Classic Computer Magazine Archive START VOL. 2 NO. 5 / SPRING 1988

Exploring The ST's Filing System

by Carol Ann Brimeyer

The ST'S Desktop is more than just a pretty face. Behind its casual look is a no-nonsense filing system that can keep your disk information snappily organized. Here's how!

On the ST Desktop, disk icons look like what they act like: filing cabinet drawers. When you open a disk icon and display its directory window, you can see the names of the files on the disk.

From the View menu, you can choose how you'll see the filenames, with either the Show as Icons or the Show as Text option. When you first turn on your ST, it automatically selects Show as Icons, and the files appear as small pictures in the directory window. Those small pictures-called icons-do more than pretty up the display; they actually show you what kind of files you have.

One file icon looks a little like a small desktop. This means the file is a program that your ST can run to accomplish some work. Program files include word processors and painting programs, for example. To run a program from the Desktop, you can point at it and click once (which highlights the icon), then point at File on the menu bar to drop down the File menu, and click on Open (which starts the program running). You can also just double-click on a program icon - click twice in rapid succession-to run the program.

(If you've selected Show as Text from the View menu, the program files will look like all the other files-a filename of up to eight letters, with a three-character extension. You can tell a program file because it will always have the extension PRG, TOS, TTP or APP. But you can run a program in the same way as with icons: either click and Open, or double-click.)

Another file icon looks like a stack of papers with one corner folded over. This tells you the file is data that a program can read, add to and change. A data file might be an itinerary for a rafting trip, a musical score page or a NEOchrome picture.

Data files are created and changed by programs, but they're not programs themselves. You can't run a data file with the File menu's Open option. It you try, you'll get a message that says you can only look at the file on screen or print it to your printer. Depending on the kind of data file it is, it may or may not make sense if you look at it on screen.

A third icon that resembles a familiar manila folder can show up in your directory window. This is the folder icon. Folders are among those wonderful kinds of computer things that seem esoteric and complicated until you start to use them. Then you can't believe you ever got along without them. (If your directory information is showing as text, the folder icon will have a small diamond symbol to the left of its name.)

Real stacks of paper can be put inside real manila folders. On the ST, data and program files can be put inside disk folders. A folder is a sectioned-off area on disk where you can store files (and other folders) that belong together.

Create a folder by dropping down the File menu and pointing and clicking on the New Folder option. In the dialog box that appears, type in a name for the folder using eight or fewer characters. (You can also add a three-character extension, though it's not necessary.) Then click on OK. The new folder filename will show up in your active directory window. (Folders always appear first in the directory, before any files.)

Back in the directory window, drag a data file on top of the folder When the folder is highlighted, release the mouse button. The data file will be copied into the folder.

Copy other files into the folder that are related to the first file. For instance, put a graphics program and all files you created with it into one folder. Your files are now grouped in one place where you can work with them easily- without having to wade through lists of unrelated filenames.

Open the folder by double-clicking on it in the directory window. The folder opens to its own directory window, showing only the files you have in it. Use the files from the folder window just like you would use them from the main directory window. You can even create folders within folders-up to eight levels deep!

Close the folder by clicking on the close box in the upper left corner of the window. The main directory will reappear. Once your new copies of the files are safely stashed in a folder, you can erase the original versions from the main directory by dragging them to the trash can.

A curious thing about folders is that they don't appear to take up any room on a disk. (If you check the information line in a directory that contains nothing but folders, you'll find it says "0 bytes used.")

That's because folders aren't files, but only doorways to files. Each file has a certain length, and the length of all files in a directory are added up on the information line as "bytes used." But a folder isn't a file, so it doesn't have a length. (However, a folder does take up a small amount of space on your disk.)

Like any good filing system, the Desktop makes it easy for you to make copies of your work, as well as do an occasional cleanup by throwing away clutter.

Copies are made in four different ways. all of which use dragging. Before you copy, make sure the disk you're copying to is formatted and is not write-protected. (The sliding tab should be covering the write-protect notch so you can't see through it.) If the disk already contains other information, check it with the File menu's Show Info option. That will tell you if the disk has enough bytes available to accept the new items.

You can copy an entire disk to another disk by dragging one disk icon on top of another All information on the source disk (the icon you dragged) will be copied to the target disk (the icon dragged to). lf the target disk already contained other files, they will be erased during this kind of copying.

To copy an item from a directory window to a disk, drag the item from the window to the disk icon. In this way you can copy a single item to another disk without disturbing the items already there.

Copy an entire disk to the directory window of another disk by dragging the disk icon to the window. All the files on the source disk will be copied and listed in the directory window, along with the files already on the target disk.

Copy from one directory window to another by dragging an item from window to window.

Whenever you're copying an item to a directory window you can copy to a folder in the window by dragging the item to the folder filename. When the filename reverses shading, release the mouse button. The item will be copied into the folder.

Here's a copying shortcut: When copying several items from a directory window you can lasso them with the rubber-band box and drag them all together to their new location. To lasso items, position the mouse pointer to the left of the first item. Hold down the left mouse button and drag the pointer down and to the right, across all items. When you release the mouse button, all items will be selected. You can then drag them as a group to another window or disk.

Sometimes you'll discover that the file you're copying has the same name as a file already in a directory window. Your ST will warn you about this by giving you a message that says "NAME CONFLICT DURING COPY." When you get this message, you can either choose a different name for the new copy, or just click on Cancel to stop copying that particular file.

Data Files seem to have a way of multiplying at night when the power is turned off. At any rate, that would explain why your disks seem to fill up at an unbelievable rate.

When a disk gets too full, scan through its files to see which ones you can erase. Drag the obsolete files to the trash can, either singly or in groups lassoed with the rubber-band box. (if your disks are usually write-protected, take the write-protection off before erasing by moving the tab so you can't see through the notch.)

Dragging files to the trash can gets rid of them for good, so be sure you throw away only those files you never want to see again.

The Desktop's filing system was designed to make your computing life easier. Taking advantage of it is another smart way to use your ST.

If you'd like more articles like this, circle 275 on the Reader Service Card.

Carol Ann Brimeyer is Senior Publications Editor for Atari Corp.