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Vito Button Mapper for Pocket PC review
Posted on 1-Jan-2005 12:55 by Darryl Burling. | Tags Filed under: Reviews.


Vito Button Mapper is a useful tool for extending the functionality if the hardware buttons on your Pocket PC. The hardware buttons on Windows Mobile 2003 devices can be remapped so that you can launch any application you choose or perform a limited number of system functions.

I always change my button mappings so that the hardware buttons always launch the applications I use the most. Vito takes this concept to the next level with Button Mapper.

Launching applications
I use 50351 SPB Pocket Plus to launch my applications and I like having all my apps within quick and easy reach. I also have quite a few applications installed at one time. This means that the size of the Today plug-in can get quite big. To manage this Iíve been using buttons to launch as many applications as I can so that they are removed from the launcher but still within easy access.

I know, I know, I could just use tabs and have multiple tabs to launch my applications from. To a certain extent Iíve done this, but I don't like tapping more than once to launch an app, so when Iíve tried this, I've always switched back soon afterwards.

The other thing that I like to do with buttons is to use them for quickly switching between applications without the need for a task switcher. I like software task switchers, but when I'm working between reference materials and a word processor for example, it is easy (depending on your button layout) to simply press a button to switch between apps. This is especially true if you are using a thumb board.

The drawback of this method is that you are limited by the number of buttons on the device. To a large extent Vito Button Mapper resolves this as Iíll explain in a moment.

Installation
Vito Button Mapper integrates nicely into your device. Once the install is complete you will notice a new folder in the programs folder. Iíve got to comment at this point that I personally find it annoying that some developers feel they should create a folder at this point rather than just putting the application shortcut directly into the programs folder. Anyway.... if you open the Vito tech applications folder in the programs screen, you will find a new icon. Starting the Button Mapper application here will display the following screen.



When you install Button Mapper it is not active until you activate it from here. When you activate Button Mapper you are required to reset the device for the changes to take effect. Once you reset the device, you will find that nothing has changed, unless you look at the buttons applet in Control Panel.



Functionality
Vito Button Mapper replaces the default button applet in Control Panel. In the Vito applet you have a profile for each application, one for the today screen and one default profile.

There are two types of button presses made available once Button Mapper is installed. The standard press and the less common press and hold. On my Harrier (PDA2K), the hold functionality was not available, but it was on the non-second edition devices I tried.

You can set the default button mappping using the default profile. The default profile is automatically populated with the button settings you had configured before you installed Button Mapper. If you dont set any other profiles, the default profile will apply.

You can set different profiles fore each application on your device. This is really useful. I have one application that I use often and normally in conjunction with on or two other applications. Using this feature of Button Mapper, I can set a button trail. So I set button A to open application X. When Im in application X I always jump between applications Y and Z, so now I can set up profiles for these applications so that by tapping one button to open one application it effectively remaps the buttons according to my needs for that application. Actually, it is not just the application that is affected, this functionality changes the way you work from being application oriented to task oriented using multiple applications to perform a unified task.

Macros
This is where the program gets really powerful. Not only does button Mapper let you assign standard function to buttons, you can also use it to create macros. The macros essentially give you the ability to record screen taps anywhere on the screen in succession.

Recording the macro is a little tedious. You have to record it one tap at a time, and between each tap you need to tap the macro recording start button, select the type of action to do and then do it.

I found that cascading menus disappear when the macro record start button appears. This means that you cant record against what you see, however as Button Mapper records screen taps you just need to try and remember where to tap and the tap will be recorded in sequence. Perhaps a second macro creation system could be added that allows you to define how many taps to record and automatically stop recording at the completion of that number of taps.

I also had problems with the macros outperforming my device - that is that the screen taps were being executed faster then the device could respond. However, Vito put in the ability to record pauses between taps too so you can work around this too. The pauses are measured in mili-seconds and you can set them as you need to.

In addition to macros, Vito also included a few system shortcuts similar to the default system shortcuts. By default Windows 2003 second edition give some system options like rotate screen, switch to today, OK and scroll up and down. Vito have added to this a few more out of control panel such as memory, power and backlight which may be handy to some.



Press and Hold
If you have a limited number of buttons on your device, Button Mapper will give you the option of having both a press to activate option as well as a press and hold to activate option. This effectively doubles the number of functions that can be mapped to buttons and increases the usefulness of the buttons even on devices with few buttons.

Unfortunately, this feature seems to be device dependant to a certain extent. The press and hold functionality was totally non-existent on my Harrier (Verizon XV6600/Sprint PPC-6600), but it worked fine on the HP iPAQ h4150.

Conclusion
Button Mapper is very powerful in its ability to dramatically improve the usability of the buttons on your Windows Mobile Pocket PC or Pocket PC Phone Edition device. Personally, I love using hardware buttons to switch tasks and button Mapper delivers this and then some.

Pros
  • Assign buttons based on what application you are in.
  • Create macros to reduce stylus taps.
  • Adds core items that can be assigned to hardware buttons.

    Cons
  • Macro recording is a bit fiddly
  • Some features donít seem to work on some devices
  • No support for Microsoft Voice Command

    Update: Received these comments from Vito Technology: "We've already fixed the problem with PDA2K, but the new version will be released by 11 January. Thanks for your tests; we will fix the problem with Voice Command ASAP."



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