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Windows Mobile Pocket PC Software Reviews

Omega One’s Battery Pack Pro 2.1.1

Reviewed by Tanker Bob

Victorinox has become world famous for creating a pocket tool that can do virtually everything their owners could desire in a pocket tool.  That ubiquitous tool would be the Swiss Army Knife.  Omega One makes a Swiss Army Knife utility for the Pocket PC—the very popular Battery Pack Pro.  Who could resist giving it a test drive?

Tanker Bob tested Battery Pack Pro 2.1.1 on a Dell Axim X50v running Windows Mobile 2003SE with a 624MHz CPU and VGA screen.  Battery Pack Pro was installed into Built-in Storage, although it installs many of its DLLs and some graphic files into RAM anyway.

Install Experience

Omega One built Battery Pack Pro in modules.  The user may install some or all of the modules during initial installation.  Think carefully about what you need because adding modules requires full reinstallation.  Some modules are grouped together with linked functionality.  The installation modules consist of:

Program Bar/Power Close/Power Task          505K
Battery Bar/Power Bar                                    286K
Power Buttons                                                   62K
Power Adjust/Power Clean/Power Alert          70K
Power Light                                                      23K
Power Time                                                     536K

At the installation’s conclusion, Battery Pack Pro presents twelve help screens covering the program’s many features.  These overviews provide excellent and pertinent information that enable the user to effectively employ the program immediately.  The program has many features and this conclusion to the installation process tames much of the inherent complexity.

Program Bar

Battery Pack Pro’s Program Bar serves several functions.  It primarily serves as a program launcher.  Upon installation, Battery Pack Pro finds all your shortcuts in the Windows/Program and Settings directories and offers them in the Program Bar.  It also adds its own settings icons as well as additional features like suspend and soft reset controls.

Using the Program Bar setup screen, you may choose the number of static and scrolling rows presented on the Today screen.  This proved a bit of a misnomer, however, as the scroll setting controls how many rows the program may scroll through rather than the number on screen at any one time.  No matter how many rows that you choose to scroll through, only one row appears on the screen.  The previous illustration shows the outcome of the settings shown.

The icon order may be changed so that your most-used programs display either in the static rows or scrolled.  This can be a bit tedious if you have a lot of apps, but you only have to do this once.

Even though the setup screen allows you to set zero static and scrolling rows, the Program Bar will always have at least one row on the Today screen.  Since the Program Bar module incorporates other functionalities, I found this limitation inconvenient when I didn’t want the launcher on the screen but did want the task switcher activated for instance.  More on that later.

The Program Bar doesn’t support text labels for the program icons, nor may you categorize your applications into tabs.  Although putting your most used apps first in the list helps, users with lots of programs will find the Program Bar a pretty minimal launcher.  I found it the weakest function of Battery Pack Pro.

Battery Bar/Power Bar

The Battery Bar hosts what I considered to be the core functionality of Battery Pack Pro.  This bar may present battery, RAM, storage card, network, backlighting, clock, and time zone information on the Today screen.  Of the tiny, small and big display choices, I illustrated the small setting which I found the most useful for daily use.  Battery Pack Pro divides the Battery Bar horizontally into six “zones” and permits the user to put any element in any zone, allowing total customization of the bar.  In the illustration, I have Zones 1-4 loaded with battery, memory, storage card, and network information respectively.  The settings and help icons always appear to the far right.  If more zones are programmed than will fit on the screen, Battery Pack Pro provides horizontal scroll arrows.

The Battery Bar makes much more information available than appears on the Today screen.  Tapping on virtually every element of the bar either changes that display or presents a more detailed information screen.  For example, tapping on the memory icon changes the display from program memory to built-in storage memory.  Tapping on the text under the icons changes it from MB to percentage and back, while tapping on the memory bar icon brings up the Windows memory settings screen.  Tapping on the battery icon presents the system battery status display, while tapping on the combined folder/battery icon displays the Battery Pack Pro system information screen from Power Store as illustrated.  Likewise, tapping on the storage card icon changes the display between multiple cards if available.  The network status may be changed between total bytes transferred to transfer rate.  The network status becomes active for ActiveSync as well as WiFi connections.

Attention to detail in the Battery Bar reached the level that considers battery changes.  Tapping the two arrows in the battery section allows the user to reset the battery information when inserting a new battery.  The battery display changes when charging to provide the time left to charge, while when operating on battery power it can display battery time remaining depending on current usage.  It learns over time about the user’s power-use habits and will more accurately reflect the time remaining as you use the program.

The Battery Bar also can place the battery and memory status on the system Title Bar.  Omega One refers to these icons as the Power Bar.  These appear around the time display on the X50v, partially blocking that information.  These Battery Pack Pro Title Bar icons may be moved, but only by directly editing the Windows’ registry.  Tapping on the memory icon switched its display between program memory and storage cards, while tapping on the battery icon presents the battery status screen from Power Store.  The battery icon displays the battery time remaining in hours or battery percentage, while memory displays only in percentage used.

The general layout and operation of the Battery Bar may be set in each of four tabs in its setup screen, obtainable through the Windows’ Today setup screen.  Settings include the size of the bar itself, how often it updates the information displayed (default is every second), language, etc.  The icons may be customized for each storage card in case Battery Pack Pro doesn’t pick that up on installation.  The bar zone contents may be set in the Customize tab, and the top Title Bar icons may be activated and customized in the Power Bars tab.

Battery Pack Pro can also speak to you depending on how you set the Speech settings.  Personally, I prefer my devices to speak only when spoken to, but other users may want verbal warnings as resources become low.  Users may set the definition of low

Power Close/Power Task

Microsoft’s annoying decision to minimize programs rather than close them when tapping on their ‘X’ plagues Windows Mobile users to this day.  Battery Pack Pro answers this issue nicely with Power Close, which also changes the ‘X’ to an OK button.  The user sets its behavior through the Power Adjust screen discussed below.  If you choose to leave the ‘X’ as minimizing programs, tapping and holding on the ‘X’ will close them.  Very nice implementation.

Power Task is intimately related to Power Close.  Tapping on the down-arrow/carrot on the upper right of the screen displays a menu of programs currently in memory along with choices to close everything or everything but the active program.  You may also suspend the device from here.  Listed programs have individual close controls next to them for individual action as well.

Notice the vertical dotted line between the OK button and the date/time on the illustrated Title Bar.  Tapping this returns the user to the Today screen, minimizing the active application.  Very handy!

Power Adjust/Power Alert/Power Clean


Tapping any of Battery Pack Pro’s individual utility setting icons or displaying Power Store brings up a screen that access most of the programs additional functions.   These include Power Adjust as illustrated.  Power Adjust allows the user to tweak a number of system settings, including the system font, battery notifications, Power Task behavior, and Title Bar date/time display.  Note that some settings like the system font and Title Bar setup require a soft reset to take effect.  Tapping on the Update button will remind the user of this.

Power Alert enhances your Windows Mobile alarm system.  Here you may set custom sounds for different alerts, choose how the alarms sound, and set the repeating characteristics.  I find this capability one of the more useful on a daily basis, as I make heavy use of reminders to keep me where I need to be when I need to be there.

Power clean deletes the flotsam that accumulates during Internet browsing, as well as the temporary files that pile up.  This can be done manually as desired or automatically every hour.

Power Time

Power Time provides a world-at-a-glance view of the solar terminator and up to four locations along with their time and weather condition.  Tapping on the world map brings up the city closest to the tap location along with its current time.  Tapping on a city’s time block brings up a display of the time there, the city’s inertial coordinates, country dialing code, emergency number, exchange rate, and the current weather details.  If Omega One’s Journal Bar is installed, then the 5-day forecast there will be displayed.

The four icons at the bottom of the map change the light/dark on the map to the solar terminator, awake time, work time, and the setup screen respectively.  The times associated with waking and work may be set as well as the cities chosen from the settings screen.  All this can be handy for international travelers.

Power Store

In addition to the aforementioned battery and storage summary information screens, Power Store also tracks the battery, memory, and network usage for a rolling 24 hour period.  These may be checked with the respective tabs on the Power Store screen. Users may have to be creative with the time spans to get the level of detail desired.  Choosing too large a period of time may compress the desired information horizontally, while choosing too short a period may not display a desired past interval.  Overall, this information should prove very helpful in analyzing your usage patterns over time.

Power Buttons

Power Buttons doubles the number of programs that may be launched from your PDA’s buttons.  Pressing a button launches one program, while holding a button down launches another.  In addition, other actions may be executed with button presses, including loading a document and executing control functions like soft resets.  Power Buttons thus acts like a Program Bar implemented through your device’s buttons.  This may all be set from Start/Settings/Power buttons, not from inside Battery Pack Pro itself.

Power Light

I’m almost embarrassed to mention this one.  Power Light simply turns your device into a flashlight by setting the screen to all white.  OK…

Overall Impressions

Battery Pack Pro proved very well designed.  What could have come off as a miscellaneous collection of utilities actually integrates very well.  I feel that the core power lies in the Battery Bar/Power Bar and in Power Close/Power Task.  All functions performed crisply with no noticeable delays.  I didn’t notice any slowing of the overall system resulting from Battery Pack Pro.

Unfortunately, Power Close and Power Task only load with the Program Bar.  Although I didn’t find the Program Bar to meet my launcher requirements, I could not get rid of it from the Today screen without losing Power Close/Power Task functionality.  Setting all rows in the Program Bar to zero didn’t do the trick, and there’s no minimize function that I could find.  I recommend that Omega One separate these functions.

When changing Program Bar or Battery Bar settings, I recommend going through the Battery Pack Pro setup screen rather than the Today screen directly.  When changing settings through Battery Pack Pro, the display quickly returns to the program after completing setting changes.  Going through the Today screen directly introduces considerable delay, probably because the system inventories changes throughout the system rather than just to Battery Pack Pro.

I didn’t mention this consistently in the review, but Battery Pack Pro integrates functions with other Omega One utilities.  For example, Journal Bar will add weather and other information to parts of Battery Pack Pro.  1-Calc will interact with the currency conversions in Power Time.  If you use an Omega One suite of utilities, you’ll find that Battery Pack Pro plays well with its siblings.

Conclusion

Like the ubiquitous Swiss Army Knives, Battery Pack Pro 2.1.1 does many things and does them well.  The core power lies with the Battery Bar and its many parts, the total list of features made for a very long review.  The program’s weakest point is the Program Bar which proved a minimal launcher, but Battery Pack Pro required it on the Today screen to get the key Power Close and Power Task functions.  I think that’s a mistake in the design and should be fixed.

As one picture is worth a thousand words, Battery Pack Pro can replace a large number of individual utilities on your Windows Mobile device.  Retailing for $19.95, Battery Pack Pro 2.1.1 packs a lot of power, yet tames it for the average user.

Pros:

Outstanding, highly configurable Battery Bar
Nice Title Bar memory and battery displays
Power Task well implemented
Very powerful monitoring of core system functions and information
Uncluttered, clear presentation of information
Several levels of detail available on system information
Enhances system alerts/alarms
Cures the minimizing behavior of Microsoft’s minimizing ‘X’
Individual sections well-integrated
Power Time provides useful information for world travelers

Cons:

Weak launcher function with Program Bar (no tabs or categorization)
Weak Program Bar tied to core task and close functions

$29.99

 

 

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