Spb Software House Week: Spb Diary and Spb Weather

by PocketGoddess on February 16, 2006

Spb Diary

Spb Diary is one of the best examples of “kitchen sink” software, and I mean that in the most positive of ways–it does just about everything I could possibly want, and it does it quickly and elegantly. After installation, go to Start/Today to activate the application. You can access Spb Diary’s options by doing a tap/hold on the icon; there are options that allow you to choose everything from which PIM program you want to integrate (from Pocket Outlook to Agenda Fusion and PocketInformant), the font and date format options, which tabs you want to show up on the Today screen, icons, indentions, etc.–you name it, it’s probably there. That’s not to say that the preferences are overwhelming; in fact just the opposite is true. Everything is well organized, and I didn’t have any trouble at all customizing Spb Diary to make it look and act exactly the way that I want.

Spb Diary

Once you get everything set up, actually using Spb Diary is a breeze. Since I just use Outlook for email, I turned off the Messages tab and just use the Calendar, Contacts, Tasks, and Notes tabs. What I like the most is how everything is arranged outline style, and that I can easily expand and collapse things as needed. The header on the Calendar tab lets me choose how many days I want to see and to filter by category. Each day also has a mini “header” that show the number of items on that day, the Spb Weather data (explained below) and a helpful time bar that allows me to see which parts of the day are crowded with a single glance. You can expand and/or collapse days at will, so if you have lots of appointments tomorrow, you can see them all on one screen by collapsing the data for today, for example. The Tasks tab has similar functionality, allowing you to group tasks by category, due date, priority, etc. as well as change the sort order and filter by category. The Contacts tab has similar functions as well.

The attention to detail is truly exquisite. My favorite is the auto-height adjustment option that forces Spb Diary to take up all available free space on the Today screen, so I can see as much as possible. I also love the fact that I can find contacts quickly and easily by first or last name, simply by tapping on the alphabet tabs. Each tab you tap adds another bit of information to the filter, meaning that I only need a couple of taps to find just about anyone. Tap quickly on the Calendar tab and a handy monthly calendar pops up that allows you to quickly access any date, or just see what day of the week the 19th falls on this month. The hide-able headers for each section mean that I can access options quickly, but if I need them to go they disappear with a single screen tap.

Creating a new task or appointment is as easy as tapping and holding the stylus on the screen for just a moment to bring up a context-sensitive menu. I can create a new appointment, task, contact, or note from just about anywhere on the screen. If I tap/hold an appointment on the Calendar tab I can do everything from delete it to reschedule it to beam it to another handheld. I can even tap on the graphical time bar listed in each day header to create a new appointment with the start and end times already filled in!

Since I’ve installed Spb Diary to my Dell Axim X51v, I haven’t opened up Pocket Outlook even once. Why bother, when everything I need is on one screen? While I’ve come up with a few “pie in the sky” ideas for enhancement that I’ve already passed on to the Spb development team, what I generally found while using Spb Diary is that it does everything I need it to do, and very intuitively. That’s simply not a feeling I get very often, and I’ve used, reviewed, and tested an amazing variety of handheld software.

Spb Diary is my one “can’t live without it” piece of software. It completely replaces Pocket Outlook, and with a few enhancements could almost eliminate my need for other third party software. Yes, it’s that good! Only a small number of products have been able to earn the special PocketGoddess “Perfect 10″ Award, and Spb Diary has now joined that elite group. It’s hard to believe that a full license only costs $14.95; in my personal opinion Spb Diary is worth more than twice the price. It’s compatible with Pocket PC 2002 and higher devices, including Windows Mobile 5.0. Get it now at the Spb Software House web site.

A Perfect 10!

Spb Weather

This is a handy little application for weather buffs and frequent travelers alike. The idea is quite simple–always keep up-to-date weather information on your handheld so that you’ll know what to expect. After installation tap on the Spb Weather icon and you’ll find a series of tabs that allow you to set all of the options and preferences. The Cities tab is first, where you add the cities for which you want to get weather information. The process is painless and quick; just tap on the Add icon and select the country, state, and city. The database is extensive, but if you don’t find your city you can always add it by selecting the Custom menu at the bottom left corner. This option requires a bit more work, because you have to know the code that identifies that location on Weather.com or Intellicast, but it is nice to know that you’re not left “out in the cold” if you don’t live in a major metropolitan area. Once you pick the cities, you can choose which ones appear on the Today screen, which is a handy feature if you travel often–you can add all of your frequently-visited cities at once, but only show one or two in order to save room on the Today screen.

Spb Weather

The next tab allows you to customize how things look on the Today screen; this is where you choose the number of forecast days you want to see, the number of cities, and the skin that you want to use to customize the look of the display. I prefer the multiline display; it’s compact but you can see all the info you need at a glance. (If you like the way things look on the screenshot to the right, be sure to download the free Spb Line Unitheme from the Spb web site.) The Units tab is self-explanatory; simply choose whether you want Fahrenheit or Celsius temperatures, etc. The Sync tab is where you choose how often you want the weather data to be updated, and whether you prefer automatic or manual updates. Finally the Stats tab lets you see how much bandwidth you’re using to keep the forecasts updated.

It may sound fairly complicated considering all the options, but it really isn’t. Once you get your cities added, all you really have to do is forget about it. If you choose to have Spb Weather show up on the Today screen, it will use the preferences you set on the various tabs. That’s nice, but if you also have Spb Diary, things really come together. The latest version of Spb Diary is now fully integrated with Spb Weather, and if you have both you’ll notice small weather icons just the right of each date on the calendar tab. That will do if all you want to know is whether or not you need to take your umbrella, but if you want more detailed information just tap on the icon. That will open a pop up window with the full forecast, and if you want to advance to later days just use the arrow keys at the top right corner. Just remember that if you use this feature, the first city on your list is the one that the information is pulled from; thankfully there are buttons on the Cities tab that allow you to easily change the order of the list.

Spb Weather is a handy little utility that makes my life easier. Instead of trying to catch the forecast on the radio or TV, or even just surfing to one of the popular weather web sites, all I have to do is press the power button on my Dell Axim X51v. I can’t think of anything I would like to make it better, but I’m sure that the good folks over at Spb will probably come up with something for future releases. Spb Weather is compatible with Pocket PC 2002 and higher, including Windows Mobile 5.0. You can get a free trial download or purchase the full version for $14.95 at the Spb Software House web site.

5 out of 5

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