If the PalmOS would only have this or that, then it would be the perfect device. The largest group that seems to make this claim comes from those that used another PDA before, and are used to particular functions. For some, they just want the simplicity of the PalmOS to do some things that it just does not. The people at PocketCraft addressed this issue with giving PalmOS users a simpler, yet more elegant way, to view pertinent information. PocketCraft’s answer comes in the form of Facer, an application launcher and today screen. I have used Facer since it first came out, and have been very pleased with its development. It is not as full featured as launchers like ZLauncher and YiShow, but at the same time it is not boring like the default launcher. It does a great job of getting you to what you want to see on your PalmOS PDA when you turn it on, and at the same time, gives you something appealing to look at while just dolling around during those boring meetings.
The Today Screen
The Today Screen is possibly the best section of the Facer application. When open, it gives the major information: date, day, appointments, tasks, and (via a tool called a Gadget) emails not read and wifi strength. In this scope Facer’s today screen does all that anyone would usually want to see when turning on their PDA. There is also a favorites bar that can be customized to launch whatever five applications that you access the most. Also with the favorites bar, there is a recent applications listing that can take you to the most recent applications you have accessed. This keeps you from having to go into the Launcher screen all the time for the applications that you constantly access. You can even tap on a task or calendar item to see the item in detail.
The Today screen also offers some great options for those of us who might need a bit more than just what is going on for Today. From the tasks section, you can choose to see all tasks or only the due items. When selecting to see only due items, you have the choice of seeing those items due today, in two days, or in seven days. Coming soon will be the ability to view appointments for today, today and tomorrow, the next three days, the next four days, or the next seven days. For those who like to just plan and forget that there is a week ahead, this will offer an easy way to see far enough ahead of the current day, so there is no overbooking (Note: this feature was initially offered with version 1.9, but due to its unintended freezing of the PalmOS, this feature will be added in a future version. The current version, 1.9.2 does not have this calendar option from the today screen). The today screen offers the type of flexibility that makes Facer almost indispensable for students, parents, or business workers who need access to the day’s events without clicking on anything. Just set in the preferences that the Today screen is to come up after 5 15, or 30 minutes, and feel free in knowledge that all you have to do is turn the PDA on to see what is going on.
There are some shortcomings with the Today screen though. While you are able to customize what calendar or task's application you go to when clicking on the calendar or tasks icon on the Today screen, Facer only reads from the default calendar and tasks databases. So, if you are using a program like KeySuite, then you will have to still sync to the regular Palm calendar and tasks applications so that Facer would be able to display the correct calendar and tasks information on the Today screen. Another thing that I think that would improve the Today screen would be the ability to use the recent apps listing independent of the Today screen. Think similar to McPhling, but a part of Facer that does not install as a system extension.
Overall, the Today screen is one of the best thought out aspects of Facer, and continues to improve. It could benefit from better use of screen space (date and day can be on one line, opening the room for more viewing of calendar and tasks), and maybe more flexibility with the different elements in terms of placement on the screen.
The Launcher Screen
Of the Launcher and Today screen, the Launcher screen (until version 1.9) has received very little attention. The reason being, with the PalmOS, things are pretty simple: you want to launch a program, beam a program, delete a program, or view a program’s information. From this viewpoint, the Launcher screen is just fine. Where Facer shines on the Launcher screen is how simply it is to do all of these functions with one or two taps.
With the Launcher screen, you are given three ways to see your applications: icon, small icon, and list. The icon view shows, at most, nine programs per screen that you have. It is the basic view and will do for most people. The small icon view is a newer feature of version 1.9. It allows you to view the low-res icons instead of the hi-res ones. What this does is allow you to see up to 16 icons per screen. This is a much better solution if you like keeping the ‘All’ category as your base view, or if you have many games and nine just aren’t enough icons to see what you have. There is also the list view. This shows the programs that you have in a list view with at most two columns. I personally never liked this view, but I am sure that it could come in handy if you have plenty of utilities. The one thing that Facer doesn’t do that some of the other launchers do, is allow you to be able to use different icon views for different categories. Like I stated before, if you have a lot of games and want to use the small view but not a lot of PIM applications and want to use the icon view, then you are out of luck. You have to use one and stick to it.
Another great feature of the launcher screen is the ability to do some simple tasks with a tap and hold menu. If you tap and hold on an icon, then you are given some choices of what you want to do with the program: beam, delete, see info, copy to memory card, or move to memory card. Facer does not allow you to beam applications from the memory card to another person’s PDA, so you will have to use a program like BeamPro or Filez to do that. Deleting the program puts it into Facer’s version of Window’s recycle bin, it stays there until you click on the trash can (the second icon in the group of four on the launcher screen) and empty the trash. You can click info and from there be able to change the name of a program, re-categorize an application, or beam/delete/copy/move it. The copy and move functions allow you to either create a copy of the program onto your SD card’s PALM/Launcher directory, or completely move the program there. All of this from a simple tap and hold function; or you can use the four icons at the top right of the Launcher screen to do the same things.
Overall, I find that the Launcher screen is impressively simple and easy for a novice to catch on to. Most of the hard core PalmOS users will opt for a different system launcher that organizes applications, shows database files, shows pictures, and mates with the kitchen sink. I, personally, have never needed all of that functionality within one screen. When I want to go to a program, I like to get to the screen, write the letter of the program or scroll down with the 5-way (Zire71), and tap the icon. Facer’s Launcher screen offers this, plus some handy organizational features. It could benefit from a better file manager (I would love to see Filez and Facer become one) and the recent applications screen being put onto this screen as well. But there is only so much screen space. It is used well on the Launcher screen.
Until this point in the review, Facer sounds like an average program, except for the Today screen. But there are a few extras that I think make Facer a great buy for anyone wanting a simple means of dressing up the abilities of their PalmOS device.
The first thing is the themes aspect. Facer has the ability to load different themes that allow the program to take on different moods. The default theme is all well and good if you want something plain vanilla. But, in the distribution that you download, there are also three other themes that take advantage of hi-res PalmOS screens. There is even an option to save the themes to your memory card so that you save internal RAM. There is a Yahoo Group (groups.yahoo.com/facerthemes) that is around to help you create and share themes (and another Facer theme site is soon to come as I have read from the Yahoo Group). There are themes for all the devices that Facer runs on (meaning OS 4.0 on up to OS 5.2.1). And there is also a java-based theme maker program that allows you to make and install themes that you create for yourself. As with most creative programs, there is a learning curve, but not so much that you wouldn’t occupy yourself for a few hours creating a theme of your new little one, or a recent trip that you been on. The theme feature alone is a great reason to invest in Facer.
Gadgets is another nice feature in Facer. Gadgets are items located on the Today screen that show or do something simple. There is room for two gadgets on the Today screen and you have the choice of: none, power off, adjust brightness, show next day, show previous day, email notification (works with ClieMail and VersaMail) and wifi strength. You can choose to see none, one, or two gadgets on your Today screen to give yourself more instant accessibility to your programs. This is a great feature, and I am looking forward to more gadgets being added.
The last feature I will remark on is the ability of Facer to read programs off of memory cards. It does it in a fairly simple process. If the program is located in the PALM/Launcher directory, then it will show up in the listing with the other applications on the Launcher screen. The applications from the memory card are identified with a small memory card icon placed on the bottom right of the program’s icon. Though you cannot move a program to the memory card and have it still sync information (you would need a program like PiDirect for that), you can easily categorize any of your applications from your memory card as if they were in RAM. There is not much lag time when launching applications from the card either. This makes Facer a great solution if you have many applications on the memory card, need a Today screen, and YiShow, ZLauncher, or other launchers are too much to handle.
As I stated in the beginning of this review, there are not many things that our PalmOS handhelds cannot do right now. But one of the things I believe they could do better would is the Today screen. Facer took a page out of PocketPC handbook and created an application launcher with a today screen. Much like the shell of the PocketPC OS, Facer works to help you get to where you need to go as fast as possible. You just don’t suffer a huge RAM hit every time that you use it. Facer is a great application. The PocketCraft developers have been very friendly with getting updates out in a quality manner. I have used Facer since it first was released and found it to be the perfect solution for me and my ‘need to know what is to be done next’ kind of life.
Some changes I would like to see include: a dynamic calendar and tasks listing on the Today screen that moves with the hour, or when things are done; a better file manager from the today screen, and more efficient use of screen space on both the Today and Launcher screens. I say this all as one who has used this program for a while. If you have never tried this program before, give it a whirl. And if you have a problem, just email PocketCraft, they are always on top of a fix; whether they email you back immediately or not. Like some newer programs, if you are using PalmOS 5, then you will have some functionality that OS 4 users do not have. Do not take this as a negative hit though, I have used Facer since I found it, and that was with a Palm m515. It works excellent on there as well as on my Zire71.
PocketCraft’s Facer can be downloaded from our Handango store. It is shareware, free to use for 14 days then you will have to pay for it ($18.95). It is more costly than other launchers available, but you are getting more than just a launcher. You are getting essentially two programs in one. Facer has my vote and money, give it a try and see for yourself. I am sure that doing things easier will convince you as it did me.
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