VITO Winterface Review--V1.14

I'll put it this way. If you want to make your Windows Mobile device look and act a little more like the iPhone, then Winterface is for you. It is essentially at it's core, yet another application launcher/manager, whith some messaging and PIM integration. It looks good, and the screen animations were quite snappy on my iPAQ. Make no mistake, I like Winterface but would like to see a few more hooks into the native WM environment. I don't mind that VITO is trying to steer me clear of the built-in WM screens, but there are a few things that I still use there. If you want to replace the WM user shell, then you have to do just that--I.E., You should provide the same range of access to today plug-ins and app integration that one can find on the native OS Today screen. It's still a relatively young app, so I imagine some enhancements are forthcoming.

Download and Installation

Installation was nothing out of the ordinary. You can download and install Winterface much like I did, by navigating directly to the iwindowsmobile.com web site, and downloading the cab file. Open file explorer and tap the file to start the install. The app will be fully functional for 14-days until you pay for a license code. You can add the license key using the "Menu" (the first upper-left icon) selection on the main Winterface screen. When it first starts, it shows a brief tutorial on starting/closing and customizing Winterface. I couldn't find a way to disable that, which was getting annoying. VITO has another similar app called Goodwin, which almost seems like Winterface with a different skin and a few different features? Both are a little on the high side in my opinion at $19.95.

Using Winterface

The Winterface configuration starts with 2 screens (tap-n-drag the screen to access multiple screens to the left/right) and a table-like view of icon buttons for monitoring device resources, and messaging, as well as launching the built-in WM applications. The screens can be edited quite simply by holding an open slot. When this is activated, the icons put on a shaky-littlke screen dance that is so similar to what my iPod Touch screen does (during simliar icon moves), I almost had to laugh. At that point they can be moved or deleted. The main screen, also like the iPhone and iPod Touch, shows the number of displays that are available by dots at the bottom (the largest of which being the one you are currently viewing). Quite simply tapping an icon with stylus or finger will launch the desired application. Some built-in apps with messaging or PIM integration like calendar, and e-mail will indicate the number of new messages or upcoming items in a small red alert tag in the upper left. By selecting some of these (notably the contact, and calendar icons), a semi-transparent quick view is displayed. The others simply launch the application fully. Memory, network service and battery icons show the requisite status of these items.

Calendar Event Quick View

 

Managing Applications

Winterface provides a ready "running apps" utility in the main screen, somewhat making up for the lack in Windows Mobile to easily kill programs and free up memory. True that WM 6.1 does have a task manager, but it's still rather buried in the settings applet (tip: map it to a hardware button, if possible). The iPAQ always had a relatively good one built-in (called iTask with a button). WM added a task manager but still missed the boat with the close button and Winterface does too, but that's okay as several small freeware utilities do this (go here to see our picks in the recent Best awards), letting you easily modify/enhance close button actions. You can close apps by tracing a "V" gesture on the screen, but careful where you use those gestures as often you will accidently grab things on the screen and drag them around. I would like to see the close button simply close the app, personally (or give the option in a menu). Of course, then you wouldn't need the app manager, which allows you to run apps in parallel without killing them. To exit an app, simply select the red dot (see screenshot above), and away it will go to the bit graveyard until you start it again.

Customizing Winterface

You can add shortcuts to your loaded Windows Mobile programs, settings applets, files, contacts, and turn on the lock-screen through the "menu" icon (the Winterface settings equivalent), which is about the only settings that Winterface has to tweak (is also a help icon here to view help). To change and select items, you drag and release through the smooth-scrolling windows and select them from the list. Once you've ensured there is a checkmark next to each selection, you then select the checkmark at the bottom of the screen. Your new shortcuts should show up in adjacent screens when you return to the main Winterface. The contact button is also one of those special apps that will provide a semi-transparent view when selected (see below). You can also start an e-mail, call or SMS message quickly by tapping the address or number blocks marked with the message icon, number or address, etc. This is very handy, and probably the main reason that I would use this app. To move or delete icons on any WInterface screen, hold down the screen (anywhere really), they start their little screen wiggle and then you can select and move them or tap the red circle to make them go away. The help icon that was added to the main screen when I first used Winterface is pointing to the wrong path (..winterface\help.htm), and would error (should be...winterface\help\help.htm).

Winterface Contacts Screen

The icons do an iPhone-like jitterbug when tweaking the main screens!

 

The Free Weather Plug-in

Well, this isn't quite the same as the weather program for the iPhone or iPod Touch (which isn't really very capable either), but not a bad start. For one, it doesn't appear to have any on-line weather service backing it up yet like Yahoo, so no links to more detailed weather, and no extended forecast. I suspect VITO has a weather server gathering the data from some world-wide service, or is using an RSS feed, etc. You can tweak the main display weather icon to indicate temperature, or a current weather symbol.

Conclusion:

I would give this trial a spin for a few days to see how you like it. It should prove very useful for phones that lack an enhanced TouchFlow or similar GUI-enhanced WM interface. The software works quite well, but I did experience a few minor glitches, and of course I have my litany of requests for improvement you may have noted during the review, and will add yet a few more... The app runs fine, but tends to start a little slowly, and even though it appears in my startup folder in the \Windows directory, it does not start-up after a soft-reset. The gesture thing is a little difficult, and not practical in all situations. Saving your screen settings after a change requires a hardware button action (I would make that a double-tap or a gesture). I can find no alternative skins for the product, and I'm not sure if there are ways to easily build you own custom icons--which I'm sure would be popular with a lot of the power users (a skinning guide, and some alternative skins would be nice) out there. If you like Winterface, you can get it from our VIP site for a 15% members discount, so go check it out here...

 

 

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