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PowerToys for Windows CE

Also available on the Microsoft site is another free download for Windows CE machines, PowerToys for Windows CE. This consists of several programs and files that can be transferred individually to your PDA; some of these are essential upgrades for all users, and others are just bells and whistles (literally, in one case!).

PowerToys upgrades Windows CE menus with Cascade
PowerToys upgrades Windows CE menus with Cascade

The essential part of PowerToys is the Cascade program. When transferred to the PDA and run, it installs an additional icon in the tray at the right hand end of the Task Bar. This icon will bring up a true cascading menu at the right of the task bar (normal CE menus are single level, and start at the left hand end of the task bar). These menus will also scroll to fit the screen, unlike the standard Windows CE menus. In some ways, I like the Cascade menus better than the standard menus in Windows 95; they clearly reflect the structure of folders that are used to build up the menu structure, for one thing. It will also allow you to open the submenu/folder in the Explorer program by holding down the Control key when you tap the menu item. I would like to see this menu system replace the standard menu system, with the menus starting from the left hand end of the Task Bar. Having both menu systems coexist on the same PDA is clumsy, and I find it disorienting.

If you choose to install any of the three additional sound schemes (Analog, Metallic and Organic), the Mute program will also be an essential download. This also adds a new icon to the Tray in the Task Bar, this time one that will toggle on or off the speaker.

Less essential is the Paint program, which is a cut down version of the Paint program found with Windows 95. Playing with Paint is even less exciting than experimenting with the full size version, but it has several uses for Windows CE users that might not be obvious at first. Because CE devices all include a stylus and touch screen, Paint is ideal to use to capture signatures from users. In the past I have created images of signatures to use on faxes and other documents by the time honoured trick of sending myself a fax with my signature on from a steam driven fax machine; but a CE stylus used on a Paint document will create a far better image. Although Windows CE doesn't include a hand writing recognition system, you can also use Paint to capture handwritten notes. This isn't as handy as it sounds, as you will have to transcribe the notes later if you need them in ASCII format, but it is a very useful facility to have.

Do you need handwriting recognition if yours looks like this?
Do you need handwriting recognition if yours looks like this?

The other significant program included in PowerToys is Remote Control for Windows CE. Many users might have no need for this at all, but if you need any of the functions it provides, you will like it. Remote Control is another way to link to a Windows CE machine from a desktop system, letting you control the PDA using the mouse and keyboard of the desktop system. You can use this to copy and paste from a desktop document directly into a document on the PDA, for cases where a document converter isn't available. The Remote Control program can also be used to capture screen images, or to use in a presentation with a projection device attached to the desktop (or laptop) system.

The first commercial release of software from Microsoft, the Entertainment Pack for Windows CE, was released in March. This includes a number of traditional computer games, from Chess and Blackjack to Reversi and Minesweeper. Other games included are: Space Defense, Sink the Ships (which reminds me of Battleships), CodeBreaker, FreeCell, Hearts and Taipei. The only game on the standard release of Windows CE is Solitaire, so this new release will add some welcome respite from boredom on long journeys. The infrared option for multiplayer games will almost make Jon Honeyball's Flight Simulator fantasy from his March Real World Computing column a possibility.

Words and design by:
Paul Lynch
Last updated: July 30, 1997

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