by Kev Beardsworth.
Windows 95, "someday all computers will look like this", no doubt since quite a large proportion of its features have been copied from other platforms. "Aha", I hear you cry, "it has one or two original ideas of its own". Indeed it does, so why don't we copy those. Some programmers already have and that's where this article is aimed. Well that's not strictly true, it's actually a rundown of some new MagiC utilities, one or two of which fall into the nicked from Win 95 category. MagiC utilities? let's face it, brilliant though MagiC undoubtedly is, it's rather lacking when it comes to customising, giving it that look and feel unique to your system. One Atari running MagiC looks and acts very like another. And that empty START folder, isn't it about time we had something to put in it?
Due to the size of this feature we have split it into several pages. This will increase speed and aid loading onto STfm/e's with 1Mb of RAM. Left click on one of the buttons above to read the section you're interested in.
To some people reading this there will be a glaring omission. One of the most powerful MagiC enhanced utilities available today is Freedom the replacement file selector. We haven't covered it here for one simple reason, it will appear in AP#3 along with the best of the rest when it comes to file selectors.
Clearly copied from Windows 95, this application adds a grey bar to your desktop that installs a button for each program you have running. Left click on a button and the relevant software is instantly topped. While that program is topped the button remains selected.
Right clicking on a button displays a popup giving you seven choices. These include Terminate, useful for any program that misbehaves. Close, which legally quits the buttons matching application, if that application supports MagiC's shutdown feature. Freeze (einfrieren), this suspends the relevant program but keeps it in memory and the self explanatory Hide, Hide others, To Background and To Foreground. A small button at the extreme left of Appline can be used to carry out these functions on itself, should that be required.
Appline is fully configurable, this is achieved by editing its config file in your favourite text editor. A practice that's becoming all too common these days. Fear not however as a well commented example is supplied and configuration is basically a case of adding or removing the # symbol from functions to disable or enable them. The features which can be altered include: Where you'd like Appline to appear, at the top or bottom of your screen, whether you'd like to select the buttons using function keys, if the desktop used should be the first button displayed and whether you'd like a closer button (that's the small one previously mentioned). One of the most useful features is the memory display. Appline keeps you informed of current memory usage if this is required. You can have this displayed in a small or large font or switch it off completely. The config file also gives you the option to stop certain programs and accessories appearing in the bar. This prevents it from being filled to quickly. If this should happen Appline will suspend the memory display and reduce the buttons in size so that it can squeeze more on. In reality this is rare as most users can't cope with loads of programs running at the same time, I certainly couldn't. If you do you can configure Appline to display its buttons vertically. This gives you loads of room for buttons and I'm sure you'd run out of memory or hit the MagiC limits before filling up Appline.
You can even change the colour of the text displayed in the buttons using the config file. You can define one of sixteen colours for any listed application.
Appline supports the now almost standard AV protocol. Drag a file to one of the buttons and it's passed to the relevant program. A useful little utility indeed and one that's soon missed should you disable it. One item worthy of note, if you have the buttons configured for function key selection Appline loses its ability to use the AV protocol. Why this is necessary I've no idea, but it's obviously been done for a reason.
Anyone who's used Win 95 will know that its "Appline" has a start button. Clicking on this gives the user access to all the programs currently installed on the PC's hard disk. Simply click on the program you wish to run and off it goes. Not a bad idea and it guides you to programs quickly and easily especially if your new to the computer in question.
Start Me Up is a similar utility that compliments MagiC and Appline very well. It displays a Start button that can be moved around the screen at will. It isn't as intuitive as the Windows version, you have to tell it where your programs are. This is done by writing a small config file informing Start Me Up what you would like displayed in its popups after a left click on its button. A right click allows you to access info about the program, quit Start Me Up or perform a system shutdown. You can also call for help via ST-Guide if required.
An example of the file required to tell Start Me Up where everything is, is supplied. A new one is fairly straight forward to write, and Start Me Up soon puts up a dialog telling you of a fault in the file should you get it wrong. It will even give you a line number so you'll know where to look.
A handy little program this, it'll certainly clear your desktop of icons in no time. Try it and see what you think.
And now for some fun. Sometimes an application comes along that serves no real purpose but adds something to your system you no longer wish to be without. Stewart is such a program. Not copied from the PC this little beauty. It's inspired by a program on the Mac called Copeland (Get it? Stewart Copeland).
Stewart alters the way MagiC looks and I love it. It's installed from MagiC's start folder and configured from a dialog called by ALT left clicking in the menu bar.
From here you can alter various parameters. For starters you can have the menus appear with a grey background, 3D'ed text and Nicelines (similar to the Let'em Fly program or Geneva) changes the dotted line normally found between menu items to a more aesthetically pleasing variety. You can even alter the colour of the menu cursor if you're running in a resolution of at least 256 colours. If you look at a modern Mac you'll notice that the monitors corners are rounded and not square, Stewart gives you a similar effect. I personally don't like this feature so have it switched off.
If you've ever been in the position where your desktop's been covered in windows from all your running apps you'll find the desktop click feature handy. Simply left click on any visible part of the desktop background and it's instantly topped.
You don't like the MagiC logo? Stewart can switch it off for you easily, no more getting you hands dirty in the magic.inf file.
Due to most menu clocks not being able to cope with the grey menus, Stewart provides a clock of its own. This can show the time digitally and like Fuzzy clock as text. Left clicking on the clock will show you the current date.
Last but not least - this is the feature that sold Stewart to me - comes spinning dialogs. Forget the boring grow shrink boxes supplied by Atari and replace them with Stewart's sexier spinning grow shrink boxes. These are fully configurable so they can be made to roll onto the screen sedately or with great speed. I guarantee these will have you switching on your grow shrink boxes in no time. I was amazed to discover though how few applications support grow shrink boxes these days. So come on you programmers get them back into your applications now!
Stewart comes highly recommended. It gives MagiC a more professional look and feel, if that's possible and seems totally reliable. It does clash with Alice, the iconify manager discussed later, but this is being looked into.
Appline and Start are both fully working shareware programs however Stewart comes with a time limit. It switches itself off after so long. To get round this simply register your copy with the InterActive shareware support scheme run by Joe Connor for the princely sum of seven pounds, he also supports Appline and Start Me Up.
Now to the review I've dreaded writing. Not because the software's rubbish, on the contrary it's very good. It's that there's so much in Wincom - short for Window Commander - I might, if I'm not careful, miss something important. Let me apologise in advance to everyone concerned with this program if this occurs, but like I said this program's so full of features it's unreal.
Wincom's main function, as the name suggests, is to look after any applications windows that have been opened under MagiC. This means all window functions can be supplied via keyboard as well as the mouse in the normal way. It also provides all the real time functions found with WinX, the window manager that can be used under TOS.
Let's cover mouse functions first as these have been somewhat enhanced over the standard mouse window operations. For a start that seemingly useless right mouse button comes into play a lot more now. Using the right button on either the window mover, sizer or slider forces the change in the widow to be performed in real time. Suddenly the right mouse button becomes very useful, here's a quick run down: Right click on the window title line backdrops the window, on the grey part of the scroll bar causes the slider to jump straight to that position, on the fuller causes the window to be redrawn at maximum height, another right click returns it to it's original height, hold down the CONTROL key while right clicking on the fuller reduces the window to minimal height and back again. Right clicking on the closer hides the window, while right clicking on the scrolling arrows reverses the direction of scroll. So by using a combination of left and right buttons you can scroll a window in either direction using just one arrow.
ALT right clicking on a backdropped window brings all windows belonging to that application forward and makes the window you clicked on the top one. Want to iconify all the windows belonging to one application? Right click on the iconify button. Believe it or not the list goes on so I won't bore you further.
Keyboard functions, well the easiest way to describe these is as follows. Almost anything that can be done with the mouse on the desktop or inside another application can be performed from the keyboard. Opening, closing or hiding windows is all a keyboard short cut away, even menu control can be achieved from the keys themselves.
In fact the list is endless, so endless in fact you'll have to print them out to remember them. A disadvantage you may think but, as with any software you'll only use those functions which interest you, and the few keyboard short cuts related to these will be quickly learnt. If you have real difficulty in remembering them you can define your own with the configuration program supplied, called Winset. Programs supplied? well there are quite a few - 18 to be exact - and this is where Wincom suddenly began to get my full attention. These "Extra programs" are pretty important so I'm going to cover each one in some detail. One or two duplicate functions already built into Wincom so why are they supplied? Simple, drag them to the desktop as icons and get some of Commanders functions with a double click.
Want to move the window currently under the mouse pointer to the nearest corner? Cornerwi does this for you. Once you've defined a keyboard short cut inside Wincom to run Cornerwi you just move the mouse over a window and press the keys you've assigned, the window in question jumps immediately to the nearest corner.
Running this program displays a popup on your desktop listing all your installed accessories. These can then be selected via mouse or keyboard to run the desired accessory.
Quite a handy one this, especially if you're using a powerful replacement file selector such as Freedom or Selectric. Once placed on your desktop the file selector is only a double click away.
Running L_hidden displays a popup where any hidden applications can be selected for use. The popup, as with all popups displayed via Wincom can be navigated by mouse or keyboard.
L_hidden can also be run as an accessory, this way it can be called to list a further 16 accessories. These have to be listed in an *.inf file called ausblend.inf.
To gain access to the menu bar using your keyboard run Menukey. It's simply a matter of using the cursor keys to move around the menu bar once this is done. Set up a keyboard short cut to run Menukey from Wincom and keyboard access to menus becomes instant.
Occasionally using MagiC can get confusing. You forget to quit programs and run others, the programs you've forgotten about get buried underneath windows belonging to other applications. It would be nice if you could tidy this mess up in one simple single action. This is where hz_order.prg comes in. Running this sorts all your windows by application into equal horizontal windows and gives each application its own horizontal band. If an application has more than one window open these will be resized to fit the horizontal band. A similar program called hz_ordnd.prg carries out this function without moving any open desktop windows.
Not a very good description I have to admit, try it for yourself to see exactly what I mean.
This carries out a similar function to hz_order.prg but doesn't arrange everything by application. It arranges all active windows and displays them so that you can see all the windows title bars. windsort.prg carries out a similar function without moving any of the windows.
I said earlier that Wincom provided a keyboard function for nearly every window function. If you're one of those people who hate using a mouse Winmove completes the Wincom package allowing you to move and resize windows using the keyboard. When this program is activated it draws a frame around the top window, this frame can be altered in size of moved using the keyboard. Once you're happy the frame represents the size and position you wish the top window to take press enter and the window is drawn to match the frame.
Winview displays a window listing all your currently open windows, their paths and the applications they belong to. A quick press of the space bar while the Winview window is on top forces the window into Appview mode. All currently running applications are displayed in this window.
Any running application or open window can be selected via the Winview window, even those that are currently hidden. A very handy little utility indeed, especially as you can hide individual windows using Wincom. The trouble with hiding windows is you soon loose track of them, Winview is a really handy way to keep them in check.
A simple utility this, you run it from MagiC's start folder. Once installed it forces X Control to be displayed in the bottom right hand corner every time it's opened.
When run this simply redraws the screen, the same can be achieved from inside Wincom by pressing ALT, CTRL CLR HOME.
These all duplicate functions already built into Wincom, as does the clean_up.prg. Hide all, hides all applications, Hide oth, hides all the other applications apart from the topped one and Show all, re-displays all hidden applications.
Running this displays a popup showing you all the windows that belong to the currently topped program. Any of these windows can then be topped using this popup.
With Starter you can create Desktop popups to run any program or groups of programs. You can pass parameters to these programs and even load files into programs that are already running. Starter will realise that the program is already running by using the AV Protocol. Starter doesn't display a start button as Start Me Up does, the idea being that you run Starter from Wincom via a keyboard short cut.
All I've done is create a default batch file that calls all the other batch files as and when I want them. I have then placed this batch file on the desktop and assigned it an icon, this way it can be used like Start Me Up.
Starter can also be used as an accessory loader, and you can load up to 32 extra accessories.
I do have one gripe about the Starter popups. Only one is displayed at a time, this way you can't backtrack if you select the wrong entry. Also due to this solo popup display it hasn't got Start Me Up's looks but it is infinitely more powerful so I can put up with this cosmetic short coming.
The whole Wincom package is configured by using the rather good looking program called Winset. This is also where you register your copy once you've paid the ten pound registration fee.
It's packed with configuration dialogs for setting every aspect of Wincom to your personnel tastes. It turns out that you'll probably play around in here quite a bit, not because you have to, just cos it's there and such a pleasure to use. One or two extra delights become apparent while using Winset. The Auto mouse function for instance. Once this is switched on the mouse pointer disappears every time you press a key on the keyboard, touch the mouse and the pointer instantly returns. Or how about the clipboard append feature, with this switched on Wincom will save a separate file in the clipboard that will contain appended entries. If you have three pieces of text you need to cut to the clipboard in three different places you can do this without losing any previously cut text item. It just appends the new text to the bottom of the old. These are just two of the many extra features available from Wincom and most of them can be switched on or off using a keyboard short cut you can define in Winset.
I said at the beginning that there was a lot to Wincom and looking back over this text I don't think I've really scratched the surface. Let me put it this way, Wincom works for about 50 minutes in its unregistered state. Get hold of a copy and have a play, I bet by the time your 50 minutes are up you haven't sussed half of what's available via Wincom, I also bet you'll miss at least a couple of it's excellent features.
Last but not least is Alice, the iconification manager. One of the most annoying things about MagiC - and it's even more annoying if you place Appline at the bottom of you screen - is the inability to govern where iconified programs should be placed. The default bungs them at the lower left hand corner and new additions are added to the right of any previous iconed candidate.
What Alice does is let you decide where these icons should appear, what there size should be and which way they should travel. Not only that but Alice also gives programs that don't normally support MagiC's iconify feature the ability to do so. This is a great little program, unfortunately it does clash with a couple of other pieces of software. Whether this is down to Alice or the others I wouldn't like to say.
Setting up Alice is very straight forward. You just drag the Alice program file to a setter program. From inside this you can configure Alice to your personnel needs.
I'm not using it at present because it clashes with my current favourite, Stewart, but then I've always been a particularly sad individual.