I switched from an iPhone to a Lumia 925 mainly because the clean, simple text-oriented UI appealed to me. I am neither a Windows Phone developer nor a smartphone power user, but the stuff I use should just work. This post reflects my opinion about Microsoft Windows Phone apps. They are all more or less "official" apps, not some obscure third-party products.

What's up with the header?

When a regular header style is used, I know I can flip through pages using a horizontal swipe gesture. When confronted with a non-standard header style, I need to figure out how the app's navigation works.

Regular style: Mail, Photos

Screenshot of WP mail client
Windows Phone mail client

The stock WP mail client presents a mailbox title and several pre-defined filters you can flick through. This is great: You see which mailbox you are currently looking at and you immediately get the filters thing. There isn't any unnecessary cruft.

Screenshot of WP Photos
Windows Phone photos application

The Photos application is pretty similar. A little title to show me where I am, and some filters I can choose via horizontal swiping. In the Photos application, the different pages do not only filter the content, but they also provide different views on the content, e.g. a list of thumbnails with month headings (all), a list of albums (albums) or thumbnails without any headings (favourites).

Screenshot of WP Photos (Panorama)
Windows Phone photos application, original style. Source: MSDN

Although I personally found the older pictures hub more impressive (looks-wise as well as feature-wise), I think that the current Photos app is easy to use.

WP Storyteller App

Now why is the Storyteller app doing it differently? Why is there even a separate Storyteller app? It's basically albums with a nice visualization of the locations the pictures are tagged with.

Big title: Suggestion Box

Screenshot of WP Suggestion Box
Windows Phone Suggestion Box App

is an application that uses a big title that scrolls through your screen as you flip through the different pages (I think this is called "Panorama"). Most of the pages are filters, but there is also a page to navigate into sub-forums (categories). It is easy to use, however the application name does take up quite a bit of screen estate, and this is not the most important thing I need to know when working in the application. I am not a power-user of this application, but I doubt it integrates into the People hub, at least it is not offered as an app on the People What's new page. This might be a nice addition (e.g. someone comments on a ticket I voted for).

Big useless title: Alarms

Screenshot of WP Alarms app
Windows Phone Alarms app

The Alarms app shows its name on the top (good), and another title ("all") below. I do not understand it. Is there some way to create filters for alarms? Are there any hidden pages I might be able to activate using some obscure method?

Best of all worlds: Here Transit

Here Transit Home
Here Transit home
Here Transit Journey
Here Transit journey detail

Here Transit uses a bold title for the two main pages (plan route and nearby). On the top you can see the application name and the cute bus icon. When entering a journey, you can swipe between pages showing your different options for locomotion. The details view uses the regular page title theme.

Strange title style: Skype

Screenshot of WP Skype app
Windows Phone Skype app

Skype's overview page features its logo on the top. In the top right-hand corner, my user avatar is displayed, cropped into a circle with a fat white border. I am OK with the Skype logo, although I would prefer a simple text, but the avatar is confusing. Touching the avatar will bring up a page with a larger avatar picture (rectangular, yes!) and some fields to update my tag line or toggle between available and invisible. I think, such a page could just as well be made accessible via the action bar.

There are also two style inconsistencies I noticed: Someone decided it was a good idea to underline a page title. I do not know if there is any hidden semantic behind this. If there isn't, then underlining the title is not justified. I also find it distracting that the action bar has a black foreground against a white background (usually it is the other way round). The documentation states:

Use the default system theme colors for the Application Bar unless there is a compelling reason to customize the colors.

Small title style: OneDrive

Screenshot of WP OneDrive app
Windows Phone OneDrive app home

The OneDrive app home features a larger application name accompanied by the infamous hamburger and a magnifying glass in a circle icon (more on that below).

There are four filter pages available whose titles are set in smaller, capital letter type. The currently active page is highlighted using colour. This style is not easily recognizable; are these pages accessible via horizontal swipe? Just use the regular style.

The most noticable difference to other applications is OneDrive's white background, and I find it annoying. Why does the application not respect my general theme setting?

Where is the search button?

OneDrive has another issue. If you ask a Windows Phone user where an app's search action is probably located, she will answer: In the application bar. Why does OneDrive not stick to this convention? OneNote and Files both have a search action accessible from the application bar.

How to use navigation in the title?

Both OneNote and Files use a different approach for visualizing and interacting with a user's current location in a hierarchy. I find both apps easy to use, and do not have any urgent problem navigating in them. On the other hand: Why use two different ways?

Breadcrumbs navigation in WP Files
Windows Phone Files app: Breadcrumbs

Files displays a home symbol and the current path at the top, using a sideways triangle as path separator. Each element is clickable, so I can navigate directly to a directory in the hierarchy. The current directory is the title of this page; good.

Navigation in WP OneNote
Windows Phone OneNote app: Navigation

OneNote displays a "less than" symbol and the name of the parent section or notebook. There is only one navigation action, upwards.

How to manage groups of people?

This is an issue that might become obsolete with the further integration of Skype into the heart of Windows Phone: Managing groups of people is inconsistent between the core People application and Skype.

WP Skype App: Favourites
Windows Phone Skype app: Favourites
WP Skype App: Select favourite people
Windows Phone Skype app: Select favourite people

In Skype, when you navigate to the Favourites page, and you currently do not have any favourite contacts maintained, you are presented with an invitation to "keep all your favourite people together." Below this invitation there is an action link. Clicking on this action link will open a dialog listing your Skype contacts. You may now select your favourite people by checking the checkboxes in front of their names.

WP People Best Friends group
Windows Phone People: Best friends group
WP People: Edit group
Windows Phone People: Edit a group
WP People: Choose a contact
Windows Phone People: Choose a contact

The People application comes with a pre-installed group called Best friends, similar to Skype's favourite people thing. You can open that group, read an instructional text about how groups work and add people to this group. Instead of showing a list of all people with checkboxes in front of them, People opens the regular contacts picker to select your best friends one by one.

Perhaps, future versions of Skype will be able to use the regular groups instead of relying on its own favourite people group maintenance. As a casual private user I am fine with the People app approach. For sales or other busy enterprise guys maintaining groups per customer, sales leads or projects using thousands of contacts, is probably a task they'd rather perform on their PC initially. I do not know if that is possible.


In my opinion, Microsoft could make Windows Phone more attractive for users by keeping their apps more consistent. This blog post only lists a few inconsistencies I personally find annoying.

Some of the more popular Windows Phone community websites are already reviewing the Windows 10 Technical Preview (e.g. WP Central, Neowin), and some Windows Insiders are already raging against the Androidification of Windows Phone, the advent of hamburgers etc. I cannot give any opinion on this, because I do not have a phone running Windows 10 preview, and because it is still a preview.

I do like a clear and simple interface. Does it have to look exactly like the first implementation of the Metro geniuses' concept? No. Do all apps have to look the same? No. Take the Here Transit app for example. It uses a different style, but it is intuitive to use for WP users and delivers a great experience. You still feel like you are in a casino along the Las Vegas strip and not in a bar on Hawaii, to use Arturo Toledo's metaphor.

A recent twitter conversation:

I do not hate things only because they don't look like a stock template, but why should I unnecessarily invest time in figuring out how an app works? Perhaps I am boring and delusional, but I'd prefer an app that uses a stock template to one which requires me to spend a minute learning how to operate it.

WP_20131026_19_17_13_Pro.jpg WP_20131026_19_09_06_Pro.jpg
  1. Salmon, Rice, Cucumber, Nori. Baked
  2. Tentacles, rice, green beans, coriander. Squid poached in rice vinegar, sugar, salt


About a month ago I switched from my iPhone 4S to a Nokia Lumia 925. This was motivated not so much by any obvious deficits with the iPhone but by more practical considerations: My mother's iPhone 3GS has had some problems; she needed a replacement. This was a good opportunity to try some alternatives. Windows Phone 8 has received some praise for its user experience, and Nokia is a renown mobile handheld provider. I went for the Lumia 925, which is one of the top models offered by Nokia.

This blog post is about my experiences with this phone during the last couple of weeks, especially taking into account the differences to my old iPhone and the migration phase.

My User Profile

I would not characterize myself as smartphone power user, the following use cases are pretty typical for me:

Phone Yes, I do use my smartphone to place and receive telephone calls via GSM
Messaging SMS, iMessage. While iMessage is not a must, most of the people I know are using it. Although many contracts feature unlimited SMS, iMessage has delivery reports, built-in support for pictures etc. I hardly know anyone who uses MMS.
Contacts, Calendar I like to have my contacts and calendars synchronized between my phone, my PCs (1 Mac, 1 Linux) and my iPad. I am operating a private owncloud server for this. My work calendar is a Google thing.
Email I use one primary email account for private use. Since I do not want to expose this email address too much, I have an additional Google Mail account that I use from time to time.
Web Browsing I read web pages on my phone. No bookmark syncing in place.
Maps I need to find out how to get to a certain place or where I am. Most of my queries are address or POI based. I am not interested in finding out about nearby shopping occasions or restaurants with dubious ratings.
Social stuff No Facebook, no Linked-in. I do read or post on Twitter from time to time.
Music, Podcasts Some ten to twenty albums, five podcasts


The Lumia 925 is significantly larger than the iPhone 4S (129 mm / 70,6 mm versus 115,2 mm / 58,5 mm). It is a little bit slimmer (8,5 mm versus 9,3 mm). Weight-wise there isn't any significant difference (139 g versus 140 g). Compared to my iPhone 4S (without bumper) the edges do not feel as sharp. It still fits into most of my shirts' and jackets' pockets.


Both phones have an on/off switch, a "Start" button, two buttons for volume control, a headphone jack and a port for connecting the phone to a computer or a charger. The Lumia features an additional button for taking photos and a "Back" and "Search" button.

As opposed to other Lumia models, the 925 doesn't have wireless charging built in. You'll need an additional accessory for this, the charging cover. Unfortunately the charging cover does not protect the screen of the phone, else I might have bought it.

You can read all the specs here (Nokia Lumia 925) and here (Apple iPhone 4S).

Unfortunately, the remote control of my Shure SE115M+ earphones does not work with the Lumia 925. There are probably some adapters available, but I doubt that these cover all features.

The battery capacity is sufficient for my daily use. I usually charge my phone overnight.

Initial Boot

I simply removed the SIM card from my iPhone and installed it into the 925.

Upon the initial start you are asked to set up some Microsoft account. There is probably a way to bypass this, but it doesn't harm either.

Wifi setup was straightforward.

I was able to initiate and receive phone calls.

The UI is absolutely stunning and easy to use (more on that perhaps later).


Adding my Twitter account was easy. Tweets show up in the People hub, which is a good thing. Unfortunately the built-in Twitter support is a bit limited. Although I am not a Twitter power-user, I still like pictures to show up directly and not as links to the SkyDrive. I thus installed the official Twitter app, whose design unfortunately does not blend in with the Windows Phone UI in my opinion.

Getting the phone to talk to my owncloud server for contacts and calendars took a couple of hours. The recent GDR2 update includes support for CardDAV and CalDAV (which is natively supported by owncloud), but this support is limited to Google accounts, only. My options were:

Option Description Verdict
Web account Migrate data to my new Microsoft account or a new Google account, change other clients to use this service. I really want to keep my contacts, my calendar and my emails on my private server.
Exchange Server Install a Microsoft Exchange server or something like openchange, migrate exisiting clients from owncloud to Exchange server Too much hassle. I do not have a Microsoft Windows Server. Unsure about openchange requirements and features.
Exchange Activesync connector There is at least one freely available Exchange Activesync connector that speaks IMAP, CalDAV and CardDAV: php-push-2. Simple migration

I went for php-push-2. The good news: Most parts work quite well, I can read and send emails, import contacts and read calendar entries. But I have experienced some synchronization problems especially concerning contacts (cannot update contact on server) and calendars (does not synchronize at all). The mapping between the data formats might be rather complicated but I'd still expect most of the fields to be available in both, Exchange Activesync and CalDAV (RFC 4791) / iCalendar (RFC 5545 or CardDAV (RFC 6352) / vCard (RFC 6350). There is still some work to do here, perhaps I can help improve this adapter.

The integration of contact lists from different accounts is solved nicely in Windows Phone, and you can see your last interactions with a contact in the address book.


For synchronizing photos and music between my MacBook Pro and the Lumia 925, I installed the Windows Phone application (had to trick the installer into believing that I was running 10.7 instead of 10.6.8...). I was able to synchronize podcasts, music (Mac to phone, no DRM) and pictures (phone to Mac). Regarding the pictures synchronization I still haven't found out how to suppress the generation of new "Events" for each synchronization. Perhaps there is some kind of toggle in the Windows Phone application.

HERE app suite

Nokia provides a suite of map/navigation apps under the "HERE" label, using the service. I find these apps to be superior to the corresponding Apple Maps app on my iPhone: HERE Maps is very fast, its search usually delivers the results I am expecting and I can create/manage favorites (not as collections/folders, though). Unfortunately, there isn't any integration with the address book (at least I haven't found out how to show a contact's address in HERE Maps.

HERE Transit is a great looking app that allows users to query local public transport information. Alas, my local transportation provider is not connected to this service, so the app is largely useless to me now. I had the opportunity to try out HERE Transit on my recent visit to Brussels. The information was mostly accurate and useful, but I was also offered a routing (from Montgomery to the Atomium) using a Metro or tram line that no longer exists (line 23, of course!).


It is not alway transparent which applications are running. Usually closing an app involves clicking the back button. In web browsing apps or any other app that has a long navigation history, this can involve quite a couple of clicks. It would be nice to have an app switcher where you can could apps directly.


The lack of apps is often cited as a reason against using Windows Phone. My requirements are covered by themarket, with one exception: OmniFocus, it will probably never be ported to Windows Phone or Android.


The Lumia 925 is a great smartphone, and I will probably keep using it for the next two years or so.

Sidenote: The migration from an iPhone has made it obvious to me how isolated the different ecospheres (Apple, Google, Microsoft) are. Why can only Apple (Microsoft) users profit from enhanced messaging via iMessage (Microsoft Messenger)? Why is it such a hassle to integrate with privately operated, standards compliant services? Openness would probably attract more users and have no significant effect on the sales of cloud based email, calendar, storage services.

My perfect lock screens

iOS7 lock screen - Make Darth smile!

iOS7 Lock screen - Make Darth smile!

WP8 lock screen - Play with Lego!

I reactivated the ENQUEUE blog.
With the advent of Snow Leopard, it is no longer necessary to use Typinator for simple text replacement patterns. See e.g. the attached screenshot for implementing the arrow shortcuts presented before. Arrows_Snow_Leopard.png
I have been using Snow Leopard for a few days now. Unfortunately, my beloved "cycle through application windows" shortcut is not localized anymore (used to be Command < for German keyboard layouts). Thanks to this helpful blog post, I was able to recover it, quickly: Simply open System preferences and change the keyboard shortcut for the command "Move focus to next window in application". Hooray!
Emacs_Faces.png Let's say you want to customize the look and feel of your Emacs by changing the font. There have been a couple of blog posts comparing monospaced fonts and their aptitude for coding (see, e.g. a nice comparison by Jeff Atwood or the interesting review at Hivelogic). Now, unless you have any other special requirements, it's very easy to change the default font, once you know its correct name. To find the name, fire up Emacs and open the font panel (M-x ns-popup-font-panel). Select the font you would like to use and check out its properties (M-x describe-face). Copy the Family property to your clipboard. Finally, add something like this to your .emacs (replace Espresso_Mono with the family name from the clipboard):
(set-face-attribute 'default nil :family "Espresso_Mono")
That's pretty easy, isn't it? You can customize this even more. Please read the chapter on face customization in the manual. There's also a special chapter on font handling on the Mac in there.
Typinator arrowsOne thing i do use Typinator for, is a shorthand for inserting arrow characters. This is particularly useful when taking notes or creating an outline. I am attaching a screenshot of my shorthand here; for inserting the arrow characters, simply invoke the MacOS X Character Palette. The shorthand for the downarrow might seem a bit strange (why not use -v?), but this is faster to type and it resembles the LaTeX way of setting a subscript. If you need more shortcuts for note taking, check out the Typinator sets contained in the TeX To Me bundle by Matthew Taylor!
Typinator and Emacs The recent MacHeist bundle included Typinator. While I haven't used this program, really, I could imagine some of you, my valued readers, are. So, if you want to shun Emacs built-in macro goodness or just want to make all your precious Typinator shorthands/replacements available in Emacs, this simple fix is for you... ... only if you have not enabled Mac specific keyboard shortcuts, i.e. Command is M and Alt/Option is not bound to any Emacs modifier key. Typinator relies on Command-v to paste the clipboard's contents. This combination clashes with Emacs' default binding (scroll-down). Simply rebind these keys and you are all set:
(global-set-key [(meta v)] 'yank)
(global-set-key [(meta y)] 'scroll-down)
If you have recently downloaded a pretest Emacs (e.g. from this fine repository), you'll notice that ns-extended-platform-support (as outlined in the first screencast) is no longer included in the default distribution. So, if you have been relying on the functionality included in this file, you'll have to install it manually. Find all the instructions in the EmacsWiki.