D-Pad & hardware buttons

The Button Enhancer Bible & great button config tips for Opera Mobile / Mini users

Back in early 1997, when the first Microsoft WindowsCE 1.0-based devices hit the selves, they already contained shortcuts to built-in programs. Back then, as the 1.0-series of WindowsCE exclusively ran under clamshell Handheld PC’s with a built-in keyboard, it was pretty easy to find place for these quick start keys. For example, in the Philips Velo 1, the entire number row is overridden with them, providing access to almost all major applications (Pocket Word, Excel, Calendar, Contacts, Tasks, WWW, Inbox, Database, Calculator, Voice Memo) delivered with the device. When, in 1998, the Palm-size PC’s and, in 2000, Pocket PC’s arrived, the lack of a built-in real keyboard meant it was no longer possible to crunch as many buttons in the radically reduced front and side surface of the device. Therefore, the number of shortcut keys were substantially reduced; most devices only sported five of them. There were differences in both directions: for example, the HP iPAQ 2210 only had four, while the Fujitsu-Siemens Pocket Loox 720 had six and, what is more, these buttons were all bifunctional: press and hold them instead of just quickly pressing it, and another functionality starts. (Some models, for example, the h2210, also supports something like this – holding the buttons results in, in general, creating new records. However, unlike with the Pocket Loox, you can’t redefine the functionality if you want to access something different.) Unfortunately, very few models support bifunctional (short-press and long-press) buttons. While some device manufacturers (like HP with their WM5 upgrade for the HP iPAQ hx4700, introducing full support for press-and-hold front buttons) did realize the ability to double the functionality one can quickly access with a single button press(-and-hold), not even the latest mainstream models offer this. For example, HTC’s Pocket PC Phone Edition (Windows Mobile Professional) models, in general, only offer one application (app for short) button with double functionality (for example, Button 4 on the Universal and the Wizard); all the others are single-function and, therefore, greatly reduce their usefulness and the flexibility, should you want to greatly speed up invoking applications or greatly simplifying tasks (for example, by a hardware button-initiated macro playing back several pre-recorded stylus taps to, for example, greatly speed up mail checking). Some of the current models even more reduced the number of (redefinable) buttons. For example, the HTC Elf / Touch only allows for redefining the Camera button and nothing else (also see THIS). Yeah, only ONE button. Nice, eh? The hardware manufacturers’ neglecting the need of people wanting for more functionality assigned to the few hardware buttons of their Pocket PC’s (and, due to the, in general, far fewer application buttons they have, to a lesser degree, MS Smartphones) has resulted in a plethora of third-party solutions that do allow for this. In this roundup, I explain and thoroughly compare these all. This kind of a Button Enhancer Bible has long been awaited. Except for some not very recent (pre-WM5) and, now, completely outdated quick reviews & comparisons, there has never been a really decent and thorough comparison of the major button enhancers, let alone ones that cover even the latest (2007), kick-butt, freeware titles developed by some highly skilled XDA-Developers folks.

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More Programmers'/Hackers' Stuff, along with some cool Pocket Loox 7xx Hold Button Tips: More on Pocket PC Hardware Buttons

In my previous article (alternatives: PPC Magazine, BrightHand) on the secrets of programming/accessing/configuring the Pocket PC hardware buttons, I elaborated on where the Pocket PC stores hardware button configuration information in the Registry. In this blog post, I elaborate more on what you can do with the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\ SOFTWARE\Microsoft \Shell\Keys\40CX\Flags value in the Registry. I also explain the implications this has on playing several, button-based games on Fujtisu-Siemens Pocket Loox devices. Finally, I elaborate on the button lag issue of the Pocket Loox devices.


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