A SHORT SUMMARY OF SOME REALLY USEFUL UTILITY PROGRAMS
by Richard Karsmakers
It was about time that someone wrote a kind of 'ultimate
encyclopaedia of useful tools for the ST', and I guessed the time
was ripe so here it is. I think it is very important for people
to realise what is actually available on the market (both
commercial as well as Public Domain) to make their lives a hell
of a lot easier - for there is more than you may expect - and the
tools mentioned in this article are by no means all in existence!
Actually, the list is quite limited to tools with which I have
had experience in my 'ST career' (which isn't much of a
'career', but who giveth a f.ck?).
The version numbers specified are those that are, to my
knowledge, the most current ones.
1st Word Plus 3.15
I really don't care what other people say (who usually start
nagging about "Word Perfect" or "Le Redacteur" or even "PKS
Write"), but I reckon the most user-friendly, most widely
accepted and most easy-to-use word processor is good ol' "1st
Word Plus" by good ol' GST software of Cambridge, England.
The only problem with it is that it's a bit on the expensive
side, costing somewhere around the 80 Pound sterling mark as I
seem to recall. But for that price you get the program, an
English spelling dictionary, a 'dictionary merge' program
(allowing you to add your own words to the dictionary file), a
mail merge program and loads of printer drivers (among which will
surely be the one that matches yours). And I'm not even
mentioning the manual, which looks excellent.
The program is reasonably fast (more than fast enough with
"Turbo ST" installed, anyway) and is totally logically built up.
Version 3 had the advantage over version 2 since all commands
have keyboard equivalents which I rather like. Picture mode is
pretty OK, and the spell checking is really rather fast (I think
the 'continuous check' mode is very good, though it should not
merely have a sound when an unknown word is found as that usually
drowns in the heavy metal obliteration that is continuously going
on in my room).
Note: "1st Word Plus" versions 2 and 3 are not compatible with
version 1 with regard to picture format and spelling dictionary.
GST decided on this move after they found out that version 1 had
been largely spread in the illegal circuit.
A review of the latest version can be found elsewhere in this
issue of ST NEWS.
Atari ST Virus Killer V4.1
There is probably little use for me to start bragging about this
virus killer here, but it just happens to be the best one around
(I am sorry, but that's what everyone else says - not that I
disagree or something...) and it's pretty damn up-to-date,
extensive and easy to use.
I will have to bid you to refer to the article about 'viruses',
elsewhere in this issue of ST NEWS, for more information about
This is no tool in the real sense of the world, but the "Claus
Brod Harddisk Driver", which is offered on the book
"Scheibenkleister II" published by Maxon (written in German). It
is an adapted, extended and debugged version of the Atari
harddisk driver, that allows up to 12 partitions to be used
instead of the usual 4 that are allowed by Atari.
Really handy, this one - although of course you have to have a
hard disk to make proper use of it (ain't that a shame...).
DevPac 2.23 (Developer)
Although I am no machine code programmer, I know that there are
only few people (including myself) that do not realise that
Hisoft's "DevPac" is the ultimate assembler for the Atari ST.
Though the editor does have its drawbacks, it is very fast and
easy to use.
At Thalion, everybody of course works with the 'developer'
version that allows cross-assembling to other machines, which
unfortunately needs the communication hardware plugged in as a
copy protection dongle.
It is much faster as the previous versions, and in combination
with the extremely powerful "MonST" debugger it seems only to be
beaten by "TurboAss". This latter assembler, however, only works
properly on 4 Mb machines.
I don't think that Argonaut's "Argasm" (see ST NEWS Volume 4
Issue 4) will pose a serious threat for the sovereignty of
"DevPac", as it is still not out.
May "DevPac" forever rule!
Fast Filemover 1.3
A commercial product that is quite different from any other file
copiers you may know, including the desktop. A full review of
this program can be read elsewhere in this issue of ST NEWS.
This is probably the standard copy package for the Atari ST,
written by Martin Backschat. It is shareware, which is really
Apart from copying any NON-COPY-PROTECTED disks, it can also
check bootsectors whether or not they're executable, it can
format, it can backup your harddisk, it can be used as an
accessory, it can do multiple copy, and has a help screen built
in. Copying various disk formats is made easy, as the program
automatically determines which format it has to copy and formats
the target disk correspondingly. Also, 'used sectors only' can be
selected before copying.
A really good program, which everybody should actually have.
The registration fee is 50 German marks, and Martin's address
is: Martin Backschat, Bergstr. 16, D-8071 Hepberg, West Germany.
GfA Basic 3.5
I am not going to say anything about this. Apart from the fact
that it is now also available on the Amig....bawwaaaaaarrghh...
and PC's, it is perfect and puts the 'BASIC' programming language
in a new spotlight.
Available from GfA Systemtechnik, and there's a bloody good
compiler as well.
This is quite an old tool (August 1988 was its finishing date),
and it is a HArddisk BOOster by a German chap called Julian
Reschke (he is quite a well-known dude, as he does lotsa work
here and there for the ST world). It is Public Domain, and it is
very trustworthy (virtually all people I know work with it, and
it has never let them down).
"Haboo" works through means of Cache memory, that speeds up hard
disk access considerably: The larger that cache memory is, the
faster. This can be determined during booting by pressing the key
Apart from the actual cache memory, it practically does not take
up any more. On disk it's very tiny, too.
Mutil (Michtron Disk Utilities) v2.1
A golden oldie, this disk editor, that was done somewhere back
in 1987 by ultimate tools programmer Timothy Purves. It was (and
is) actually one of the programs on a utility compilation called
"Michtron Utilities Plus" - and the most useful of them.
This allows flexible manipulation of information directly on
disk, and is quite trustworthy (versions 1.x could actually screw
up your disks when using 'File Attribute Edit' on double-sided
There will probably be better ones (Starsoft's "The Last Disk
Utility" probably, though I never saw it, and Claus Brod's
"SED" on his Kleisterscheibe is also better), but this one's
brilliantly simple and, frankly, simply quite brilliant.
NeoDesk 3 (v 3.01)
Yeah! Yet another version of the fantastic alternative desktop
A full review of this wholly remarkable product can be found
elsewhere in this issue of ST NEWS.
Super Boot 6.0
A shareware program that allows you to boot your system very
flexibly, allowing you to determine which accessories and AUTO
folder programs to use, among many other things. Please refer to
this issue's "ST Software News" column, where you will be able to
read a lot more about it.
THE editor for the Atari ST. If you don't need right justify and
word wrap, this is it. It is preferable above any other editors,
and it's breathtakingly fast in all respects (file I/O as well as
search/replace, page scrolling, etc.). There is no need to
elaborate to more extend about this.
It's just very good and very fast, and has a lot of really
useful options. The calculator that is included in it is really
naff, though, and uses some kind of calculating convention that
only few mortals (including myself) can master.
At the moment, "Tempus Word" is a really hot item. Forget about
this if you just want a word processor with "Tempus" speed, as
the people at Creative Computer Design have turned it into a
full-fledged desktop publishing program where nobody can see the
forest through the trees any more.
Especially for first time users, it's much too complex.
Stick to "1st Word Plus" and/or "Tempus" instead.
Turbo ST 1.8
At the time when the MEGA ST's started to be produced, everybody
was raving about the supposed infinitely sped-up graphics
operations allowed by the infamous blitter chip.
Lots of people were really annoyed about that - who all had
'old' Atari ST systems and didn't necessarily want to get a new
one just for some extra speed.
The American company Softek did something to make everybody
happy again, and designed an accessory called "Turbo ST"
(distributed in Germany by Bela). This was to be known as 'the
software blitter', and quite rightly so.
It turned out to be faster than the actual blitter, and all
this had been achieved only by patching the Operating System's
internal graphics routines so that they used new, faster ones.
Version 1.8 is now also available (which is even faster than
1.6), and this has AUTO folder equivalents as well, which take up
a bit less memory. It now also has separate versions for some
kind of big 'mega' screen that I never heard of (yet).
One can extremely easily do without "Turbo ST". But once you
have used it for a while, a non-"Turbo ST" system will appear
Universal Item Selector III (v3.1)
A full review of this magnificent program that installs an
alternative item selector into you system can be found elsewhere
in this issue of ST NEWS.
Now this is also a very nice program, which is Public Domain. It
installs itself when run from the AUTO folder and does all kinds
of little things that you do not notice at first.
It saves the time and date during reset, it can blank the screen
after a specific time, it can do auto-ship (and un-ship), boot
from different partitions, invert the screen, print the date in
various formats in an editor, the DESKTOP.INF file will be fully
interpreted (WITHOUT even having to have the CONTROL.ACC
installed!), it can reset the color palette, it can notice
executable bootsectors (a non-cloning anti virus, thus), and it
makes cold-and warm resets possible even on TOS versions that do
not support this standard.
Once run, it takes up only 3 or 4 Kb of memory, so that's really
nothing much to get excited about. The author is
Jürgen Albuschies, and I don't know his address (tough shit). The
program is quite widely available through the Public Domain,
A final note:
'Shareware' is a special kind of Public Domain. You are allowed
to copy a shareware program to others and all of that, but you
are requested to pay a modest 'registration fee' to the author if
you decide to use the program often.
Actually, the shareware principle is one of the best ever
invented, and it should be supported (I do so, anyway).
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.