will surely enjoy the work done by Ilium. You can get a 30-day evaluation and purchase the full version from Ilium Software. The Windows Mobile Pocket P C and Smartphone version costs US$ 19.95 each.

Helio Diamant is a Microsoft MVP for Windows Mobile and the founder and Editor in Chief of "Pocket PC Freak - Your Pocket PC Hebrew Site"


 
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