10 December 2008

Fennec browser and Origami Experience running on Windows Mobile!

I apologise for the somewhat misleading title of this post, because, sadly, it is not true in the strictest sense of the word. However, at the same time it is not entirely false either. I get bored very easily by my devices, and rather than buy a whole new one every time I want a bit of eye candy, I try to explore different ways of trying out another user interface. UIs involving touch are the subject du jour, but neither are particularly new.

For instance, in Microsoft's initial, but now sadly dead, vision of the UMPC there was a UI designed to be finger friendly on relatively small screens. It was called Origami Experience. Sadly, Microsoft in their infinite wisdom decided that it could not be downloaded as a separate overlay of Windows XP. No, they wanted it to be exclusive to the new generation of UMPCs. Thankfully, an enterprising young woman called Neotechni decided to take matters into her own hands and came up with a clone called Mobile Home. She details it in the Origami Project forum.

I downloaded it, and it is indeed feature complete and runs beautifully, but having installed it, I can't make full use of the functionality as I do not have a touch screen desktop. That is where the magic of remote desktop on my HTC Universal comes in. By firing up a remote session, I can use the touch screen on my PDA to really try out the UI. So far I love it! It sure beats the traditional start button-cascading menu-task bar paradigm on such a small device.

Using the same technique I can actually get Fennec, Mozilla's new mobile browser, to run on my HTC Universal too. Fennec builds run on XP but not Windows Mobile at the moment, but by "putting it onto" my phone via RDP I can try it out is it is meant to be. I have to say that being an alpha build most of the functionality is sadly limited, but I do like the screen sliding paradigm of browing and tabs.

I have also used my old tablet Windows 98 Fujitsu LT in this way to try out both Mobile Home and Fennec, and have to say that there is a great novelty value in seeing an entirely different user interface on this prehistoric device.

One more top tip, if you are using Firefox, even remotely, on a touch screen device, then I strongly recommend the Grab and Drag add-on. It makes surfing the web that much easier.

Edit: I added a video of RDP in action on the HTC Universal showing Mobile Home, Firefox and Fennec.

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