Despite the flurry of attention surrounding the iPhone and other new mobile phone platforms, Windows Mobile still has a widespread distribution and capacity for customisation. Approaching its ninth birthday, Windows Mobile has a large selection of old and new software that helps enhance the user experience and make getting things done (and sometimes goofing off) all the easier. If you're rockin' a Windows Mobile handheld, check out our favourite programs, add-ons, and tweaks for getting the most out of your Windows Mobile device.
Synchronise and Back Up Your Windows Mobile Device
You can use a Windows Mobile device without syncing it to a computer, but most likely you don't want to. To make sure your home or work computer has the same data your handheld does, ensure you have the newest version of Microsoft Active Sync. If you're a Mac user with a Windows Mobile device check out SyncMate.
As people come to depend more and more on their mobile devices to keep them connected to the outside world and manage their contacts, tasks, and calendars it is increasingly important to have a good backup system in place. As with any kind of backup system a multi-pronged approach is best.
Free utility PIM Backup helps you back up appointments, call logs, contacts, messages, speed dials, tasks, and specified folders and files. PIM Backup is very speedy even with a large number of entries to back up. The handiest aspect of PIM Backup is its ability to back up your data to removable media. The backup on the removable flash card in my phone has saved me on many an occasion from a vacation or business trip without my contacts and customisations.
If you have Outlook on your machine, you can easily sync and back up your contacts and so forth to Outlook through Active Sync. If you're not using Outlook as your primary personal information manager there are alternatives such as syncing your Windows Mobile device to Thunderbird.
For a robust remote backup solution, Dashwire is an excellent solution. Once installed on your Windows Mobile device, Dashwire backs up your photos, videos, text messages, ringtones, bookmarks, speed dials, contacts, and call logs. Everything is accessible from the Dashwire web site and you can easily restore it to the phone.
Calendars, Contacts, and Task Lists Oh My!
We've covered how to sync and back up all those appointments and contacts, but what about displaying and working with them on the phone? Window Mobile's implementation of many basic features like displaying tasks leaves a bit to be desired.
If you practice the Getting Things Done personal productivity system, you might have found that Windows Mobile doesn't handle things like contexts and projects well out of the box. Smarter Tasks is a no nonsense task manager that was designed from the ground up to be Windows Mobile GTD task management system.
If you're not looking to contextualise your task list with GTD, but you do want to soup up Windows Mobile's lackluster default task list display, take a look at TaskPlus. TaskPlus is a today-screen plug-in that reorders the standard task interface into a more manageable and efficient one—complete with streamlined task, appointment, and important event reminders.
Replace Internet Explorer
For casual browsing, the scaled-down version of Internet Explorer that ships with Windows Mobile is sufficient. If you plan on doing anything longer than the occasional aimless surfing in a waiting room, however, you're going to want to replace Internet Explorer with a more robust browser. Opera Mobile 9.5 beta, pictured here, is packed with features missing from IE, like full-screen zoomed browsing and a smooth transition between the full-screen, desktop-emulating view and the smaller-scaled mobile view. Another worthwhile—though spartan—alternative to Internet Explorer is The Iris Browser. Sporting the zoom and tap functionality found in Opera Mobile, it has a built-in screen capture tool and a virtual mouse system for handling web pages that require a more desktop-like interaction to use.
Remote Connect To Your Desktop And Phone
One of my absolute favourite Windows Mobile applications is MyMobiler. Once you've installed it on your computer and phone, MyMobiler allows you to remotely control the phone through the Active Sync connection. MyMobiler is the answer every time you wish you could hook up a full-size keyboard and mouse to your Windows Mobile device to power through some software installations or heavy setting tweaking. In addition to remote control, MyMobiler also has remote screen capture and video casting.
Working in the opposite direction, Mobile Remote Desktop allows you to control your computer from your Windows Mobile device. While not quite as fluid of an experience as controlling a tiny screen with limited input via a big screen with more input it's still a great way to connect into your desktop from as far (a speeding train?) or near (the bathroom down the hall?) as you want to.
Tweak The Interface
Not everyone is a fan of the standard Today Screen interface that ships with Windows Mobile. Polish things up up a bit for a new look.
If you find yourself wishing that the Windows Mobile interface was more like its big brother Windows, we've got you covered. Check out this tutorial to tweak your mobile device into a more desktop like appearance.
If you're not looking to recreate the Windows experience at all, but to make the interface more simple and fingertip friendly, skin your mobile device with Pointui. Pointui radically increases the size of the icons you use to access functions on the phone and consequently lets you ditch using the tip of your fingernail to navigate and get down to some good old fashioned finger mashing.
Finally, if you have a Windows Mobile phone but visions of the iPhone keep you up at night, check out our tutorial on turning your Windows Mobile phone into a psuedo-iPhone. While some people might scoff at the idea of trying to turn a Windows Mobile phone into an iPhone, there are features on the iPhone worth emulating that make using a mobile device easier and more pleasant.
Fun And Games
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. While you might look your spouse or account manager straight in the eye and tell them that the reason you need a computer in your pocket is productivity, we know you're already thinking about what fun things you can do with it. The built-in media functionality in Windows Mobile is at best, lacking. Fortunately, The Core Pocket Media Player fills the gap in Windows Mobile playback ability. Although the project is no longer under development, it is still widely used and loved by mobile users.
What good is a mobile media player without something to watch? Fill up a flash card with media goodness courtesy of Adam's excellent tutorial on prepping DVDs for portable devices.
Customising Windows Mobile is my favourite part of using a WM phone. What customisations have you made to your phone you can't live without? Share in the comments below.