The ST Guide Part 2
Note: this section will soon have more pictures
Using the GEM Desktop Part 1
Presumably if you've got this far then your computer is working and you can now see the delightful GEM desktop in front of you on your TV or monitor (Note if your using a high resolution monitor then pretend these screen shots are in black and white).
Background to GEM
Apple Mac users may be suprised at the similarity of GEM to their own computers interface particularly if they have an early model. That's because GEM is, er, a bit of a rip off merchant. Basically for the time (1984/1985) it offered a similar quality interface to the Mac on a more powerful and cheaper computer. Quite how the Mac survived that one is beyond me. GEM wasn't just available for the ST either; way before Windows hauled itself up to its current all conquering status, GEM was the only graphical interface on the PC. Apple were incensed and sued Digital Research (the creators of GEM) for breach of copyright. Apple won (despite the fact the desktop idea had been around before them anyway) and GEM development ceased on the PC, but not on the Atari ST. Quite how Atari got away with this is beyond me, maybe Apple didn't see the ST as a threat (rightly in the end) or maybe the fact that one of the co-founders of Apple had once been an Atari employee swayed their decision. Anyway enough of the history lesson. Not everyone has got a Apple, PC owners at this point will be grumbling at the lack of a Start Bar and people who've never used the desktop and windows system before (there can't be many out there that haven't, but just in case) will just be scratching their heads and asking why it's such an awful shade of green.
In front of you, you will see a large expanse of green. Above this are four words, namely the legends 'Desk', 'File', 'View' and 'Options'. This is called the 'Menu'. To the left of the screen are three pictures. The first of these is labelled 'A' and has the legend 'Floppy Disk' written underneath it. The second one down is virtually identical other than that it is labelled 'B'. Underneath this is a crude picture of a dustbin labelled 'Trash'. These are called 'Desktop Icons'. In the centre of the screen, unless you've moved the mouse, is an arrow/pointer. You use this to interface with your computer. If you've used a modern PC or any Mac you should feel at home here. The mouse responds exactly as it does on the PC/Mac with single clicks to select and double clicks to open. For sake of the arguement here though (and as this really is for beginners) we'll start at the beginning. Firstly rest the mouse on a flat surface (hopefully by this point you've read part one and plugged it in). Now just move the mouse around watching how the arrow/pointer responds to its movements. If you move the arrow to close to the top of the screen the Desk, File etc legends will turn into lists of options. Ignore these for now and just move the arrow/pointer to a empty patch of green on the screen and press the left mouse button. The menus should now go. Apple Mac and PC users will probably be annoyed by this automatic 'drop down' or menus but at the moment you'll have to grin and bear it.
Opening and Viewing a Disk
Insert the floppy disk into your ST's internal floppy drive (you may also have an external drive). Move you arrow/pointer over the desktop icon labelled 'A Floppy Disk' or Floppy Disk A and press the mouse button twice in quick succession. This is called double clicking. If you do this correctly (and it might take a bit of practice) a 'window' should open up like that in the diagram below. This displays the contents of the disk. Floppy Disk A always refers to the ST's internal disk drive. Floppy Drive B is slightly different in that it can either refer to an external disk drive (if one is connected) or a different disk in the internal disk drive. Slightly confusing but we'll go into this below...
This bit describes the window and what each part of it does.
The Closer Button closes the current window or if your in a folder (also known as a directory) then it moves to the directory above, or the folder or disk the folder is in (confusing eh?). Get used to it though as it's the button you'll be most using when you control the window.
The title bargives you the name of disk or folder you are currently
in or have selected. It does this by giving you a path; that is a route
map to your folder. So say you have a folder (called 'ATARI') on a disk
(in the internal drive) which contains a file called 'ATARIST.PRG'.
The path displayed in the window title bar would read like this: A:\ATARI\ATARIST.PRG.
To the right of the title bar (unless your a bat ;-)) is a button that allows you to expand the size of the window. Single clicking with the left mouse button on this button expands the window so it fills most of the available screen area. This is useful if you are trying to find a particular file. Single clicking again reduces the window back to its original size. It's slightly inflexible but is very useful in some circumstances. For a more useful method of controlling the size of the window you should use the button below.
Located at the bottom right of the window, this button allows you to re-size the window to a size that you feel is right. The button works on the drag and drop principle, so if you click and hold the left mouse button on it a ghost image of the window should appear. Moving the mouse allows you to re-size the window and releasing it causes the window to change to the newly defined size.
The final bit of window functionality is achieved by means of the bottom
and right parts of the window's 'frame'. These are called scroll bars,
for no other reason than that they allow you to scroll round the window.
You will notice that each of these consists of two arrows pointing in
opposite directions in between which is a white square and a dotted
area. These allow you to navigate around the window. If the number of
files that can be displayed in your folder is greater than will fit
into your window some files will be hidden from view. Clicking on the
arrows allows you to move around the window in intervals of one file
at a time. This can be a bit slow if you've got a lot of files to display
and just want to get to the bottom. Clicking below the white box in
the dotted area on the vertical right hand scroll bar will cause the
display area of the window to move down one whole window length. You
will notice that the white box has moved down and that there is now
a dotted area above the white box. Clicking in this area will move the
visible are back up again by one window length. The horizontal scroll
bar works in a similar fashion other than it moves the window horizontally.
Well that's it for windows. Remember practice makes perfect.
Files and Folders
When you opened/ viewed the disk icon you were presented with a series
of files and folders icons within the window. Underneath the icons are
short (eight character) descriptions of the file or folder they represent.
There are three types of icon that GEM displays when you view a disk.
The first type, folders, are subdivisions within disk, which essentially
make it easier to organise your files. Folders are represented by an
icon that looks a bit like a paper folder (suprising eh?). Double clicking
on a folder displays its contents. On the ST all folders are displayed
in the same window. So when you double click on a folder the contents
replace the previous contents of the window. Windows by default opens
up a seperate window for a new folder.
Copying files is fairly straight foward assuming your using a one disk
based system. As we've mentioned before the icons Floppy Disk A and
Floppy Disk B represent two disk drives. Fine if you have two disk drives
attached. You can simply put one disk in Drive B and use the icon to
open it and then do the same for Drive B. Then you can just copy the
files across. But if you have a one disk drive as we've explained things
are more complex. In a one drive system the Floppy Disk B stands for
a second disk in drive A. You'll probably never come across this on
the PC as the floppy on that computer is mainly used for loading files
onto its hard disk. Just try copying a disk to another disk without
using the hard drive and you'll see where this falls down. To get round
this on the ST double clicking on the Floppy Disk B icon when there
is no second drive attached brings up a dialogue box asking you to insert
Disk B into Drive A. So basically the disk that would have gone into
an external drive is Disk B.
Working with several windows at once
Selecting different windows is a fairly easy task. If you open several windows up you will notice one of them is slightly darker than the others and if two windows are occupying the same space one will be overlying the others. This is the 'topped' window and any actions you want to carry out are carried out in the topped window. You can change which window is topped or selected by simply clicking on the window you want to select. Before you carry out any file operations you should make sure the window you think your working from is in fact the topped window. Otherwise that file you've just created may not appear on the disk you want it to. Note also that GEM can only open four windows at once and if you try to open more it will complain to you that 'GEM has no more windows'. Replacements for GEM allow you to open many more windows, but that will be covered later.
Deleting a File
Deleting a file is similar to copying one. This is where your ugly 'Trash' icon lurking at the bottom left hand corner of the screen comes in. Deleting a file is as simple as dragging it from an open Floppy Disk window down to the trash icon. The trash can will run black when the file is above it and then release the left mouse button. A dialogue window will open asking you if you want to proceed with deleting the file. Beware here as unlike the Apple Mac and PC there is no recovery for a deleted file. Once it's gone it's gone. Actually that's not entirely true there is a way to recover files but it's not as easy and it's beyond the scope of this particular article, one for the future maybe.
Copying and Deleting Multiple Files
So you think you've mastered copying and deleting eh? But what if you want to move more than one file at once. This can be solved by two methods. The first is 'rubber banding'. If you click and hold the left mouse button on a blank spot in a window (not on an icon) and then move the mouse down and to the right you will notice a rectangular 'ghost' box appear. All the files underneath the box turn black. You release the button when you've selected the files you want, they should remain black. Then click and hold the left mouse button on one of the selected files, you can now drag the lot to either a new disk or file or if you want to delete them, to the trash. Rubber banding is useful but if you want to copy files that are not all next to each other you need to use the shift key. Holding down the SHIFT key on your keyboard and single clicking using the left mouse button allows you to select multiple files, which can then be dragged to there destination. On later versions of TOS (The Operating System) rubber banding and the shift key method can be combined for ultimate flexibility. The only way to find out whether you can do this is to try it. If not then you have an early TOS version.
Description of What Does What in the Menu Bar!
In this section we're going to look at all the basic things you can do with the GEM menu bar. That's the annoying things that pop up every time you move your mouse over the white area with text in it at the top of the screen.
Firstly move your mouse up to the word DESK on the menu bar. A menu should drop down. The uppermost entry on this menu is something called DESKTOP INFO. You might also get other entries in this menu. These are called desk accessories. For now however ignore these and just click on DESKTOP INFO.
A window similar to the one above should open. This has got to be one of the least helpful parts of GEM. Very little can be gleaned from it other than the TOS version, and even that is only useful if you know the dates for the different TOS versions. Putting the amount of free memory in this dialogue box would have made it much more useful, but hey!
To the right of the DESK menu is the FILE menu. Accessing the entries
in this menu require certain criteria to be fufilled. The topmost entry
is labelled open. To use this option you have to select a file or disk
drive. How do you do this? I hear you ask, well selecting a file or
drive is achieved by single clicking with the left mouse button on it.
The drive or folder will go black (as in the picture above). De-selecting
a file is as simple as clicking on a patch of green on the desktop or
blank spot in a window. Anway once a file is selected the OPEN option
performs the same task as a double click. To be honest you won't use
this option much as it's much easier to double click in most instances.
This requires a file or disk drive to be selected to activate. Clicking on SHOW INFO will bring up a window, within which is contained information about the disk or file that you selected. For instance it will tell you the size of the file or the number of files and folders on the disk. This might not seem immeadiately useful but it soon will. It's very useful when copying to floppy disk and you need to know whether you'll be able to fit all the files on for example.
Underneath SHOW INFO is NEW FOLDER. For this to work a window displaying a disk or folder contents must be open. This is a commonly used option and allows you to organise your files effectively.
Clicking on NEW FOLDER allows you to specify a name for your folder.
Underneath NEW FOLDER are the menu options CLOSE and CLOSE ALL. CLOSE has the same effect as clicking on the closer button on a window, while CLOSE ALL closes the window regardless of which folder your in. Personally I never use these as it's a darn site quicker just to use the closer button on the window.
Finally in the FILE menu is the big scary one. FORMAT.
FORMAT is used to make the disks readable by the ST. ST's can read PC
floppies so you might never need to do this. But more than likely you
will. Remember if you format a disk you loose all information that may
be on it (As a helpful dialogue tells you before you try to format something)
so never use it on a disk with anything you want to keep on it. Once
you've formatted it there is no return.
Moving on to the VIEW menu.
The VIEW menu is used to manipulate the contents of open windows. A
window needs to be open to access any of the options. The first option
SHOW AS ICONS doen't seem to do anything when you click on it. That's
because by default the contents of a window are shown as icons (see
the tick). However if you click on the SHOW AS TEXT option you will
notice a big change. The icons have gone and have replaced by some ugly
looking text. Although not so pretty and not so immeadiately easy to
get to grips with this is the better way of working with files. If however
you hate it you can now click on the SHOW AS ICONS option in the menu
to get things back to the way they were.
Finally we come to the OPTIONS menu entry.
The first entry in this menu is INSTALL DISK DRIVE. At this stage you won't really need it as its main purpose is adding icons for hard disks and CD Roms etc. You can however use it to add another Floppy Disk A icon for example which you might want to put over the other side of the screen. To install a disk drive do the following: Select an already existing disk drive (for example Floppy Disk A) and the menu entry should become accessible. Click on install disk drive in the menu. A dialogue appears allowing you to change the drive identifier and label. So Floppy Disk A would have an identifier of A and a label of Floppy Disk. You could change the label to whatever you liked. A hard disk would have a identifier of C as A and B have been used up by floppy disks. Therefore it might read Drive: C, Label: Hard Disk. Clicking on INSTALL at this point will create a new icon on your desktop to access the new drive (or it might just change the label for your old one). It won't of course wok if your haven't actually got one. To remove a disk drive, select the drive you want to remove go to the INSTALL DISK DRIVE option and then click on REMOVE.
Underneath INSTALL DISK DRIVE in the OPTIONS menu is INSTALL APPLICATION.
This is a very useful desk entry, but its scope is a bit beyond this first tutorial. In brief the dialogue allows you to set programs to autostart on boot up and also designate certain applications to automatically load files when you double click on them.
The next option down in the OPTIONS menu is the SET PREFERENCES option.
The main purpose of the SET PREFERENCES option is to allow the ST to change resolution on a television or a low resolution monitor. The ST boots up in low resolution however switching to medium resolution gives more space for programs such as word processors to work in. Mono users unfortuantly can't change resolution. The dialog also allows the user to turn off some of the confirmation dialogues if they feel the need. Changing to medium resolution is as simple as clicking on the MEDIUM button and then clicking on OK. If you don't like the new resolution (it doesn't look very clear on some TVs, then simply go back into the SET PREFERENCES dialogue and click on the LOW button and then OK.
The penultimate option is SAVE DESKTOP.
This dialogue allows you to save any changes to disk in a file called DESKTOP.INF. So if you have changed your view of folders to text mode or want to boot up in medium resolution rather than low, saving the desktop will save you having to configure the desktop again next time you run it.
The final option is PRINT SCREEN.
This is a fairly poor option that allows you to do a crude, screen dump in Epson compatible format. If your printer doesn't offer Epson compatibility your out of luck. Occasionally useful, but not often.
This brings us to the end of this introduction to the desktop.
you're ready for the next stage of the ST Guide
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