PocketBreeze v4.3 for Pocket PC

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, October 2005
Published by: SBSH Mobile Software
Requires: Pocket PC 2000 or later
MSRP: US$14.95

PocketBreeze is a Today screen plug-in designed to replace your default Calendar, Tasks and Inbox with a much more powerful, customizable and better looking solution. The PocketBreeze plug-in has been designed to extend the functionality of all three operating system components into something much more useful and versatile. An additional configurable component for adding, editing and displaying Special Events (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.) rounds out the plug-in's features. There's a buzz about PocketBreeze that's been growing in PDA circles for more than a year and I wanted to find out what all the fuss is about.

I used PocketBreeze for two months, completely replacing several specialized personal information management (PIM) tools, including Agenda Fusion, one of my all-time favorites. I installed and ran the software on two devices: an older Compaq iPaq 3950 and a (much) newer Dell Axim X51. PocketBreeze is not a resource hog and even the three year old iPaq loafed along without any noticeable decrease in general system response or program speed. PocketBreeze will also install and run from your memory card rather than main memory—I tried it and it works—but throughout the test period, I ran it normally from main memory.

One of the first things any user should notice about PocketBreeze is that it is eminently configurable. As a matter of fact, I can't remember the last time I saw a program with the range of options and configuration tweaks available in PocketBreeze. Everything is customizable: fonts, display height of the plug-in (which neatly accommodates users who like large icons), landscape or portrait orientation, appearance at all levels, categorization, automation, time increments, alarms, categories, views and on and on and on. The plug-in groupings are even configurable. For example, you can use PocketBreeze to display only your appointments and tasks and continue using the default Inbox Today screen plug-in to view e-mail.

Because I've normally got four or five meetings of one sort or another every day, I set up PocketBreeze to display a daily Calendar view in addition to Tasks. But you can actually configure the program to display up to 30 days of appointments and tasks on the Today screen. Access to tasks and appointments data is direct—one tap puts you in edit mode. From the Today screen you can jump ahead to any day or week in the calendar using the calendar pop-up window accessible from the PocketBreeze toolbar. Additional configurations of the general information layout, fonts, colors, categories and status indicator icons provides the ability to create a truly personalized business or home setup. I particularly liked the grouping and sorting functions which, when used in conjunction with PocketBreeze's smart filters, let you display information in unique combinations.

I use small icon settings; text display whenever it's available. I crave screen real estate. The smaller the icons and individual data displays on the Today screen, the more information can be displayed at a glance in my daily calendar. PocketBreeze display height is fully configurable from 80-400 pixels. This is an indescribably important feature on a 240x320 screen (iPaq 3950 and many others), but only slightly less so on a higher resolution 480x640 screen (Axim X51 and other high-end PDAs). If you use ContactBreeze, a companion utility which plugs in to PocketBreeze and displays Contacts information, screen height is even more crucial.

PocketBreeze makes full use of the hardware D-PAD. Scrolling through the Today screen is easy (no stylus required), and left and right movements on the pad switch between tabs (again, no stylus required).

Cons: The program configuration dialog contains upwards of 200 distinct settings, an amount which may be daunting to some users. The supplied program tutorial is good, but read the downloadable product manual because it's organized and thorough enough to provide you with a better understanding of the program. The category filter is not very versatile in that you can't choose one or two or three categories to display as a group—it's either all or one.

Pros: Very little system resource overhead—whatever the PocketBreeze developers have done to make this thing operate efficiently seems to have worked. Fully compatible with most PIMs including Pocket Outlook, Agenda Fusion and Pocket Informant among others that I tried. Provides instant Today screen access to your entire appointment calendar, to-do lists and e-mail for viewing, completing and editing. Highly configurable—as versatile as anything we've ever reviewed here—and about the best use of the Today screen that you'll find. Informative tutorial supplied with the software, busy and helpful users forums on the product web site and lots of access to the developers. D-PAD navigation is well designed. Extremely useful Special Events tab can be set to display up to a full year of information automatically along with extra information in user defined companion categories. Best of all (for my purposes), Pocket Breeze brings information I need right up front in my PDA which reminds me of the ease of use and access enjoyed by Palm OS users. If you're in an out of your PDA a dozen or more times every day, consulting schedules, lists, personal or client information and e-mail, you owe it to yourself to try PocketBreeze. At only $14.95 it's a terrific value. Highly recommended.

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