Wednesday, September 01, 2004

QLaunch Review

I have been putting off writing a review of QLaunch for over a week now, so here are some quick notes.

Part of the reason for the delay is that this is excellent software which quickly integrates itself into your Palm life. It is perhaps a bit pricey ($14.95 for a hard button launcher) but it is very very good. The idea is simple: QLaunch does nothing and affects the system in no way unless you hold down one of the hard buttons for a (customizable) minimum time, then it launches something or performs an action. You can have up to three launches/actions specified per hard button, each activated depending upon how long you hold for. To make it a little easier to determine whether you have held down the button for 400ms or 800ms or whatever, it is possible to have visual, audible or tactual confirmation.

My only slight qualms about it were all to do with this confirmation system.

1. Visual confirmation is either a flash of the LED (no good for T|E users) or a 'screen flash', which consists in the whole screen inverting very briefly. I asked the author why he did not use a more discreet symbol in the menu bar (a bit like the attention manager) and he gave the following very cogent reply:
You can't miss the whole screen flashing, meaning you don't have to stare in the corner and look for something small that is going to flash for a split second. With the whole screen, you can be talking to someone, and your peripheral vision can pick up the full screen flash. And last it is efficient to do the screen flash as it is an API, and not some obscure drawing by my app itself.

2. The audible confirmation is not a standard system sound (seems a bit at odds with the above?) but a rather lower pitched beep. I find this difficult to hear out of doors or when there is background noise.

3. It is not possible to set two sorts of confirmation. When I am out walking, I often use my Palm to listen to things (music, audiobooks etc.). So I have headphones on and the Palm in my pocket, where I can easily control it by the hardbuttons. Since I cannot see the Palm in my pocket I need audible (or tactual for Palms with a vibrating alarm) confirmation of what I am doing. But when I am sitting in an armchair with the TV or some music on, I need visual confirmation.

These are very personal reactions which others may not share and even if they do, the app is still very usable. Is it $15 better than something like 5 Nav Launch? Not if you only want to launch applications, but probably if you also want to trigger all the other system functions which QLaunch can control. Anyway, here are some screenshots.



Two things need explaining here: an ignored app is one in which QLaunch does not work. E.g. if you play games which use the hardbuttons, you won't want QLaunch jumping in every time you hold a button down for 500ms. And the 'Stay Off Functionality' allows you to prevent certain buttons switching on your Palm - useful if you are having problems with a case pressing down on a button. [Update: 'Ignore VR' and 'VR=PageDown' allow one to control the behaviour of the Voice Record button (on the T|T series) whenthe Palm is switched on. This avoids embarrassing accidental presses caused by that being the most comfortable place to put your thumb.]