Classic Computer Magazine Archive A.N.A.L.O.G. ISSUE 62 / JULY 1988 / PAGE 83


by Michael A. Banks

The Forum
In the preceding installment of this column, we took a look at the electronic mail feature offered by ANALOG's Atari SIG on Delphi. This time, we'll focus on another mode of commmunications for ATARI SIG members: the Forum, the Atari user's informamtion central.
    I've mentioned the Forum before, but I know that a number of you aren't using it, either because you don't know what it is, or because you find it confusing. If you haven't used the Forum, you're missing a lot, believe me! Current hot topics include GEM and MS-DOS compatibility, books and bombs, trackballs and memory upgrades, along with conversations on many other fascinating topics-technical and nontechnical. And if you're looking for an answer to a technical problem, the Atari SIG Forum is the place to go; post a question or comment on virtually any Atari topic, and you'll usually have several answers within two or three days. The Atari SIG Forum is a living database of information on Atari take advantage of it!
    For those of you who are new to using the Forum, what follows is a Forum minimanual. (You regular Forum users will find this interesting, too; the Forum boasts at least one recently added feature of which you may not be aware.)

What is the Forum?
    Simply put, the Forum is a public-message system, similar to public bulletin boards you may have used on your local BBSs, but far more powerful. One way to visualize the Forum is to imagine a series of rooms with chalkboards. Each room is assigned a different topic (General Interest, Toolbox for the ST, etc.-the same basic topics as are assigned the Atari SIG's databases). Within each room there are any number of chalkboards,     each with its own subject; on the boards are written messages on that subject, and their replies. The topics, subjects, and messages within the Forum fit this analogy well. The net effect is a series of ongoing, open conversations, any of which you may read and/or participate in.
    For your convenience, messages and their replies are organized into groups called "threads." A thread begins with an original message, and continues through each response to that message (including responses to the responses). As you'll learn, you can make the system display all the messages in a thread in a specified sequence, if you wish.

Getting There
    To get to the Forum, type FORUM at the main SIG menu's ANALOG > prompt. You'll see the Forum banner and prompt:

The Forum
    The Voice of the Atari User
    Welcome to the ATARI Forum.

    Forum contains messages 17000 through 35651.
    Highest message you've read is 35646.
FORUM > Reply, Add, Read,
"?" or Exit >

    The commands you'll use most frequently are listed with the prompt, and are pretty much self-explanatory.

The Forum Menu and Commands
    To see all available options at the Forum prompt, type ?. The full Forum menu will be displayed:

ADD New Message (Thread)
Message by Mail
To Current Message
a Posted Message
to Previous Message
of Messages
Message (Set/Show)
Interesting Message
Message into Workspace
FORUM > Reply, Add, Read,
"?" or Exit>

(If you are using a 40-column display, these commands will be displayed in that format, and will take more than one screen to display).
    The commands are self-explanatory, (but I'll explain the more important of them in the following paragraphs). For help with any command, type HELP followed by the name of the command (Example: HELP DIRECTORY).

The Forum Directory (DIR)
    The Forum has an extremely sophisticated directory system that allows you to quickly locate messages by date, subject, addressee or message number. You can also locate messages posted by a certain Delphi member. These criteria can be used individually, or combined in any fashion you wish, in the form of qualifiers used with the DIRECTORY (DIR) command.
    Here's an example of how this works. If you were interested only in reading Forum messages on the subject of Omnires, you would enter the Forum and type DIR SUBJ Omnires. The system would display a list of all messages on that subject. If you wanted to get more precise, you could type DIR SUBJ Omnires FROM GBA to see a directory of all messages from membername GBA on the subject of Omnires monitors.

Reading Forurm Messages (READ)
    You can use the same criteria and qualifiers used with the Forum's DIRECTORY command (as detailed in the paragraphs immediately preceding) to read messages. You can also read messages by typing the number of a message (handy after you've used DIR), or simply press < RETURN > to read the next unread (new to you) message.
    If Forum messages addressed to you are waiting, you are notified automatically when you enter the Atari SIG. You are notified again of waiting messages when you enter the Forum area. Delphi automatically keeps track of whether you've read waiting messages, and displays them first if you press RETURN when you first enter Forum. If you read other messages before reading those addressed to you, you can display all the messages waiting for you by typing READ WAITING.
    You can read only the messages in a thread if you wish-in forward or backward order-using special commands.

Beginning a New Thread/ Adding a Message (ADD)
    ADD opens up a new message. When you type ADD, you are prompted for an addressee for the message (type ALL if the message is to everyone), a topic for the message (one of the existing topics), and the message's subject (whatever you want it to be). After you enter this header information, simply type in your message, and press CONTROL-Z when finished; the message will be automatically posted. If it is addressed to a specific individual, he will be notified when he enters the SIG that a Forum message is waiting for him. (If your message receives replies, they will be grouped together as a thread.)

Replying to a Message (REPLY)
    If you wish to reply to a message, type REPLY at the Forum prompt after reading the message. You will be prompted to enter the addressee of the message; press < RETURN > and the message will be addressed to the person to whom you are replying, and the Topic and Subject headers will be filled in automatically. Type your message and press CONTROL-Z to post it when you're finished.

Setting Topics (TOPICS)
    If you're overwhelmed by the number of messages in the Forum, and know you won't be interested in all the threads, you can, of course, use DIR and READ qualifiers to select specific messages. You can also limit the number of messages you'll see by selecting or de-selecting topics. For example, if you use an Atari 8-bit machine, you might not want to see messages concerning the ST, you can eliminate those messages from being displayed to you using the Forum's SET TOPICS command. Simply type TOPICS, and follow the prompts to select or de-select the appropriate topics. (The topics available in the ATARI SIG are General Interests, Games & Entertainment, Telecommunications, Utilities, Toolbox for the ST, Sight & Sound, Education, Entertainment on the ST, Reviews & News, ST Programs, Koala Pictures, Art on the ST, Current Issue, Home Use and Applications for the ST.)

Other Forum Commands
    Additional commands allow you to reply to a member who posted a particular message by private E-mail (type REPLY MAIL), to send copies of messages to other Delphi members by E-mail (type FORWARD) and to copy Forum messages to files in your personal Workspace (type FILE). You would type these commands immediately after reading the message.

Weakly Conferences
    Don't forget that SIG Atari hosts a realtime conference each Tuesday at 10 p.m. EST. You'll find the conferences an excellent venue for sharing information about Atari computers, getting answers to questions and participating in friendly discussions of all types.

    In addition to writing science-fiction novels and books on rocketry, Michael A. Banks is the author of Delphi: The Official Guide and The Modem Book, both from Brady Books. You can write to him via Email on Delphi to membername KZIN.