Functional Windows Mobile for the Web Worker

I have a love/hate relationship with my Windows Mobile 5 Phone Edition cell phone/PDA. The image to the left is what my phone’s Today screen is looking like these days. I like my phone’s interface to be very clean and functional. Everything I need quickly is right there. With a 200 Mhz processor and only 64 MB of onboard RAM, I have to be very picky about the applications I install on my Cingular 8125. After nearly a year with this device and after trying a lot of software, I’ve made peace with it. On those days that I don’t have my laptop with me, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much I can accomplish from my phone.

Here’s some of my picks for the software that can make the web worker most productive on the go.

Start with a good launcher. Clicking Start -> Programs all the time is just silly. I’ve tried many and have settled on spb Pocket Plus. spb Software makes some fantastic software for Pocket PCs. In addition to its ability to house icons for your most accessed applications, PocketPlus gives you battery, RAM and drive meters, the ability to control system functions, multiple tabs and the ability to control the application entirely with the D-pad when you want to.

Make it easier to get to your communications. By default, Windows Mobile puts a tiny icon up in the top menu bar to tell you when you have a missed phone call, text message, email or voice mail. It’s a one-time thing. The next alert replaces the previous one and it won’t remind you again. PocketMax PhoneAlarm is the answer.

In addition to a visual count of missed communications, the application let’s you set profiles you can switch to on the fly. When you sit down on the plane, it’s much faster and easier to quickly select the “Airplane” profile from the Today screen which disables the phone and turns off the volume in one click, instead of manipulating all those settings manually. When you land, switch back to the profile you were at before. You can set timers on the profiles to switch automatically. How many times have you turned your ringer off for a meeting and missed an important call hours later because you never turned the ringer back on? PhoneAlarm handles all that beautifully. I’m running the lite version due to my underpowered phone. A smartphone version is just out.

Keep your most important information accessible. The default screen tells you that you have 16 Active tasks, but you have to open the Tasks application to see them. You can see what you’re doing next, but what about your appointments in the next week? Any time you have to waste opening an application just to look at the details in an appointment is time, well, wasted. spb Diary gives you a more complete view of your calendar, contacts, tasks, messages, notes and special events. It’s very customizable, but not quite as powerhouse and overwhelming as its main competition, SBSH’s PocketBreeze/ContactBreeze. I urge you to try both spb and SBSH’s products for yourself in the trial versions and decide which is more to your liking. They’re both good.

Find a better PIM. Windows Mobile built-in personal information management applications are a good start for your calendar, tasks, notes and contacts, but it doesn’t take much more to get something better. Lots of possibilities in this category. I’ve tried most of them. For a long time I used WebIS PocketInformant (shown here), preferring it over its closest competition Agenda Fusion. The issue I had with PocketInformant is that for my slower phone, it does too much and is too big. I’m looking for that sweet spot between the built-in applications and a full-featured PIM so I’m currently using Agenda One, a new product by Developer One, the makers of Agenda Fusion. Cleaner interface, lighter feel. Don’t count out Palm OS leaders Iambic as they bring their flagship Agendus to the Windows Mobile platform (currently in public alpha testing).

Also consider:

  • Resco File Explorer – File browser, FTP, registry editor and more. A must-have and a significant improvement over the built-in file explorer.
  • A LogMeIn Pro account – sign in from your phone’s browser, and you can remotely control your desktop PC from your handheld. Handy for looking at the file that’s only saved on your PC sitting back in your home office. Unfortunately, this application only works for accessing Windows PC operating systems.
  • Google’s Gmail application – If you use Gmail, you’ll never fire up a browser or the lame built-in Messenging app to check email after trying this Java application.
  • Microsoft Windows Live Search for mobile (beta) – Google makes a Java version of a map application that’s barely passable. This Windows Mobile-dedicated application blows the Java versions away. I once got out of the DC Metro at the wrong exit and while I knew I had 4 blocks to walk to my destination, I had no idea which direction to start. I used this little beauty and the address of a store I was standing in front of to plot my course step-by-step. Faster and cheaper than calling 411 to get a business phone number, too.
  • Microsoft Voice Command – Navigate around your device using your voice for completely hands-free operation. Much better than the built-in voice recognition. New version works over bluetooth. Biggest downside: requires nearly 4 MB of RAM and it must be installed to main memory. It’s worth making room for.
  • WebIs Flex Wallet – Keep track of all the important data in your life. Don’t fret if you lose your phone, lock this application down with a secure password.
  • Tengo – Super fast text entry. I find it faster and easier than the phone’s slide-out keyboard.
  • Ilium ListPro – If you’re the type that likes to make lists to keep track of your lists, then this application is for you.
  • eReader – Why carry paperbacks? I always have a few novels on my SD card.
  • Astraware Bejeweled 2 – It can’t be all work. This is my all-time favorite handheld game.

Now that you have a peek inside my phone, any other Windows Mobile users care to share their picks?

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