Very recently, SKKV Software released their upgrade to SKTools. SKTools is known for it’s great amount of system utilities for a very competitive price. SKTools include cleaning utilities, a backup program, a cab installer/uninstaller, a registry editor, a section to manage Today screen plugins, PIM cleaning utilities, and much more. And just before the end of the year, some new utilities have been added, along with other improvements.
This review will first discuss a longtime “complaint” that the SKTools user interface is difficult to get used to, and then we will go through the list of new things and have some comments on them.
SKTools user interface
When you first open SK Tools, you’ll be presented a list of most commonly used utilities. There are much more, which can be accessed by tapping Category. You will then get a list with the various categories of utilities, including Cleanup, Maintainance, Information, PIM, System Tweaks, Phone and Registry. Selecting one of those will give you the utilities that fit into that specific category. You can also select “All” which will give you a long list containing all that SKTools offers. You can choose to view each item with a description (first screenshot above, in the default category), or without, which will make more room to display more items (see the screenshot below to the left, in the list containing all SKTools utilities).
Tapping one of these utilities generally splits the screen in two sections (see above, to the right). In the upper part there is most often a list containing the items that are relevant for that feature. For example, when you access the Cab Manager, you see a list of all Cab files on your device. This can be seen in screenshot 3, which also shows the Trial limitation: you can only view the first 6 items in any list. This way you can try each feature, but you know that you can – for example – only clean up 6 items, when there might be much more unneeded things on your device that can be cleaned. This is a very effective way of pushing the consumer to a purchase of the full version. Back to the user interface.
If you select one of the items in the top part, the information in the bottom section will change to correspond to the selected item. Using the Action menu on the bottom left, you can access the powerful features of SKTools on the marked items (use the checkbox in front of an item for that), or on the selected item (if you simply tap on one of the lines). Actions of course vary for each utility, but for example on the “Clean!” utility you can Delete, Delete Marked, Delete All, Toggle Checkboxes, Find, and Save List. The first three are used to clean the items depending on the selection. Toggle checkboxes changes the status of all items (checked becomes unchecked, and vice versa). Find lets you easily access the item you want – for example if you have 50 cab files on your device and Find “iLau” it will quickly bring you to the iLauncher cab file. Save List saves a list of the items to a file on your PPC so you can keep this safe and review this later if needed.
So that’s really all there is to it: the top part to display the items that are important for the selected utility, the bottom part to display information about the selected item, and the Action menu to perfom actions on the items.
SK Tools comes with a REALLY great help file. Every utility has each own section, which can be accessed through the Tools softkey in the bottom right. If you don’t know what a feature does you can read about it here, or just leave it alone (which is the most safe, because doing device maintainance CAN harm your device if you make mistakes). That Tools menu which is accessible from every utility also gives you access to the settings of SK Tools, or can bring you back to the main menu.
The Settings are also devided in sections. On the bottom there is a tab for every type of settings. Selecting a tab will change the displayed settings in the center section. If you tap a setting, you can change it in the top part by selecting something from the drop down menu.
So while the SKTools structure might not be the most intuitive and certainly isn’t “finger friendly”, it certainly shouldn’t be too difficult to understand it’s user interface. And managing your device is not something you should want to do with your thumbs while on the road, it’s something that needs your attention and concentration, so it’s not bad that you can best navigate SKTools with your stylus.
Ok, now it’s time to move on to the new additions. The new things will be in bold, with a description of SKKV Software in italics. Then my comments will be in regular font. After that we will discuss the other changes and user interface improvements.
New: CABs Explorer
SKTools shows all CAB, CPF, TSK files on device, shows content (with full names, installation path, registry keys, shortcuts, _setup.xml), extracts files with full names, installs to ANY location (full installation made by SKTools) for WM5/ WM6; Export function for REG files.
The first new addition in SKTools 4 is a Cab Manager. When you install a new program to your Pocket PC, you can do this with a .exe installer which is meant to be used from the desktop, using ActiveSync. Most developers also offer .cab files for installation, which can be copied to the device or downloaded from the internet, directly to your PPC. On the device, simply open the cab file in your file explorer, and installation will begin. These cab files are not always named in an informative way, or perhaps you’re interested in the contents of Cab files for another reason. If this is the case, the Cab Manager is for you.
Opening the Action menu gives you various options. You can view the content of each cab file, unpack it (like a .zip file), install it, move it, and delete it. Again, the basic items are also present: you can quickly find one of the items in the list, or save the list of your cab files to a file on your device.
If we choose to View the Content of the cab file, we get a long list of all the files that the installer will place on the device. Scrolling to the right will show where on the device the file will be placed, how much space the file takes, and when it was last changed. Only the installation location for the file is displayed in the information window below, it would be good if also the file size etc. would be displayed, in order to avoid excessive scrolling. Pressing the Action button here reveals that we can not only see the files a .cab file places on a device: we can also see the registry keys and shortcuts that a .cab file creates!
If you would select Settings from the Tools menu, you are directly taken to the relevant tab in the Settings (in fact, only this tab is displayed. You need to select Settings from the main screen to access ALL settings). The most important settings here are Show CAB files, and Show Themes. This lets you toggle which files are displayed within the CABs manager. I really don’t need to see info for all my Today Themes, so those only clutter the list and make the loading last longer. Therefore I disable those from the settings, and then the CABs Manager only looks from actual .cab files! An alternative would be to exclude the folder that contains my Today theme database. Then only the Today themes outside that folder (for example those in the root folder of my storage card, which are the ones I actually use) are taken into account. I wish that it would be easy to enter a folder here, you have to manually type the folder structure. A dialogue to help you with this would be pretty essential for most users.
The last two options are for installation: you can toggle if .cab files should be removed after installation, or if they should be kept. You can also associate .cab files to always be opened with SK Tools. At least, you should. But we’ll get to that in the next section.
SKTools can be associated with CAB files.
Here is where I had serious problems. After associating .cab files with SKTools, opening a .cab file would open SKTools in the main screen, and do nothing after that. Obviously that was not intended behaviour, so I disabled the “Associate SKTools with CAB files” setting, hoping this would revert the behaviour back to normal – but it didn’t. Now when I opened a .cab file, it showed a dialogue asking with which program I wanted to open my .cab file. SK Tools was suggested, as was wceload, which is the program .cab files SHOULD be opened with, by default. Also, I lost the icons that .cab files and today themes normally have in Resco Explorer. It was thanks to Menneisyys who solved a similar issue here that I was able to revert my .cab file handling back to normal. I do have to say that SKKV support gave good support – I believe they’re located in Germany and therefore are in the same timezone as I am, and if that’s true then we’ve been discussing this until after 11PM when I was told that there would be further investigation the day after.
Update: After frequent testing and constructive communication between me and SKKV software, and between SKKV software and other testers, it seems that I’m the only one reporting this issue, and that it’s probably a VERY specific problem. In theory, it should not happen for you, and if it does, I think it would be good to contact SKKV software about it.
New: Replaced ROM Files
Shows which ROM files have been replaced by another version, shows version and date of these files; the user can see if the newest file (the file having the latest time stamp) is, in reality, older than others and, therefore, remove it.
The description pretty much tells what we can expect here, but I would like to explain some more what “replaced ROM files” are about. When you first start your device after a hard reset, it is reset to include only the files, programs, etc that come with the ROM on the device. This is the “factory state”, unless you’ve flashed a new ROM to your device yourself (which could be illegal). The included files are hidden with the default File Explorer, but you when you’re using Resco Explorer for example, you can make them visible. They can then also be overwritten, and while this can often be good (a more recent version of the file) it can also be bad (an older version overwriting a newer version of a file, can make the system unstabile). In these cases, it might be useful to compare the overwritten ROM files and see which one should be kept.
A very big warning should be made here: don’t mess with ROM files if you don’t know what you’re doing. For example, I don’t know what the file serial_btur_dm.dll does or when it is used. So to be safe, I look at the date, the file size, the nice colors in the information window, and then leave the Replaced ROM files utility. I don’t want to have the risk that I harmed my device by doing something of which I didn’t know the consequences.
Here we find a great tool for easily relocating a program from the Storage Card to the Main Memory or vice versa, or moving various other items on the device. Most options here will redirect you to another screen, but it’s nice to have them grouped here. Every option has it’s little description so most of them will be self-explanatory, but I’d like to show you the Move Application option.
After selecting Move Application, we get to see a list of installed programs, which is in fact another SKTools utility (which already excisted in version 3, so it isn’t discussed here). If I look up a game, for example Motogear from Mobirate, and want to move that from the Storage Card to my Main Storage, that would normally require an uninstallation and reinstallation. Moving the files in the Program Files folder alone doesn’t do the trick, because there are also registry keys and shortcuts to take into account. This is where SKTools comes in. If you just select an application and pick Move Application from the Action menu, you only have to select the target folder and choose Action – Ok. You are then asked for confirmation, after which SKTools starts scanning and moving your application. You then get a status report which shows you if there were any problems, after which you have to give your confimation again. This is very good, because at any moment you can stop the move from being done. If you finally decide to continue the operation, tap OK to finish it and see a final report.
Here we have a little gem. Ever wanted to know which folder on your device or storage card uses the most space? Or if your .mp3 collection is larger than your .wma collection? Here you can find that out!
By default, the Storage Analyzer shows you all the folders and subfolders, the percentage of the storage space they use, the actual amount of storage space the entire folder + content uses, and the amount of space that the files (not including subfolders) in the folder uses. You can of course sort the list alphabetically or by size, and again this might be a nice list you’d want to save in the Action menu.
Opening that Action menu, we find that there are several other views in the Storage Analyzer! We can not only sort by Storage Usage (see screenshot below, to the left), but also by File Types (see large screenshot), File attributes (read only, hidden, archive, etc), or Special (see screenshot below, on the right). The File Types view is pretty interesting. Because when you select one of the items in the list (such as bmp) and then pick File explorer from the Action menu, SKTools will list all those files and their location (third screenshot)! This also work on other views but I found it to be especially useful for file types.
And nice to know: in the settings you can pick which view should be the default view when Storage Analyzer is opened, if Storage Cards should be used in the analysis, and more.
Added to existing options/User interface improved:
Ok we’ve had all the large new additions, but there are also smaller improvements. I will list those in italics but only comment on the ones I actually have a comment on (which are very few). It’s good to read through them if you were a user of SKTools 3 though, especially the Tune UP! changes.
– “Delete PIM Information”: now it is possible not only to delete messages, but also mail accounts (wm5/wm6).
I was not prepared to test this option since regular mail accounts can normally be deleted by the Messages application itself, and I am not planning to mess with my device by removing my SMS account. Some people appear to have “ghost accounts” which are not displayed inside the Messaging application but do appear inside, for example, the Message tab of SBSH PocketBreeze – I don’t know how SK Tools deals with these accounts.
– Files: set/clear attributes for selected file(s).
– Empty Program History without softreset.
– Added setting for “Past appointments” for users who want to save some old appointments.
– Added “Search” in Databases viewer.
– Reboot after scheduled auto cleanup (optional).
– Added #XML parameter for SKTools commandline, also added to “Shortcut Wizard”. This allows user to execute provisioning XML files and to view/save the result.
– Optimize!: simlified menu, removed settings page, backup for the original settings.
– Added “Replace” command in “SIM Contacts” option.
– “Tune UP!”: added system and menus font name tweaks.
– “Tune UP!”: “Show debug information in Windows Media Player” tweak.
– “Tune UP!”: lock device with a long press of the “end” button (for HTC Touch).
– “Tune UP!”: Offline Mode for PIE.
– “Tune UP!”: Tweak for the wait cursor speed.
– “Tune UP!”: Messaging “autosave” tweak, this determines the time after which a created but not saved message will be autosaved to the “draft folder”.
– “Tune UP!”: different values for PIE User Agent for different AKU.
– “Tune UP!”: single line date plugin tweak (WM6).
– “Tune UP!”: “ClearType level” tweak.
– New information window, with colorized text support.
This is nice. In some screenshots above we’ve seen that some text is colored. It used to be all black, to having the important things in a certain color makes it easy to spot the important information.
– Hardware button to switch between the fav. category and the current category.
– Shows the number of items in the first column header
– Shortcut Wizard – shortcut to Empty Program History
– New main menu categories view style (optional)
For this one I want to show two more screenshots. In the beginning I’ve said that from the main menu, you can select the Category button and then have quick access to specially grouped utilities. These categories can either be displayed in a list with an icon and a description (which might require scrolling) or as a popup list with just the names (for quicker access).
– Chinese language (Simplified Chinese) support
The user interface has, apart from the new categories and colored information windows, not changed drastically. Therefore the people who chose not to use SK Tools because of this will probably not reconsider their decision. However, the user interface really isn’t very difficult, as long as you keep yourself to the rule that you shouldn’t tweak anything you don’t understand.
Some further improvements could be made, though. For example, when entering a “ignore folder” for the CABs manager, there is no dialogue to help with this, you need to manually type the folder structure.
Another issue is the fact that associating SKTools with .cab files did me more wrong than it brought me good. Luckily I was able to fix that. However, these things don’t have any major impact on my opinion about SKTools, which is extremely positive.
SKTools is like the toolkit with several layers, where you use the tools on the top layer most frequently. Just these tools would have already justified the purchase price. But every time you open the toolbox to reach one of the utilities, you are reminded about the fact that beyond that top layer there are many other layers with tools for almost every occasion, so that IF you run into the situation that you might need something you can ordinarily do without, there is a very big chance that one of the less used parts of the toolbox prove their value. And for well under $ 15, this is one of my most essential applications that I install within minutes after a hard reset, to make sure I have optimal control over my system.
The new upgrade brings several new items. They might not have the value of the Cleaning tools, but they include features that could be really useful for people who want to carefully examine their system. For people who don’t own SKTools yet it is very much recommended to download a trial – in my opinion it is certainly worth a purchase. For current owners of SKTools, you need to ask yourself how often you’ve updated SKTools in the past, and if these new features appeal to you. If you’ve purchased SKTools and never checked for updates since, you might not need this update, but you certainly should check out all the changes that are made since your initial download. But if you, like me, regularly checked the SKKV website to download the latest update, or want to make sure you continue to have the most powerful system maintainance application, or just want to make sure that you’ll be entitled to all the coming minor updates to SKTools, the question if you should pay the upgrade fee is not a difficult one.
By: SKKV Software
Version: 4.1.21 (first public release of version 4)
Compatibility: Pocket PC WM2003SE/WM5/WM6
Price: $12.99 on PocketGear, EUR 13,95 on Pocketland or check this page to find your favourite store.
Customers who purchased SKTools after September 01, 2007 can use their keys
with Version 4 as well. Handango customers can use the Upgrade button.
Pocketland customers will be informed by mail from webshop.
Other SKTools 2.x/3.x customers have to contact the support by e-mail to
receive the information on purchasing the new version with discount.
Upgrade cost (discount): 6.95 Euro instead of 13.95 Euro, so that’s pretty much a 50% upgrade fee.