TUCOWS ARTICLE

Three Finger-Friendly Apps For Windows Mobile

With the iPhone setting the bar and Windows Mobile developers following suit, the stylus may soon be a thing of the past. Here are three great, inexpensive programs to make your fingers more efficient.
Published: May 13, 2008
Author: Jordan Running

Microsoft is taking its sweet time building Windows Mobile 7--it won't be out til late next year--and in the meantime our touchscreen-equipped devices are experiencing some pretty intense iPhone envy--and as well they should. Though Microsoft seems to be in no rush, third-party developers are busy releasing programs that let your fingers do the walking. Below are three of my favorite programs that enable me get things done while leaving the stylus tucked away for days at a time.

Quick contact access with Finger-Friendly Friends

Finger-Friendly FriendsI love my Windows Mobile phone, but frankly making calls can be a hassle. The built-in contact manager is particularly unfriendly to finger input, which is where the aptly-named Finger-Friendly Friends from JottoSoft comes in. You use it via the on-screen "DRMWY-Touch," or "Doesn't Really Matter Where You Touch," keyboard, which automatically compensates for the inherent inaccuracy of jabbing at small letters on the screen with comparatively larger fingers. You just tab the first few letters of a contact's first or last name, and even if your thumbs are as large and clumsy as mine FFF will figure out what you meant and show a list of matching contacts.

If you make a mistake--and FFF's interface makes that difficult--you can just swipe to the left with your finger to "backspace," though I found that this maneuver takes a little practice. When you tap someone's name you're presented with the options you'd expect: Call their home, work, or mobile number (if they have them), send an SMS or email, and--if your phone supports it--send them your GPS coordinates as a convenient Google Maps link. You can also skip straight to their entry in Pocket Outlook for editing and other operations.

Finger-Friendly Friends costs $14.99 for as many devices as you own (as long as they have the same owner name), but a free trial--which I highly recommend you try--is available for download from JottoSoft.

Efficient text messaging with SMS-Chat

SMS-ChatAnother thing that isn't as painless as it should be on current versions of Windows Mobile is text messaging, and it took a long time for me to find a third-party SMS solution that I'm really happy with. The eventual victor is the benignly-named SMS-Chat from VITO Technology. The price is similar to Finger-Friendly Friends: $14.95 after a free 30-day trial. SMS-Chat brings a threaded interface--much like instant messaging--to SMS, which is, in my opinion, as it should be. It's tailored specifically for finger use and the interface is attractive and responsive.

On its main screen SMS-Chat shows all of the contacts you've most recently had conversations with, along with a snippet of the most recent message. Touching a name brings up the history of your conversations with that contact, with messages separated by date. A blue arrow denotes messages you sent and green denotes those received. Tapping the box at the bottom lets you type out a new message, and tapping the button in the upper-right gives you more options, like Add Recipients, View Contact, Send phone number, and Templates--the latter lets you save and send text snippets that you use often. Scrolling both in the conversation list and among messages is easy and fast: just swipe your finger. SMS-Chat also has pop-up notifications for incoming messages that I like more than Windows Mobile's built-in bubble pop-ups, but they can be disabled if your prefer the latter.

My only complaint about SMS-Chat is that while it's superb for finger input, it's all-or-nothing: You can only use your finger to navigate its screens--your device's directional pad and softkeys do nothing. I quickly got used to this, but at the beginning it was a bit of a drag. Regardless, I highly recommend giving SMS-Chat's free trial a try.

Lock it the iPhone way with S2U2

S2U2There's no use dancing around it: The "S2U" in S2U2 is short for "slide to unlock," which you might recognize from the iPhone's idle screen--S2U2 is a direct copy of that screen. But I'm okay with that; "slide to unlock" was a cool innovation and cool innovations will, and should, be inevitably copied. I installed S2U2 when I got sick of accidentally calling people and taking photos while my phone was in my pocket--when you wake your Windows Mobile phone, S2U2 shows a screen with a bar at the bottom, and you must swipe your finger across the bar in order to unlock the phone.

Even though its core functionality is a direct copy of the iPhone's, S2U2 has no shortage of features. It shows the date and time, upcoming appointments, how many unread email and SMS messages you have and how many unlistened voicemails, the background can be customized with wallpapers and even animations, or a large battery indicator, and it can show the weather forecast as well. And when you receive a call S2U2 shows you caller ID information and the contact's photo (if you have one for them) and--of course--lets you answer it with a tap (or, optionally, a swipe).

I'm sure at this point iPhone owners aren't exactly picking their chins up off the floor--and that's okay--but imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and not only is S2U2 pretty to look at, it's highly functional as well. Best of all, it's completely free, and features are being added all the time.


About Jordan Running

Blogger since 1999, Jordan Running went pro in 2005 and never looked back. Sometimes programmer, occasional photographer, and serial tinkerer, he decided to to switch to Linux in 2001 but just hasn't quite gotten around to it yet.

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