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Tip of the Month (January 2001)

Posted with permission from Pocket PC magazine,

Viewing Pocket PC Apps Sideways

by Hal Goldstein

Applications like Microsoft Reader, Tasks, and games with falling objects arguably work better in the normal Pocket PC vertical orientation. But others, such as spreadsheets and web browsers, are usually more useable in horizontal mode. Wouldn't it be nice if the Pocket PC let us switch between a vertical and horizontal orientation, depending on our needs?

Thanks to reader, Chris Patten-Walker, I found out that at least my HP Jornada 540 can do just that. Furthermore, the good news is that many Pocket PC applications work just as well in both orientations.

Changing the HP Jornada's screen from vertical to horizontal

It seems HP or Microsoft engineers created an undocumented piece of software that allows screen rotation. Chris emailed me the directions for activating it, which I share with you below.

Caution: Before experimenting, you should take the following precautions: Back up your system; turn off password protection; close down all applications (Settings > System > Memory > Running Programs > Stop All).

Here are the steps to turn your HP Pocket PC screen sideways:

1. Turn on the Jornada Pocket PC and go to the Today screen.

2. Push in and hold in the roller ("action") key.

3. While the action key is pushed in, tap and hold the stylus on the time found in the upper right corner.

4. After a few seconds a two-word menu, "Run, Clock" pops up in the upper right hand corner of the Today screen. (Up to this point, these instructions work on all Pocket PCs we tested. Tapping "Clock" brings up the Settings System Clock screen. From here on down the instructions seem to work only on the HP Jornada Pocket PC.)

5. Tap "Run"

6. Type in "rotate r" (without the quotes) and tap Enter.

7. A message should pop up: "Rotate Display. Changing display to landscape and 8-bit color. Please reset unit and align screen."

8. Push in Reset button in back. When Jornada restarts, you'll see the horizontal Today screen.

9. You must now re-align (re-calibrate) the Jornada's touchscreen. Do this by holding down the On/Off button on the Jornada until the Align screen comes up, and follow the instructions. (If you don't re-align the touchscreen, the Jornada will not be aware of the orientation change, and continue to recognize your stylus taps as if the screen were still vertical.)

9a. IF YOU DIDN'T TURN OFF PASSWORD PROTECTION you have to enter the password before you can get to the Align screen. This is difficult because the system still "thinks" that the screen orientation is vertical. Play with the action key, moving it and pressing it in. Once you see the numbers highlighted, you can enter the correct numerical password with the action key.

Now you are ready to use Pocket PC applications in landscape mode. When you want the display in normal vertical mode again, repeat the steps exactly as above.

The Pocket PC built-in applications, and some third party applications, apparently were written for a variable sized screen. For example, Pocket Excel, Microsoft Reader, and Pocket Internet Explorer automatically adjust to the horizontal orientation, as well as some third party applications.

Where is ROTATE hiding?

I was not able to find the rotate program using File Exploreer, so I tried bFind ( Sure enough, there was rotate.exe, a hidden file in the \Windows directory. (We didn't find the file on other Pocket PCs we tested.) Now curious about more goodies, I downloaded the robust Resco File Explorer ( to look for more hidden files. I discovered lots of them, most relating to the built-in applications. I didn't have time to experiment. If you play with any of these hidden files, be sure to back up your data, and don't count on HP or Microsoft for support for undocumented features, or to bail you out if your system starts acting in unexpected ways. If you do find anything worthy of sharing, please email me.

It is too bad that Microsoft choose not to include a horizontal mode feature in the Pocket PCs. However, I imagine, some enterprising Pocket PC programmer can come up with a utility to reorient the screen on other Pocket PCs. Already, PocketDOS, includes a command in its software that allows Pocket PC DOS users to view the display horizontally. If you write or discover a useful utility to reorient the screen be sure to email me and we'll pass the information along in a future issue.

Special thanks to John Psuik, Developer One ( ) for modifying the ScreenSnap utility to capture Pocket PC screens in horizontal mode.

Hal Goldstein ( is Executive Editor and Publisher of Pocket PC magazine and President of Thaddeus Computing, Inc.

Copyright © 2005 Thaddeus Computing, Inc