ZLauncher v5 for Palm OS

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, January 2005
Published by: Guangzhou Zhangzhe Technology (ZZTechs)
Requires: Minimum hardware Palm IIIc, Palm OS v3.5 or higher, full Palm OS 5 enhancements, any resolution from 160x160 up to 320x480 and extended screen support; works with Treo 650
MSRP: $19.95

Over the past eight years, I have used ten different PDAs (Palm IIIx, Palm IIIc, Handspring Visor, Handspring Visor Prism, Compaq iPaq, Sony, Sony, another iPaq, Palm Zire 71, Sony TH55). My habit of replacing my current PDA with the 'next cool thing' is not the most stellar example of efficient use of new technology and hard earned cash. As a matter of fact, it's about as wasteful of time and money as you can get unless you move into more expensive toys. But PDAs are not, in fact, toys. No sir (no Ma'am). PDAs are useful things; productive things. I've been using a Sony Clie TH55 for about eleven months now and I'm happy with it. I've had the device longer than any other PDA I've owned and I won't part with it easily. Its 320x480 high resolution screen and disappearing Graffiti silkscreen allow me to see an entire day's appointments at once. It's got lots of other virtues too, none of which, unfortunately, include a decent launcher or main desktop. The Sony Clie launcher is okay certainly, but it's not productive, works best with Sony's inefficient productivity programs, and remains a screen hog. alternatively, as most PDA users know the default desktop in Palm OS 5 is just a big bunch of nothing. That leaves us with one alter native: third-party software. ZLauncher v5 is the subject at hand. We tested and used ZLauncher on a Palm Zire 71 and a Sony TH55.

Some of you will have other ideas, but my view of things is that there are only two efficient ways to use a PDA: a) via the programmable hardware buttons which launch predetermined programs, and b) by means of a powerful program launcher or front-en replacement for Palm OS or Pocket PC. ZLauncher falls into the latter category. It's a comprehensively powerful utility which, from a single interface, provides access to every aspect of your Palm OS PDA and its operating system as well as providing customizable program launching and a wealth of system information via a series of toolbars built into the main interface and accessible while running other programs.


The benefits of ZLauncher (and other competent Palm OS desktop replacements) used to go hand in hand with enough system overhead to slow down program launching, suck up valuable system memory and generally make you wonder if replacing the barren Palm OS launcher was really a good idea in the first place. Times, along with processor speeds, operating system efficiency and system memory have changed drastically. ZLauncher uses very few system resources, has no noticeable effect on program and system speed, but still provides a deeply powerful alternative.

I installed and tested ZLauncher on two PDAs and a smartphone: a Sony Clie TH55, a PalmOne Zire 72 and a Treo 650. I had been running only the Palm OS launcher on the TH55 and Launcher X on the Zire. Quite frankly, I like Launcher X quite a lot for its efficiency and compact memory footprint. I consequently felt that ZLauncher was going to have a tough uphill battle to knock Launcher X off the top of the heap. Initial setup of ZLauncher was quick and easy primarily because it picked up all of the my Palm OS system categories and displayed all but a handful of utility programs in the correct locations.

First and probably foremost, I don't care much for beautiful background images, interesting background textures and other user interface niceties. As far as I'm concerned, this kind of stuff sucks up precious system memory, uses precious CPU cycles and generally doesn't serve any practical need on the PDA. I absolutely agree that nice backgrounds look nice, but I spend so much time inside various productivity programs that giving up system memory or storage space for photos, textures, icon sets and whatnot is just not worth the cost and effort. ZLauncher lets me setup an interface configuration which enhances readability, and creates an environment which is easy on the eyes. I see and launch what I need faster.

Second, in the absence of proper multitasking in Palm OS 4 & 5, I need a QuickLaunch that's accessible from the Command Bar no matter what program I'm using. For those of you who aren't familiar with it, the command bar is accessed in any program via the Graffiti silkscreen. Use your stylus to draw an upward diagonal stroke to call the command bar. When it appears, you can then write a variety of commands or tap the ZLauncher QuickLaunch icon located at the right end of the command bar. With only four programmable hardware buttons on typical Palm OS PDAs, having access to a reliable and broadly compatible QuickLaunch means you don't have to quit whatever you're doing in order to get back to a particular category in order to launch another program. I switch from program to program faster and more efficiently.

Third, with more and more Palm OS programs sucking up more and more system memory, and considering that none of the system memory on any PDA is expandable or upgradeable, it's becoming more and more important to be able to run programs directly from storage cards. To do that you need either something like PowerRun or a method of creating shortcuts much like those available in Windows. ZLauncher has a sophisticated shortcut system that works well. In fact, most of the time shortcuts allow a program to run directly from the storage card without physically copying the whole thing to system memory. All you have to do is move selected program files to the /Palm/Launcher folder on the storage card then go back to ZLauncher and tap Update All Shortcuts in the Options menu. Neat trick.

There are twenty or thirty other interesting features in ZLauncher. Maybe you'll use them, maybe you won't. In any event though, ZLauncher should prove to be a productivity enhancer. As well, and especially if you're getting tired of the same, boring and supremely uninspiring Palm OS interface, ZLauncher will inject a healthy dose of enthusiasm for and interest in your PDA.

Cons: It would be nice to be able to combine the two main toolbars into a single, scrollable unit, or a single unit with flyouts. Application icons disappear on the Treo 650 if you uncheck Zoom-Icon in ZLauncher's properties, so you've got to use either use an icon set or ensure that Zoom-Icon is selected. Icons disappear in this situation because the built-in applications supplied with the Treo 650 don't have accessible low-res icon versions, so it's not a real ZLauncher problem. With all due respect, would some loyal ZLauncher user please get in touch with Ken in Customer Service at ZZTech (Guangzhou Zhangzhe Technology CO, LTD) and offer to do a quick copyedit of the ZZTech web site. It's full of Chinglish and ZLauncher deserves a better support base. Don't get us wrong, we love the ZZTech gang and we really love ZLauncher, but its web site needs a bit of help (although we've certainly seen many worse examples). Any takers?

Pros: Detailed, well organized help files supplied in HTML format. The help system contains even more Chinglish than the web site, but overall is still very well done and is full of genuinely helpful explanations about every aspect of ZLauncher. The tap & hold function is absolutely terrific. Full support for all joysticks, joypads, and even the peculiar and near-useless rear-mounted jog dial on the Sony Clie TH55 (it was a dumb idea Sony—really dumb). Fully integrated drag & drop lets you quickly reorganize categories, tabs, programs, files and anything else that's movable. Powerful integrated file manager which is vastly superior to the completely inadequate native Palm OS utility. You can create file associations so that HanDBase databases, WordSmith and ISilo documents open via their parent programs. Lots of choice for automatic image viewing (AcidImage, SplashPhoto, Resco). FlyZip is fully integrated, making file compression and decompression almost transparent. The ZLauncher user interface is fully customizable by font, color, background, style, theme, icon sets, views, categories, tab locations and toolbar locations. Once you've used ZLauncher for a week, you won't go back to plain old Palm OS. QuickLaunch is highly compatible and I couldn't find any program in which it wasn't available via the Command Bar. The additional system information ZLauncher provides up-front is useful and saves the time (not to mention the innumerable taps) needed to get only a fraction of the same information out of native Palm OS utilities. I spend a minimum of 90 minutes a day actively using my PDA, so having a genuinely useful and efficient replacement for the comparatively simple Palm OS 4 or 5 is very important. ZLauncher has proven to be broadly compatible and most important of all, extremely stable. No crashes or lockups throughout weeks of use. Highly recommended.





© Copyright 2000-2007 kickstartnews.com. All rights reserved. legal notice
home | previous reviews | forums | about us | search | store | subscribe


Forums Search Home Previous Reviews About Us Store Subscribe