One of the great things about a Windows powered SmartPhone is the level of customisation and personalisation that is possible, particularly around the home screen.
As the buttons and screen are so small it makes sense to have as much available as early as possible, i.e. the home screen. Usually what is displayed is the carrier name, date, time, next appointment and message count details. However, Microsoft have provided a method to change and extend this information. So, using some third party plug-ins I have access to Windows media player, my task list and my alarm as well as all the standard information. This uses all the available screen space. See the picture on the previous blog to see what this looks like.
Making these changes is relatively straight forward and pretty well documented. There are even tools to help you do it but I much prefer to have complete control and edit what is a single XML file. This resides in StorageApplication DataHome and is called *.home.xml. Any new files you add here will appear in the home screen settings list.
This XML file is plain text and so can be opened in Notepad. In the file you will see that each section has it’s own “plugin” details which take standard parameters to control items such as the background colour when the item is selected and it’s x & y coordinates. So, for example, the Calendar entry looks like:
The order of the plugin blocks dictates the order of the entries on the home screen. I have chosen a fairly simple layout but others have gone for something much more complicated to implement but simplistic looking to show off more of the background picture. To me however, functionality is king.
If you want o have a go at this yourself there is a good article on MSDN: customizing the Microsoft Smartphone 2002 Home Screen
Finally, one piece of software that I missed out yesterday and deserves a special mention is Microsoft’s ActiveSync Remote Display. We use this at work to allow us to show the screen of a PPC or Smartphone on the desktop for presentations. This versions seems to have been given a reworking and now works without the need to install any client software on your device. You can get a copy as part of the Windows Mobile Developer Power Toys