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Palm OS Launcherfest: Facer, LauncherX, MegaLauncher, SilverScreen, YiShow, and ZLauncher
Posted Jan. 2004 By Tanker Bob

(Continued: page 2)

LauncherX 1.1 from Little Mobile Creations

Bozidar Benc commands a distinguished position in Palm OS history. He wrote a host of popup hacks that remain popular today on pre-OS 5 devices. His Launcher III set the early standard for Palm OS third-party launchers. LauncherX stands as the proud successor to Launcher III for newer devices.

On initial install, LauncherX does not read the system categories, nor can it import them later. In addition to apps, it will display iSilo, WordSmith, Palm Docs, hacks if your hack manager is supported (OS 4.x and below), and Quickword docs in the launcher. You can move these to any tab you wish, just as if they were apps. If supported by the individual app, tapping on these icons will launch the parent app with the tapped file loaded. This overall behavior can be customized in the preference settings. I recommend setting LX's App Refresh setting to Ignore Card to speed its loading. I generally recommend similar settings for all launchers. You can simply manually rescan if you install something new to the card.

LauncherX sports a clean, some might say austere, interface. That interface can be customized through the use of skins. Skins determine things like tabs use and their location, in addition to the usual things like colors and icons. In fact, skins provide the only means of changing the tab layout. Little Mobile Creations uses the marketing term ''active skins'' for these, and others like Lubak actively develop new skins for LauncherX. The gadgets at the bottom perform a number of useful functions and can be chosen by the user, but they don't support balloon help—i.e., providing a popup box with its function on tap-and-hold.

Each category tab may be configured individually, providing considerable flexibility for the user. An icon can be assigned to each category, the icon views can vary by category, as well as the number of columns of apps, app icon text font/color, password protection, and sort order set as well. There's also an option to use the current tab setup as the default for all tabs. Apps can be dragged-and-dropped to categories, but the categories themselves cannot be rearranged that way. Also, tapping and holding on an app icon brings up a list of categories for assignment. LauncherX doesn't support Background images.

The user brings up the file manager with the Card gadget or the menu. This method can be misleading as the view can be switched to RAM once in the file manager, so it isn't just a card tool. One can perform all the common file functions, including move, copy, delete, beam, rename, open, and send to by tapping and holding on a file. Nice extras include the directory check box that selects the entire displayed folder with one tap. Sort order (ascending or descending) and the right column information (size, date, type, creator ID) may be set by tapping on the respective areas. Highlighting a file won't enable any functions to be performed using the buttons at the bottom; only checking the box next to a file enables these buttons. Tapping on the directory name brings up a tree for quick directory changes. Interestingly, file attributes cannot be changed from the file manager but only in the launcher through the an apps information popup.

LauncherX doesn't seem to use applications' built-in small icon for display. Instead, it seems to miniaturize the app's large icon to show in the launcher. Who cares? Well, some apps like Datebk5 have different large and small icons with the larger ones having more intricacies, and other apps just have very poor small icons for display. LauncherX provides a consistent icon look regardless of the size chosen.

Shortcuts and bundling offer up yet more of power for LauncherX, this time in memory management. Shortcuts allow an application to reside on the card and yet still Hotsync properly with its conduit. Bundling allows an app and its pertinent data (as long as the creator ID is the same) to be stored together on the card. When the app executes, LX will copy the program AND its data to RAM for execution. Upon app exit, any changed data copies back to the card. Bundling serves up PowerRun-like functionality in LX.

Global preference settings include skin selection, app refresh mode, screen color depth, category title font and display (icon only or include text), and gadget selection. LauncherX also allows the user to set document search paths on the card. You could use this setting to put executable apps elsewhere than the /Palm/Launcher/ directory, but be careful about where the app expects to find its support and data files.

LauncherX tips the RAM scales at 247K after electing to remove extraneous parts on initial install, plus 771K for skin and supporting data files. That's 1,018K total as I had it setup.

Some may remember the days when Little Mobile Creations first announced LauncherX and the period shortly after its release. Customer support initially proved spotty at best, and development releases slow in coming. I believe it worth mentioning here that the vast majority of Palm OS developers have jobs, families, and lives outside of the Palm OS world. Some live in dangerous parts of the world, and are also subject to natural disasters. They can't always be as responsive as they or their users would like. Bozidar Benc cares deeply about his customers, and took steps to rectify the temporary support issues. Support questions once again receive answers quickly. If you were disappointed earlier, I recommend giving Little Mobile Creations another chance.

LauncherX stands today as a work in progress. Capabilities like background images and a recent/favorite app display are in the works. As it stands today, LauncherX provides a clean but capable launcher alternative with nice customizability and function. At $18.95 for a limited time ($24.95 normally), it will enhance any Palm OS handheld's appearance and function.

Pros:
Clean interface
Nice file manager
Good customizability
Shortcuts for Hotsync
App/data bundling

Cons:
Some display configurations (e.g., use of tabs and their locations) only changeable through skins
Lacks some promised functions
No background image support

 

 

 

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