Featured Free Software

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

PPC Theme Creation and Management

Read more for the initial Theme creation and management reviews for the upcoming awards.

Important Note: Please do not consider this discussion to be in any official capacity whatsoever in terms of the upcoming 2006 awards. It is simply my early impressions and experience with software products that are being considered, or might be considered. I am posting it for information purposes only, and make every assurance that all products will be extensively tested and judged based on the requirements and instructions prescribed by the awards process.

CETuner 2005, Paragon Software Group, http://pocket-pc-software.penreader.com/

Support: No Mobile Site, No cab installer, Good documentation; Strengths: Some nice appearance tweaks/fonts, Provides visual color styles (eggplant, desert, etc.), Manage theme elements from device; Weaknesses: Demo very limited, Slow starting up, Changes require reset, Must kill app from the OS mem manager; Impression: Very basic theme manager at average/below average overall effort; Improvements: Clear type font/tuning, icon editing/shortcut customization, add today visual styles/tweaks, etc.

Details: The install is very straight forward but package provides no support for cab extraction on device. Basic program from a theme management or tweaking standpoint. There are some good features like the glyphe cache tweak and font selection options. The demo doesn’t let you use the built-in color schemes (Like eggplant), or make more than 3 changes to the system before complaining about being a demo, which is not enough to really see much of it’s capability. I liked the Theme option to change the today screen elements without using a desktop program, but changes require a soft reset when selecting “apply” for almost every change, which got pretty tiresome. Also, it was slow starting on my device, and iTask wouldn’t even kill it. Other great features were text/scrollbar size customizations. All-in-all, not a bad effort, but most of these tweaks can be had from any current registry editor package or today customization suite, and the themes available are usually much more advanced than this.

Pocket Theme Organizer, Lyma Design, http://www.lymadesign.com/index.html

Support: No mobile site, Freeware with minimal support; Strengths: Organization of Themes and handy bat/mem/storage utility all from desktop; Weaknesses: Only compatible with Lyma design themes; Impression: Simple no-frills utility for moving themes to your device; Improvements: Add capabilty to view or pull themes already loaded on device, Enlarge the view area to PPC standard size.

Details: Not much to say about this application, as there isn’t much to it. You have PPC themes (which it comes with 6 free from lyma). You set the default directory they are in on your desktop, and they appear in a file viewer. You select one that is “supported” (meaning you purchased it from them), it gives you a little preview of it in the right pane (otherwise a red no enter sign shows for that theme), along with a system resource meter monitoring your device battery, memory and storage usage. You want to copy them to your device? You hit the copy button. That’s pretty much it. Still, it is handy to list all your themes, but of course Explorer will also do this. It is free after all, and with a few enhancements, it might prove a really useful additional utility.

Spb Extended Theme Generator, Spb Software House, http://www.spbsoftwarehouse.com/

Support: No mobile site, Freeware with decent on-line tutorials; Strengths: Enhanced theme creation; support for Landscape mode; Weaknesses: Limited usage outside Spb, or pre WM2003SE, could not get jpegs to work; Impression: Nice theme enhancements but too complicated; Improvements: Auto re-name image formats to”.gif”. Provide extended views for today/start images.

Details: A nice add-on for fans of Spb Pocket Plus, and free. The application installs on top of the free MS theme generator, and adds an additional step at the end of the theme generation process that allows (actually requires) you to customize the Start/Today backgrounds. I had trouble using anything for these images except ugly GIF files, because PPC requires that images for Today/Start be named tdywater.gif/stwater.gif. The tutorial says you can use JPEG files, and simply rename them to stwater.gif, etc., but I could only get it to work using real GIF files. It was probably something I was doing wrong, but it was annoying, and my theme came out looking less than stellar. The Spb today plug-in elements look really good though, and there were plenty of provided samples to customize the batt/mem/card icons, etc. A really brave individual might try creating his own elements, but like the today/start thing, it isn’t exactly simple. As some minor criticism, it would be nice to see the finished product before hitting generate (the backgrounds don’t update in the right hand display), and also if the app handled the “renaming thing” to prevent problems.

Thememaker X, KAMware Application and System Design, http://www.kamware.com/

***Initial Review***
Support: No mobile site, No forums/support site, Extensive packaged Window's help files; Strengths: All-encompassing Theme/image editing options (think Photoshop for your themes), Support for all OS versions, and multiple image formats, granular theme element control; upload theme to device, and web; Weaknesses: Demo version quite hindering, transfer only to WMTheme site; Impression: The gold standard in Today theme generation of the products I've reviewed; Improvements: Add some startup wizards...geez this thing has buttons/options all over it! Add text font options/tweaks, and maybe include a PPC application for changing theme elements. Some minor help enhancements like search, and F1 functions.

Details: I installed it, which goes along like any other desktop installer, and WOW! It supports moving image grabs (AVI, MPG, WMV), Camera/TWAIN device image grabs, auto-coloring of theme elements based on the today image, supports all PPC OS, and it lets you save your theme in 256, 16 million colors using png/jpg compression and on and on, until you're practically dumbfounded! The Window's help was good, and included examples, but they took the time to create real help, but didn't fix spelling errors? Oh, and an added help search, and maybe an F1 option for mouse-over would be nice. In contrast to similar applications, the help is practically an oracle of PPC theme knowledge, but some editing experience on the part of the user probably wouldn't hurt, as the advanced imaging features are not fully explained. There are also options for setting internal colors for the PIM application backgrounds, and the tap-n-hold circle. You can optimize your image save format, and determine the impact on transfer time. It has a sweet theme browser with thumbnails. I've really just scratched the surface, so this review is to be continued after further testing...

Demo annoyance: Note to Thememaker vendor KAMware... Please don't plaster a ginormous "DEMO" on the middle of my newly saved today screen theme, even if I'm using your demo version. Maybe just a small item lower on the display saying something about Kamware, if you please, but you already stopped me from saving my image edits (which would be a good time/place to add your logo, by the way)? Better yet, how about just giving out a 30-day trial license of the fully functional product?


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