SKTools 4 released – Review time!

SK MainVery 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).

SK AllItems SK CabMan1 

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 Help SK Settings

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.

SK CabMan1New: 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.

 SK CabMan2 SK CabMan3 SK CabMan4

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!

SK CabManSetIf 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.

New: CABInstl
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.

SK ReplacedROMNew: 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.

SK MoveDateNew: Move Data
Move application, folders, files to any location with automatic registry and shortcut modification (and other data about files and their paths).

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.

 SK MoveData2 SK MoveData3

SK Storage2New: Storage Analyzer
Shows what files and folders (by types, attributes, …) are stored on the device.
Shows storage usage for bases, registry, PIM, messaging, fonts.

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.

SK Storage1  SK Storage3 SK Storage4

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.
 

Interface:
– 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).
SK Categories SK CategoriesSmall
– Chinese language (Simplified Chinese) support

Conclusion

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.

Name: SKTools
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.
Download page

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10 thoughts on “SKTools 4 released – Review time!

  1. The so called “Move Data” feature trashed my device completely when I attempted to move IE cache to my storage card. Had to do a hard reset :( Very unstable, crashes 3 out of 10 times. Tried to contact support without any response. Complete waste of my money.

  2. I’m really sorry to hear that! I do know that there is a specific option to move the PIE cache to the Storage Card by going to TuneUp!, but this is also where Move Data redirects you to so I think this is what you tried already.

    Very weird that you haven’t gotten a reply, my messages have been answered within 24 hours, and sometimes a lot faster. I can only hope that they’re being read and that all comments are used to improve future updates.

  3. I can not confirm. My Pocket Internet Explorer Cache was also moved to my Memory Card.
    No any problems on my HTC Touch and XDA Orbit with Windows Mobile 6.
    With the support, I have good experiences only.

  4. decided to run scan disk…wiped ALL files including priceless photos without a warning – stay away from that. many functions but just a few of them are really useful…ugliest user interface ever… no, thanks!

  5. I can’t agree at all. For me, SKTools is the most reliable and powerful maintenance app ever. It saved my …emm… data a hundred times. No kidding, I mean it. Never had any serious issues with this app, works like a Swiss clock (I only wish that every piece of soft on my device would be like this!).
    As for the UI: yes, it doesn’t amuse you with all that animated icons and all, but frankly speaking, I’d rather trust powerful system tools with simple interface than the dumb wizards that don’t tell me what they’re going to do, but treat me like an asshole. Anyway, that’s a matter of taste.

  6. Im excited about the new release and am going to download it as soon as I type this. Ive always found SKTools to be the most reliable system tool available. I did buy System Mechanic by Wizcode, but find SKTools superior on every area except cleaning the registry. If I clean with SKTools with all the registry items selected, System Mechanic will always find a few more.

    Where SKTools really shines is in its backup. As we WM5 users know, there is no backup inbuilt into our system. I backup my whole system with SKTools weekly and on the several occasions I have had to reset the unit, SKTools was there and restored flawlessly. I like the way there is a copy of the main app saved in the folder with the backup, so I don’t have to reinstall, just reregister.

  7. Hi, guys, speaking of my own experience – I have compared several system maintenance utilities and made my final choice in favor of SKTools. It was about 1 year back and I have no regrets having installed it. My device is Qtek s200 (WM5) and I haven’t had any trouble so far using SKTools features, MoveData has always worked properly as well on my system, I can’t really complain. I also fancy BackUp option a lot – it runs automatically every night so I am no longer afraid to lose all of my data unexpectedly.
    Being an active PDA user, I always try to be in the know about maintenance utilities new releases, when something new is released I always compare new functions and still my opinion stays the same that SKTools features exceed all similar s/w by at least 40%.
    Regarding the work of the support team – I can’t really comment on this, I never had a reason to contact them.

  8. I wonder why you mention BackUp when this is one of the features in SKTools that suck most. If you have a password protected device like I do and try to run the SK backup you will see what I mean.

    PIM SMS hangs my device when I run it.

    Running “Messaging files” and deleting an item caused ActiveSync to stop synchronizing correctly.

    Optimize reclaims just a few KB of memory while competitor products do much better.

    Scan crashes my storage card each time I run it. I can reproduce this problem 10 out of 10 times.

    Slack information on my storage card reports 104% slack? WTF, did my card just get bigger? Wasted space is more than my card can hold? Come on and you call an application with such bugs “the most reliable and powerful maintenance app ever”?

  9. I’ve used Backup for quite some time before moving to Sprite Backup, but since I didn’t have my device passwordprotected, I didn’t run into any problems there. I do know what you mean though, since SKTools can’t deal with passwordprotected devices.
    I did have occasional issues with syncing my files after a backup though.

    Messaging files never gave me a problem at all, if there were empty messages I simply deleted them inside SKTools and that didn’t cause any problems.

    I never used Optimize to reclaim any space, that’s what FreeUP RAM and Auto Clean! do for me. Optimize just does some small tweaks to make the device settings fit your usage, and yes – it might give you some free space, but it might cost you some performance. Sometimes that’s the balance SKTools can help you to find.

    I haven’t been able to find Scan or Pim SMS so I can’t comment on those.

    You didn’t quote me exactly, your quote can’t be found in my review – I didn’t say it was the most RELIABLE and powerful maintenance app EVER. What I did say is that it was the most powerful, which it is for me. Perhaps I’m lucky to have a good experience, perhaps you’re unlucky to have a less good experience with SKTools.

    I do sincerely appreciate your comments since clearly the user experiences with software can vary a lot, and this proves even more that users should always try the trial and see how software behaves on their own device.

  10. I can not tell anything bad about SKTools, maybe one thing need improvement – UI. In the rest the program really is better than competitors. Some months ago has lost all data on storage card after defragmentation with PM, not know why i try defragmentation…. After that FOR ME exists only one maintenance tool – SK Tools (not have defragmentation – so it safe).

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