Recap: I am trying to do almost all my work with my phone and I am slowly getting there. This is the third part with my findings and opinions about the process.
Here is where I am with my little project.
I already mentioned that my work revolves around application development. I still have not found a tool that would do everything for me in that arena but I am currently using a remote session with Remote Desktop, which ultimately would allow me to do anything I want just as if I had a full blown computer in front of me. In all fairness that would be "sort of cheating" even though I would certainly be able to complete all my tasks just as long as I have a decent web connection. I will continue my search on this particular set of features. In the mean time, I will move on to other tasks.
Reading Blog Articles
I have to admit that I do a lot of reading. In fact, I do read several thousand articles a week, I get world, regional and national news, technical, industry and mobile related, and many other feeds daily. Sometimes, keeping track of what one reads is a chore. While on my PC, I do all my blog reading on Google Reader (see [here]). It is simple, yet functional and works no matter what computer I am using. On my HTC Touch HD, I was using the RSS reader that came in bundled with the device originally, it is a custom version of an app available for purchase. I never liked Google Reader’s mobile version… it seems lacking substance and functionality when you compare it with native readers for smartphones. It offers no customization options. I also tried using Skyfire to browse into Google Reader a few times and while it worked when I was using my Celio RedFly, the behavior is so desktop-like that I cannot take advantage of reading for example while waiting for a doctor’s appointment or at lunchtime at work. Additionally; at some point, when the number of feeds started to get a bit unmanageable, I just couldn’t keep wasting my time remembering which articles I had already read on my PC and mark them read on my smartphone, and vise versa. I needed an application that would connect to the Google Reader service and just keep it in sync for me, so what I read on my smartphone, would be marked read on my PC and what I read on my PC would not show up unread on my phone.
Enter Speeed Reader (it is not a typo, it’s actually spelled with 3 e’s). I downloaded it from the Windows Mobile Marketplace as a trial and within a few hours I had already purchased and registered. I enjoy the simplicity and functionality it provides while keeping all my feeds synced with Google Reader. I am using the latest version available on the Marketplace (v1.12) although the latest version available outside of the Marketplace is v1.13 and has some minor fixes. The next major functional and UI review (v1.2) has already been announced and will be coming shortly. You can find more information [here]. A few specific features have been announced, and if they work as expected, this should be a great enhancement to an already excellent product. I highly recommend this tool if you are an avid RSS reader. The combination between Speeed Reader on my Windows Phone and Google Reader on the PC works like a charm.
Writing Blog Articles
Now, realistically speaking, not everyone writes their own blog or enjoys writing for blogs such as MobilitySite. I wouldn’t expect everyone to do so, but blogging and micro-blogging is becoming very commonplace. In my case well, you are obviously reading this article, so there is not much more to say. My intention is to help others learn about the tools and technologies I am most passionate about. In other cases, for example my wife, writes a personal blog for helping our families stay in touch since we live about 6000 miles away from most of them. She started her blog in part at some point in her first pregnancy, so our families would have some participation on all that was happening in our lives even though they were far away. After a while we also realized that it worked as a great way to keep a diary of sorts that can later on be passed on to our children.
My next task is writing articles for MobilitySite and my blog for developers (click [here]). I am surprised to say that there are very few decent blog editing tools for mobile devices (no matter what platform). On my PC I use Windows Live Writer (and I am very, very happy with it). I found Windows Writer for Windows Phones about a year ago [here] but it is in a very early beta stage and I am sad to say that there has been no visible activity since June 2009 when Beta 2 was released and Beta 3 was promised. For now I can certainly get away with writing my articles in the web editors provided by the blogging engines of each of the blogs I am listed as a contributor, but I would probably do much better if I had one tool to do all the writing with. Since I am using Skyfire, my use of these web tools is seamless, but I like the experience of WLW and unfortunately I haven’t been able to find anything I can match it on the Windows Phone side… There are a million and one tools for twittering but unfortunately, there are very few for blogging. On the other hand, microblogging (twittering) is not something that I would do as a writer, even though I am a follower of some of the feeds out there. I tend to be on the longer-article side of things and just a few characters doesn’t cut it for me.
Along with writing articles for my blogs, comes the need to capture screenshots, do some basic image editing and cropping. So my next search was an image editing application. This section, I’ll split it in two: one for capturing screenshots and another for editing images.
The tool I use the most for screen captures on my device is available for free. Oddly enough, the product is called "Screen Capture" from Ilium Software and using it is a snap (I’m sure you never heard that one). You can download this application from their website [here] select your device platform, then search under free software. I am currently using their latest version (v1.2.1018), it is a small application that doesn’t need to be running on your device’s background, so you only start it when you need it, take a snapshot and close it. You can set it to take a snapshot by pressing a particular button (you’ll hear a camera shutter when the process is done). You can choose the button to use on your first use and then it remains that way. You can also choose to use it in "timer mode", so that you set the timer and it waits a given amount of time, then it takes that snapshot by itself. In some cases, this comes handy as you may want to capture multiple forms all appearing on your screen at once (such as a message box plus whatever remains visible from the other form/s). This being a tool I use for work and writing my blog articles, I would have been glad to pay for this product, but this one does what it was intended for and happens to be free. Additional bells and whistles on this type of product don’t necessarily add much more value.
I use a simple image editor to do minor tweaks, cropping and leveling some of the pictures and screenshots I take while on the go. I do not use Adobe’s Mobile Photoshop (although I technically could). The product I use is called PocketBrush v1.3 from Gold Vision Mobile Solutions (click [here]). With this tool I can do the basic tasks I require from an image editor and then some: Brightness/contrast, hue/saturation, gamma correction, invert, convert to grayscale, rotate, change size and about 30 different image filters grouped in 7 different categories. This tool is the equivalent of Paint.Net but for the smartphone. The UI is common to almost all existing image editors and comes with no surprises. It can handle BMPs, GIFs, JPGs and PNGs… that’s all the formats I need to handle on a smartphone.