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For the month of December 2007, we’ll be doing a Beginner’s Guide To Pocket PC. Through this guide, we hope to help those new to the Windows Mobile platform get familiarized with with the system as well as to maximise it to suit their needs. Last week, we covered how you should choose your Pocket PC as well as basic maintenance in Part I. This week’s Part II will show you how to use the default programs as well as change some of the more common settings.

Setting Up ActiveSync

The first thing that you want to do is set up an ActiveSync connection with your device. This is especially so if you have Outlook (not Outlook Express) on your PC and have it populated with your appointments, tasks and emails. Even if you do not have such information in your Outlook, you would want to set up an ActiveSync connection as you can use to install software and transfer files between your computer and PDA.

If you do not already have Outlook installed, do so before you install ActiveSync. Usually the manufacturer of your PDA will provide you with a copy of Outlook for you to use. If this is not the case, then you might want to consider other sync options for your personal information management (PIM) such as with an Exchange Server or Google products. If you are using Windows XP or earlier, use ActiveSync 4.5 and if you are using Vista, ensure that you have the latest Device Center on your PC.

On your Pocket PC, navigate to Start > Settings. Go to the System tab and tap on the About icon and select the Device ID tab at the bottom. Here you will enter a Device name and Description. The Device name is mandatory as it provides your device with an identity for sync purposes later. The Description is optional and can be left blank if you choose. Do choose a unique name for the Device name instead of leaving it generic like Pocket_PC. You can even name it after the model of your device if you want to. When you are done, tap OK until you reach the Today screen.

After installing the necessary software and doing the basic setup, plug your device to your PC. The PC will recognize your Pocket PC and attempt to create an ActiveSync partnership between the device and PC. With this partnership, you can easily sync PIM and other information that you set up. During the process of setting up the partnership, it will ask you what information that you want to sync between the device and PC. You can tick all (or none), depending on what information you want the Pocket PC to carry. When you have made the necessary selections, the PC will start transferring data to the Pocket PC based on your choices.

From there, you can play around with the menu of ActiveSync. You can change options such as which device (Pocket PC or PC) should have priority when there is a conflict of information. You can also use ActiveSync to install software as well as to transfer data from the PC to the Pocket PC and vice-versa.

Transferring A File To Your Device

While your device is still connected to your PC, you can transfer files by clicking on the Explore icon in your PC’s ActiveSync. A window will pop up and you click on Mobile Device (usually the first icon) and you will be taken into your Pocket PC. From this window, you can drag and drop files, cut, copy, paste and do pretty much anything to the files there just as you would on your PC. You can even see a folder called Storage Card or SDMMC or something similar and this folder contains all the contents of your Pocket PC’s storage card (if you have one installed).

Which Files, Where?

Because your Main Memory is usually small, I would not recommend you copy files to it unless you really have to. Rather, I would recommend that you transfer files to your storage card as this usually has a larger capacity. Most files run just as well from the Main Memory or the Storage Card but there are some files which are better suited residing in the Main Memory.

As such, I would recommend that you copy all files to your Storage Card (even files that you plan to install on the Main Memory later) except those files that you are going to be used by the system regularly such as pictures for background images (wallpaper) and sound files for ringtones and message tones. All other files such as pictures of your loved ones which you want to keep for casual browsing and MP3 files that you want to listen to on the ride home can be safely stored on the Storage card. Even Office files such as Word and Excel are safe being run from Storage Card.

Setting The Various Tones (Ringtones, Message tones, etc.)

The are a lot of tones that your device emits to notify you of various situations. There are ringtones for incoming calls, message tones for incoming messages, notification tones for when there is an error and many more tones. The beauty of Windows Mobile is that you can set all these tones to something that you prefer instead of having to use the default sound.

For starters, you can only use midi files (.mid) and wave (.wav) filesfor the various tones that you want to set. Certain devices may allow you to use MP3 (.mp3) files for these tones but if yours is not capable of doing so, there are applications out there that you can use to make it so. You would also want to prepare the audio file to something shorter and smaller because firstly, when a message comes in, you do not want it to play the whole song. And secondly, the shorter the file, the smaller it is and this is good because you will be placing it in the Main Memory.

Copy or transfer the chosen audio file(s) to \Windows\Rings. Then go to Start > Settings and click on the Sounds& Notifications icon which is located in the Personal tab. Tap on the second tab (Notifications). This is your playground for sound settings.

Beside the Event box, there is a drop-down menu which shows all the various events that you can customize. First, select the event. Then place a tick in Play sound if you like that even to play an audio file when it happens. You can place a tick in Repeat if you would like that file to be repeated (not advisable). If you are not sure how the audio file you have chosen sounds like, you can press the play icon to hear it and the stop icon to stop it when you are done. The Display message on screen option would show a visual notification when that event occurs and you can choose to have your LEDs flash during the event by placing a tick in Flash lights. You can set how long you want the LEDs to flash. And lastly, if your device in your pocket, you might want to place a tick in Vibrate so that you will be notified by vibrations even if you cannot hear the audio alert. Some of the options listed above will be dimmed if they are not available for the event you have selected.

For those interested in changing your ringtone, the event that you are looking for is Phone: Incoming call. To customize incoming text message notifications, the even is Messaging: New text message. Note that for phone calls, you can have completely different settings for when you missed a call or receive a voice mail. The same goes for text messages. You could have a different tone for your incoming text messages, a different one for incoming MMS messages and another one for your incoming e-mail messages. When you are done setting the various options for the many events, click OK until you get to the Today screen. Your sound customization is all set.

Setting The Background Picture (Wallpaper)

Unlike normal mobile phones, people do not usually set a background picture in their Pocket PC devices. Reason is, your Pocket PC has a feature called Today which is the screen you see when you turn on the device. This Today screen can host plug-ins which can prove useful for quick glances such as showing you your next appointment and how many tasks you have uncompleted. It can even show you today’s date and time and your next alarm. Thus, having a background, especially a complex one, can make the information shown by the Today plug-ins difficult to read.

However, if you would like to add a background to your Today screen, you can do so easily. But first, I would encourage you to prepare an image that you would like to use in the size of 320 (height) x 240 (width) pixels for portrait or 240 x 320 pixels for landscape. The file should be copied over to your device and reside in a folder in Main Memory such as My Documents.

Once done copying, navigate to Start > Settings. Under the Personal tab, tap on the Today icon. Put a tick in the box beside Use this picture as the background and the Browse button under it will become click-able. Tapping on this Browse button will then bring you to a File Explorer-like interface where you can choose the file you just transferred or any picture file you desire. When you make a selection, the application automatically exits and you can see your new wallpaper in the background.

Note: For those who do apply a wallpaper, you will notice that the picture is faded, even if the original is not. This is to make it so that you can still see the information presented by the Today plug-ins. There are steps that you can undertake to make the picture solid but this will be covered in another article as it is more advanced.

Setting The Various Volumes

Your Pocket PC has 3 volume settings to it, unlike most phones, and while this might seem troublesome at first, you might just appreciate it later on. 2 of the volumes, System and Phone, can be set at any time while the third, In Call, can only be set while you are in a call.

When you press your volume key, a window opens up below the speaker icon and the left most volume goes up and down according to which volume key you press. This left most volume corresponds to System volume and is responsible for all the sounds emitted from the Pocket PC. For example, if you are playing an MP3 or you hear an error beep, this volume is responsible for the loudness of that sound.

The sound level to the right belongs to Phone and as you might guess, it is responsible for the sounds of the Phone. This includes ringtone and SMS tone. Since System and Phone have separate sound settings, you could, for example, just turn down the sound level of Phone while keeping System on so that you will be notified when an alarm goes off such as when you are sleeping at night.

The third volume, In Call, can only be set when you are in a call and can also be controlled by the volume keys. When you are in a call, pressing volume up or down would increase or decrease the volume respectively. When the call ends and you press the same volume key, it will only affect System sound instead.

You might also notice Vibrate and Off when you tap on the speaker or press the volume button when not in a call. These are shortcuts which you can use to bring the volume of BOTH System and Phone to 0 (thus no sound) at the same time. With Vibrate, your notifications will vibrate instead, very useful if you are in a meeting or watching a movie. To revert back to your regular volume, just select On.

Installing Software

After you have done all the various customizations and software, the next thing that you would want to do is to install software on your Pocket PC. There are 2 ways to go about doing this, one through ActiveSync and the other directly from your device. Which method you use is dependent on the file type you have on hand. The first half of installation is different for the 2 options but the second half is the same. If you have an .exe file, it usually means that you have to install it on your PC and then you ActiveSync your device to install the file on your Pocket PC. If you have a .cab file, then you should install it directly from your device.

ActiveSync (.exe)

These files are usually bigger. When you click on them and an installer opens up, then you are on the right track. (If not and an error pops up, saying that this is not a valid win32 application or something similar, then the file was meant to be run directly off the Pocket PC. In this case, transfer it to your Pocket PC). After installation has completed, and if your device is connected to the PC, you will see an installation window open up and the name of the application that you just installed being transferred to your Pocket PC. That’s all for Part I. Proceed to Part II.

Cab Files (.cab)

If you have this type of file, then you should transfer it to your Pocket PC’s storage card. You then use File Explorer (which is found in your Programs folder) to navigate to where you transferred the file and tap on it to start the installation. Proceed to Part II.

Part II

The installation starts usually with a notification saying that the file you are about to install is from an untrusted source. Unless you are doubtful of the file, click Yes to proceed as most files will show this warning. The next screen will ask you where you want to install. You are provided with 2 options if you have a storage card installed: Device and Storage Card. Based on the type of application, you then decide where the installation should go. Because device memory is small and limited, I would recommend only Today plug-ins, software that need to be run at startup and PIM related applications be installed here. All other software such as navigation and games should be installed on storage card. Sometimes a software can only be installed in one location and if this is the situation, you might not be given a choice.

After making that choice, the installer will proceed to install the software. When completed, you will receive a message saying that the software was successfully installed. Click OK. The next couple of steps are not mandatory but I would advice you to do so.

After exiting the installer, turn off your device and wait for about 15 seconds before doing a soft-reset. Only after the soft-reset do you use the software or install another software. This minimizes any error that could be caused by the installer. It is not encouraged to install one software after another without a soft-reset in between as this might corrupt the files and/or registry.

End Of Part II

With this, we have come to an end of Part II in our Beginner’s Guide To Pocket PC. Hopefully this guide is proving useful to those who are new to the platform. If there is something that you would like me to cover, it’s still not too late to contact me and let me know about it. Who knows, it may just be in next week’s issue :razz:

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