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ST SOFTWARE REVIEW: "FREEDOM" ALTERNATIVE FILE SELECTOR
by Richard Karsmakers
(with aid by Kev Davies - cheers, dood!)
I still recall the days of old. The days of very old, that is,
when there really weren't any alternative file selectors around
and we still had TOS 1.00 with a file selector that, well, let's
eufemize a bit, was total and utter ballocks.
Atari seems to have spent its time in the computer biz gently
looking in all the wrong directions when it came to operating
system enhancements. The only thing that really changed in the
file selector, even up to a TOS release like 4.04, is that you
can now select the drives with buttons and that, supposedly,
entering the underscore ("_") in it will no longer provoke a
Tsk, tsk, my man, tsk, tsk.
So quite some time ago already some people started to make
interesting alternatives to that file selector by using the
Atari-given flexibility built into the Operating System. One of
the first ones that came close to being good enough even for the
most demanding user was Application & Design Software's
"Universal Item Selector". Various new versions were released
until about 1989, with "UIS III". Nobody heard of much later
updates, and the company is believed to have either abandoned the
Atari platform or, simply, to have ceased operations altogether.
Next in line was, at least as far as I was concerned,
"Selectric" by Stefan Radermacher. I registered it immediately
(for shareware it was) and used it intensely from the date I
bought a Falcon ("UIS III" for some reason refused to run from
the AUTO folder with me, though I know of other people with
Falcons that it presents no difficulty with). It was just about
as good, but somehow more flexible. It also contained really
handy keyboard shortcuts. The only thing I didn't like was the
way Stefan handled the suggestions and the like that I sent him
(i.e. he usually didn't bother to reply).
Then, about a month or two ago, I got "Freedom", written by
Christian Krüger and Kolja Koischwitz. It was better, more
flexible, ran in a window, and was really interesting. But the
golden move was that it was 99% "Selectric" compatible with
regard to key operations. A very smart move indeed, for the big
difficulty with switching to new (and even better) stuff is that
you never quite want to get used to a new (and maybe better) key
system. Anyway, the "Selectric" key shortcuts were pretty
intuitive (this is also the reason behind my still using "1st
Word Plus" version 3.20TT instead of the vastly more powerful "Le
Redacteur", "Protext", or even "1st Word Plus" version 4.0).
I would not be writing the review of this shareware alternative
file selector by the name of "Freedom" if somehow I didn't think
it's worth the attention. And if I didn't think you'd all be
better off switching to it.
So here be some remarks and a list of features.
A bit of an overview
One of the things about "Freedom" that makes it unique among the
competition is the fact that it's running from a window. This
means no tasks in the background will be interrupted by the file
selector occurring. Alert boxes, also things that are notorious
for halting all other processes, are patched by "Freedom" (a
little extra, if you will) so they appear into windows, too. As a
result of this, though, the apparition of alert boxes is a bit
slower than before. Also, you can have up to 8 file selectors on
screen at the same time. OK, this is a thing that's useful only
if you have one hell of a big screen but, nonetheless, it's nice
to know that "Freedom" is in some way ahead of current-day video
display unit technology.
Another strength of "Freedom" is that just about every aspect of
it is configurable. This ranges from font type and size to any of
the colours used by text/window/background and just about
everything in-between. Even the way a file is displayed in the
file selector is configurable, including the ability to use or
ignore things such as the file flags (read-only, hidden, archive,
that kind of thing), time, date and file size. And these can even
be specified to use commas or period or anything else you want.
Additionally, a set of small icons can be defined to appear
before specific file types (such as a small page of text in front
of *.ASC, *.TXT and *.DOC). You can even change the way the
functions keys work by assigning them any functions you want.
A slight thing on the down side is that all these settings can
only be altered by loading the "FREEDOM.CNF" file into a text
editor and changing the parameters from there. The authors are
working on a configuration program, though that will take a bit
of time yet.
Instead of just (up to 40!) user-defined paths and file
extensions (like "Selectric" and "UIS III" could handle up to
10), "Freedom" only allows preset files. This means you can click
on "Freedom" somewhere and down will drop a menu of default
files. Clicking on them will automatically cause them to be
selected. On top of that, any of these presets support full Unix
masks (*,?,) and extension lists (*.PRG,*.PRG). Of each of the
preset paths and extensions, the first 10 can be selected by
means of keyboard shortcurs. I suggested they might want to
increase this to 20, which they said would probably be possible.
You know what? Kev Davies also wrote a review of "Freedom" that
he submitted after I'd already written the bulk of this. But he
did have a nice list of stuff that can be configured using the
FREEDOM.CNF file. Here goes...
o Font Style
o Font Size
o Line Spacing
o Set Browser Background and text colour
o Set Format for long filenames (eg. Unix type filenames
under "MiNT", "MAGiC", etc...)
o Set Format for standard filename format
o Define Path of GEM Clipboard
o Select Icons for individual file types
o Icons for selected/unselected items (This allows animated
o Set alternative characters for the scroll bar arrows (?!?)
o Set text case (upper or lower)
o Supress busy mouse pointer
o Time slice (Action dispatcher)
o Autolocator (For files only)
o Open a folder with a double click or single click
o Background operation of windowed dialogs on/off
o Fileselector positioned at mouse or centered on the screen
o Display parent directory line
o Swap OK and Cancel button positions in dialogs (Hmmm)
o Set Dialog button width
o Shutdown "Freedom"
o Set the Mouse pointer
o Set text/column size in "Freedom"
o Utilize "Kobold"
o Spawn an external viewer (Text, Graphic, etc)
o Define executable tasks in multitasking
o Tab = Auto locator
o Ping on/off
o Set Function key short cuts
o Define functions for the right mousekey
o Set Time delays Between operations
o Set Scroll Speed
o 3d Buttons on/off
o User defined files (Quick access to files)
o Set Image masks
o Disable "Freedom" Alert Boxes
o Set Sarcasm mode
o The Kitchen Sink
o Two Zebras
o Turn Armadillo on/off (Fnar?!)
Back to the usual proceedings.
Of course, "Freedom" also has a powerful "find" option
(including so-called "Fuzzy File Location") and the possibility
to delete/touch files, create new items/folders and show info on
files or folders. A mask can be defined to select or deselect
files, export paths or selected files can be saved as ASCII to
the Clipboard, full support for AV Servers is present (such as in
"Gemini" and "Thing") and, like "Selectric", multiple files can
be passed onto the calling application (if this ability is
supported by that, that is).
Working with it
"Freedom" consists of two parts. One of them is a resident bit,
FFSEL.PRG, that needs to be put in the AUTO folder, and another
bit (the largest) needs to be present in the boot drive root
directory as FREEDOM.APP in the case of a multi-tasking OS (in
which case it needs to be installed in the GEM.CNF file or
similar) or FREEDOM.ACC when using a single-tasking OS.
Additionally, an XIMG file containing the small icons that can be
put in front of a filename can be configured, and of course
there's the configuration file itself.
In total, I think it occupies about 150 Kb of RAM, which is
quite a lot of you're still running a system with 1 Mb of RAM
(or, even worse and by now almost archaic, 512 Kb!). But for that
amount of memory lost you get a very powerful item selector.
A minor bit I rather less like
"1st Word Plus" is a memory hogger, we all know that. What that
boils down to is that it grabs all memory it can get in a multi-
tasking system such as "Geneva" unless you tell the latter to
limit it in that. Both "Selectric" and "Freedom" sometimes have
problems with opening folders in specific circumstances when, I
suppose, available memory runs out. "Selectric" passed control
back to the "Geneva" file selector, which always went wrong
because there'd be a wrong path spec in the "Geneva" one then.
"Freedom" simply refuses to further open folders, treating it as
a file name instead. I even had it freeze the system on me once.
I know this is the fault of "1st Word Plus", which is definitely
not a proplerly written program (do note I refer to version
3.20TT here), but how come the "Geneva" file selector itself and
the Atari default file selector suffer not? Maybe internal
"Freedom" memory should be cleared whenever this occurs,
alleviating the problem. I don't know, really, but I hope this
problem will one day be solved.
Right now, the "Freedom" team is working on building in
copy/move operations, which I think is a cool thing to do for
uptil now you have to use an external copier for that (like
"Kobold"), which doesn't quite work from "1st Word Plus" for
example. They are working, similarly, on getting "Freedom" to run
from as a CPX instead of accessory. Some time in the future, the
authors also plan to release a configuration program to replace
the text editing now required to tailor the FREEDOM.CNF file, as
well as "Hyperlink" help or something.
It looks like "Freedom" is the finest in optional file selector
entertainment right now, and what with it being continuously
upgraded it looks set to remain that for a while to come. I am
very glad some people still bother to support the shareware scene
with high quality program (yes, the good news is that "Freedom"
is shareware which costs a mere DM 30,- to register!).
"Freedom" can be found on a variety of Internet FTP sites but
probably also in any well-stocked PD library. In case of
emergency, you can contact the authors. Do note that they either
need to be contacted through email or will want IRCs for reply
Sandhauser Straße 21
The current version is 1.13, available both in German and
Thanks to Kolja for emailing me the latest version, and in
general for supporting the Atari scene with this excellent
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.