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Palm OS Launcherfest Part 2: Hi-Launcher, AppShelf, Facer 2.0 and ZLauncher
Posted May. 2004 By Tanker Bob

Introduction

The Palm OS software market never stands still. Since our last launcher round-up, two new launchers have shown increased popularity and one of our previous entries underwent a major upgrade. Our top finisher also upgraded. I took them all for a spin around the block on my Palm Tungsten¦T3

Hi-Launcher 2.2

I'll start with Hi-Launcher because it isn't a standard-type launcher. Hi-Launcher is more of a popup favorites list. In fact, it shares similar functionality with ZLauncher's QuickLaunch Anywhere utility but takes it to a higher level. Hi-Launcher's author, Radoslaw Nowak, says that it brings Windows' Start Menu-like functionality to the Palm. You may recognize Mr. Nowak as the developer of the very popular Butterfly used to customize/colorize your Palm's display.

Hi-Launcher configures simply enough. The user should first set the activation trigger used to popup the menu system. These triggers can be hard buttons, silkscreen buttons, or silkscreen swipes. Hard button presses can also be set to activate by holding the button down so that primary PIM functions may be accessed upon simple momentary button presses.

Hi-Launcher requires menu configuration from scratch. It does not import categories from the Palm launcher. You create the menu items from a set of pull-down lists. The first pull-down defines the type of entry while the second provides a list of possibilities of that type from which to choose. Although simple to use, this process can be tedious if you add a large number of apps. Because of this and the limitations of screen real favorite estate, HL is best used with select favorite apps rather than as a comprehensive launcher for your entire collection. Besides standard apps, HL can present DAs and a variety of system functions like backlight control and soft resets. HL allows the user to make excellent use of color to differentiate between app groups on the menus, and even includes dividers and titles if desired. The menu items can also have the app icons on them for quick recognition. The net result can be as attractive as it is functional.

Part of HL's power lies in its nested folders, much like Windows' Start Menu. Like Windows, this can also be a significant weakness if taken too far. Even with appropriate use of color, clutter becomes an issue.

Actual operation proved very slick. The menu pops up over any application to present functions that you decided would be useful or jump to other apps. You can also set a hard button or silkscreen button/swipe to jump to the last app used. You last-use can filter apps to not be picked up for this last-use function, like your primary launcher and apps assigned to hard buttons.

I found most of the functions and basic setup intuitive. The online docs cover the functions with appropriate screen shots. The setup program makes nice use of context-sensitive help, wherein I learned how to kludge together a list of multiple recent apps like McPhling. However, it doesn't make much sense to nest the menus deeper than your native launcher. For instance, I can get to any app in, including the Home button ZLauncher from within any other app in 3 taps at most, including the Home button. So for me, it would be pointless to nest menus deeper than one level down in Hi-Launcher. That's the way I have it setup in the illustration.

Overall, Hi-Launcher proved a useful tool. I've read on the forums that some use Hi-Launcher as a supplement to their primary launcher. I can certainly see how that would be helpful, having used it to bounce around as I wrote this review. I believe that Hi-Launcher shines best as a favorites popup rather than as a repository for your entire app collection, unless you have a meager collection. You can pick it up for $14.95.

Pros :

Intuitive setup
Instant of access to your most-used apps or system functions
Very flexible
Runs unobtrusively in the background

Cons :

Inherits most of the weakness of the Windows' Start Menu, especially clutter and lots of taps to get through the subfolders.

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NEXT -> AppShelf

 
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