In my recently-published, well-known Windows Mobile Web Browsing Bible I’ve elaborated on how Pocket PC’s can be used to browse the Web. Please make sure you DO read the review even if you don’t have a Pocket PC. You will learn a LOT from there and, in addition, I do NOT elaborate on many questions like Web standards compliance or additional Opera Mini features in here. In the current review, I “only” elaborate on questions ONLY concerning the MS Smartphone platform. The only exception is the review of Opera Mini 4, which is a generic one and can be used by Pocket PC users as well. Finally, in addition, as so many times in the past, I present you some genuine Registry hacks fixing annoyances / bugs in both IEM and Opera Mobile never before published.
Now, it’s time to review
- how you can do the same on MS Smartphone (Windows Mobile Standard) devices (SP for short); what browsers you should use, what bugs you should be aware of etc.
- the brand new and REALLY NICE, HIGHLY recommended Opera Mini 4 platform. This section will be of interest to not only SP users, but also those of the “big brother”, the Pocket PC – and, for that matter, any Java-capable mobile phone.
However, let’s start with the latter as it comes built into the operating system of all SP devices.
1.1 Internet Explorer Mobile (IEM)
Unfortunately, the SP version of the built-in IEM, even as of Windows Mobile 6 Standard (that is, the latest SP operating system version), is considerably inferior to the Pocket PC (PPC) version shipped with WM6. For example,
- while the PPC version of IEM has received file uploading capabilities some two years ago (with the initial release of WM5), not even the latest, just-released, WM6 version of IEM is capable of the same as can be seen in HERE (showing the results of my traditional file upload test page – see the previously linked page for more info on what the screenshot should show). Note that the SP version of Opera Mobile has no problems with file uploading (1 2 3 4)
- it also has major problems with some HTTP / scripting constructs never having caused any problems to the Pocket PC brother; most importantly, it has problems with posting to Smartphone Thoughts and Pocket PC Thoughts forums from IEM. (The PPC port of IEM has no problems with posting to these sites; neither do Opera Mobile and Opera Mini on the SP platform.) Interestingly, this is NOT a problem on several models (even including WM6 ones) - and, in some occasions, it even worked on my Vox. I don't know why - it probably depends on the size of the message. Also see for example Mike Temporale's posts and links in THIS thread.
- it doesn’t support tabs and, as you may have guessed, none of the known, Pocket PC-only PIE / IEM enhancers (PIEPlus, Spb Pocket Plus, ftxPBrowser etc.) work - except for MultiIE, which only delivers a fraction of its Pocket PC features.
- just as on the Pocket PC, you can’t make use of the hardware buttons (except for the “Back” button) AND the dialpad buttons (except for the 2/4/6/8 buttons for page scrolls) of your Smartphone. In this respect, both Opera Mini and Mobile are better. Fortunately, the most common functionalities are accessible, in general, with two or three (depending on whether you start from full screen mode) key presses. Fortunately, there are some registry hacks that - at least to a certain degree - fix this, which I’ll later, in a subsequent section, elaborate on.
- download-wise, it’s really different from the Pocket PC IEM: it’s only CAB files that can be downloaded (if at all – see later), nothing else. This is in stark contrast with both the PPC version and Opera Mobile on the platform, which uses the same, vastly superior download-specific code as the PPC version. You must do some manual, extensive Registry editing to fix this problem - and, even then, you will need to do this for each file type you'd like to see downloaded. I too address this issue in a later section.
Some examples of these cases:
- non-associated RAR files (for example THIS). Upon trying to download files like these, you get THIS error message (unlike with Opera Mobile).
- PDF files with the, on the HTC Vox, associated, built-in Adobe Reader LE. An example PDF file is HERE
- ZIP files, like THIS, associated with Resco File Explorer.
Note that I’ve also had downloading problems on my WM5 HTC s310 (Oxygen) upon trying to download a 2.5M Byte CAB file (the Smartphone version of Opera Mobile HERE) via an EDGE connection. No matter where I tried to store it (the device had about 10M free built-in storage), the transfer would stall at 300-600 kbytes (I’ve tried to download the file several times), while, under exactly the same circumstances (the same network coverage, the same file etc), my WM5 HTC Wizard Pocket PC downloaded the file without problems. I haven’t encountered similar problems on my WM6 HTC Vox (s710). I don’t know whether this was a temporary problem or generally a problem with WM5 SP IEM’s over slow(er) connections and large® binary (in this case, CAB) files. Just keep this in mind if you have similar problems.
As far as the WM6-specific fixes are concerned, the WM6 SP version of IEM, fortunately, supports iframes as can be seen in HERE. (It’s suffering from the same width problem as with the PPC version, though – even in Single column mode. This isn’t an issue on Opera Mobile and Mini.)
All in all, I do not really recommend IEM for regular Web browsing on SP’s if you don't apply the above-mentioned (and below-explained) registry hacks. Go for either Opera Mobile (which is, as far as the new, 8.65 beta is concerned, free until Oct. 1. Of course, being free until October doesn’t mean you shouldn’t support the company – do purchase for example their 8.60 version to support their continuous efforts to give us the BEST Pocket PC, Smartphone and, in my opinion, desktop Windows browsers) or the absolutely free and excellent Opera Mini.
1.1.1 Fixing the binary file download problem
The difference between the SP and the PPC version of IEM is pretty simple. While the latter doesn't require a given file type to be registered in the local Registry to be downloaded, the former does, and also requires a specific flag (the fifth "bit" in EditFlags) to be set to one.
This is why "unknown" file types like RAR or known file types that don't have the EditFlags value are refused to download. You can, fortunately, fix it. In here, I describe both the manual and the automatic, much easier way of doing this. The former includes heavy Registry editing, but might prove useful in cases you'd like to allow for downloading more file types than the automatic way offers.
18.104.22.168 Manually enabling downloading a given file type
Let's assume you want to enable ZIP file downloading. To do this, first, you have to fire up a registry editor (I recommend that of Resco - it's well worth the price).
- First, as ZIP files end in .zip (that is, have the file extension 'zip'), you need to navigate to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\.zip to see what full name it references (it's the latter that you will, later, create a new EditFlags DWORD in). As can clearly be seen in THIS screenshot, it refers to another Registry entry, Resco_zipfile.
- Go to the given extension, still under HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT, and select Menu / 1 File / 1 New / 5 DWORD Value
- enter EditFlags in the “Name” field
- enter 65536 (that is, hexa 10000) in the DWORD Data field; press Done (left softkey)
- now, the new entry should be visible and the ZIP download working (Similar screenshot with EXE files HERE and with PDF files HERE)
Was it complicated? Certainly it was! Rejoice: now comes the much easier / safer, automatic way! If you're a newbie to Windows Mobile (and/or Registry editing), you will want to prefer THIS registry import file I’ve created for you. It sets the PDF, ZIP and EXE download associations. Note that the latter assumes you’ve installed Resco Explorer and PDF requires the Adobe Reader LE 2.1 (for example, the one shipped with the Vox). You will - after installing Resco Explorer, along with its Registry support - just click the file once you've transferred it to your PDA. After (re)starting IEM, the changes will be visible - and the files downloaded.
Finally, should you need support for even more (not just PDF, ZIP and EXE, but also rar, doc, mpeg, mpg, mp3 and avi) file types, you will want to check out THIS MoDaCo thread (the CAB file installer by rcperez). All you need is running the PIEPlugin.cab file (note that the Download Plugin for PIE Updated.zip file contains the same PIEPlugin.cab also separately downloadable file) linked in the first post. You won't even need to have a Registry Editor. (Note that there are some, similar threads for only one extension type: ZIP, EXE. However, make sure you prefer rcperez's hack.) Note that you may want to stick with my registry import scripts if you don't want the pre-WM6 scripts to mess up for example the PDF associations (as it creates its own PDF file type registry record and forces the old association to be removed), making it impossible to load a PDF document by just clicking it from File Explorer.
1.1.2 Adding more functionality to the phone dialpad
MS Smartphones have something that (most) traditional Pocket PC's don't have: a phonepad: consisting of 10 numeric keys, the # and the * buttons. Knowing the most common functionality a Web browser user wants to have access to (quick scroll up/down, to the top/bottom of the page; reloading; - with multi-document browsers - switching to the previous / next tab; quickly switching between the different rendering and layout modes; quickly changing the character size / zoom percentage), many of this functionality can be quickly accessed by making use of the 12 extra buttons.
As has already been pointed out, IEM only makes use of the '2' and '8' keys by default. These two buttons can be used to do page scrolls, as opposed to the link scrolls accessible on the D-pad, combined with fast scrolling introduced in later WM5 AKU's, should you continuously depress the D-pad. You can, fortunately, assign (some) functionality to all the other remaining ten buttons.
Unfortunately, there are far fewer functions you can assign to the buttons, but even this is definitely a step forward. Let's have a complete list of the functionalities that can be accessed (note that I'll explain the numbers later, when discussing how the Registry should be modded):
Functionality (Registry values):
1 - Page Up (default under (later?) WM5 / WM6)
2 - Page Down (default under (later?) WM5 / WM6)
3 - Top of page
4 - Bottom of page
5 - Page Left in non-one column view / modes
6 - Page Right in non-one column view / modes
7 - Page FULL left in non-one column view / modes
8 - Page FULL right in non-one column view / modes
9 - Default Layout
10 - Desktop Layout
11 - One Column Layout
12 - Full Screen Toggle
13 - Show Pictures Toggle
As can clearly be seen, there're no goodies like "Refresh" in here. However, even then it's pretty much useful.
Now, let's see what these numbers are for. To understand their meaning, I elaborate on how the Registry stores the keypad button - functionality pairs.
In the Registry, it's the [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\ Software\ Microsoft\ Internet Explorer\ KeyMaps] key that stores values (NOT subkeys!) connecting keys with functionalities. In general, it's done in the following way: the value name's the keycode and the value of the value is one of the above-listed functionalities.
The keycodes are as follows (that is, the Registry value names):
I've created a registry import file that assigns most the available functionality (except for "Page FULL right in non-one column view / modes"). All you need to do is importing it (with, say, Resco Registry Explorer) and (re)starting IEM. The effects will be seen at once. The registry import file is available HERE and has the following key assignment:
0: full screen (12)
1: Show Pictures Toggle (13)
2: Page Up (1)
3: top of page (3)
4: Page Left in non-one column view / modes (5)
5: Page FULL left in non-one column view / modes (7)
6: Page Right in non-one column view / modes (6)
7: default layout (9)
8: Page Down (2)
9: bottom of page (4)
*: Desktop Layout (10)
#: One Column Layout (11)
For more (not mandatory) info, also see THIS, THIS, THIS and THIS.
The well-known Pocket PC IEM enhancer, MultiIE, is also compatible with (WM5+ only; sorry, no pre-WM5 compliance) MS Smartphones. The standard WM5 installer works on both Pocket PC’s and Smartphones. Let’s see how it compares to the Pocket PC version!
Unfortunately, it’s far inferior, feature-wise, to the Pocket PC version. Basically, you can only expect it to add multi-tab functionality.
22.214.171.124 Differences between the Pocket PC and the Smartphone version
126.96.36.199.1 Goodies missing - a generic overview
It’s fully impossible to save images in the SP version. The same stands for the excellent, additional features offered by, for example, address bar macros. They are ALL missing from the SP version, which is, more or less, only lets for multi tabs, softkey-based D-pad scroll mode and full screen switching, HTML saving and source viewing and keeping backlight on.
There are a LOT of features just not accessible in the SP version. In addition to basic functionality like the already-mentioned ability to open a link in another tab, the lack of saving images or saving full Web pages (as opposed to only saving plain HTML files without in-line images and, preferably, CSS/JS files), a whole set of other features are also missing: for example, address bar macroing, the excellent location-based services offered by the PPC version, the ability to quickly reformat a Web page through online Web compression / reformatting services like Skweezer etc. Fortunately, at least “Keep Backlight On” works.
188.8.131.52.2 Setting dialogs
Unfortunately, a lot of menu options accessible on the PPC are just not accessible in the SP version. For example, assigning shortcut buttons to MultiIE functions (PPC screenshots: 1 2) isn’t even offered by the SP version. On the Screen tab, it’s not possible to switch off the, on the Smartphone, useless (because you can’t tap them on a touchscreen-less device) corner icons (PPC SP).
184.108.40.206.3 Impossible to open a link in a new tab
While it’s available in the SP version of Opera Mobile (where you just traverse the focus to the link you’d like to open but, instead of pressing Action, press the right softkey and select “1 Open in new window”), it’s not possible to dynamically set where (in what tab) a new link should be opened to. This, of course, is also possible in the PPC version of MultiIE as can be seen in HERE.
You can surely try to redefine the default functionality in the Open link: Tap default action to, say, Open in new back window as can be seen in HERE, but it won’t work at all (and won’t stick). This means you can NOT open links in another tab in any way without opening a new tab in Menu / 9 MultiIE / 3 Open New Window and, in there, select the link you want to display in this tab.
220.127.116.11 Compared to Opera Mobile…
The inability to open a link in a new window, as has already been pointed out, is a big problem with MultiIE – as opposed to OpMob.
Switching between open tabs also requires significantly more button presses than in Opera Mobile. In the latter, you only need to press ‘2’ once to bring up the list of open tabs, where, after selecting the right one to switch to, you only need to press Action once. In MultiIE, you need to press Menu / 9 MultiIE and, if there are not more than 3 open tabs (in Portrait mode on QVGA devices; on 176*220 ones, even two open tabs will result in the same), select the tab at the top. If there’re more tabs open (QVGA screenshot with 4 tabs) or, you’re in Landscape, there will be another level of redirection (1 Windows), making it necessary to issue another keypress.
There is, however, something MultiIE is better at: saving web pages do work. Unfortunately, you can’t fine tune what should be saved – unlike in the PPC version, where not only the page HTML itself, but also all the related resources (by selecting a full save instead of the HTML-only).
18.104.22.168 Other bugs & problems
In addition to the already-mentioned ones (for example, the Open link: Tap default action settings’s not being sticky) it has several other bugs. For example, it sometimes hides the tabs (1 2) on QVGA devices (but not on 176*220 ones). This might particularly be a case with pages using frames, after maximizing one of these frames using Expand Frame (left softkey); for example, the MultiIE page itself.
The menus may be a bit messed up (but still usable) on QVGA devices because of the too large fonts. On low-res 176*220 ones, they’re OK (screenshots: 176*220: 1 2 3; QVGA: 1 2)
While the tabs can be re-displayed after a screen rotation (if the particular device supports rotating the screen – for example, the Vox does), rotating back to the original rotation will result in not using the entire screen estate. This won’t be an issue if you NEVER rotate the screen but stay in either Portrait or Landscape all the time.
As far as the options dialog screens are concerned, the “Plugin” dialog is also different: first, as it is lacking a scrollbar, you don’t see anything under Presets / Shown on open more menu on both 176*220 and QVGA Portrait phones. On QVGA Landscape ones, however, the scrollbar is displayed and you can scroll down, revealing the lowermost GUI widgets. Not that it’d be of any use: NONE of the features work in here. That is, you can’t even set the User-Agent to be used to “disguise” your browser as a full desktop Windows browser. This is also a very bad disadvantage, compared to how it behaves on the Pocket PC.
Still in this dialog, the address bar search configuration (PPC screenshots: 1 2) don’t work either: an “Option not available in alpha” is displayed.
22.214.171.124 Tips & tricks
By default, to view the source of a Web page, it tries to use \Windows\notes.exe, which doesn’t exist on any MS Smartphones.
Unfortunately (if you have a phone with a built-in keyboard – non-QWERTY phones don’t have this program!), if you redefine this link to \Windows\TextNotes.exe as can be seen in HERE, Menu / 9 MultiIE / 6(+) Page Tools / 3 View Source will not work either.
Therefore, if you have a Windows Mobile 6 Standard phone (which come with Office Mobile built-in), you’ll want to prefer Word Mobile (\Windows\pword.exe) to view the sources. To make this word, configure MultiIE to use it as the default viewer. With that, watching sources will work just fine:
All in all, don’t expect much of the current version of MultiIE for Smartphone. It’s WAY worse, WAY harder to use and definitely more buggy than the Pocket PC version. The Smartphone version of Opera Mobile is far better thought-out (support for dialpad buttons; menu-based link / image context menu support etc., making it far easier to, for example, open a link in a new tab instead of the current one; far faster to switch tabs; allows for saving images etc.). If you, however, absolutely need to stick to IEM and do need a multitab solution for it with some goodies (for example, Opera Mobile still doesn’t support saving pages; MultiIE does; the same stands for quickly swapping between the three scrolling modes, should you want to exclusively use the D-pad for scrolling and leave the 2/8 phone buttons alone), currently, MultiIE is the only way to go.
1.2 Opera Mobile
(a QVGA screenshot; note that, as with IEM and Opera Mini, Opera Mobile is perfectly usable on low-resolution, 176*220 Smartphones too)
Currently, this really excellent browser is even more usable on the Smartphone than on most Pocket PC (that is, Pocket PC’s without a dialpad on the face of the phone – an example of PPC models with a dialpad is the ASUS P525) because of the functionality shortcuts assigned to these buttons. As has been pointed out in the Web Browsing Bible (which is a good read even for people that don’t own a Pocket PC), currently, it’s not possible to assign any otherwise assignable functionality – for example, page up/down, jump to beginning of page etc. – to Pocket PC hardware button. The situation is entirely different with the Smartphone platform.
This is all topped with the traditional Opera Mobile strengths: speed, standards compliance, being multi-tabbed (of course, tabs aren’t displayed in the SP version; however, it’s very easy to quickly (!) switch between loaded pages), no binary download-related problems, upload support etc.
There are some minor (!) bugs with the SP version, as opposed to the PPC one. These are in no way as bad as the problems with IEM, though.
- The standard Smartphone "Back" button doesn't work in the cache setting text input field, which makes it impossible to change the value (other than adding, say, a new number in front of it, which is NOT recommended in any way for a reason I elaborate on later). The "Delete" key on built-in QWERTY keyboards (when they exist), on the other hand, do work. This is a minor problem on models with no built-in QWERTY thumb/keyboard. Tested on both the Vox (has a QWERTY keyboard) and the Oxygen (no keyboard). Note that you can always manually edit (with a file explorer tool) the Size value in the [Disk Cache] section of \Application Data\ Opera\ opera.ini if you want to change this value.
- If your device runs WM6 (but NOT a previous operating systems - it's working just great on my WM5 AKU3 HTC Oxygen / s310!) and you want to use Opera Mobile as the default browser to, say, open links arriving in e-mails, the file associations won’t work with these URL’s as can be seen in HERE. The problem with the old PPC version 8.60 was the same, but the explanation and solution was completely different; this is why the old registry script (see THIS article) I’ve created for the latter doesn’t help with the Smartphone version.
Fortunately, after playing with the new, WM6 Registry, I pinpointed the problem and was able to come up with a real fix (yes, I was the first to fix this bug!). Just import THIS registry file (if you've installed Opera in the main storage; if it's on the storage card, use THIS instead) and voila: everything will be OK. (Just for the record: under WM6, as opposed to earlier operating systems (where this key didn't exist at all and the system used the traditional http association), HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\ Software\ Microsoft\ Shell\ Rai\ :DEFBROWSER \ 1 must contain the full executable path of the default browser, as opposed to its name (without the path) only. Two screenshots showing this, with the new contents (assuming Opera is installed in the main storage): 1 2.)
It's very important that this fix should also be used on the Pocket PC platform if you have WM6!
(Note that, after my finding out the trick above, I've been told other people (for example, John Burn HERE) have also been succeeded in finding the solution for the problem. I really ask eveyone to publish their fixes not only in one, model-specific forum not really visited by non-owners of the same model, but also in generic ones. Generic ones include, for example, the forum of Opera Mobile: after having found out the fix, the first thing I've done was posting an announcement in there so that all Opera Mobile users are notified. This way, everyone suffering from the bug notices the fix being available right away and noone tries to reinvent the wheel. I belonged to the latter category: it took me about half an hour to find the fix. Should I have known of the fix already being existing, I wouldn't have wasted time on finding what the problem is caused by.)
- Has some minor problems with image handling. When the browser is presented with more than, say, 7-8 images in a page, it may not download them all (or, for that matter, any of them). Give a try to THIS page to see this in effect - on my QVGA Vox, it didn't render any images. The situation was pretty similar on the old(er) Oxygen (with other pages). Note that a forced reload the page, in general (but not always!), helps.
- When you manually enter a URL into the "Go to" text input field on the Vox keyboard, you can't enter a string longer than the screen estate size (give a try to entering, say, the above link!) This problem can only be fixed by trying to visit the part that can still be entered and, then, returning to Action / Go to, finding the first part of the URL already entered and going on with entering the latter part(s). Dunno if this problem is caused by the OS or Opera Mobile.
- If you define a HUGE cache (to bring down data usage costs), the responsiveness of the browser REALLY decreases. For example, on my Vox, I had a cache with about ~10M files (in the main storage). With that, Opera takes over a minute (!) to start and, after loading a new page (WITHOUT images!) about 10-15 seconds to flush it to the cache, during which you can't for example scroll up/down to go on reading. That is, you need to stick with the default 2M cache to get rid of these problems.
- If there is little RAM memory left, the Smartphone dialpad keys (2, 6, 9 etc.) stop working. Instead of their default functionality, they result in reloading pages / moving elsewhere. In these situations, an error message like "Due to RAM memory shortage, the requested action couldn't be done." could be shown.
Probably the only really annoying bug is the fact that, as of 8.65 beta released on 06/01/2007 and usable until October this year, it only remembers HTTP proxy servers during the first page request after starting; the other requests are directly sent to the HTTP server. To test this, give it a working (for example, at the time of writing, 126.96.36.199:8080 was one of them) proxy address in \Application Data\ Opera\ opera.ini (as is explained in the Toonel-related section) and, then, after restarting Opera, go to WhatIsMyIP.com. Upon the first invocation, you’ll see the proxy’s address as the originating address. Upon later invocations (for example, after just refreshing the page), however, it’ll switch to direct access – and the IP address it displays will also reflect this.
This, unfortunately, means currently you won’t be able to local proxy-based bandwidth usage reduction solutions like Toonel with Opera Mobile. Neither will you be able to use external proxies to either conceal your real IP or get outside of a corporate network.
Note that some of the rendering bugs common with the PPC version are here; for example, the Register bug. The Register (in the examples, I show examples of THIS article) can’t be browsed without zooming out and/or switching to Landscape mode on QVGA screens. This is, of course, using the fit to screen mode (as opposed to the Desktop mode) when browsing The Register. Screenshots: 1 2; a 176*220 screenshot HERE. The Pocket PC version has the similar problem (QVGA screenshot).
In addition to the subtle differences like the image scrolling mode (to allow for saving images on the Smartphone), there is another notable difference between the SP and the PPC version of Opera Mobile 8.65. The PPC version has three display modes as can also be seen in HERE: Desktop, Fit to screen and Single column. Of these, efectively, only two (desktop view and, in general, one-column view) is used on QVGA devices (it’s only on VGA models that there is a real “Fit to screen” mode), but all the three are listed. If you select Fit to screen on a QVGA device, it will, effectively, show everything in one-column mode only (that is, the columns of will be kept). This is clearly visible in THIS screenshot. The only difference between the two modes, on a QVGA PPC, is that if you use your device in the Landscape orientation, then, if you stick to the Single column mode, it will only use 240 pixels of the sligltly less than 320 pixels of the horizontal screen estate. This means you will want to exclusively use Fit to screen on a QVGA Pocket PC. (Again, VGA Pocket PC's are entirely different. Compare the above screenshot to THIS, showing the effect of Fit to screen in landscape mode. As can be seen, there is no unused screen estate, as opposed to the Single column mode.)
The SP version, on the other hand, only has two modes: Desktop and Fit to screen as can be seen in HERE (QVGA screenshot) and HERE (176*220 screenshot). They, however, work exactly the same as the QVGA Pocket PC version, regardless of whether you select Fit to screen or Single column on the latter. Effectively, Fit to screen, Landscape screen estate usage-wise, is the same as the same Fit to screen on the PPC, which can clearly be seen in THIS QVGA SP screenshot, showing THIS MoDaCo Smartphone forum. As can be seen, it uses the entire horizontal screen estate, just like the PPC version in the, on QVGA devices, preferable Fit to Screen mode.
Two other screenshots of the same MoDaCo forum: 176*220 SP, QVGA SP Portrait (the latter being exactly the same on QVGA PPC.)
Note that there will be exceptions from this "everything is displayed as one-column only" rule: not all webpages will be rendered as one-column. For example, one example of this is THIS Finnish stock exchange page, which is rendered as a two-dimensional table on both PPC's and SP's, using even the Single column mode on the former.
To show what happens with this page, I've made several screenshots:
QVGA SP in Portrait (the same in Landscape)
176*220 SP (in, of course, Portrait only) - yes, as can be seen, even in this really low-resolution model the chart is two-dimensional. Note that the "Opera Mobile for Smartphone doesn't load all the images" bug is certainly visible in this screenshot - it didn't load the images (of which only the "Image" placeholder is visible) not after a forced reloading, unlike with the QVGA SP version, which did load them after a forced reload (but not when first accessing the page).
QVGA PPC Fit to screen and PPC One column mode
Again, as can be seen, ALL the tested devices (QVGA and 176*220 SP's and a QVGA PPC in BOTH the Fit to screen and Single column modes) rendered the chart using real, two-dimensional fit to screen mode and did NOT try to force each column into its own row.
1.3 Opera Mini 4.x
(VGA PPC screenshot running under the Intent midlet manager (hence the non-used command bar at the bottom); a QVGA Smartphone screenshot HERE)
I’ve often reported on Opera Mini, which, as of the current 4.x series beta, has become a serious contender to even native Windows Mobile Web browsers, particularly on the touch screen-less Smartphone platform, where the lacking features of Opera Mini (for example, lack of context menus or copy / paste capabilities) aren’t a problem because of the lack of the touch screen. (That is, you couldn’t use these features on IEM either – it’s only Opera Mobile, with its excellent link / image context menus even on the SP platform, that still offers a bit more functionality than Opera Mini.)
Should you want to know how Opera Mini can be deployed in current midlet managers (the article explains the IBM J9 and the Intent Tao case; the Esmertec case is really-really similar), you will want to read the related section HERE, in the “A step-by-step Tutorial on setting up Opera Mini” section. Note that the direct link takes you to version 3; to get the version 4 beta, you will want to follow the instructions HERE.
1.3.1 What’s new with the brand new, 4.x Opera Mini series?
Nokia’s having pioneered the quick zoom functionality in their excellent S60 series 3 Web browser, Windows Mobile browsers quickly followed suit: first, NetFront in the second Technical Preview of their forthcoming 3.4; then, Microsoft in their (beta-stage and still far from being finished) DeepFish.
Opera, the, in my opinion, by far the finest (give a try to their desktop browser, particularly if you have an (W)SXGA+ or (W)UXGA screen – you’ll love it!) browser developer company, soon followed suit. In addition to announcing the forthcoming Opera 9, which is a native Windows Mobile application, with similar capabilities, they have also added full page view & quick zoom capabilities to the brand new series of Opera Mini, their Java Midlet-based, small, but still VERY powerful multiplatform browser.
Just visit THIS page (the SWF file, should you want to directly download it, is HERE) and see what Opera has come up with. It’s indeed very cool, isn’t it? All this in a VERY small package (90 kbytes), with almost unmeasurable runtime (dynamic RAM) memory consumption. Compare this to the memory consumption of traditional Web browsers – yes, they consume orders of magnitude more memory. Note that there are a some other, cool videos on Opera’s homepage running the browser in reality – those videos are far more instructive than my static screenshots.
This browser, as has also been pointed out in the Web Browser Bible, runs great on Windows Mobile, on both Pocket PC’s and MS Smartphones, in both common factory-default midlet environments, the Intent (the industry standard on almost all WM5-based PPC and SP phones, except for the Esmertec-based HP iPAQ hx6915) and the Esmertec (shipped with many natively WM6 phones like the HTC Vox / S710) midlet managers.
It’s by far the best J2ME (Java midlet) browser: other Midlet-based browsers are far worse in every respect. For example, jBrowser can’t even display middle-sized pages like the PPCMag blog page, the PPCT main page as can be seen in HERE and, for smaller pages, it will never finish loading.
As has already been pointed out, the best new feature the new version offers is Zoom-in / full page view functionality. Its “let’s crunch the text into the viewable screen estate” works just great – much better than I’ve expected or what most of the other browsers do.
You’ll REALLY love the new page view functionality if you want to check out for example
THIS is the desktop rendition of the Finnish stock exchange in a tabular form. Now, let’s take a look at them in the default, pre-series 4 one-column mode:
and this is how the new, full page layout mode renders it (zoomed in):
and zoomed out, showing the entire page:
A big difference in usability and readability, isn’t it?
Of course, in most cases, if you don’t want to browse tabular data like this, you won’t necessarily need the new mode. Then, you may safely stay with the old, one-column mode.
In addition to providing a page view & zoom-in mode, the Opera folks have come out with something unprecedented in the Windows Mobile world: smart text finding. Let me show you an example with an XDA-Developers thread:
In THIS screenshot, I’ve just started browsing and, therefore, the selection frame is in the upper left corner. Now, let’s press the Down key several times (or, even better, 8 for much quicker navigation downwards). As soon as I’ve reached the body of the text, the selection was automatically (!) scrolled to the right so that no screen estate remains unused on the left side of the screen as can be seen in HERE. Pretty smart, eh?
Now, let’s press Action to read it. As can indeed be seen, the text is very intelligently flowed in a way that no horizontal scrolling is necessary. It’s also really-really superior to how most other browsers handle non-one column modes. Thumbs up Opera, you’re indeed the BEST Web browser developers out there – and this is stated by somebody that knows a LOT about Web technologies and protocols!
Opera Mini is pretty much similar to Opera Mobile in that it makes extensive use of the phonepad (dialpad) common on all SP models (and, as has already been stated, also available on some PPC models). Unfortunately, the default hotkeys are different, which you, if you often switch between the two browsers, will find pretty inconvenient. (But, then, just edit \Application Data\ Opera\ input.ini to make it similar to the Opera Mini shortcuts. See my other, Opera Mobile-related articles on how this can be accomplished.)
Please see section 1.5 (Shortcuts) to see what shortcuts the two browsers (and, in addition, IEM) offers. They REALLY make browsing MUCH faster – it’s really worth using the dialpad to access them.
1.3.3 Bugs, annoyances in Opera Mini 4.0 beta
The new, 4.0 series being in beta state, it has some, in most cases (if you DO use a compatible Midlet environment), non fatal bugs / annoyances not present in previous versions:
- Big minimal font size (as opposed to the current 3.1.* version) and (comparatively) huge gaps between rows. A lot of people have complained about this; in my opinion, this doesn’t hamper the usability of the client.
- Cookies are not necessarily kept (as opposed to the current 3.1.* version – you may end up having to logging into your account much more frequently than with the 3.x series)
- You may encounter crashes on Pocket PC’s and on Smartphones running other Midlet managers than that of Esmertec. On my Vox, using the factory-shipped Esmertec midlet environment, I haven’t encountered ANY crash over the last month of active (!) usage. See for example THIS XDA-Dev thread on PPC users’ reporting shutdowns / crashes. Most (if not all) of these users use the Intent midlet manager (which, again, is also the default midlet manager on many Smartphones.)
Let me, again, emphasize that while on my brand new WM6 HTC Vox (s710), using the Esmertec Jeodek 20070115.1.1 midlet environment, I have never encountered any Opera Mini 4.0 beta crash (while having been using it at least 2-3 hours a day!), other midlet environments may behave differently. For example, the Intent midlet manager common on most WM5 Smartphones AND Pocket PC's is known to frequently crash on OpMini4 users - it did once on me too when I (quickly) tested OpMini 4 on my HTC Universal (the latter running the 10/1/7/554 / 20060502 version of the Intent manager.) Should you encounter crashes like this, consider switching to either the IBM J9 midlet manager (according to holg HERE, it works just great with Opera Mini 4) or look around in the XDA-Developers forums for help in getting the, again, stable and reliable Esmertec Midlet manager. (I don't know whether it's separately sold; I seriously doubt it.)
- The full page layout takes a LOT of memory. If you stay with the one-column mode, unless you load HUGE pages (say, hundreds of kilobytes originally), you, in general, will be able to make use of all the 30 page slots without having to reload any of these pages. If you, on the other hand, switch to the original page (as opposed to the one-column one) layout view, this will be reduced to two or three concurrent pages at most, regardless of the size of the original pages. If you often switch back to already loaded, just-browsed pages and don’t want to reload them because of the time / bandwidth requirements, you will want to stick to the traditional, one-column mode.
1.3.4 Other (non-4.x-specific) problems
There’re still some problems with Opera Mini that may be a showstopper for you.
- It’s still unable to render ANY kind of italic text (see for example THIS for a more thorough elaboration and my demos showing displaying italic text is indeed possible on Smartphones, regardless of the midlet manager in use). This is a MAJOR pain the back. I’ve already contacted the Opera folks on this matter; hope they fix this problem.
- Binary download support-wise (as it’s using the IEM engine to do the “dirty” stuff; that is, to download files off the Web), it’s suffering from exactly the same problems as IEM:
- CAB files with text MIME type are just rendered as text (like THIS); bigger ones (like THIS 1.5M CAB file) result in an out of memory error
- non-CAB files with (correct) binary MIME type (like THIS PDF file) are correctly passed to IEM. Unfortunately, as the execution is fully supervised by IEM, you won’t be able to download any of these files because of the well-known problem already outlined in the IEM section.
- Finally, CAB files with the binary MIME type (like THIS) are both correctly recognized by OpMini and, then, correctly downloaded by IEM.
Currently, while Opera Mini 4 is at beta stage (as is also emphasized in the documents), it’s already highly recommended if you have a SP model.
1.3.6 More information
Opera Mini 4.0 wishlist thread
Opera Mini forum
(another screenshot, now with an image)
Now, this is a really promising browser! While decidedly slower than even IEM and lacks highly useful features like FastBack (upon pressing Back, rendering the page from the local memory cache and NOT downloading it again, unlike both jB5 and NetFront) and does NOT offer multiple document capabilities (unlike the two Operas), it’s (as of the current, tested version, 5.0.56) already pretty powerful (for example, it's the only Smartphone Web browser to offer page saving (which is, incidentally, implicitly possible with Opera Mobile if you're ready to find the given file in the cache) and in-page text search: see it in action: 1 2 3) - much more usable than, say, the next-to-useless Minimo. What is more, it's free.
As it's in beta stage and will surely receive an ever better version, I do not thoroughly review and compare its features / standards compliance to the alternatives because the info would be outdated VERY soon. I will, however, definitely review it as soon as it gets into final (or Release Candidate). Make sure you check it out and get your free copy - if you can put up with the somewhat slower page loading / scrolling speed and the lack of multi-tabs / FastBack, you may like it very much.
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Edited by Menneisyys, 02 August 2007 - 10:37 AM.