Gadgets

Palm Treo 700W Tips & Tricks – Volume I

I’ve had this phone for a few months now and overall, I like it a lot.  As with any small gadget, though, it has its quirks, limitations and hidden “features.”  Once you know how to work around or exploit these, the already cool device can become “way” or “wicked” cool. 

The big positives of the 700W are:

  • Form factor: it’s virtually identical to the Treo 650 which means it’s a fairly optimized design and there are loads of accessories for it.
  • EVDO (high-speed data connection): once you use it, you’ll be like a junkie on a crack fix – you’ll never go back to anything slower.
  • Windows Mobile 5 (WM5): loads of built-in functionality that’s easily extended.  If you’re an Outlook user, the integration is very tight (including Note and Tasks).  Word, Excel and Powerpoint implementations are pretty good considering the screen limitations.
  • Pretty fast with reasonable battery life.
  • Great and easy support for MultiMediaCard, SD, SDIO cards. 

On the downside:

  • Only 60MB of program memory: really, it’s only 24MB when all is said and done.  If you’re not careful with how many apps you have running, things get very slow until they just stop.
  • 240X240 display resolution: the Treo 650 uses 320X320 and other WM5 devices often use 320X240 (QVGA) resolution.  I saw a post from Microsoft about why they did this, but I can’t find it any more.  Practically, it doesn’t really hurt – small fonts are totally readable.
  • ActiveSync: yup, Microsoft’s syncing application that runs on both the desktop and the phone.  When it works, it works great, when it doesn’t, it takes forever to debug.  Start searching for solutions now. 

Things you need to know before you fool around with your 700W:

  • There are still very few WM5 programs and utilities.  Make sure that the program you’re installing has been written for WM5 – that it’s not just a Pocket PC or Smartphone 2003 app that is “supposed” to run under WM5.  Results vary, but it’s not worth the trouble.
  • Even some WM5 applications don’t conform to the Treo 700W’s 240X240 screen resolution.  It’s pretty frustrating when you can’t even see the scroll bars let alone use them.  Make sure the app you’re installing supports the lower resolution.
  • The Treo 700W is a NOT a Windows Smartphone.  This is really confusing since that’s what Palm calls it.  Technically, a Smartphone running WM5 assumes that there is no keyboard or touchscreen.  Although the guts of the OS are the same, Smartphone apps assume that they are missing some UI components.  The Treo 700W runs WM5 Pocket PC Edition which, of course, assumes the existence of a keyboard and touchscreen.  Most Smartphone apps won’t even install on the 700W, but some will.  Save yourself some trouble and don’t bother installing them – they won’t work. 

Now that you know the ground rules, you’re ready to start making changes.  Here is some stuff that you can do that’ll make your phone even cooler and are not all that difficult.  You’ll need a registry editor.  I’d suggest Resco Explorer and its associated add-ins.  There are others out there too, so pick your favorite.  Just make sure they run under WM5.

  1. Keep your EVDO connection live: by default, WM5 closes the EVDO connection after some fixed time of non use.  This wouldn’t be bad, but when you need the connection again, the device takes some time to reconnect (actually, the phone dials out to establish a connection).  You can keep this connection live by using your registry editor to change the value of the “AlwaysOn” key in the registry to “1.”  You’ll find it under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE -> Comm -> ConnMgr -> Providers.  Then look for the Provider ID that has a subfolder named “Connections.”  Once you find that, continue on to Broadband Access -> AlwaysOn.  Once you change the value from 0 to 1, save it.  The next time you connect to the internet, the phone will dial.  It will be the last time it does it until you reset the device.  You are not charged by your provider for keeping the connection live, you are only charged for the data that goes over the connection.
  2. Manage your open programs: when you touch the OK button on the keyboard or click the “X” in the upper right hand corner of the screen, the app does not shut down, it minimizes like a minimized app on your desktop.  As mentioned above, you need to watch how much program memory you are using.  While WM5 will shut down minimized apps itself as it needs memory, it doesn’t do it very well.  There are several program managers out there, my favorite is SmallMenu by Tillanosoft.  SmallMenu is a very lightweight app that gives you a new Start menu.  The menu is completely configurable and adds the very important options of letting you see everything that’s running, switch to those programs and shut them down with one touch.  Just make sure you assign the keyboard “Start” button to activate SmallMenu so that it’s easy to get at quickly and with one-handed operation.
  3. ActiveSync runs constantly on the 700W.  This not only takes up program memory, but I believe that this leads to some instability in the device.  I searched for a while to find a solution for this problem, which I finally did here.  It’s not as difficult as it sounds to implement.  If you’re having to soft-reset your device more often than you’d expect, I’d give it a try.

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