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Wednesday, 26 August 2009

New beta test version of ActiveFile with old bugs

ActiveFile Symbian file manager & SMS backup restore tool
There are many file managers for Symbian. The built-in file manager is very limited (but there's a trick to force access to some system folders). X-plore is the best alternative file manager, but the free version has a nag screen. Y-browser is pretty good, and FExplorer does the job too.

And then there's ActiveFile. The latest test release fixes a couple of bugs, but there are still plenty left.

ActiveFile is more than a file manager. It's also a task manager, it can reboot your phone, it can make screenshots, it can back up your SMSs, and you can make fake messages with ActiveFile.

Managing files with ActiveFile

The file manager of Active File gets the job done. It lacks the "tree view" option that makes X-plore such a good file manager, but it has a two pane layout to make it easy to move files from one folder to another.

ActiveFile doesn't make it very easy to mark and unmark files, but neither does the competition. You can't configure the # key to mark/unmark files, but you can use the * key. Unfortunately ActiveFile lacks a single key to toggle file selection on and off, so you need one key to mark files and another one to unmark 'em. I use * to mark and zero to unmark.

What really makes ActiveFile different from other file managers is not the managing of files, but the features hidden under a submenu called tools.

Making screenshots with ActiveFile

ActiveFile can make screenshots. You'll need to capture screens with the C (delete) key if your phones isn't one of the old models that stil have a pencil key. You can configure the camera key for screenshots, but that doesn't always work. On my Nokia N78 the camera key launches the camera, even though it should be making a screenshot according to the settings I entered in ActiveFile.

ActiveFile can back up and restore your SMSs

The best feature of ActiveFile is its SMS backup and restore feature. It can back up and restore your inbox, outbox, sent folder, and all your custom message folders. Better yet, it can restore your messages in a non-destructive way: if you restore a backup, new messages that arrived after you made the backup stay on your phone. If you send a backup from one phone to another, the two SMS folders are merged perfectly. Not even Nokia's own PC Suite can do that.

You can choose whether the SMS backup file should be stored on your phone's own memory or on your memory card, but you can't select the folder in which ActiveFile should store the backup. ActiveFile doesn't even tell you the location of the backup file, and the SMS backup screen has no options for copying backups to your computer, storing them online, or sending them to other Symbian phones to merge different messaging folders. Of course there's a workaround to do all that: just navigate to the backup files in any file browser to copy, send, move, or delete 'em. ActiveFile stores your backups in C:\Data\Others or E:\Others, depending on whether you chose internal memory or memory card as backup location.

A bug that has not been fixed, and which may cause very unpleasant surprises: if you delete SMS backups from within ActiveFile's SMS backup screen it will also delete phone book backups created by Contacts Transfer. ActiveFile wrongly believes that Contacts Transfer backups are SMS backups, even though they have different extensions: Contacts Transfer uses .z, ActiveFile uses .smb.

ActiveFile may crash with an out of memory error when you restore backups with a lot (many hundreds) of messages, so don't rely on ActiveFile as your only SMS backup method.

Fake SMS

ActiveFile can create fake SMSs. Unlike other fake SMS creators like Free-iSMS and Fake Messages (which can only fake incoming messages), ActiveFile can fill your inbox and sent folder with fake incoming and outgoing SMSs.

The fake SMS feature used to work very well, but then came an update which introduced wrong dates and times: a month and a day short, and two hours late. August 10, 3.15 pm becomes July 9, 5.15 pm. September 11 becomes August 10, etcetera. To set the correct date for your message, you'll have to increase the day and month by one in ActiveFile's fake SMS creator. This means you can't fake a message for the last day of the month, because ActiveFile won't accept the 32nd of August. If you set the first day of the month (or the first month of the year) and hit "create," ActiveFile crashes without creating the message, because one minus one produces an invalid date.

The current beta test version still has this bug.

ActiveFile is pretty good, but it can be better. Alie Tan's website has a forum where you can report bugs, so give the program a try and give Alie some feedback to help him improve the program.

ActiveFile from Alie Tan
ActiveFile ActiveFile 1.43 RC1 archived on Mobile Castle

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