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5 Windows Mobile freeware programs I'm thankful for

Dell Axim x50vI've been using Pocket PCs for about six years. I've owned more PDAs than I can keep count of. And on each one, the first thing I do when I open the box is install a couple of free programs that Microsoft should be including standard (or integrating into the operating system).

1. Pelmar Wisbar Microsoft developers, in their infinite wisdom, have decided that users can't be trusted to close programs when they're short on RAM. So rather than put a close button on Windows Mobile software, Microsft puts an X button that means "minimize." Only when you've got way too many programs open will your device automatically close some. Either that, or you have to click over to settings/system/memory/running programs to close programs individually.

There are a number of third party programs that let you configure the X button to actually close programs. Most also include a handy task switcher for flipping back and forth between running programs. Some, such as Wisbar Advance offer advanced screening to completely change the look and feel of your PDA. I'm partial to the free Pelmar Wisbar v 1.4.2 which has been around for years. It takes up almost no memory and does exactly what I need it to do. It's not compatible with Windows Mobile 5.0 though, so if you're running a newer Windows Mobile device, you might want to check out Magic Button, which performs a similar function.

Total Commander2. Total Commander For most users, the file explorer that comes with Windows Mobile devices is probably sufficient. It lets you locate, copy, paste, and delete files. But that's really about it. Even creating shortcuts is something of a hassle. Enter Total Commander. This free program lets you choose between single window or 2-window modes. It is an excellent file browser, with a ton of extra features, including an FTP client, registry editor, and the ability to save and view .zip files.

3. TCPMP The mobile version of Windows Media Player does a pretty lousy job of supporting multiple file formats. If you're looking for an audio/video player that will be able to play pretty much any file you can throw at it, The Core Pocket Media Player is king. TCPMP has recently been updates to CorePlayer, which is available for $20. But users have reported a number of problems with CorePlayer, and TCPMP is still available for free. You can always update later.

4. MortPlayer While you can use TCPMP as an mp3 player, MortPlayer provides a much more robust set of features intended specifically for audio. While MortPlayer can't handle WMA files, it will play MP3 and OGG files. It supports playlists, and has a variety of options for playing favorites, folders, and streaming audio files. And there's a bookmarking function which comes in handy when listening to podcasts or audio books.

TenGo Free5. TenGo Free Windows Mobile devices are great for entering a quick note here and there. But if you want to do some serious text entry, you're probably going to want an external keyboard. The built in letter recognizer and on-screen keyboard functions are just not that useful for entering large amounts of text. Short of an external keyboard, TenGo is probably the best solution I've seen for speeding up text entry. TenGo uses predictive text much the same way a cell phone might. So instead of having to click on 26 separate letter keys plus number and symbol keys, you only have to tap on the general area of the screen where your letter lies. TenGo does a pretty good job of guessing what word you were going for, and the more you use it, the better its predictions get. TenGo Free offers most of the functionality of the pay version, but with a smaller dictionary.

Tags: coreplayer, freeware, mortplayer, tcpm, tengo, total commander, TotalCommander, wisbar