"Don't think of retiring from the world until the world will be
sorry that you retire."
SECRETS OF GENEVA
by Al Fasoldt
Tips, tricks and things that should be obvious but may not be in
getting the most of of Gribnif's amazing Geneva, the multitasking
environment for Atari ST, TT and Falcon computers.
Al Fasoldt is Technology Writer, Syracuse Newspapers and
Newhouse News Service; Systems Editor, the Herald-Journal, the
Herald American and the Post-Standard, Syracuse, New York.
This can be reproduced in electronic form without permission of
the author only if the entire document remains intact. Printed
reproduction requires a prior arrangement. No commercial use of
this document, for any purpose, is allowed.
Geneva, the multitasking operating environment from Gribnif
Software, is perhaps the most powerful application that can be
run on an Atari ST, TT or Falcon. This is impressive enough, but
what is even more unusual is the ease with which Geneva
integrates itself into the way Ataris have always operated. You
need not learn anything new to make use of Geneva, and you don't
have to get rid of any old habits.
But Geneva's power runs as deep as it runs wide. Many of the
features of Geneva are not obvious, and some are even obscure.
The documentation that Gribnif supplies with Geneva abounds with
explanations and examples, which, as most of us who write
documentation know, most users will never read. They want to get
their hands on the program right away, intending to look at the
documentation later. And, of course, "later" never comes.
Perhaps companies such as Gribnif should offer enticements for
customers to read and study documentation. Maybe each page should
have a hidden code that holds the key to a discount or a cash
reward, offering a prize on every page. Or maybe computer users,
all of us, should try a little harder to learn how to read.
This essay is an attempt to encourage that. It is not a
replacement for or supplement to the Geneva manual. Much of the
information here will not make sense unless you are able to
consult the manual, which you should do whenever something is not
I must also add that this essay is not in any way intended to
help those who have acquired Geneva illegally. If your copy of
Geneva came without a manual, you do not have a legal copy, and
you do not have a right to keep it. Fortunately, there is an easy
way to get the manual, and a second copy of the software, without
pain and trauma: Pick up the phone, call Gribnif, and order a
copy. Then toss out the copy that you stole. Your mother will
love you for it, and Gribnif will respect you. With love and
respect and Geneva to boot, who could ask for more?
10 BASIC MISUNDERSTANDINGS ABOUT GENEVA
Items 1 to 4
Here's what Geneva is not:
o A new desktop for your computer.
Geneva does not replace the desktop (also called the shell or
the desktop shell). This means when you boot up Geneva, you don't
have icons and windows and a trash can and things like that,
unless you specifically run a separate desktop shell.
MultiTOS is made by Atari; Geneva is made by Gribnif. They are
similar in a couple of ways, because they both support
multitasking and they both take advantage of new code in many
programs. This new code provides fancier displays and better
menus, among other things. But that's where the connection ends.
A very big difference is that Gribnif supports Geneva actively;
Atari has all but abandoned customer support for its computers
and computer software.
o A memory hog.
With its support files, Geneva takes up about 5 percent of the
memory of a 4-megabyte Atari computer. This is less RAM than the
memory taken up by a typical word processor. To make the point
more dramatically, if the code in Geneva were written into a
displayable graphic form such as you'd find in a GIF picture, it
would do little more than fill a single screen of a TT.
Molasses is stuff you make great cookies with. Geneva is stuff
you make great computing with. Many computer users assume that a
system that can do many different things at once must therefore
be much slower than a system that can only do one thing at a
time. This is both true and false. Geneva has almost no overhead,
so that all the basic operations occur at very nearly the same
speed as before. (This is oversimplifying the situation, since
what little overhead Geneva does have is often compensated for by
its more efficient code.) On the other hand, if you run nine
programs at once, you can be sure that each of them will run a
lot more slowly than if you ran only one at a time. Geneva can't
overturn the laws of physics.
Items 5 and 6
What Geneva cannot do:
o Turn soot into Shinola.
(I know the saying is usually written another way, but kids and
normal people might be reading this, too.) Geneva cannot turn a
poorly written Atari program into a well written one. It will
attempt to make that program behave, but it can't create a
resizeable GEM window in a program that uses a fake-GEM, single-
sized window, for example, nor can it force renegade TOS programs
that assume nothing else is running from drawing detritus all
over the screen. There are MANY poorly written programs for the
Atari; fortunately, most of them aren't worth running even on a
single-tasking system, and at least some of the rest are being
replaced or updated.
o Magically impose order on the chaos of printing.
When an application for the Atari prints a document, it usually
grabs every available ounce of the processor's weight and muscle
and refuses to let it go until the document is printed. To put it
kindly, this is stupid and unnecessary. But it's so, and Geneva
cannot change the way such applications behave. To work properly
in a cooperative environment, a program has to be, first of all,
cooperative, and nearly all word processors and many other
printing applications are completely uncooperative when it comes
to sharing the computer with anything else while they send their
little bits and bytes to the printer. There's a way to alleviate
this; it's called a print spooler. But there is no way for Geneva
to get Atari Works, for example, to print in the background. No
Items 7 to 10
What Geneva does not require:
o A 68030 Atari.
That number is the model type of the central processing unit --
the CPU chip -- in what is called (and pronounced as) the "Sixty-
eight thousand" chip family. The first chip in this family, the
oldest brother, so to speak, is the 68000; it's used in the ST,
Mega, STacy, STe and Mega STe. The middle brother, the 68020, was
never used officially by Atari, but a younger sibling called the
68030 shines in the TT and Falcon. (And that's why they're
actually named the "TT030" and "Falcon030.") The 68030 handles
memory a whole lot better than the 68000 and does other things
better, but Geneva does not depend on a 68030 chip to do its
stuff. Sure, Geneva works faster with the newer chip, and some
operations are just plain done better, but that's it.
o A humongous hard drive.
C'mon, Ataris don't run stuff like Microsoft Word for Windows,
which takes up 20 megabytes of hard-drive space just for its own
software. A dinky 20-megabyte hard drive can do just fine for
many Geneva users. A bigger hard drive is fine, but not for
o A hard drive at all.
Yes, many loyal Atarians never felt the need to add a hard drive
to their systems, and Geneva won't force them to. A second floppy
drive isn't even needed, although life at the keyboard is made a
lot easier with two floppy disks always available instead of one.
Even an Atari user with only one single-sided floppy drive can
load and run Geneva; it fits easily on a single-sided disk
(although that disk would have to remain in the drive if you want
to access Geneva's own Help guide).
Is this heresy or what? Here's the author of the world's best-
selling guide to NeoDesk (OK, I lied a little; it's free) telling
you NeoDesk isn't needed to run Geneva? But that's absolutely
true. There is no connection between Geneva and NeoDesk other
than the fact that they both come from Gribnif. Period. End of
story. Except that, like most tall tales, this one refuses to
die. NeoDesk works great as the desktop on a system that is
running Geneva, and in fact there's a giant, too-big-to-ignore
advantage if you use NeoDesk (which we'll get to later). But
Geneva does all its stuff on its own, without requiring NeoDesk.
Full stop. End of paragraph.
10 BIG THINGS YOU CAN DO TO MAKE GENEVA WORK BETTER
1. Add memory to your computer.
One of the most common complaints heard 'round the Atari
community these days is, "Wha' happened to my memory?" Folks
aren't complaining about losing their minds; they're talking
about RAM. Since we already know that Geneva only occupies a
smidgen or two of RAM (if you give me some allowance for smidgen
sizes in these days of large applications), what could be
happening to the rest of the computer's memory?
The answer lies in the expectation factor. Once you realize that
you don't need to quit one application before launching another
one, the natural temptation is to keep both of them (or all three
or four of them -- you know what I mean) in memory at the same
time. Whoops! There goes that megabyte of RAM you used to have
left over all the time.
Geneva also lets you load up on desk accessories like a kid
pumping himself another six SoftServes at the Ponderosa dessert
bar. There's no limit to how many desk accessories you can have
running at once, so why not just load a dozen or more and have
fun? Nice idea, except for that slam-bam RAM cram, thank you,
There's a way to enjoy those desk accessories and still keep
them from hogging memory, and I'll show you how a little later.
As for stuffing RAM with simultaneous word processors, telecomm
programs and other goodies, the best solution is in the chips. If
your Atari has less than 4 megabytes of RAM, upgrade it now. It
won't cost much.
2. Add an accelerator.
Three long-term champions of the Atari cause have been selling
processor-chip accelerators for Ataris in North America for many
years, and others have done it in Europe. Some of them are
becoming hard to get, so this is the best time to shop for one.
If your ST runs at 8 MHz (the standard speed of the original ST),
it's time to consider having a 16-MHz accelerator put in. You can
also get faster CPU chips, at higher prices. (A basic 16-MHz
accelerator chip should sell for about $100, if you can still
Everything that matters works faster on an accelerated Atari
compared to a standard one.
3. Trade up to a faster machine.
Sure, I know the facts; Atari's not making STs any more, so how
are you going to upgrade to a faster ST -- to a Mega STe, for
example? The used market is a vital source. Join either of the
two most active online services for Atarians, GEnie or
CompuServe, and check the electronic want ads. If you don't see
what you want, post a message telling what you are looking for.
(Modems are really cheap, by the way, so you have no excuse
here. A new 2400-bit-per-second modem sells for $40 by mail-
order, and used ones are a lot less. GEnie has a wonderfully easy
automatic connection thingamabob called Aladdin, so start with
GEnie if you want everything easy.)
4. Buy a Falcon.
Falcons are the butt-ends of a lot of jokes in Ataridom, for no
good reason. (Well, maybe for a lot of semi-good reasons, I'll
grant you that.) Falcons run most of the standard Atari software,
they're fast in many ways, they have gorgeous color displays,
they're self-contained, they've got great audio capabilities and
they can handle a lot of extra memory. Sure, a TT is faster, has
a better keyboard and can drive a melt-your-eyes-out big-screen
display, but TTs are no longer available new. (Atari says more
TTs are coming, but no one believes this.)
5. Upgrade your monitor.
If all you have is a standard Atari color display, you're
missing the picture. Under Geneva, you need all the real estate
on the screen that you can get. (For one thing, having an out-of-
the-way place to stick Geneva's floating Task Manager would be a
great idea.) Atari's monochrome monitor is super-sharp and offers
resolution almost as fine as VGA, the standard in the Rest of the
World. Its picture is also clearer than most fancy-dan color
So what are you waiting for? Atari dealers (yes, Virginia, there
is an Atari dealer in some locales) still sell new monochrome
monitors, and used ones are readily available, too.
6. Get a graphics card.
Psst! Wanna know why Mega STe computers are so great? They've
got VME! No, that's not some new kind of communicable disease;
it's an adaptor-card slot at the back of the computer. It's
normally covered, but if you take it off you'll see that there's
an open slot there waiting to take the card of your choice.
Graphics cards fit right in, and you just plug a Super VGA
monitor into the connector on the outside panel of the card.
Super VGA monitors are amazingly cheap these days, mostly because
the crazy people who buy MS-DOS computers have been buying
zillions of them, and they use S-VGA monitors. A graphics card
will let your Mega STe show hundreds or even thousands of colors,
and, better yet, it will let you use a display that has three or
even four times the resolution of a standard Atari screen.
Graphics cards aren't cheap, but they are bigger-than-big
improvements to any Mega STe.
If you don't have a Mega STe but have a Mega ST, you still may
be able to find a graphics card for the Mega. Used cards are
available now and then, and some dealers may even be able to get
a new one.
(If you have a TT, you have a VME slot, too. In fact, the TT and
the Mega STe are like Boobsie and Bobsie in Las Vegas: twins when
it comes to slots. Adding a graphics card to a TT is a great idea
-- but if you're a TT owner, you probably already knew that.)
7. Add a faster and larger hard drive.
Didn't I just say a while back that you can run Geneva with a
tiny hard drive or even no hard drive at all? Sure. It's not
Geneva that eats up storage space, it's the other applications
you'll find yourself using. Look at it this way: Geneva adds a
functionality to the Atari that has been missing for years,
letting you continue to work on one program while you start
another, and encouraging you to try out new applications without
the need to quit what you are doing just to run something else.
When you become accustomed to this kind of freedom, this sort of
power, you tend to DO more with your computer... and that means
you could end up looking for extra floppy disks to store programs
and data on when your hard disk fills up. Life is simpler,
smoother and more enjoyable when your hard disk doesn't fill up,
so consider buying a bigger one.
8. Get a better word processor.
C'mon, the best Atari word processors are a LOT better than you
might think, unless you've already tried the latest versions of
the three or four top programs -- and they shine like never
before under Geneva. Multitasking is only part of the
improvement. How about menus that you can tear off and place off
to the side of a document window? Geneva handles that for you
(and for your word processor). How about 3D buttons in a button
bar across the top of the screen? Geneva supplies those, too, if
the word processor's own code has them available. How about
faster-acting scroll bars and smoother mouse action? Geneva does
that, too, by means of its superior code.
9. Buy a multitasking telecommunications program.
Take it from an old hand at telecomm operations: The absolute
DUMBEST thing you can waste your time on is watching your
computer screen while your telecomm program does an upload or a
download. Geneva makes background telecommunications a simple
matter. You do, however, have to make sure your software can work
in the background. Some of the best telecomm applications haven't
yet been upgraded to full multitasking capability, but the list
has doubled in recent months, and it should keep on growing.
10. Get real. Get a fax for your computer.
It's not my intent here to suggest brand-name software in
general (there are many great programs available for your Atari,
and I'd be overlooking some excellent choices if I took sides),
but in one area I must make an exception. An almost essential
application for a serious Atari user is STraight FAX!, the send-
and-receive fax program. It works exceptionally well under
Geneva, too, disappearing into the background while waiting for a
fax to come in or while pausing between scheduled fax
10 THINGS MOST GENEVA USERS DON'T KNOW OR HAVE FORGOTTEN: TIPS,
TRICKS AND TRAPS
1. You don't need a mouse to use menus.
Do yourself a favor. Find someone who knows how to use Microsoft
Windows (it can't be THAT hard to find a Windows user, even for
Atarians) and ask that person to run it for a while without using
the mouse. (A tip: If the Windows user says something on the
order of "Huh? Of course you need a mouse," find another Windows
user, and pray for the day that the Gatesian Rays that come out
of PCs will be better shielded.) In just two or three minutes,
you should be able to see how easily anyone can navigate through
Windows just by using keyboard equivalents.
Guess what? Your favorite Atari operating environment does the
same thing. I am NOT referring to the little dialog-box
enhancements that show up under certain characters on the screen;
Geneva does that, too, but that's not what I am talking about.
I'm telling you that Geneva turns any properly written GEM menu
bar into a menu that works solely off the keyboard.
But it doesn't do it by default. Unlike Windows, which is always
ready to trip up your two-fingered typing style if you
accidentally hit a menu hotkey, Geneva leaves it all up to you.
If you do nothing to change things, you get a mouse menu; if you
press a single key combination, you get a hotkey menu.
That key combination is Alt-Spacebar. If you've tried it, you
know that as soon as you press Alt-Spacebar the Desk menu drops
down. You probably thought that was a Neat Thing -- and you may
have thought that was all it did.
No way. That Desk menu is just the start of something grand. Do
it again, but this time look closely at all the other menu items.
Each one will have an underline, usually below the first or
second letter of the menu item. You can cause any of those menu
items to drop their menus down by holding down the Alt key and
pressing the underlined key. If you just want to browse through
all the available menus, use the arrow keys; each time you press
the right arrow key once, for example, the next menu will drop
We're not through. Once a menu has dropped down, you'll see that
its own menu items also have underlines. They work the same way.
You just hold down the Alt key and press the letter (or number)
that is underlined in the menu.
It should be obvious that this has a couple of advantages.
Anyone who is distracted by having to reach for the mouse while
writing on a word processor, for example, should find Geneva's
hotkey mode a joy to use -- especially if the application itself
does not have keyboard equivalents for all its menu items. But a
hidden advantage only shows up for those who use a macro utility
(a program that performs keypresses and mouse clicks). A utility
such as this cannot handle mouse movements as well as it deals
with keypresses, for a number of reasons. (Mouse movements in a
macro recording usually won't play back properly if you are not
running the same resolution, for example.) Since Geneva is able
to substitute keyboard hotkeys for mouse actions, you'll be able
to create all sorts of powerful macros that duplicate anything
you can do to a set of menus with the mouse. (I'll have more to
say on macros later.)
2. You have a batch-file language right at your fingertips.
It's been said that there are only two kinds of computer users -
those who know about and use batch files, and those who haven't
got a clue. Batch files are lines of commands that are executed,
one after the other, and they're widely used in the MS-DOS world.
(But even MS-DOS PC owners often have no idea what a batch file
does or how to use one, as I am often reminded by the questions
readers send in to be answered in my newspaper columns.)
So why am I mentioning this in an article about Geneva? Look
again, friend; Geneva uses a batch file just like MS-DOS does
every time it starts up. It's called GEM.CNF. You may have
thought of GEM.CNF as some sort of scene-setter for Geneva, a
list of little things it should know when it starts up, and in a
way you'd be right. GEM.CNF does supply vital information to
Geneva, such as the location of desk accessories, the filename
extensions of executable programs and the name of the desktop
shell, to list only three items.
But GEM.CNF's power goes far beyond that, because it's not
merely a list; it's a batch file that Geneva executes, line by
line, whenever it comes to a "run" command. (The "run" command
actually comes in two flavors, "run" and "runsleep," but both do
the same thing -- run a program.) You can use the "run" command
in a more-or-less standard way, telling Geneva to execute Program
A first, then Program B, then Program C. If Programs A, B and C
are multitasking applications, they will all be running at the
same time when Geneva is finished booting up.
Big deal. You could do the same thing under later TOS versions
by sticking those programs into the AUTO folder, right?
But suppose each of those programs was a single-tasking
application (with flags in Geneva's Task Manager set to single-
tasking)? What happens then? Geneva allows only one single-
tasking application to be active at any time (which is, of
course, the definition of single-tasking, after all), so
something amazing takes place: Geneva runs Program A, then halts
execution of the rest of the GEM.CNF commands. As long as Program
A, a single-tasking application, is running, Geneva will not
execute any other programs listed in "run" commands in GEM.CNF.
This means that you can work with Program A for as long as you
want. Then, when you finally exit Program A, Geneva immediately
runs Program B. Geneva then suspends execution of GEM.CNF's "run"
commands again, waiting for you to finish with Program B. When
you have finally exited from Program B, it launches Program C.
Anyone who has written complicated batch files for MS-DOS will
know right away that Geneva's simple batch facility lacks a
couple of important features. One that would add greatly to
Geneva's power is a "goto" function, which would be paired with a
labeling method. Lines with "run" commands would be prefaced with
labels, and a "goto" at some point in GEM.CNF would force Geneva
to jump directly to a "run" command that is located somewhere
else in the file. (This facility would require some sort of if-
then-else decision making ability, also.)
But you can achieve the same effect by stacking "run" commands
in GEM.CNF. All you need to do is list the single-tasking
programs in separate "run" lines, in the order you want them
executed, listing the same program more than once if necessary.
In other words, if you always want your Atari to boot up with
Aladdin (the software that handles calls to GEnie), and then
always want it to run Flash so you can call a BBS, and then
always want it to rerun Aladdin so you can send off your replies,
just list those programs in A, B, C order in "run" commands in
Keep in mind that this method is not limited to a series of
single-tasking programs. Multitasking programs that are inserted
in "run" statements will be launched all at once, and then will
be put to sleep when Geneva encounters a single-tasking program
in a "run" statement. You'll find that this works well except for
the danger of fragmenting memory; you're usually better off if
you run the single-tasking programs first.
3. You don't need to keep desk accessories active.
Some of the best and worst features of the Atari ST, TT and
Falcon computers center on desk accessories. They contribute an
immense power to the Atari because they are always available
whenever you are running a GEM-based application, or when you are
using the desktop. They are also multitasking, able to do
something in the background while your main program is doing
something else. (Few desk accessories take much advantage of this
But they have some conspicuous drawbacks. Under the standard TOS
system, once a desk accessory is loaded and running, it can't be
unloaded, and this means it takes up memory no matter what. Also,
if you boot up without a certain desk accessory and then discover
you need it, you have to reboot to get it to load (or else you
have to use a desk-accessory manager such as MultiDesk Deluxe).
And, of course, the TOS system limits the number of desk
accessories that can be open at one time; only six are allowed,
even if one of them is MultiDesk. MultiDesk appears as a single
desk accessory to the operating system, but allows you to launch
any other desk accessory one at a time from within MultiDesk.
This is ideal in many situations, but the point to remember is
that only one desk accessory within MultiDesk can be opened at a
Under Geneva, desk accessories behave much differently. Most
Geneva users know this well, and make good use of Geneva's
removal of the desk-accessory limit. But too much of a good thing
can be just as harmful as too little, especially when it comes to
memory limitations. Running 12 desk accessories instead of six
can knock a big chunk of available RAM out of your system in one
quick bootup. What I am about to suggest is a way to use any
accessory without the RAM penalty.
The answer, in many cases, is to treat desk accessories as
transient programs. This is not a foolproof approach, and it
requires a bit of care. But it could be ideal for those who don't
ordinarily have enough memory in their Ataris to run a full
complement of desk accessories while running their regular
programs. You do this by booting up with only the desk
accessories you know you will need during the entire computing
session. Candidates for desk accessories in this category might
include corner clocks, a networking accessory, a text editor and
so on. Then, when you need to use an accessory that is not
loaded, run it from the Geneva Manager menu, from the Task
Manager's menu or from a multitasking shell. When you are
finished with that accessory, delete it from memory.
This has a big drawback if it is not done properly. When you
load a desk accessory while any other program is running, that
accessory takes up the first position in RAM that is large enough
to contain it. Usually, if the desk accessory is loaded early in
a session, that spot in RAM is merely the top of the heap, so to
speak. But if memory is fragmented -- divided up into chunks that
are not next to each other -- the accessory will be placed into
the first chunk big enough to hold it. If it loads on top of
everything else, and (just as importantly) if the main programs
that are running do not grab any extra memory from RAM while the
desk accessory is open, you should be able to get back all the
memory it took up when you kill off the desk accessory. (The
easiest way to kill a desk accessory is to do a Control-click on
its entry in the Desk menu, but there are other ways, described
in the manual.)
If the desk accessory you loaded has been placed into a fragment
of RAM, you actually may be better off. If it is indeed small,
this fragment will not be available to standard-size applications
no matter what, so you may be able to use this pigeon hole in RAM
as a place to stick other desk accessories, one by one, after you
kill off the first one. There are many reasons why this may not
work, however, and rather than get into the technical side of
this, I'll merely point out that the succeeding desk accessories
must not take up any more RAM than the size of the fragment used
by the first desk accessory, and they must not allocate any extra
memory for buffers and the like. The only way to find out how
well this technique works is to try it.
You will find that some desk accessories behave impeccably when
you kill them. Atari's own XCONTROL.ACC is an example. When you
terminate XCONTROL, it cooperates with Geneva, closes itself up,
and leaves not a trace behind. Others, however, are less kind;
Geneva is able to terminate them, but will warn you that problems
could be caused if the desk accessory has hooked itself into
system vectors. These are the computer equivalents of grab
handles that accessories and programs sometimes use for their own
purposes. You can't know beforehand if killing a desk accessory
will cause a problem (often it will not, but you can't predict
these things), so you MUST always save your work in other
applications before terminating an uncooperative desk accessory.
The issue of handling desk accessories in a limited-memory Atari
seems more complicated than it actually is. Here are some
- Desk accessories that you want to have available all the
time should be loaded at bootup.
- Desk accessories that you need for only one task can be run
when you want to use them.
- If you intend to terminate a desk accessory, try to do it
before running any application or any other desk accessory.
4. Sleep is good for you and your computer.
Geneva is able to put any application or desk accessory to
sleep. This can occur either manually or automatically. You put
an application to sleep manually by any of the methods listed in
the manual. Geneva puts a single-tasking application to sleep
automatically whenever you run a multitasking application, and
puts all multitasking applications to sleep whenever you run a
So far, so good. The concept of a sleeping application is so
intuitive that it needs little explanation. When an application
or accessory is asleep, it's not doing anything, but it's ready
to pop out of bed in an instant. (Unlike humans, Atari software
needs no wake-up period when Geneva's stern taskmaster is in
But there's more to this concept than meets the pillow. There
are many reasons you should consider putting all applications or
accessories to sleep when you are not using them.
- Are cut off from the central processor, freeing up the CPU
so that the task at hand runs faster.
- Immediately disappear from the screen. This means they take
up no space in your precious screen real estate.
- Can't interfere with such system functions as the keyclick
status, the audio level and the color palette.
- Always return to the same spot you left them when you
Of course, you should not put an application or desk accessory
to sleep if you need its services. Putting a desktop clock to
sleep will remove it from the screen and won't give you a display
of the time, for example. (But, to the clock, time itself isn't
being suspended, as you'll see when you reawaken the clock; it
will still show the right time.) Putting an accessory such as
LittleNet to sleep will cut off one Atari's access to the other
through LittleNet's networking services. Putting the Extensible
Control Panel (XCONTROL) to sleep should not cause a problem,
since Control Panel Extensions (CPXes) usually are not active in
memory. (Even so-called resident CPXes aren't doing anything in
memory, in most cases.)
The second benefit, clearing the screen quickly, can be put to
good use when running NeoDesk. Rather than reducing screen
clutter by manually closing NeoDesk's file and folder windows
before you run a multitasking application, you can sweep
NeoDesk's display away instantly by putting it to sleep; waking
it up restores all the windows. If you are running an application
from within NeoDesk, you obviously cannot put NeoDesk to sleep
and then have NeoDesk launch the program. But a simple technique
will let you launch an application from NeoDesk and then put
NeoDesk to sleep, to clear away its windows and icons.
Before I explain this, keep in mind that you won't need to clear
away NeoDesk's windows and icons if the application you are
running fills the screen; in such cases, NeoDesk's own display
isn't visible anyway. But many applications (when run in
multitasking mode) merely replace NeoDesk's main GEM menu bar
with their own, leaving the previous display on the screen along
with their own windows. The technique to quickly shut down all of
NeoDesk's windows and make all its icons disappear is very
simple: First, click on part of the visible NeoDesk desktop to
make it the foreground application. Then press the hotkey that
puts the foreground application to sleep. Then click on the
window for the application you just launched to bring it back to
the foreground. (Note that it may have come back to the
Of course, once an application is asleep, you need a fast way of
popping it back to life. You can do this with NeoDesk or any
other application easily, as we shall see next.
5. Flags are for hotkeys, too.
In the Flags menu of Geneva's Task Manager, you can set more
than a dozen parameters for every application and desk accessory.
But you can also assign the hotkey that brings the application or
accessory to the foreground, or opens it if it is a desk
But there is one more thing this hotkey does. It's not obvious
until you use it. It wakes up a sleeping application. This means
that every application you run can have at least two important
hotkeys -- one that puts it to sleep and one that wakes it up.
The put-to-sleep hotkey is a universal one, but the hotkey that
wakes up an application must be assigned to each program and
accessory through the Task Manager. The benefit, of course, is
that this same hotkey pulls a non-sleeping application or
accessory to the foreground, also.
Assign these hotkeys carefully. Avoid using key combinations
that another application needs to use, such as Alt-S and Control-
S (commonly used as a Save command in many programs). Control-
Alt-Shift combinations are often safe to use, and they can be
easy to remember if they are employed with function keys.
Here's a hot tip: Consider using the keypad number keys as
hotkeys. Geneva uses these itself as hotkeys in window
operations, but always with modifier keys. (Geneva never assigns
a hotkey to an unmodified keyboard key in its default setup.) But
you can blithely assign at least three of these keys safely, if
you follow the guidelines here.
The trick is to make sure that all applications and accessories
that require these keys -- which means calculators, in nearly
every case --have the keys listed as reserved keys in the
"keyboard settings" dialog of their "Execution flags" main
dialog. My keys of choice are actually five keys on the keypad --
the open parenthesis, the close parenthesis, the 7 key, the 8 key
and the 9 key. The two parentheses keys are nearly always safe
because they aren't used in typical math operations (and when
they are, you can always use Shift-8 and Shift-9 instead). The
three other keys are needed in desk accessory or application
calculators, of course, so you'll need to assign those three keys
as "Reserved" in the Flags for the calculators you normally use.
(Reserved keys are passed through to the program, instead of
being acted on by Geneva.)
Note that both MaxiFile and the Little Green Selector can be
configured to use the keypad keys for keyboard shortcuts. In
MaxiFile, you can turn off the keypad shortcuts by deselecting
the "GUIDES" button in the configuration dialog. LGS has a
similar configuration facility. If you want to use the keypad
shortcuts with MaxiFile and LGS, avoid assigning them as hotkeys
in Geneva, or make sure they are combined with one or more
The advantage of using the two parenthesis keys and the 7, 8 and
9 keys as hotkeys without an Alt, Control or Shift modifier key
is that you can press them with one hand. (If you have a
pianist's finger spread, you may be able to press the right Shift
key with your thumb while pressing one of the keypad keys with a
finger, but the Alt and Control keys are in two-hand territory
without a doubt.)
Another hot tip: Use only the number keys on the keypad as your
hotkeys, in eight levels. This will let you assign 80 different
hotkeys, without needing to use any keys from the regular part of
the keyboard. I won't list all the possible combinations, but
here are eight to get you started:
A common misconception about Geneva's hotkeys is that they
launch applications. They don't. The application must be running
first; the hotkey brings it to the foreground and wakes it up if
necessary. Another misconception is that they work only with
regular programs. In fact, they work with desk accessories, too.
Geneva's ability to pop open a desk accessory when you press a
hotkey is a considerable asset.
6. Use NeoDesk. Don't use NeoDesk. Use TeraDesk. Use HotWire.
Don't use them.
We all know by now that the built-in desktop that comes with
your Atari won't appear when you are running Geneva. It just
plain can't. So in order to have a desktop sitting there in front
of you, you need to run NeoDesk. Right?
No, that's wrong. You can run TeraDesk instead of NeoDesk. Or
you can run a different kind of desktop, one that is actually a
file launcher and not a graphical interface, such as HotWire. The
fact that you don't need to run NeoDesk has been touched on
already, but it's one of those myths that refuses to die. Let's
sort this out.
First, Geneva is what provides multitasking. NeoDesk doesn't,
nor do the other desktops. Second, Geneva's multitasking can't be
turned off. These two facts bring us to a couple of conclusions:
o The desktop either supports Geneva's multitasking or it
o No matter what desktop you are running, you can still do
Let's look at them more closely.
Desktops are shells. They are programs that can launch other
programs. Any desktop that runs under Geneva can do this. Repeat:
Any desktop that runs under Geneva will let you launch your
favorite programs. The difference between NeoDesk and the other
desktops is simply this: NeoDesk will let you launch a program
and then launch another one while the first one is running. The
other desktops will let you launch a program and then launch
another one after the first one has stopped running. (This is how
single-tasking desktops have always worked.)
In other words, if you run, say, TeraDesk under Geneva, it will
act just like it has always acted. You'll be able to run your
word processor, and, when you have exited the word processor,
you'll be able to run another program. TeraDesk won't be doing
But Geneva will. This is the point that gets lost. Geneva is
multitasking all the time, even when TeraDesk (or any other
single-tasking desktop) is running. That means you can go to the
Desk menu, select the Geneva Manager or the Task Manager, and
launch another application through Geneva while TeraDesk is
running. This process may work more reliably if you set the
desktop's flags to single-tasking, so that Geneva is forced to
put that desktop (and any applications is has spawned) to sleep
when you run another program. While that other program is
running, you can switch back to TeraDesk through the Task Manager
(or through the Desk menu or by a hotkey) and Geneva will either
put that second application to sleep (if the desktop is set to
single-tasking) or will run the two of them at the same time.
Note that all desktops except NeoDesk never expect to be running
at the same time as other applications, so they may not behave
properly unless they are set to single tasking, as I mentioned
above. The only way to find out is to experiment.
But do you need to use a desktop at all? NeoDesk is ideally
suited to Geneva, but you can recover 150 kilobytes or more of
memory and speed up operations slightly if you run without
NeoDesk. Obviously, launching applications is a simple matter;
you merely use the Task Manager's file-launching menu or switch
to the Geneva Manager and use its menu. (They do the same thing,
and there is no advantage of using one over the other.) Even
basic file operations are simple to do without a desktop, because
the Geneva item selector lets you rename, copy, move, delete and
find files and folders. You can also create folders and check on
the free space of any of your disks.
Hot tip: Geneva's item selector can have up to 10 preset paths
defined under its "PATHS" dialog. Make good use of them by
defining them (and making sure you save them with the Task
Manager's settings) so that you can use the shortcut method of
switching paths -- by pressing a function key. You do not need to
open the "PATHS" dialog to access this feature; just press the
appropriate function key as soon as the item selector opens. If
you regularly move or copy files to a set location, save that
path in one of the function-key slots and merely press that
function key after clicking on the "Move" button in the "TOOLS"
dialog. (Of course, you don't even need to do any clicking.
Pressing Alt-T will open the "TOOLS" dialog without the need for
If you have favorite desk accessories that supply most of the
functions of a desktop (disk formatters, file-management
utilities and so on), you should assign hotkeys to those
accessories so that they can be called up with a keypress.
Another hot tip: The CodeHead macro utility, CodeKeys, works
exceptionally well with Geneva, and is perfect for automating
Geneva's file operations and program launching. CodeKeys deserves
a "Secrets" article of its own (and any further discussion is
outside the scope of this article), but if I were going to
endorse anything outside of Geneva and NeoDesk, I'd put
motherhood, apple pie and CodeKeys at the top of the list -- and
not necessarily in that order.
7. It's better to switch than fight.
If you're like me, the first thing you did when you set up
Geneva was to run as many programs as possible, arranging their
windows as small as you could on the screen so you could squeeze
'em all in. Now THAT's multitasking, folks!
It's impressive enough on the screen, but it's not a very
effective way to work with your Atari. Multitasking doesn't mean
doing many things at once; it means being able to do many things
at once, whenever necessary. There's a big difference.
When you are working with your word processor, you are probably
not doing anything else. (Writing is hard enough on its own; I
ought to know.) When you are extracting files from a ZIP file or
an LZH archive, that's what you want to do at that time, and
chances are you aren't doing anything else at the computer. I
know of only one task that I regularly do on my Atari while
simultaneously doing something else, and that's downloading
files. Occasionally, I play MOD files while working, and
sometimes I do image processing in the background. But for most
of my sessions at the keyboard, the computer is doing only one or
two things at a time.
What this means is that I use Geneva more for its task-switching
capabilities than its multitasking abilities. If this is the way
you generally use your Atari, too, you can make things easier by
setting many of your applications to single-tasking status.
Geneva will put all other applications to sleep when you run a
single-tasking program, clearing the screen and speeding up
operations within that application.
Watch out for problems with telecommunications programs (not
accessories) that are online when you switch to a single-tasking
application. Geneva cuts off all its access to the modem when a
program is put to sleep. You may be able to switch to a single-
tasking application safely for a few seconds, but longer timeouts
will almost certainly cause the modem at the other end to let go
of the line. You can prevent this from happening and still safely
single-task any application if you use a desk-accessory
telecommunications program. Even when Geneva puts all
applications but the foreground one to sleep, desk accessories
are not affected.
8. You don't need to scroll the desk menu.
When Geneva broke the six-desk-accessory limit, Atari users were
at last able to run as many DAs as they wanted. To accommodate
Atari's oldest type of display, Gribnif added code to Geneva that
kept the Desk menu from getting too long for the screen. Once the
Desk menu has more than a certain number of items -- both
accessories and running programs -- it turns into a scrolling
list. The length of the scrolling list is perfect for an ST
medium-resolution screen, but those with ST high-resolution
displays and everyone who owns a TT or Falcon could make good use
of a longer list, one that would extend, if necessary, right to
the bottom of the screen.
That is just what you can get if you load the Submenu CPX into
the Extensible Control Panel (XCONTROL). The "Length" setting in
the Submenu CPX extends the length of the Desk menu (and the
Applications menu, which is what Geneva calls the Desk menu when
it is torn off). A setting of 150 should work fine.
Control Panel Extensions are usually freeware, and are available
from GEnie and other online services as well as many bulletin
9. C'mon baby, let's Undo the Twist
Under Geneva, you never have to twist 'n' twirl to click one of
the buttons in a dialog box. All GEM applications and desk
accessories that are written to follow normal programming rules
will show dialog and alert buttons that can be activated from the
keyboard. Keyboard equivalents are assigned two different ways --
through Alt-key equivalents, shown as underlines, and through the
first three function keys. The function-key method is easier to
use, since it always follows the same pattern; F1 is always the
first button, F2 is always the second and F3 is always the third,
if there are three choices.
An even handier shortcut is Geneva's method of checking dialog
boxes, alert boxes and similar menus for the word "Cancel" or its
equivalent. Pressing the Undo key will always activate the
"Cancel" button in properly written GEM applications. (This
feature of Geneva also works in many non-standard applications,
too.) This means that the big Undo key at last takes on the role
it should have had from the start, to cancel the dialog box that
is active on the screen. From this point of view alone, Geneva
makes a significant advance for Atari users.
10. You're a character! Put it there, pal.
Sometimes you find pearls where you'd least expect them. Among
all the adjunct features of Geneva is a utility that is surely
little more than a gift of the programmer. It has nothing to do
with multitasking or interface improvements, and could have been
left out of Geneva; no one would have missed it yet. And yet this
feature, the ASCII Table, is one of those precious stones that
shine on their own. Its action is simplicity itself: Click on any
character, and that character will appear in the foreground
What is not obvious is that the ASCII Table will insert any
character into text-entry lines of dialog boxes and other such
items as well as into a word processor. It's easy to tell if the
application itself will accept the character you choose; if you
see it appear, it's usable. (Note, however, that you may not be
able to use the entire character set in such things as
Unlike other GEM windows, the one the ASCII Table uses is
supposed to be accessed when untopped -- that is, when another
window is in the foreground. Geneva sends the character you
choose to the topped window, so if the ASCII Table itself is the
top window, it ends up trying to send the character to itself,
which it obviously can't do.
(The author is a long-time Atari user. His "Secrets of ..."
articles have covered Flash, NeoDesk, TeraDesk, WordPerfect and
LittleNet, with others scheduled to appear on a regular basis. He
can be reached on GEnie as "a.fasoldt" and through the Internet
at the address "email@example.com" or through America Online.)
Copyright (C) 1994 by Al Fasoldt. All rights reserved.
Version date: January 24, 1994.
Thanks to Al Fasoldt for kindly allowing this article to be used
in ST NEWS!
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.