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© Pain

SOFTWARE REVIEW: THE UNIVERSAL ITEM SELECTOR III
by Richard Karsmakers

The echoes of chanting had ebbed away and the candles had been
reduced to smouldering piles of molten wax.
The room had something about it that could only be called
'eerie'. The cobwebs hung in a disjointed way from the vaulted
ceiling. A small fire threw disembodied shadows on the walls that
were partly covered with algae.
The fire was under an altar, and on top of that altar were the
dismembered remains of what was still recognisable once to have
been a floppy disk.
Some careful examination would reveal a fairly inconspicuous
text written on the label that was stuck on it and which was
severely burned at its edges.
If someone would have taken the trouble of this rather
straightforward bit of examining, the text "Universal Item
Selector II" would have been distinguishable.
The disk had been crudely burnt, and looked as if it had been
sacrificed to some kind of divine being.
Which was, actually, precisely what had happened to it.

The High Priest of the Worshippers of the Atari File Selector
Box had cast an ominous glance on the disk, and he had carefully
put it on the altar.
A deep and vibrating hum arising from the bearded throats and
pegged noses of several dozen disciples had filled the vaulted
room, and the smell of their sweaty armpits and cheesy toes had
momentarily beaten that of centuries old vaulted room.
But not for long.
When the fire was lit, the scent of incinerating plastic was
present in a rather omnipotent way throughout all Worshipper's
nasal cavities.
They had started chanting. They had started clapping. They had
started stamping the ground with their travel-worn sandals.
When the disk had been sacrificed to enough a degree, the High
Priest had extinguished the fire, decreasing it to a mere
slumbering bit of wood that had no other power but to throw a
couple of disembodied shadows of a couple of Worshippers on the
ceiling and walls of the rancid old dungeon.
The High Priest had cleared his throat and had taken the peg off
his nose. He had spoken in a very deep, solemn voice about
freedom, safety, peace, and the Atari File Selector Box.
After they had chanted a bit more (and clapped and stamped a bit
as well), they had left the room in a very happy mood.
After about five minutes of invisible but extremely
vicious battling, The smell of centuries old vaulted room had
once again prevailed over that of sweaty armpits and cheesy toes.

The disk was lying in a very quiet fashion.
It was totally incapable of doing anything else, of course, for
disks do not have any tendency towards moving, and if it had it
wouldn't have been able to anyway because it had just been
sacrificed during which process it had sustained burns that would
surely have disabled it from moving for the rest of its times.
At that moment, the disk must have sensed something of the
chronicler's thoughts and started to move.
If the chronicler would have been able to sense something of the
disk's thought, it would have been something like "that's what
you think!"
Nonetheless, the disk moved.
It moved very much in a fashion the dead don't - least of all
when they're disks.
It seemed to bulge.
Yes. That's what it did.
It bulged.
It seemed to grow.
Indeed, it grew.
After it had done some quiet growing to itself, it raised itself
on top of the altar. In spite of its molten bits and the burnt
label, it seemed to stand proud as two arm-like forms grew out of
it.
Indeed, two arms it were.
The hand-like forms that were located at the far ends of the
arm-like forms started tearing at the label.
They tore.
Under the tattered, fire-worn label, a new shiny label became
visible. Slowly but surely. The molten bits of the disk seemed to
be reforged by invisible entities, until after a bit of tearing
and reforging there stood a shiny disk, just as new, on which a
clear and shiny label read "Universal Item Selector III".
There was a puff of smoke.
There was a blindening roar of thunder and some numbing lighting
as well as a couple of deafening shockwaves.
After the smoke had lifted, an unscathed disk lay on the altar.
Would anyone have had the ability to sense a disk's hushed
communications, and would any of these have been present in the
vaulted dungeon at that moment, it would have revealed some soft
grinning.
The grinning of something that is obviously terribly pleased
with itself.

The High Priest lifted a hand and suddenly halted, causing
several of his fellow-worshippers to bump into the back of him.
Before him had arisen what could be nothing other than an
apparition. A rather squarely built apparition, with long
sideburns.
It had appeared out of a door that had suddenly leapt out of the
nothingness before the High Priest, and after the door had closed
itself, it had leapt back into the void it had occupied before.
The apparition, after sniffing suspiciously, spoke in the common
language of humans, vaguely remembered by the High Priest.
"Do you serve Kuwaiti beef here?"
The High Priest stood rooted to the ground. His fellow-
worshippers had all knelt to the ground, afraid to look at what
they considered to be a Prophet; a Prophet who could kill them
with a glance or turn them into savage heathens with the click of
a finger. Or both.
"What dost thou sayeth, Oh Prophet, My Lord, Oh divine
Apparition?" the High Priest probed.
"I said 'Do you serve Kuwaiti beef here', pal!"
The voice of the apparition sounded like thunder to the fragile
ears of the Worshippers, who were used only to deep humming, soft
chanting and the occasional bit of "Woe! Woe!" and "Hail! Hail".
The High Priest turned around to his followers, and stretched
his arms out to where the sky should have been but where actually
only were the vaulted bits of a low corridor.
"My dear friends! Hearken me! The coming of this Prophet signals
a new period, and I foresee it will be one of timeless joy and
titillating chanting!"
The apparition was somewhat baffled - in a way someone would who
is trained to fight rather than think.
It therefore undertook an action it considered most fit for this
occasion, took out something unrecognisable from under its coat
and pulled something on it that looked like a trigger.
Indeed, a trigger it was.
The High Priest forgot to cry, or even to startle.
Instead, he looked down in amazement at an enormous hole in his
body out of which all kinds of unpleasant things came.
Without even letting out but a sigh, he folded to the ground.
At the very moment the skull of the High Priest cracked open on
a rather crude bit of stalacmite that happened to protrude from
the ground, a door revealed itself from what seemed like utter
nothingness.
It opened in a mysterious way.
The apparition disappeared through it, after which the door
closed itself and once again disappeared in the void it had
seemed to come from.
None of the High Priest's fellow-worshippers had seen anything
of what had happened, and when the first of them ventured to lift
his head, he stood erect in total disgust and fear.
"Woe! Woe! Bad times are nigh!" he cried, his voice filled with
sincere emotion and grief, "Our beloved High Priest has departed!
A new Item Selector must have appeared!"
"Woe! Woe!" the others yelled.
"One for all, all for one!" the first one now yelled, "Hail the
Atari Item Selector!"
"Hail! Hail!" the others now yelled, after which they all
started a quiet, deep hum and set off through a door that had
suddenly appeared from nothingness.
A copper plaque above it featured a word that would have been an
awfully good name for an Iraqi restaurant provided it served a
good piece of Kuwait beef.
Then, as if it was the most normal procedure in the world, both
the plaque and the door it belonged to vanished into a void.

And the disk just kept grinning, though of course nobody heard
this.

*****

After quite a long wait (could easily have been a year or so),
Application & Design software has once again considered the time
ripe to publish a new version of their highly acclaimed and
extremely versatile little utility program "Universal Item
Selector". This time, the "II" has been replaced by a "III" and
the version reviewed here is indeed 3.1.

For those of you who are not familiar with "Universal Item
Selector II", or not even with alternative file selector in
general, please read the following.

First: Believe it or not, the Atari File Selector is CRAP. Not
just ordinary crap, but crap of the crappiest conceivable kind.
In TOS 1.4 and up, Atari has tried to make it better but it's
still very much crap.
So that's why people have tried to make so-called alternative
item selectors, small programs that could be put in the AUTO
folder and that patch your system so that instead of the ordinary
item selector box it used a custom one.
There have been some pretty good ones in recent years, but none
of them were anywhere close to Application & Design software's
"Universal Item Selector II". This was altogether a kind of mini-
desktop, and thus meant that practically all disk-and file-
operations were directly accessible from any program that used
the GEM item selector box (which, except for the odd program like
"Tempus" or "Turbo C", all programs use).
This is exceedingly handy, of course, and many people even
preferred it to the standard GEM desktop option.

Okay.
"Universal Item Selector II" offered the user all kinds of GEM-
like option, which just had the bit 'extra' that they needed.
'Show Info' could be used for multiple files, disk formatting was
much more flexible, files could be moved (and copied, renamed,
deleted), folders could be created (and even renamed), file
selector item sorting could be specified, and lots more.
A really versatile utility by all means, and there were actually
few things that I still missed.

"Universal Item Selector III" offers even more than its
predecessor, and it therefore even better. I will try to have a
go at describing a couple of its functions - just realise that
what I will now write down here is by no means complete.

Standard fileselector options

Of course, it offers the standard options every item selector
should have, like instant drive specification. "Universal Item
Selector III" adds to that the fact that all file specifications
can be read (not only name, but also size and date), and the font
with which this is displayed can be either normal or small.
Several display modes are present, which allow you to have three
columns of files next to each other, or just have one column, or
have one extended column (which will then include all file info).
Pathnames are 'remembered' for each drive/partition, whereas
file extenders can also be clicked on (a small list with commonly
used file extenders can be clicked on - which can be changed and
saved). The 'find' option is also very useful. Just enter the
name of the file you need (wild cards allowed) and it scans the
current path for its occurance. Hidden files can also be
displayed.

File options

As the "Universal Item Selector III" is like a small GEM desktop
itself, it can also copy, move, delete and rename files. Multiple
files can be selected, and it is not necessary for those files to
be visible all at once. This latter means that, if a list of
files goes beyond the limits of the display capacity of the item
selector, you can simply scroll up and down through it, selecting
files as you scroll up and down (this can also be done very
flexably with the familiar 'drawing of a rubber box' with the
mouse pointer - also beyond the display limits!).
Further, files can also be displayed ('Show file' of the
desktop, not in version II) or printed, whereas the file
attributes can also be changed (to hide a file, or to protect it
from being deleted). This latter can also be done for multiple
file, which is a really useful option as you can imagine.
And, remember: All this can be done from whichever program as
long as it can call the Item Selector Box!

Additional options

It is also possible to format any floppy disk with a variable
amount of sides, sectors per track and sectors per side. No Hyper
format (11 sectors per track) is supported, but who cares. On the
contrary to "UIS II", the directory of a floppy now no longer has
to be read before formatting is selectable (which used to cause a
bit of a problem with disks that had not been formatted before).
Folders can be created at any time. Various settings can be made
(like 'show hidden' yes/no, or the size of the display screen,
font type, etc.), and version III now also allows these to be
saved (not present in version II).
An additional nice bit is the fact that up to ten default
directory selections can be stored, which can afterwards be
selected easily (by double clicking on the word 'Directory' or
pressing the corresponding function key). Selecting them can be
done by being in a directory to store, then double clicking on
'Directory', and then click on the relevant entry (first with the
right button, and then the left one while keeping the right one
depressed).
They can be stored for continuous use by using the 'Save
defaults' option of "UIS III".

All in all

All in all, "Universal Item Selector III" is a must for all
people who seriously use the ST for other things than just games
(e.g. for people that do lots of data processing). It's a perfect
desktop alternative in a nutshell, and (as I already stated
several times before) it can be called from virtually any
program.
There's none to beat it. It's perfect.

Disclaimer
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.