Reviews: Software

Spb Software's Pocket Plus

     Get ready to change how you use Pocket PC 2002 because Spb's Pocket Plus  includes four features Microsoft should have included in Pocket PC 2002.  Some features in Pocket Plus have been seen released by other companies as single programs, but Spb has packed them into one easy to use interface along with some features that, until now, we could only hope for.
     For the Pocket PC user, having status bars on the today screen is great as is the ability to put shortcuts to programs on there.  Pocket Plus allows you to do both of these things.  Pocket Plus includes the option to display up to three meters on the today screen: a battery panel, backlight panel, and memory panel.  The only thing that Pocket Plus does not allow you to control is how often the battery and memory are checked and refreshed on the today screen.  A power Pocket PC users might find the lack of settings of the three panels disappointing, though for general users it is not needed.  Pocket Plus also allows for any installed program to have a shortcut icon on the today screen.  The user can select in which order the items appear as well as where the status panels appear.
     The first question out of many new Pocket PC users mouths is "why does Pocket PC only minimize programs?"  Pocket Plus can change the functionality of the "X" buttons to close programs instead of minimizing them.  This is great, unless you wish to multitask and want the button to minimize programs some of the time.  But Spb for saw that users might want to do this and have added extra functionality to the "X" buttons.  Tapping and holding on an "X" produces a small menu of options for the user including functionality to minimize and close programs, or switch to other programs.  This effectively removes the need from programs like iTask and gives more control to the user.
     Users that enjoy the multitasking functionality of Pocket PC 2002 are often disappointed to find the Pocket Internet Explore can only be run once and not in multiple instances like on desktop computers.  Pocket Plus adds a sixth button to the Pocket Internet Explorer tool bar which adds not only the ability to open multiple instances of Pocket Internet Explorer but also to expand the current Pocket Internet Explorer window to the full screen size.  The button also allows for easy switching between Pocket IE windows by listing the page title.  Programs like iTask display the multiple instances of Pocket IE, but only in Pocket Plus do you actually get the page titles so you can see what you are switching to.
     Many users have stated their opinions about the lack of support of repeating alarms sounds in Pocket PC.  I actually rarely use alarms because the sound only plays once.  Pocket Plus adds repeating alarm functionality so that when the alarm goes off, the sound continues to play until it is shut off.  Not only that, but Pocket Plus allows for repeating alarms to increase in volume or automatically go off at the maximum volume.  No longer will you not hear the alarm because the sound was turned off.
     One of the major problems with the software is because it is doing functions that should have been built into Pocket PC but were not, often tasks take slightly longer then expected.  For instance, going to full screen mode in Pocket Internet Explorer takes a couple sections because Pocket Plus has to remove the title, address, and task bar and effectively resize the screen, and also has to still be able to take stylus character input when needed.  Similarly, when you close a program it takes a second for the process to actually be closed in the machine (all task managers do this), instead of just a minimization of what is on the screen.  Surprisingly, I have not noticed that Pocket Plus takes much program memory, and actually less program memory it taken up because my programs actually close instead of being minimized.
     Pocket Plus has effectively replaced two applications I used daily on my Pocket PC while adding extra features that I use off and on through the week.  The best part is that its price tag, $10, is comparable to the price of a single program, though I really think of Pocket PC as four programs in one.  Pocket Plus increases the functionality and usability of Pocket PC 2002 and is a program that every Pocket PC users should seriously consider purchasing.

Dave's Score - 10.0
This means, this product is the best (in my opinion).  Accept no substitutes.  Their might be competitors that try to beat this product, but no combine everything of this product.  Though you still should consider it for yourself, most would be happy with this product even if they were unable to try it prior to purchase.


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