PhatWare have a history of finding a weak spot in Microsoft’s Pocket PC software, and developing a new application which not only fills the gap but adds new features you’ll never live without again. PhatNotes continues this fine tradition by improving Microsoft’s barely-there Notes support while also replacing Pocket Word in the process.
Notes are, to this reviewer at least, one of those functions you’d expect that your PDA could really handle: after all, how much use is a Pocket PC that can’t adequately handle note-taking tasks? However, Microsoft’s built in support for Notes is so prohibitively designed that many users find they use it once then forget all about it.
PhatNotes brings power and multi-functionality to Notes. PhatNotes allows you to set up multiple databases of notes, each with multiple categories, which sync automatically when you connect your Pocket PC to your main computer. This makes it easy to categorize and sort your notes in a simple and convenient manner. Or, if you choose, select and drag text from any drag’n’drop friendly application (Firefox, for example) straight into PhatNotes’ desktop application, and in seconds, it’s saved to your PDA. Similarly, PhatNotes supports Microsoft Word documents on its own. As far as we could discern, there were no key features missing from this support. Indeed, PhatNotes has arguably the better interface.
In its basic functions, PhatNotes is easy to use, quick and reliable, but in some more complex operations, we found it a little less intuitive. Synchronising attachments (image files, for example) seemed like a useful function to have. It would be nice to quickly and simply add a map or a photo to a note which you’re taking with you on the road.
While the documentation provided with PhatNotes helped us set up attachment syncing in minutes, the feature itself is somewhat lacking. Any file you wish to attach to a note must already be in the shared documents folder for your device on your desktop PC. In other words, it pretty much already needs to be on your handheld. With the leaps and bounds being made in storage these days, we think that the time has come for programs like PhatNotes to automatically handle this sort of task. A feature we’d like to see in the future is attaching any file on your desktop PC to a note, and PhatNotes automatically making a copy of that file in your sync folder. After all, surely the general idea here is automation, not making the user check whether a file is in some folder.
Another gripe, though with potentially less impact, is the process for deleting databases. It would seem obvious that if you wanted to delete a database, you could select it (either on the PDA or the desktop computer), select ‘delete’ from a context menu, confirm and that’s it. However, PhatNotes asks us to disconnect our Pocket PC, delete the database on both it and the desktop, and then reconnect. This ungainly process could easily be automated, if necessary with a special warning, or an option to leave the database on the pocket PC, desktop PC or neither.
It is what PhatNotes brings to the table though which should be remembered. Despite the trouble with attachments and databases (features which Microsoft hasn’t even tried to include), are tempered by a very simple and enjoyable user experience with the more basic of its features. This program offers lots now, and hints at more to come… just like the developer that created it.