Propel and iSpin Launchers: Palm OS Utility

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Some people love them, some hate them. I tend to be one of those who load one, fiddle with it forever, then eventually give up and go back to the simplicity of the Palm interface. A few years ago, I did head-to-head comparisons with most of the major versions, and at one time or another owned a valid copy of Launcher X, MegaLauncher, Silver Screen, and others. I settled on ZLauncher, but mostly because I spent enough time with it to make it work how I wanted. If you want to argue that one of the other ‘standards’ is better, I won’t disagree. It is just a matter of personal preference.

Over the years, I have gained definite preferences for a launcher. The cost has to be reasonable; it can’t be too cluttered; it has to allow me to customize it the way I want (usually a fairly ‘clean and subdued’ look that neatly tucks away many of the tools); and it has to allow me to launch things from the card from whatever folder I put them in. I like this last feature since it lets me load my card with lots of rarely used but handy apps and games, and have them be invisible until I want them. In fact, this last bit is the big reason I even bother with 3rd party launchers instead of the built-in Palm application launcher.

So… I got my Palm TX back from Palm’s service department and planned to load it with the World’s Most Perfect Selection of Software Ever! I decided to give ZLauncher another try after a couple years of not using launchers. In looking for a new, clean copy of ZLauncher, I stumbled over a couple launchers that I had not paid much attention to before and I could not resist the chance to do a ‘David and Goliath’ challenge!

In this corner, weighing in at $24.95 and just under 500Kb, the heavy-weight contender from PROPEL Standard Edition, the self-proclaimed “ultimate launcher for your Palm OS powered PDA or smartphone“! Big words from a big company.

Iambic’s Propel

In the other corner, the freeware from, also at just under 500Kb: iSpin Lite! They brag that “iSpin launcher is a PalmOS launcher with a set of incredible features. It is the standard PalmOS launcher replacement, which provides gives a feeling of multi-tasking environment.” A mouthful to be sure. Let’s see if either can live up to the hype!

TapConnect’s iSpin

OK guys, let’s shake hands and come out fighting!


Iambic’s Propel has an impressive list of features. Some are designed for Treos or Palms with voice memo features, so my Tx cannot test these features properly. Propel looks a lot like a traditional Palm-style launcher with tabs, icons, small tools, memory and battery guages, etc. but this superficial resemblance is a little deceiving. Propel has several display options. It offers a file-based view, which allows you to directly launch a file (music, photo, document, etc.) by tapping on it. If you prefer, you can show things in a Contacts view, or Favorites, or… well, there are several options just for the view.

Alternative views in Propel

Some of the settings in Propel

Propel is skinnable, and offers the near-traditional blizzard of settings you can tinker with. The documentation is good, but as with many other big launchers, it can take a little trial and effort to get things the way you want them. Propel is also fast. I appreciate how quickly it launches things, and how fast the search feature is. The overall look is nicely done. You can tell that a lot of thought went into the overall look! It will also go on-line for you for updates and skins.

So, how well does it meet my needs? Cost is a bit high for a launcher in my opinion. But Treo users may find the enhanced calling options well worth it. The look can be cluttered or tweaked to look pretty clean. Memory card support, however- Ohhh! A big hit, right to the guts! In some views, Propel lists apps on the card… as long as they are in the Palm/Launcher folder… Right where I don’t want them most of the time! In fact, I cannot locate any way to view files on the card using Propel. Propel is reeling… reeling… and its down! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Propel is officially off my list!

Let’s look at the instant replay

Does not take up a lot of resources
Good looking graphics and skins

A little on the expensive side
Does not launch from anywhere on memory card

So, how about his opponent? Did he score any better?


Although a lightweight in price at only $7.95 for a registered version, TapConnect’s iSpin is in about the same ‘just under 500Kb’ as Propel. And don’t let that price fool you. The difference between that and the freeware version is an image viewer, the option to use your own jpeg as the background, and a few other rather minor differences!

Choosing the ‘My Palm’ icon

iSpin takes a totally different path than most launchers by going for the ‘Microsoft Windows look’. In fact, the default settings make your Palm screen look like a little Windows XP machine, right down to the ‘Bliss’ background! On the one hand, you already pretty know how to navigate it. On the other hand, it seems to share some of the ‘clunkiness’ of Windows. It feels like it makes you click more often than you should have to in order to do simple things.

iSpin background choices

iSpin offers a conduit to the main website when you sync. It checks for updates, etc. for you which is nice, but not real powerful in this app. The small and non-changeable fonts and icons bug me a bit, and there is a certain something that is just not as slick and polished as the ‘big guys’. For some odd reason, I also keep getting the SMS app showing up on my Desktop, and it is a bit annoying to clear off.

iSpin Online screen

While it is price and a lack of a specific feature that KO’ed Propel, it is a series of little hits that takes iSpin out of the picture.

– Low price, and good freeware version
– Familiar interface

– Small font and icons
– Takes several steps to do many common jobs
– Not very flexible

Ladies and gentlemen, with a battle this close, we’ll have to go to our judges and see what the decision was.

Aha! The official ruling is that while iSpin is a nice freeware, it is not a killer app- useful for people who want sort of a ‘launcher lite’. Further, the judges just were not impressed with Propel’s price tag and lack of memory card support- although Treo users could easily view this differently!

This has been declared a double knockout! The crowd is going wild! The ruling ‘big names’ in launchers are looking on with smug expressions! They know they have survived many of these attacks because they offer the users what they want- they picked up a lot of street-smarts in their long careers and know how to use them.

My PDA, you ask? Well, I’m back to the built-in app launcher, but I’m keeping ZLauncher loaded to use for those special occasions!


Product Information


3 thoughts on “Propel and iSpin Launchers: Palm OS Utility”

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  2. I personally agree that although launchers are very nice to have, I’ve found that over time, I prefer the simplistic default Palm launcher. The closest I’ve come to a launcher I liked was Facer. The main problem with launchers is that most of them take up more RAM than I am comfortable with. Most take up from 400k or more and on a Treo 650 device where RAM is still very precious, I’ve found that I’d much rather stick with what doesn’t take up RAM. Or venture into the more advanced idea of custom ROM. Maybe one day when I have the courage to do so, maybe I’ll play around with a custom ROM.

    Until then, I’m sticking with the base one that comes with the Palm Treo.

  3. Propel looks and awful lot like Initiate by Hobbyist. I’ve been using Initiate for about a year now and love it. I nabbed shortly after I started using Quicksilver for OS X as they’re similar in nature.

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