Monday, December 1, 2008

PIEPlus provides great IE Mobile enhancements for my Treo

I guess for most of Windows Mobile users have already understand that the Internet Explorer (IE) Mobile, which comes pre-installed with every Windows Mobile devices, isn't that great for browsing the net.

To say the truth, the current version of IE Mobile is just offer a sub-par experience or even below for avid mobile users. The next version, IE Mobile 6 is promised to be released soon, so in the mean time we need to find something to fill in the gap.

Not everyone wish to completely replace the IE Mobile with other mobile browsers available in the market today like Opera Mini, Skyfire or Iris. Take for an instance: me, I don't want to bloated up the limited resources of my Treo 750v with power hungry apps. I just need the already existing mobile browser inside my Treo for simple web browsing, with few additional features to make me more enjoy surfing the net.

That's why after I fixed my Treo, I didn't forget to re-install back one of the best enhancement apps for IE Mobile: ReenSoft PIEPlus. But first, before we get to the PIEPlus, allow me to straighten up the naming of the app. PIE or Pocket Internet Explorer, is the formerly known name of IE Mobile before Windows Mobile 5.0 was born.(as explained by the Wikipedia).

PIEPlus does a good job in providing additional features that are needed in the aging IE Mobile, you can find the complete list of PIEPlus' features at its website complete with screenshots. I'm just going to mention the most useful ones, which I often use for day to day browsing.

Extended options for more features

When you have finished install PIEPlus into your Windows Mobile device, there won't be a shortcut icon to launch it because automatically PIEPlus will start along with IE Mobile. You'll immediately see the difference in IE Mobile user interface; especially on the bottom you'll see a row of small icons which represent the new add-on features you can use.

The first icon is the PIEPlus logo, is represented with the shape of a plus ("+"). Click on it, you can open and access the app's features such as: Tab, View, Zoom, Scroll, Tools & Edit. For an important note, users can still access IE Mobile's original options through the Tools settings. There are many settings in PIEPlus options for power users, but for average users can start using PIEPlus right away without make any changes.

Next to the PIEPlus icon is the icon for customizing the Tab options, or if you wish to open a new tab and/or start opening links in new tabs. PIEPlus also capable to reopen back the closed tabs, no more affraid of mistakenly close tabs. After the tab icon, there are the usual web browser icons: back, forward, refresh/stop, home, favorites, and full screen.

Now there's a neat feature in the back & forward buttons; PIEPlus can show users the history. So users can quickly jump to the desired previous pages, it works like the history drop-down view in IE 7 desktop.

Like any mobile web browsers we know of, PIEPlus also has its own engine to fit the wide websites into the small screen of your mobile devices. Pocket Web Optimizer (PWO) helps to remove horizontal scroll, but at the same time make you scroll vertically more often because the websites are sized in long page format.

Although some pages may have horizontal scroll bar even they're opened with PWO, like for an example is the PalmAddict weblog page. You can set the PIEPlus to view the pages with PWO feature, or in the standard (desktop) view.

Save file, image, or page

The first obstacle I encountered when I found an image I like in a website opened with IE Mobile, is that I couldn't save the image because IE Mobile simply has no feature to do so. I was frantically writing down the website's address so I can get the image later using my dektop computer at home, talk about a waste of having a Palm smartphone on the go. ;-p

But with PIEPlus, I can now easily save images whenever I see the ones I like. All I need to do is, press the screen with Treo's stylus long enough until a context menu window appears. If a file is not found in the cache, it can be downloaded. And PIEPlus doesn't only able to save file or image, the app can also save a page with all of its elements.

Treo users can use hardware buttons mapping with PIEPlus for faster single-handed usage, map the functions of IE Mobile or PIEPlus to hardware buttons. Example: You can map 2 functions to 1 hardware button for press and press-and-hold.

As for users who installed PIEPlus on keyboard-less Windows Mobile devices, can take advantage of PIEPlus on-screen pop out window which shows the necessary commands for browsing the net. Those commands are like: back, forward, select all text, copy address, refresh, etc.

Save pixel space with hide address, full screen & screen drag features

These features may seem trivial, but I really appreciate neat features like those because of Treo 750's small screen resolution (240x240 pixels). So whenever I can save some more pixel space on my Treo screen, then I'll do it to ease my eyes. ;-D

At the most left screenshot of the images above, you can see when PIEPlus is still showing the address bar along with the Go & the URL Service icon buttons. While the middle screenshot shows the address bar is hidden, and the page is being opened in a tab window.

And when I really want to enjoy reading a web page, I'll just push the Full Screen button and you can see the result on the most right placed screenshot. There's a very small icon on the bottom-right corner of the full screen, its use is to restore the view back to normal.

I'm most enjoy the Full Screen feature from PIEPlus for reading long pages, when it's combined with Screen Drag feature. There are no vertical, nor the horizontal scroll bar so the whole screen is fully reserved for the pleasure of your eyes only. ;-)

There are more features which I can't mention them all in here, otherwise this post will be too long. Head on to PIEPlus website to know them all. ReenSoft is offering 14 days trial version of PIEPlus, and if you're satisfied then you can buy the license at US$14.95 price.

The latest version avaible is 2.2, and it's still compatible for old Windows Mobile 2002 & 2003. But you got to download the right CAB file, or get the desktop installer if you're not sure which version is your Windows Mobile device.

Although there's no mention of PIEPlus compatibility for Windows Mobile 6 (or 6.1) from the developer, I never experience troubles at all whenever I use it with my Treo. But I've been told by Hyun Kang who is the man behind ReenSoft company, that there are features which don't work well such as:
  • D-Pad and User Agent settings don't work with WM6.
  • And the Zoom feature on WM6.1 does not work with PIEPlus.
But there's a good news; Hyun Kang informed me that a new version is coming to address those bugs, it's slated for release next year. I'm for one looking forward to get the new version of PIEPlus, especially if the upcoming IE Mobile 6 is not gonna make it into my Treo 750v.

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