Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 144 / SEPTEMBER 1992 / PAGE G2

One man's work disk. (customized work disks)(includes related article on the SpeedScript word-processing program)
by Don Radler, Tom Netsel


Over time, most computer users develop a collection of utilities that they find themselves using over and over again. Out of all the programs in a collection, these favorites are the ones that rise to the surface.

Usually, these gems reside on several different disks, arranged in whatever order seemed suitable at the time they were first saved. You have to remember where each one is, refer constantly to some master list, or load and list disk directories like mad in search of exactly the right program for this or that need. Then you have to recall whether program A is compatible with program B or just try it and see. As often as not, the computer locks up.

When I retired a few years ago, I started playing around with a 64. Through the dealer who sold me the machine, I bought someone's collection of several hundred programs on disk. There were utilities, applications, games, and a slew of unidentified--and for quite a while, unidentifiable--programs.

There was no documentation of any kind. The only way I could learn anything about the programs was to load 'em, run 'em, and list 'em. Painfully, bit by bit, I became familiar with the 64. For many people, to know it is to love it. I proved to be one of those people.

Like most people, I learned about the PRINT statement first. As something of a nut about color and composition, I modified the screens on most BASIC programs to make them satisfy my eye. I played with screen color, border color, POKEs, and so on. I started reading COMPUTE's Gazette, which became my only tutorial. And I began typing in the programs it published.

Then I had a stroke of luck: The local library sold off its holding of back issues of Gazette at ten cents a copy. I took advantage of that bonanza without hesitation, buying up the complete caboodle. It started with the February 1984 issue and ran slightly beyond the first issue I had bought on the newsstand. With those and my current subscription, I now have every issue from early 1984 to the present, with the exception of June 1989, which is unaccountably missing. (If anyone has one to spare, I'd love to have that issue. The issues before January of 1984 would be of historical value, but are probably too much to hope for.)

And I kept on typing in programs.

I've Got To Get Organized

Soon I had a truly formidable collection of programs on disk and a crying need to get organized. I was beginning to sell some articles and programs to magazines, so I needed to make my programming sessions more efficient. This meant upgrading all my work disks, but especially the one I still keep in the front of the first disk case, the one I use all the time.

Many necessary utilities are stored on this disk, including Gazette's MLX and The Automatic Proofreader. Also stored are supporting utilities for those data-entry programs, which I'll discuss later in this article.

As I discovered new programs and learned more about using them, my work disk changed. As I added new programs, I deleted others. Today, my work disk doesn't look at all like the disk it was even a year ago--and it's still evolving--but it does make my computing life easier and more efficient.

It's no surprise to me that many of the programs now on that much-used disk are from Gazette. I've typed in a good many programs over the years. It might be of value to other Gazette readers to see how that disk is currently organized, so here's what works for me.

Work Disk

The first listing is Art Hunkins' Keyload from the July 1986 issue of Gazette. I use Epyx's Fast Load cartridge, which loads and runs Art's program when I hit the Commodore and Run/Stop keys simultaneously. Then I simply cursor down to the program I want and hit Return, and it loads and runs. This sequence can be repeated after I've finished with one utility and I'm ready to use another one. (If I want to look over a listing rather than run the program immediately, I just type an L at the cursor and hit Return--the program loads and waits to be listed.)

Hunkins gets my thanks for writing a version for the Fast Load cartridge. For readers who don't use that cartridge, Art's regular version for the 64 lets you merely type LOAD "*", 8 to call up Keyload to be run or listed.

First Program

I save Keyload with the filename OKEY for alphabetizing purposes. It's the first program on most of my disk directories. It's great for use on my Sound Effects disk, calling up each sound and letting me hear it just by cursoring to the effect and hitting Return. It's really handy at the top of my Household Helpers disk, running First Aid (October 1984), Monthly Calendar (March 1989), or Speed Reader (February 1984) when I cursor to it and hit Return.

Save the Monitor

After Keyload, the next program on my work disk is Monitor Blackout. This program was printed in a Gazette "Feedback" column (March 1989). If you think you might be pulled away from the computer for a while, it pays to run this short utility at the start of the session to protect your monitor's screen from burned-in characters. If you don't touch your keyboard after a predetermined length of time, the program blanks the screen to the border color. As soon as you hit any key, the screen returns to normal.

Copy This Disk

Then there's C64 Fast Copy, a disk copier from Kracker Jax that's the smoothest I've tried. It's worth using in place of the disk copier on the Fast Load cartridge. This takes nothing away from Fast Load. I use it all the time to copy, scratch, lock, unlock, and rename individual files, but not to copy a disk. In fact, for formatting a disk and copying or scratching batches of files, I use "none of the above" and switch to my Fast Hack 'Em disk from Basement Boys Software. But its disk copier doesn't match C64 Fast Copy either.

Alphabetical Order

I keep disk directories alphabetized. This makes finding programs easier and speeds up the cataloging process with the disk-management program I use, which takes input from directories. The best program that I've found for this is a Gazette program called Disk Directory Sort by N.A. Marshall (March 1985). Although the program is short (35 lines), it runs too slowly for my taste. I compiled it with Blitz!, and now it moves right along. I can recommend the compiled version to anyone.

More Utilities

Next is Lou Sander's Disk Name/ID Changer, a public domain offering from the Tip Master himself. This program changes headers and ID's with a minimum of fuss and, so far, with no glitches.

If you have one program and want to add a subroutine or other code without having to type the program in again, then you need a good merge program to combine the two. The merge program I use is by G.A. Pearce, and it comes from an old Transactor Disk, volume 5, number 2. The program is hassle-free, and it works with Fast Load and/or with the K-prefix utilities mentioned below. The only true merge program I found in Gazette was Disk Merge (January 1985), but it was painfully slow.

Another great program is Randy Thompson's BSAVE Notepad from the April 1988 issue of Gazette. This supremely handy program lets you jot notes to disk at any time. When you run the program, it prints the most recent note on the screen. If you change that note, it replaces the old version with the new one on the disk. You may enter a screen of text.

Jim Butterfield's sequential file reader in "Machine Language Programming: File Handling" from the same issue is next. This program is written in machine language and, as with most of Butterfield's work, is lean, mean, and useful. As written, it reads a sequential file and prints it to the screen. With one number change in line 350, it will send its output to your printer.

Then there's Quick Print by Chuck Webb from the May 1989 issue of Gazette. With this program, you can send lines to the printer one at a time without first loading a word processor. It will also work without disturbing whatever program you have in memory. It's great for writing notes about the current program or for addressing envelopes or making labels. All it takes to activate this program is a simple SYS address call.

K Utilities

If my work session is going to be one of writing or entering programs, I disable Fast Load and go to a group of utilities filed on the work disk with the initial letter K.

First on the list is Broderbund's Kwikload. I use the Kwikload-1 option (load at 36096) for compatibility with the next several programs.

First among many is Multi-Utility Wedge, Jim Klitzing's fine multifaceted PD boon to programmers. Among many other goodies, this utility gives you a directory reader that doesn't disturb BASIC programs in memory, an autonumber, renumber, and delete-lines utility. It also has an instant UN-NEW command and abbreviated (two-key) DOS commands including SCRATCH, UNSCRATCH, RENAME, and so on. There's also a two-key screen dump to the printer. On top of all this, there's a simple text editor that loads and saves sequential files in standard ASCII or PET ASCII and can convert files from one format to the other.

For most of my writing chores I use Gazette's SpeedScript word processor. I use it especially for important or formal documents, but if I want to create a sequential file in the middle of a programming session, Jim Klitzing's text editor lets me do it. I can write a few lines; return to BASIC; and, with two keystrokes, go back into the text editor where the file sits waiting for me.

Compatible with this programming marvel (or with Fast Load if I'm not using the wedge) is Gazette's One-Touch Keywords by Mark Niggemann (June 1984). With Keywords you can use any of the letter keys in combination with either the Shift or the Commodore key to print BASIC keywords to the screen. Once you've learned the 52-word language, it speeds up writing and entering programs enormously. Now I'm spoiled--I wouldn't want to type in a program without it.

Whenever I type in a program from Gazette, I always use The Automatic Proofreader. It's a handy program that helps me avoid typing errors. These three utilities are compatible with Proofreader, which I enter after the first three are installed. I've found that these utilities, when used with Jim Klitzing's autonumbering utility, make typing Gazette programs almost fun.

Avoid Typos

Whenever I type, I make errors. I do have a couple of ways to avoid the slow-downs caused by typing blunders.

I have two Cardco numeric keypads that I picked up somewhere along the line. Either one will plug into joystick port 2. On one, I pasted data-entry letters over the keys, and on the other I put the MLX keypad letters. I put Cardco's KBASIC program on the work disk, along with the sequential files it lets me create for each of these conversions. The MLX entry pad is a real timesaver, virtually wiping out the typos made by my fumbling fingers. With two keys devoted to commas, the data entry pad almost eliminates the period-instead-of-comma hangup that plagues many data-statement entries.

Three Computers

Finally, there is Triple 64 by Feeman Ng, from the April 1985 issue of Gazette. This little (seven-line) program divides the 64's memory into three independent 12K sections, each accessible with SYS 40004 followed by the number 1, 2, or 3. Within these sections of memory, different modules of a program can be entered and tested, or three totally different programs can be tried out. It's like having three superfast 12K disk drives at your disposal and not unlike having a RAM disk. I use Hubert Cross's 64 RAMdisk from the Gazette 1988 Special issue for several purposes, but not for ordinary programentering or programming sessions.

Triple 64 works with Kwikload and the Klitzing wedge installed. Without that combination, it works with the Fast Load cartridge enabled. In either case, it installs itself where it fits and gives you the correct SYS address to toggle it on and off.

My Way

If you'd like to try out the Gazette program-entry setups, I've found the following combinations work well for me. If you're going to enter BASIC program listings from the magazine, run Kwikload-1, then Jim Klitzing's wedge, then Keyword, and finally Gazette's Proofreader.

When you want to type in machine language listings using MLX, run Kwikload-1 and then KBASIC (Cardco's keypad software); then call up the keypad modification for MLX; and, finally, load and run MLX itself.

By looking over the collection of programs you've downloaded or typed from Gazette or other magazines, you can probably come up with some gems of your own that you may have overlooked. By combining your most frequently used programs on one disk, you can customize a work disk that will let you work more efficiently.

You may have several work disks on hand, depending on your computer activity at any one time. While my work disk suits my programming needs, a computer artist would have an entirely different set of programs and utilities. Musical programmers, writers, and game designers would have their own customized disks.

So take a look at your files, your user group library, or local BBS offerings and put together your own custom work disk. It will make your computer time much more productive.


Of all the titles in your disk library, there probably are several that have risen to the top to become the cream of your collection. These programs, through their speed, realiability, and ease of use, have become the workhorses that handle the bulk of your computing chores. In this month's feature article, "One Man's Work Disk," Don Radler talks about his favorites and how they make his computer time more efficient and enjoyable.

His article started me thinking about my own work disk here at COMPUTE and how its evolved. As editor of Gazette, I need a good word processor. It probably won't come as any surprise that the first tool I put on any disk is SpeedScript, COMPUTE's own word processor. (I used it before I started working here. I typed in the original version years ago.)

SpeedScript is a relatively small program. I like that because I can store a lot of files on a disk with the word processor and keep related material together.

Whenever we write or edit anything for publication, we usually have a specific length in mind. Knowing how many words an article contains is a big help in this regard. Reviews, for example, usually run 750-1000 words. A word processor that counts words in an indispensable tool for professional writers. I modified my word processor to include this feature with Jonathan Bell's Word Count for SpeedScript (COMPUTE! December 1986).

When writing or editing, I often like to compare the original with the revised version. This is where Larry Hagney's SpeedSwap (COMPUTE, September 1991) comes in handy. It modifies SpeedScript so you can load two files into memory at once and switch between them with a keystroke. Best of all, SpeedSwap lets you cut material from one file and paste it into another. This great utility program makes SpeedScript even more useful. Articles, program documentation, reviews, and columns are usually submitted in SpeedScript, ASCII, or Commodore ASCII, which is also known as PETSCII. If a file is in SpeedScript format, I load it into my 128, edit it, and then save it back to disk. From this point, the file must be converted to true ASCII for additional editing and typesetting on our PC-based local area network.

I can print a SpeedScript file to disk as an ASCII file, but I usually save it first and then convert it. For converting, I use Ron Carnell's Sequential File Converter for SpeedSCript (COMPUTE!'s Gazette, October 1986). This handy program lets me convert from SpeedScript to ASCII or PETSCII and from PETSCII to SpeedScript.

Two other conversion programs I use are PET to ASCII by Joel Rubin and ASCII to PET by Dave Paul. Rubin's program was released in 1983, and Paul's must be nearly as old. These programs aren't fancy, but they're fast and accurate.

I upload files from my 128 to our BBS and then download them to my Gateway PC and its network. I use a terminal program that I think is called XMODEM Term. I'm not sure what it's called, where it came from, or who wrote it because there's no title or author on any of its screens. It consists of a compiled BASIC file and two machine language files. I needed XMODEM protocol because COMPUTE's old system would accept XMODEM transfers only. Other terminal programs are fancier, but this gem loads quickly and serves double duty as a sequential file reader.

After I fill a work disk, I store it away for safekeeping and create a new one. That's when I boot Ross Ouwinga's Fast File Copier (COMPUTE!'s Gazette, September 1986). I tag all the work programs I want--including Fast File Copier--and it copies them onto a new work disk.

These are the programs that work for me. I am comfortable with them. They make me more productive and my work easier. Isn't that the whole idea?