Get in Sync: Windows Mobile

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If you use a Windows PC all day, a smart phone running Windows Mobile is instantly familiar. But that’s not a whole lot of help to most Mac users—who have their reasons for avoiding Windows. Still, some people prefer Microsoft’s smart phone approach, and some were handed a Windows Mobile device when they joined a company—so here’s how to work with one.

The Windows Mobile Approach Like Windows, Windows Mobile uses a Start menu. Windows Mobile’s Start menu contains applications such as Calendar, Contacts, and Internet Explorer. Folders called Programs and Settings reinforce the desktop file-and-folder approach. Windows Mobile includes versions of Word and Excel, which you can use to open, edit, and save documents that their desktop counterparts created. A mobile version of PowerPoint can run (but not edit) slide shows. And perhaps the biggest draw for many people, especially if the phone is provided by an employer, is the ability to easily interact with a Microsoft Exchange server for e-mail.

However, Mac users might feel a bit disoriented. Nothing exemplifies this more than the catchall OK button, which performs dismissive actions such as moving backward in a hierarchy or closing windows. But as with many aspects of using Windows XP, pressing the OK button over and over may become habitual over time—and not seem quite so bizarre.

Mac Synchronization Out of the box, Windows Mobile smart phones, such as the new Motorola Moto Q, offer zero Mac support. So while you’ll be able to place calls and access online content, you’re stuck using the keypad to enter names and phone numbers unless you buy some additional software.

Two developers have stepped in with products that let you sync a Windows Mobile device with your Mac: Mark/Space’s $40 The Missing Sync for Windows Mobile 3.0 (   ) and Information Appliance Associates’ PocketMac Pro ($42)—at press time, PocketMac Pro didn’t support Windows Mobile 5.0, though the company promises to add support in a future release.

Motorola Moto Q

Windows Mobile uses a technology called ActiveSync to facilitate communication between a smart phone and a computer; both Mark/Space and Information Appliance Associates have adapted ActiveSync to work with the Mac. Attaching your smart phone to your Mac with a USB cable initiates an open connection to the computer; Bluetooth connections are also possible. In The Missing Sync, you can set preferences to automatically synchronize the phone when it’s connected.

In terms of synchronizing your contacts, calendars, and notes, both applications have you covered. The Missing Sync works with Tiger’s Sync Services, so any organizer software that takes advantage of Sync Services can tie into The Missing Sync. PocketMac Pro (we tested a Windows Mobile 5.0-compatible beta) includes profiles for Marketcircle’s Daylite and Now Up-to-Date and Contact, as well as Apple’s built-in applications and Microsoft Entourage.

You can also browse the device directly, which is handy for manually copying files; The Missing Sync mounts the smart phone on your desktop as if it were a network volume, while PocketMac Pro displays the files in a window. Both programs also include an option that automatically synchronizes the contents of a given folder, making it easy to take your active project files with you on your smart phone.

E-mail Windows Mobile 5.0’s Messaging application supports POP, IMAP, Outlook, and Hotmail accounts for direct e-mail connections through the phone’s Internet access.

If you want to synchronize e-mail between the smart phone and the Mac, however, you’re limited to PocketMac Pro, which talks to Entourage and Apple’s Mail programs; The Missing Sync doesn’t include e-mail synchronization at all.

Microsoft updated Exchange Server 2003 last year to offer BlackBerry-style push e-mail, along with synchronization of appointments, contacts, notes, and tasks. Third parties sell push e-mail services and corporate mail-server plug-ins, too.

Other Media Obviously, you want to synchronize your contact and calendar information easily, but what about the other data you always need to keep at hand? PocketMac Pro and The Missing Sync for Windows Mobile also handle those.

Since every smart phone now competes on some level with the iPod, it’s no surprise that Windows Mobile 5.0 includes Windows Media Player 10 for playing audio and video files. Unfortunately, the only format familiar to Mac users is MP3; the player also handles WMA, WMV, and ASF, which are not ideal for Mac users. You can copy compatible files directly to the device’s My Documents folder, but both sync programs also offer plug-ins that can synchronize music with iTunes. The device can play back your tunes through Windows Media Player. The same approach applies to photos, too, with iPhoto plug-ins or direct copying.

The Bottom Line Windows Mobile 5.0 is certainly a far cry from the Mac experience, and by itself a Windows Mobile smart phone isn’t a good choice for Mac users. But with the addition of The Missing Sync for Windows Mobile or PocketMac Pro, it can be a welcome accessory.

[ Jeff Carlson is the managing editor of TidBits and the author of iMovie HD 6 and iDVD 6 for Mac OS X: Visual QuickStart Guide (Peachpit Press, 2006). Glenn Fleishman writes for the Economist, the New York Times, and Popular Science . Photography by Peter Belanger. ]

Going Mobile: With The Missing Sync for Windows Mobile, you can establish an active connection to your Windows Mobile smart phone, and then synchronize your data or mount the device on the desktop.
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