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The Basics of Windows Mobile Personalization

May 17th, 2007 Jason Dunn

This article is aimed at people who are new to the Windows Mobile world - and if you’re reading this site, odds are, that’s not you (this article will eventually be published on But you may know someone who just got their first Windows Mobile smartphone or PDA, so feel free to share this article with them.

One of the greatest things about using a Windows Mobile smartphone or PDA is that the operating system running on the device is more powerful and flexible than anything else out there today – and that means a lot of benefit to you as the owner. Personalization is one benefit of having a flexible operating system – in the same way that people using Windows on a desktop or laptop computer change their desktop background, system sounds, cursors, themes, and even the colour of application windows to make it more personal, Windows Mobile can deliver many of the same benefits. This article is going to cover some of the ways in which you can personalize your Windows Mobile smartphone or PDA. I won’t go into great detail about each method – think of this as a 50,000 foot view of what’s possible. In future articles I’ll explore the exact steps required to do these things.

At the most basic level, nothing is more personal to you than the information about your life, and the built-in applications allow you to do bubble that information up in various ways. On Windows Mobile Professional smartphones (devices with touch-screens, commonly called Pocket PCs), you can configure a variety of today screen plug-ins. On my Palm Treo 750 for instance, there are plug-ins that allow you show not only your next appointment, but also upcoming appointments as well – meaning you can see much of your day at a glance. The Tasks plug-in allows you to keep track of your to-do list, and you can specify whether you want to see only high-priority tasks, only tasks due today, only tasks that are overdue – or any combination of those. Your owner information can also be displayed, so if you happen to misplace the device you’ll have a better chance of getting it back. The Treo 750 in particular has some unique plug-ins that make the Today screen extremely useful. They include a single-line contact lookup plug-in, a speed-dial plug-in that can be configured with either photos or text (meaning you just tap on the picture of someone to call them), an SMS (text message) plug-in that allows for one-click access to your text messages, and even an online search plug-in that loads up Google’s mobile site and delivers you search results. Palm did a superb job in adding their brand of personalization to the Today screen.

If you’re looking for things more advanced than the default plug-ins, Today-screen plug-ins designed by software developers take things to the next level: there are plug-ins that show you the current weather, plug-ins that keep track of your stock prices, plug-ins that you can use to launch your favorite applications, plug-ins that display recent news feed (RSS) items, and plug-ins that allow you to see your entire daily schedule in a visual way. There are also plug-ins that will display a Google calendar, show the device battery life and available storage memory, and even plug-ins that do nothing but display pictures. Windows Mobile has a large number of developers creating software for the platform, so there are a lot of options out there for selecting the best combination of plug-ins to suit your personalization needs. A great place to start looking for plug-ins is the Windows Mobile Certified Software Catalog.

The Today screen story is a bit more complicated when talking about Windows Mobile Standard smartphones (the kind without touchscreens). They don’t have plug-ins that you can easily turn off and on like you can with Windows Mobile Professional devices, and customizing the Today screen requires editing an XML file – though I should note that there are an increasing number of tools to help make this process easier than before. Hopefully a Windows Mobile Standard evolves further it will eventually be as easy to use as Windows Mobile Professional in this regard.

Last, but certainly not least, personalization can be achieved through what I call the “sights and sounds” of Windows Mobile. Like most mobile phones, Windows Mobile smartphones can have custom ring-tones: they can be downloaded from your mobile phone network (T-Mobile, Cingular, etc.), but they can also be loaded directly off your computer. This is a great option that means you can take any song you own, trim the part you want to make your ring tone, and you instantly have the exact ring tone you want. Or why not make your own ringtone from scratch? With inexpensive music looping and sampling programs such as Sony’s Acid Music Studio ($69.95 USD MSRSP) you can create short songs from included libraries of hundreds of sound effects (called “loops”). That’s what I did when I created over 30 different ringtones available for download from Smartphone Thoughts. So that’s the sounds, what about the sights?

Themes are a way in which you can customize the look of your smartphone or PDA. Themes not only change the Today screen background, they also change the color of the top and bottom navigation bars on your device. There are countless themes available for Windows Mobile Professional smartphones and PDAs free online: Pocket PC is one of my favorite resources, but there’s also, LittleThemes, and many others that can be found with a Live Search. Themes for Windows Mobile Standard smartphones are a bit less in number, because the tools for creating them haven’t been out as long, but a good place to start is at sites such as Mobile 9 , Kleinweder’s Skins, EkoPapers, and Juni’s Skins.

Those are a few of the ways to personalize your Windows Mobile smartphone and PDAs – go on, make that device uniquely yours!

Entry Filed under: Opinions


  • 1. The Mobile Lifestyle &raq&hellip  |  May 18th, 2007 at 9:13 pm

    [...] If you are new to the world of Windows Mobile and want to start learning how to personalize your device, we have a link for you.  Look no further than Jason Dunn’s The Basics of Windows Mobile Personalization over at The Two Inch View. [...]

  • 2. clintonfitchdotcom  |  May 21st, 2007 at 6:15 am

    Great article Jason!

  • 3. MSDN Blog Postings &middo&hellip  |  May 31st, 2007 at 8:58 am

    [...] You can read the article HERE No comments Comments feed for this article Trackback link Name Email Website Yourcomment [...]

  • 4. TextGuru’s Phone Ne&hellip  |  June 1st, 2007 at 10:12 am

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  • 5. The Basics of Windows Mob&hellip  |  June 1st, 2007 at 11:39 am

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    [...] You can read this article here at The Two Inch View [...]

  • 7. karatedog  |  November 21st, 2007 at 2:29 pm

    I have two Windows Mobile based devices (ASUS P535 & Samsung SGH-I600) and I can tell you they both suck, here is why.
    It doesn’t matter if it is WM5 or WM6, both devices should know some “basic” functionality, which they don’t. Under “functionality” I mean whoever developed the phone functions for these devices, he/she should have bought a 1. Nokia, 2. SonyEriccson, and 3. Samsung mobile phone, list up all the features that are useful, list up all the features that don’t properly do what they were intended for, and THEN begin to develop phone functions.
    The ASUS cannot handle Bluetooth, audio is diverted randomly to headset or the device (forget Handsfree operation). It has a lot of buttons, but only 4 can be configured for my taste (or, yes I could buy a 3rd party software)
    The SGH-I600 has a built-in voice dialer, but that only understands English (good bye foreign users), but you should not spend on 3rd party application, because it cannot be hooked up to the Bluetooth.
    Keyboard handling works in strange ways. If I press the Start softkey, then rapidly the “4″ button, what happens? You might think that I will enter into Start menu, then select 4th menu. WRONG. You will enter “4″ as if you would dial it, the the whole dial interface disappears, and you find yourself in the Start menu. Cool.
    If I’m talking to someone, he/she reads me a phone number that I type into the screen, the I have to ask him to not hang the phone because everything will disappear.
    If I’m talking trough BT headset (this works better in SGH-i600) and in the meantime have another incoming call, answering this call will divert the audio back to the device, and in no way can you divert it back.
    The list is long, just check the forums, they are full of people that are describing various Windows Mobile operating system bugs, errors, or to say it nicely, issues.
    I can buy 3rd party software for fancy Today screen, but I can’t buy 3rd party stuff to correct all the bugs in the Windows Mobile.

    I have seen an iPhone, and here is what I thought: the iPhone
    have fewer function than a Windows Mobile (with 3rd party software), but they work, they work fine. Maybe they work because if they won’t, somebody would get fired by the master tester, Steve Jobs.
    These features I’m talking about, they are all here for 4-5-6 years in the plain old simple “dumbphones”. Why on earth do they suck hard in those superb “smartphones”?
    I would really like to have a Windows Mobile 6.1, or 6.2 or SP1 or something else, but not a still-buggy 7.0