FacerPro Launcher v2.7 for Palm OS

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, September 2005
Published by: PocketCraft Software
Requires: Handheld running Palm OS 4 or 5
MSRP: US$18.95

Palm OS PDA owners enjoy several advantages over their Pocket PC brethren (and sisteren), not the least significant of which is the wealth of replacement desktop/launchers for the operating system. Bless the hearts of the Palm operating system (OS) developers for their mundane and unadorned desktop and launcher, which has provided third-party software developers with the incentive to create wonderful replacements. There are a number of very good top tier replacements including the excellent ZLauncher, the very popular LauncherX, MegaLauncher, the venerable and flashy SilverScreen, the very complex YiShow, H-Launcher, and the very pretty AppShelf. There are at least a dozen other launchers available, lesser lights no doubt, several of which are actually quite terrible. Facer enjoys a rightful place in the top tier. It has evolved from humble beginnings a few years ago into a creditable competitor.

I used Facer for approximately five weeks, replacing my long-time favorite ZLauncher v5.10.3. Although Facer does not have the deeply entrenched configurability and enormous feature set of ZLauncher, LauncherX or YiShow, it proved to be versatile and fully compatible with all of the utility and productivity software I use on a regular basis. The software list includes DateBk5, Documents to Go 7, AvantGo, NetFront, WorldMate, TurboPassword, SplashPhoto, Pocket Quicken, Busker, Converter, LoanExpert, FindWiz, FileZ, ScreenShot, PalmReader, BDicty and PowerRUN. It's an eclectic mix of software (and I didn't even mention any of the puzzle and number games such as Sokoban, Sudoku and Pixelus).

Facer supports standard resolution (160x160) and hi-resolution devices (Clie, Tungstens & Zire 71/72) all the way up to 320x480 (Tungsten T3 and Clie TH55). Facer is the only launcher that integrates a usefully functional Today Page along with the ability to launch favorite applications and recently used applications. With the help of FontBucket, Facer provides some font customization functions which can be used to improve the user interface. I generally stick with system fonts, finding them quite readable and highly legible in a variety of ambient lighting conditions. I used Facer on a Palm Zire 72 and a Sony Clie TH55.

Facer can be set as your default desktop/launcher, available whenever you turn on your PDA via switch or hardware button. Facer's basic functionality can be enhanced by plug-ins compatible with a variety of programs and databases. For example, the DateBook plug-in provides full access to all of the information in DateBk5 thereby allowing each day's appointments to be displayed as line items on Facer's Today page. The plug-in functionality was introduced in Facer v2.x and I noticed quite a few plug-ins on the PocketCraft web site. It's a great concept that has been well executed by Facer's programmers. The list of available plug-ins increases regularly.

Cons: I'm not totally convinced that the Today page is a good idea primarily because I generally turn on my PDA by pressing the programmed hardware button to launch DateBk5 (which then starts the PDA in the current page of my appointment book). On the other hand, the Today page is Facer's principle distinction and if you like or have a need for a regular fast glance at your appointments and To-Do's, Facer is the only launcher that can do it. Facer has only a few advanced functions and we'd really like to see a version which includes a file manager. After installing Facer I found that it had correctly identified all of the system Categories but failed to fully populate them correctly with installed apps. Out of approximately 66 apps, nine were not correctly sorted by Facer.

Pros: You can drag & drop unsorted app icons onto the correct Facer category tab. According to PocketCraft, Facer is designed to be functional and fast, and that it is. It now runs nose to nose with our benchmark ZLauncher, which is very fast indeed. The point is that using Facer is not going to impede program launching and it's not going to interfere with your productivity. The so-called Today page—very similar to the identically named Pocket PC/Windows Mobile feature—is well implemented in Facer and is fully integrated as well. Lots of data available on the home/Today page including time, memory, available storage, system info, battery life, category tabs, Favorites pop-up (and full implementation of pop-up menus throughout), customizable Today page and launcher page gadgets, customizable start up view (last page viewed, launcher or Today page), and screen access to all of the hardware buttons. If you're a fan of the Today page, this is the desktop/launcher for you. Stable, problem free operation. I discovered that app icons can be renamed from the tap-n-hold pop-up menu (tap Info, then rename in the title field—very handy and quick). Simple and effectively useful. Recommended.

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