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ZLauncher 3.5 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mohd Nazley Mohd Fadhley   
Sep 02, 2003 at 06:24 PM
I have always been partial towards tab based launcher. When I first bought my Palm IIIe in 1998 the first thing I did was to replace the default application launcher with Launcher III, a freeware at that time. I tested MegaLauncher for a while but did not bother to register after the trial period expired. Later, I purchased LauncherX for my HandEra330.

I now use Palm Zire71™, and decided to try out new third party application launcher to complement my new colour PDA.

My choice .... ZLauncher by zztechs.
The result ...... I like it!

Overall Feel

The tabbed interface of application launchers has somewhat becoming a standard. I prefer this because it is easy to see the categories and make a selection. Users who prefer a "cleaner" interface and don't like the "tab" concept, ZLauncher offer an option to remove the tabs and have a category drop-down list like the default Palm Application Launcher.



Like most other launchers, ZLauncher utilizes toolbar or gadgets for users to manage files and applications in the handheld, and it is very customizable. You can set whatever tools you want on top of the screen as well as those at the bottom of the screen.

                           

You can even choose not to display anything and hide this tootbar. If you noticed the above picture, I only need a few "tools" on my top toolbar and hide the bottom toolbar. The reason being, I have access to the tools just by using it's "tap & hold" function. All I need to do is tap on an icon, hold the position for a while, and a list of available options pops up, like launching the application, move or copy the application to external card, deleting the file and a few other options.



ZLauncher look and feel can be tweaked to your liking. It comes with "Aquawood" theme but you can download a few free themes from the internet. You can even create your own background image with a bitmap file installed on the external storage card. According to the user manual, jpeg files is also supported in Sony Clié range of PDAs. Below is an Apple OSX theme,



There is one caveat here, you must install a theme for ZLauncher to work. The stock theme that comes with the download, Aquawood, is nice and simple. The background image is customizable. You can change the background colour to whatever you like or optionally install a background picture, like what I did. Installing the background picture will set you back about 200K of precious RAM, but the picture can be easily "uninstalled" when you need to free up some RAM memory.

Talking about RAM, ZLauncher is flexible enough to utilize PalmOS Virtual File System VFS to store applications and related databases in expansion cards. And launch them directly from the launcher view.

VFS

Most, if not all, PalmOS PDAs now comes with expansion slots .... SD/MMC or Memory Stick. ZLauncher makes use of this memory expansion to store files in a tree like structure, much like the desktop computer. There is a dedicated tab or category for the memory card and ZLauncher displays all files and folders in the card. The best part is that you can select an application file from this view and launch the program from the memory card.



The standard Palm Application launcher only reads files in the /Palm/Launcher/ directory. ZLauncher allows its users to further manage the "filing system" to the users' own preference. I find this a very good option since I store a lot of applications in the card, and my /Palm/Launcher/ folder is getting overcrowded.

Since ZLauncher handles VFS well, the package includes a built in file manager or explorer. Moving files between folders is a cinch. You can do this in file manager view or directly from the main screen.

                           


Shortcuts

At one time, applications stored in memory cards would not be able to synchronize with its desktop counterpart, because during the HotSync process the conduit fails to detect the application in RAM and decided not to do anything. Well, now ZLauncher solves that by creating a shortcut or a stub in RAM to point to the actual file in the expansion card. The stubs is typically small in size, about 10K or less and are marked by an arrow at the bottom left of the application icon and an asterisks at the end of the application name.

These shortcuts actually holds information of the related applications and tricks the hotsync conduits into "thinking" that the programs themselves reside in RAM, allowing synchronization to proceed.

TealAlias and LauncherX employs similar "trick", for handling "shortcuts" and files in expansion card. ZLauncher however, goes one step further by giving users option to move application files as well as its related databases to the card. When the application is launched, all files will be copied to RAM and when you are done, the files are moved back to the memory card .... A-la PowerRun.

By default apps and databases moved to memory card are stored in /Palm/Program/ZLauncher/ folders. Files related to a particular software are stored in individual folders making file management more organized.



This approach of handling files is useful for applications that are "non-VFS" aware. Games are good examples since we normally do not synchronize game files. The word game, Scrabble®, for instance, comes as one program file an another fairly large dictionary file. ZLauncher will move these two files to the memory card. If I were to tap and launch the scrabble application both the main file and the dictionary will be moved to RAM and I am ready to play Scrabble. When I'm done, the files will be moved back to the card. This method of handling files, however, requires the user to have sufficient RAM to accomodate the files being moved from the card.

I am doing this on an OS5 144MHz OMAP processor and the time lag to move the files to and from the card is tolerable. I would think moving large files on older OS4 Dragonball processor machines like the m515, would be a "painfully" slow process.

Bottom Line

ZLauncher, in my opinion is more than a launcher replacement. To me it qualifies as an Operating System enhancement. The only flaw I can find in this application launcher is its huge memory requirement. With the theme and background picture installed you need to reserve approximately 1.2MB for the application. Because of this, I would recommend this for devices with RAM greater than 8MB.

ZLauncher is an exceptional application launcher and a file manager offered as a package. At US$12.00 it is worth every single cent.


Tapping off

Mohd Nazley Fadhley
Last Updated ( Oct 30, 2005 at 09:09 AM )