Helio Diamant) Today, we will take a look on the first software that got my interest when I bought my first Pocket PC
and actually it's the first software I
have ever reviewed for PocketPCFreak.com - MetrO. This software was interesting
to me not only because of the problem it solved and its usability qualities, but
as well due to the interesting development model that permitted it to stay
completely free over the years.
At the world of transportation and navigation, the most
important word is "update". If software is not updated, it is dead. This is the
point where Metro shines. The developers P. Bernard & F. Van Caenegem have
gathered supporters from all around the world who send to them the updates on
the transportation lines and schedules. Today MetrO covers more than 300 cities
and after five years since I've first reviewed it, it is still updated every
month with new cities and updates to existing ones. With all that, what would be
the chance that they would issue a Windows Mobile Smartphone version?
Well, 100% chance. The Smartphone version is right there at the
developers site and, just like the other versions, it is distributed for free as
well. It is one of the last pieces of software left which are developed looking
for 100% quality, updated as a clock and distributed for 100% free. No addware,
no fees, just nothing.
Metro began at the Palm platform and was ported to Pocket PC
five years ago. All its beautiful history was based on touchscreens. So how good
can they be on a device that is operated only by the buttons? This is what we
will verify here.
At the first time that we go into the software, we choose the
city from the list. The list is actually a folder listing that includes all city
files which we have decided to copy from the computer to the My Documents folder
(in the Main Memory or in the Storage Card). The chosen city will be the default
on next times we open the software and until we decide to change city. As
usual, in the Smartphone, going through the list is easily done with the side
wheel or the gaming button and the choice of a city can be done by pressing the
wheel or the OK button. The menu offers, among other things, the ability to
update the city file directly from the Internet.
After choosing the city, we get the main screen as seen
above. Due to the lack of space, the developers did not write captions to the
fields, so we need to guess that the first field is for current location and the
second for the destination. Not very difficult, but I doubt the decision. I
would prefer if the logo was somewhat smaller and we had place for captions. We
also see fields for the weekday and the hour, since MetrO will calculate the
route according to the availability of trains at the specified day and time. The
default is current time, but we can change it in order to plan in advance.
I have had some small issues with the fitting of the fields to
the small screen, sometimes some strange things occur, but it is not something
that has prevented me from operating the software.
The menu is opened with the right softkey, then we can use the
wheel to scroll around it, with the same one-handed "scroll-and-press" method
which we have already learned. As with almost all Smartphone software, pressing
the number according to each choice will provide us a fast-track to the desired
Here we see the full menu, covering the whole set of choices.
The only existing submenu is the one for the option Metro, which provides us
with the ability to change cities and set preferences, additionally to some
other feedback and communication options. The main menu provides us all the
options that are hidden in the Pocket PC version behind the small icons in the
screen, just under the destination field. Those are details of a route, going
back, clearing the route, choosing destination by Contact data, seeing lines
details, or choosing Points of Interests (a very useful option for tourists).
So let's do some navigation: using the Los Angeles map I have
chosen Sepulveda Blvd. Search is done by just pressing the first characters of
the station/POI and scrolling.
For the destination, I pressed Hollywood and was presented with
all the options containing Hollywood in their names. I decided to go to the
Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Wow! I have found the first software that got a little crazy
with the Smartphone Hebrew support. They must be doing something different than
the others. Interesting, since it doesn't happen at the Pocket PC. Well, but this
won't stop me in my quest to arrive to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Meanwhile I
have verified my actual location to be Beverly Dr. and changed the origin. Now
all I need to do is to press the Go softkey at the left.
Voila! Just as on the Pocket PC, I received two routes, the
shortest route (in terms of time) and the route with the smallest number of
train changes (something that can be very important for someone traveling with
suitcases). The whole path is described above, including the places where we
need to walk from one station to another.
From this point we can see details of the line, with all
stations, the timetable and know exactly where we are within the line. There
are many different options here and I recommend searching and finding the most
usable options for you.
I have found one special interesting point that makes this
software better in the Smartphone than it is in the Pocket PC: in the Pocket PC,
when I turn off the device (or it times-out and goes into standby mode), the
software closes. It happened to me many times that I had to go through the whole
path again to see where I was or what train to catch from there. In the
Smartphone, there is some difference in the standby mode that doesn't close the
software. When I turn the screen on again, it is right there at the same
position I left it. Very important, since in many cases I operate it in pressure
of time to run to the right station and get the right connection.
Despite some minor problems in adjustment to the small screen
and fitness to the Hebrew support, I found MetrO for Smartphone a software of
very high quality, specially in usability terms. The software is easy and
intuitive and it is a pleasure to work with it on the Smartphone. The fact that
the device times out without closing the software is as well a point in favor of
it, making it easy to make fast decisions.
Another point stands for the fact that we usually use this kind
of software under difficult conditions and of lack-of-time, suitcases in the
hand and swinging
trains. In this case, the ability to use the software with one hand only
becomes even more important. Last but not least is security: you wouldn't believe how afraid I
was to take my JASJAR out of the pocket while inside trains in some countries.
MetrO keeps in the Smartphone the same standards of quality,
human engineering and update frequency that has made it a success in the Palm
and Pocket PC world. In my opinion, it is one of those MUST HAVE software
packages for every device and traveler. Very recommended, especially because it
is available free of charge.
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"