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REVIEW: Spb Pocket Plus 2.0 - the ultimate PPC Utility
Posted by Carlo Guerrero - on Thursday, 13.05.04 - 02:40:50 CET under 08 - Reviews - Viewed 10422x
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When you hear the name Spb Pocket Plus, the first thing that comes to mind is usually the task switcher/killer add-on for the Pocket PC. But even with the previous versions, Pocket Plus was never just a task switcher/killer. It was a collection of handy utilities that extended the Pocket PC's capabilities. It added a Today plugin, repeating alarms, extended the Pocket Internet Explorer's capabilities and provided a fix for the notification problems of Windows Mobile 2003 devices.

Spb Pocket Plus 2.0, promises to do that plus a lot more. We take a look at  Pocket Plus 2.0 and see what's new with and if it stands up to what it claims to be.

The installation is quite smooth. And it even prompts you if you want to associate Zip files with Spb Pocket Plus for one-click uncompressing of zipped files. I just found the installation size a bit shocking at 2,083.2 K. It may not be a problem with Pocket PCs with 128MB of RAM to spare but for those that run on the lesser 64MB (with about 57MB available to the user), this may make a big dent on the memory figures if you are a power user.

At 2,083.2 K, that is huge... but there is an explanation to it that helps justifying the large install size.

Pocket Plus 2.0 offers six different components built into it plus seven extended themes that adds a little eye candy that complements a very nicely done Today plugin.

Starting off with the Close Button, we look at the addition of numerous options which can be included in the drop down context menu. This goes beyond what Pocket Plus had to offer with the previous version. With fifteen options available to the user, which can be further configured by moving any of each item up or down the list, this by far is the most configurable Close Button available.

The Close Button can be be made to react differently depending on the way it is activated. The Close Button can be activated on tap, tap-and-hold, and on gesture.

The Close Button alone makes Pocket Plus 2.0 worth every penny. It even goes further allowing you to name applications which you could put in the minimize only list.

I've set mine to minimize on a tap, close the current application on a gesture (tap-and-drag-down), and call the Close Button pull-down menu on a tap-and-hold. Think of getting the most out of one icon... or area alone.

Going into the Pocket Internet Explorer setup page reveals more about what Pocket Plus 2.0 can do.

The nice thing about the way Pocket Plus handles Pocket Internet Explorer is that it isn't obtrusive. It has a single icon to call up a menu which extends the capabilities of Pocket Internet Explorer such as being able to open a new PIE window or close the current PIE window as well as giving the option to view the page in full-screen. Being able to save the page or view the source in Pocket Word is always a plus. And once in full-screen mode, there is a little icon that appears in the bottom left corner to revert back to standard view.

The context menus that pop out on a tap and hold in Pocket Internet Explorer also reflect the available options for each link or the lack of thereof. Doing a tap-and-hold on a basic HTML area simply gives you the [Back] option aside from the basic Select All Text, Refresh Page, and Add to Favorites. Tapping on an image adds the [Save Picture As...] option, and tapping on a link gives you the additional [Open in New Window] and [Copy Shortcut] options.

We're not even half-way through and everything just looks outstanding.

The Today Screen plugin of Pocket Plus 2,0 is another item which Spb has tremendously improved. Not only did they add more functionality to it with its tabbed setup, they even made sure that you can skin them well too with the seven extended themes that comes packaged with Pocket Plus 2.0.

Pocket Plus 2.0 allows the user to name the tabs (maximum of five tabs), and set whatever items the user wants to show on the Today Screen plugin. There are basically six categories to choose from, and these are the Indicators such as battery, memory and backlight indicator, Programs which is about any program in the programs folder, the System which includes soft reset, suspend, screen toggle, volume, and backlight control, My Documents which is any file found in the My Documents folder, Settings which is basically the settings menu of the Pocket PC and the Custom settings which depends greatly on the user as to what is included in this category.

The extended themes also use their own icon set for the plugin, and while a basic set of icons are supplied for non-extended themes, the added features of the icon set for the extended themes add uniqueness to any Pocket PC sporting it. Having a lot of icons on the Today screen is sure to take up much of the screen real estate. This is where the tabs and the ability to use smaller icons come to play.

A nice touch too is the addition of a battery indicator at the very top of the screen. It is not obtrusive and gives a very visual description of how much juice the Pocket PC has before it needs a recharge. And since it is placed at the top of the Task Bar, it is visible from about any application in the Pocket PC.

Another nice touch by Spb is extending the capabilities of the built-in File Explorer. Instead of using an alternative File Explorer altogether, Spb opted to extend the features by adding Zip support, the ability to see the properties of the file as well as changing some of its attributes, and adding a Folder Up button.

Another indispensable feature of Pocket Plus 2.0 is its repeating alarms which can be configured to fire not only in a simple repeating fashion, but in ascending order or in a series where the alarm repeats itself in given intervals. The Alarms can also be set to fire in full volume if needed which overrides the Pocket PC volume settings.

Spb also provides a WM2003 StartUp fix which is supposed to clear duplicated records from the notifications database.

With so many features which can be configured by the user, one would think that reinstalling this application after a hard reset would be a very tedious affair. In the contrary, setting it up into a new device or one which has just been hard-reset is a very simple matter of restoring from a backup file. Yes, that is one more cool feature of Pocket Plus 2.0. You can create a backup of the settings and use this backup to restore your settings in just a few clicks... that is if you don't forget to save the backup into either your Pocket PC's persistent storage or an external storage card.

Putting all these together in one package, which can be selected by the user depending on what is needed is a big plus even though I would personally want something which is more modular where components are individually loaded up instead of a single package.  With all the features available in Pocket Plus 2.0, the install size of 2,083.2 K is quite justifiable. A good 300+ K of it are actually made up of the seven extended themes. This is all about features, options, options, and more options. Definitely worth every penny, this utility compilation is a must have. This should always be the first thing that goes in any Pocket PC.

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