Alternative Text-Mostly MUST-HAVE for OS/2

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I do not want to overlap (too much) the already numerous OS/2 Must-Have software lists. However there is some software that I just love to death which I never see mentioned anywhere else. I must mention them here! Many of my favorite and most used programs are text mode.

And of course I might mention a few of the common ones. But without further ado, let the show begin (in alphabetical order)!

Case -- Filename Case Converter"

Is there anything more annoying than all upper case filenames? What was the Evil Gates thinking back then in the DOS days?! Has his caps lock key been stuck on since the 80's, or what?! I'm sure we don't want to know. It is a legacy which has added terror to our dreams for too many years. We can thank God at least when 4DOS (and 4OS2) allowed us to replace with a decent (if not the best!) command processor and view our directories in lower case at last. But even now we are still once in a while afflicted (like a virus that just won't die!) on our HPFS drives with the all upper case filename. I was about to write my own case conversion utility until I found this very complete utility. You can do just about any sort of case conversion you can imagine with this tool.

HSwitch -- Text Mode Popup Tasklist Selector"

Please brace yourselves. I'm going to give you plenty of advanced warning, so it will be no good trying to sue me for any damages you may suffer from the utter shock of the statement I will shortly make. The up-coming statement is graphic in content and sensitive readers may wish to skip this program description right now.

Ok, here it comes: Windows is better than OS/2 when it comes to text mode task switching! Gasp!! The ease and speed of switching through full screen DOS sessions in Windows 3.1 is a delight. Use ALT-TAB and windows loops through the titles of all running tasks until you release the ALT key. It requires only one hand and a couple of repetitive keystrokes to find what you want, and you never have to leave text mode. OS/2 has no such facility.

Enter the venerable HSwitch. As far as I'm concerned, this is still a second rate solution compared to the ease and speed of the Windows way of doing things noted above-- but this is still a good program, and extremely essential. With this program you can pop up a text mode menu of tasks in a full screen OS/2 session, or a VDM. The menu has a light bar so you can cursor up and down and pick the task you want to switch to, as well as allowing you to press letters to take you to the next task beginning with that letter. It's a nice little utility. But you do have to hit the hot key, and then find your cursor keys, and then locate with your eyes in a list where the task is and get to it, or hit the appropriate letter, and then hit enter. Am I whining? Well, I deeply apologize. But I just wished, in just this one way that OS/2 handled full screen task switching like that old rusty tin can of a DOS shell known as Windows. As it is I find HSwitch an adequate, though not perfect, solution, and use it in conjunction with SwitchMaster & Switch, and it's all very complicated.

LST/2 -- Text Mode Directly/Text/Hex Viewer"

For those of us who left Beurg's LIST utility sadly behind back in the DOS days, LST/2 is a pretty good replacement. It is not as feature packed as LIST is (and so small and optimized!), but it is pretty good and has some neat tricks all its own. It supports long filenames and EAs. It has a neat "auto-view" mode which shows you a directory listing on the left and automatically a text/hex view on the left.

RAR -- "the Russian Archiver"

I don't use RAR compressed archives very often. It is a good program and compresses very well, but is a bit slow; and not in wide use. However, what I do use it for more often is just as a simple archive viewer. It has a built in full screen mode where you can browse directories, look inside of ZIP or RAR files, view files within the archives, and so on. It's very fast, and simple. It it usually sufficient, and saves one from using one of the more full featured god-awful file managers for OS/2. Is it just me or do ALL the file managers, both text mode and PM, completely suck!? I think they all do anyhow.

SwitchMaster & Switch (& NoList) -- Alt-Esc Tasklist Management"

A simple command line utility that can enable and disable the "jumpable" attribute of tasks by name it seems is too much to ask. So i have to make due with these two utilities. They work well in their own right, but seem unwieldy to me. The first, SwitchMaster, is a PM program. It is quite nice, except i can't think of any practical way to use it's features! However one of the main problems with OS/2 for full screen text mode freaks like me is that when you hit alt-esc you are traveling blindly and are bound to hit a PM/WPS window eventually and have to wait for the screen to redraw and all manner of annoying thing. Of course you could use HSwitch, but nothing is as fast as ALT-ESC. So SwitchMaster has this setting that you can instruct it to remove all WPS programs from being "jumpable". And that's what I do. SwitchMaster also has a setting to shut itself down after 5 five seconds, and i have that turned on as well. So I put it, with these settings in my StartUp folder and when my system boots the first thing it does it remove the WPS Desktop from the alt-esc task list! Hurrah! No more desktop popping up at awkward moments. What's more, i have a cmd file set to start SwitchMaster with these settings in the background from a command prompt; so when there are PM apps running i can just run SWM.CMD and it will start up in the background, remove the jumpable flag from them, and shut itself down.

This is fine, but what if you have an OS/2 Command window, or a Win-OS/2 session. Ug! it doesn't get them. I'd have to go do it manually or something. That's where the second utility, Switch, comes in to play. It is a small text mode utility which lists all tasks in a numbered list, and reports if they are "jumpable" or not. One then can press the number of the task one wants to toggle the "jumpable" state of. This way when non-PM GUI tasks are bugging me at least i can start up this program and knock them off the list. But as I say, it's awkward. If only the author of this second utility would have put in simple command line parsing routine to toggle a named task from the command line rather than forcing this interactive toggling; then i could just make a CMD file that knocks out the most common tasks i like to knock out of the switch list periodically. Maybe i should write the author about this one day! Maybe! The archive also comes with the C source code if anyone else wants to hack it for me! I have looked at it but it's a bit over my head, and I have no documentation on the OS/2 structures involved. That's my story.

NoList seems to be just what i was mentioning above: allows you to remove tasks by process NAME pattern from the command line. A reader of this page alerted me to it's existance. It's shareware. It works well. I don't feel like rewriting the above blathering at the moment, so consider this an update.

THelp -- Text Mode INF Viewer

If you are in full screen text mode a lot, like I am, it can be very annoying switching to the desktop get some info out of an Inf file. THelp is really a wonderful program! It allows you to read INF files in text mode. It is fast and efficient. It has searching capabilities, and a optional split screen display (view the table of contents in one window, and text in the other). I love this program.

Yarn -- Usenet/Email SOUP Reader

Good grief, aren't you tired of those slow bulky GUI mail readers yet?! They make me dizzy just looking at them. They make me nauseous to load them. Alright, I'm exaggerating a bit. However, there is nothing to match the speed and flexibility of good old text mode Yarn/2. Not only is it the best tool for the job, in my opinion, but it's free.

[ Yarn/2 B&W | Yarn/2 REXX ]

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Last Updated: Thu 04/25/96 04:27 pm est