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Amiga introduction

The one thing that puts your Amiga above rival home computers is its versatility, power, and ease of use, and certainly its most attractive feature is Workbench - the Amiga operating system's graphical user interface (GUI). Both Apple Macintosh and Microsoft have, and still are, desperately trying to emulate Workbench but have consistently failed miserably.

You may have noticed the recent Microsoft advertising campaign in which punters gasp in awe at Windows 95's multitasking capabilities. Well, your Amiga has been equipped with true multitasking since day dot and, unlike Windows, doesn't crash every five minutes. With all this power at hand, it is surprising, though, that many new and old Amiga owners still don't fully appreciate or understand the true capabili ties and user-friendliness of their machine's front-end.

What this article will do is explain the many hints and tips that will make your relationship with your Amiga a personal and rewarding one. With perseverance these techniques should eventually become second nature, and I guarantee you will find working with Amiga Workbench quicker, more flexible and, more importantly, fun. The different sub jects have been provided in such a way as to provide you with a quick reference to particular topics without having to wade through heaps of non-related text.

Window dressing

When you first load Workbench it looks rather dull. However, the real powerhouse behind Workbench is its flexibility of design, allowing you to change its appearance to suit your personal requirements. You can change the look of icons and indeed the Workbench backdrop and windows by running the appropriate program in your Prefs drawer.
The WBPattern program is slightly different in that it doesn't allow you to design backdrops, only select them.

Better access

Workbench is initially neatly tucked away in drawers but as you become more confident you will find yourself calling on certain programs time and time again. Wading through drawers every time eventually becomes annoying but Workbench offers an easier way to access commonly used programs.
You can keep any icon type out on the Workbench desktop by simply clicking once on the icon and selecting Leave Out from the Icons menu. This doesn't move the icon but simply instructs Workbench to show it on the desktop rather than the previous location. You cannot delete an icon while on the desktop so you need to put it back where it came from by clicking it once and select ing Put Away from the Icons menu.

Neat and tidy

Tidy Workbench is a happy Workbench and a happy Workbench is a happy user. Once you start creating your drawers and copying and deleting files, you'll realise that Workbench can soon become cluttered, especially drawer contents. You can keep your desktop and window neat and tidy by selecting all the icons and then selecting Snapshot All from the Window menu. Snapshot fixes the icon to the posi tion you specify. A better way to do this is to use keyboard short-cuts which allow you to perform functions without needing to use the mouse.
All keyboard short-cuts are accessed first by holding down the right Amiga A key to the right of the Space bar and pressing the appropriate key (keyboard short-cuts are also known as Hotkeys). You can find all the appropriate short-cuts alongside the menu item they represent. For example, right Amiga A and . (full stop) cleans up the con tents of a window, right Amiga A and A selects all the files in a window.

Now you see it

When you open a drawer on Workbench, programs and further drawers are shown by their attached icon. But not all programs and drawers have icons and initially, these don't show up. If you find yourself looking for a particular item which doesn't appear to exist select the Show - All Files option in the window menu. The result of this is that Workbench attaches temporary icon images for any files and drawers that don't have an icon of their own. You can then interact with them in the same way you can with normal icons. If you snapshot the drawer wilh the Show - All files option selected it will stay this way permanently, or until you change it back to Show - Only Icons.


When you create a new drawer Workbench automatically attaches an icon to it - this is also what happens when you format a disk. Thankfully, these icons aren't written into the Amiga's chips and can therefore be changed to other icons of your choice. These icons, known as default icons, are read by Workbench from the Sys directory (drawer) which can be found in the Prefs/Env-Archive. All the default icons are preceded by def_ and end with .info (indicating an icon) - for exam ple,,,def^ etc. With this knowledge, you can create a new icon as explained in the Window Dressing section, select the correct icon type, and then save it over the original def_ icon in Prefs/Env-Archive/Sys.


Not only does your Amiga have a Workbench but also Intuition, used by Workbench to communicate with you, the user. It consists of windows containing different types of but tons, gadgets and images that allow you to interact with Workbench comfortably and with relative ease. Most of your Intuition experience will be involved with clicking buttons and entering text. A quick way to delete text in a gadget is to use the keyboard short-cut right Amiga A and X which will delete all the text at once. The only other alternative is to tap away at the Delete or Backspace key until the text is erased.

True Multi-Tasking

Unlike other home computers, the Amiga has boasted true multitasking since it was first released many years ago. Multitasking may not appear very useful to the beginner but as your experience increases it soon becomes a powerful ally.
Multitasking allows you to run several programs at once without your Amiga choking and eventually crashing. You can switch between programs by clicking on the depth gadget at the top-right corner of each screen, but a far simpler and quicker way is to use the keyboard short-cut right Amiga A and M. This switches between program screens without you having to use the mouse.


You will notice a drawer on your Workbench disk called WBStartup. This drawer is used to automatically load pro grams every time Woikbench boots (loads). Therefore, if you want to run a particular program of your choice when Workbench loads, simply drag it into the WBStartup drawer using the mouse. In order to load successfully, the program you drag into WBStartup must have an icon attached.


The Shell is your interface to the Amiga DOS (Disk Operating System) and is located in the System drawer. If you are exploring Amiga DOS you may be inter ested to know that you don't have to load Shell up every time you want to enter a DOS command.
If you look in the Workbench menu on your desktop you will notice an option entitled Execute Command. By selecting this, Workbench provides you with an Intuition window in which you can type any DOS commands just as you would in the Shell. Execute Command is so useful that I rarely use the Shell anymore.

Use our tool

Most programs that come with Workbench utilise ToolTypes. If you click once on the Pointer program's icon and then select Information... from the Icons menu you will see a list of TooiType definitions below the icon image. These TooiTypes are used by the program and also by Intuition to control how the pro gram works. If you have copied a program to the WBStartup you may have noticed that when Workbench loads, a requester appears stating that the program IV. has not quit yet. To stop this in future you need to add the DONOTWAIT ToolType to the programs icon. Repeat the process mentioned for the Pointer icon above, click the New button to add a new ToolType, and then type in DONOTWAIT. Press return and then click on the Save button to store the new ToolType. When you reboot again the program will load without a hitch.

Bigger is better

Overscan If you run out of room on your Workbench desktop there is a way you can make the screen larger. This really only applies to those of you using a proper com puter monitor and not the TV. Go to the Prefs drawer and run the Overscan pro gram. Select Edit Text Size and drag the four perimeter boxes to their outermost limits. Click on use and then do the same for Edit Graphics Size. Now click on the Save button and you will find yourself with a larger Workbench than before. You may need to alter the screen settings on your monitor in order to re-position Workbench.


When you start to personalise your Workbench and start designing your own icons (everyone does it), you'll realise that the RAM disk can't have a disk icon attached to it. This is because when you reboot your Amiga everything in RAM is erased - including any icons. Once again, there is a solution. First create yourself an icon in IconEdit and make sure it is a disk type. Now save it as RAMIcon to your S directory. Load your User-Startup file into ED as explained above, type in the following and then save it;
copy >NIL: S:RamIcon to
This copies your RAMIcon icon in the S directory to RAM as (the name of disk type icons) when Workbench loads. Provided you have done even/thing right you should see your icon on the Workbench screen with Ram Disk underneath.

Setting the scene

When you first load your Workbench disk it looks rather bland. This is because it is preset to display itself in only four colours. You can change this by altering the amount of colours in the ScreenMode program located in the Prefs drawer. However, you should be warned that using more colours takes more of your Amiga's memory and slows down Workbench quite considerably. If you have Fast memory, using more colours won't be a problem and you can customise your Amiga to your heart's content. Just look at how exciting Workbench can really be.

Get it on the Disk

As you become more familiar with the soft ware available for your Amiga you will notice that many programs can be installed onto a hard drive. If you are using an Amiga without a hard drive, make it your first priority to get one. However, there are many excellent software titles out there that apparently have no installer program, making them seemingly useless for your setup. Don't be put off - most application software can be installed onto a hard drive, it's just a case of knowing where to put what. To the beginner, the mere prospect of copy ing software onto a hard drive is an ominous one, but it really isn't that difficult First of all you need to find out exactly what is on the disk you are trying to copy to your hard drive. The best way to do this is to insert the disk into DFO, run the Shell and type in:
dir df0:

This will display the contents of the disk with further directories, marked by (dir). The important directories you want are called Libs, C, S, L and Devs. These directories are present on your hard drive and you should copy the contents of the above mentioned directories into the ones on your hard drive. Don't copy files across that are already present on your hard drive, just the ones that you haven't got As an example, let's suppose you wanted to copy a file called ReqTools.library from the Libs drawer on DFO to the same drawer on your hard drive. To do this you would type in the Shell:
copy DF0:libs/reqtools.library to Workbench:Libs
You can then make a directory with a suitable name in a location of your choice and copy the actual program file from DFO: into this new directory. The program should then run okay.

Won't die

Everything seems fine. You create new draw ers, you delete old drawers. You're in perfect harmony with your machine when suddenly a particularly stubborn little drawer refuses to die. No matter how much you try to kill him he still clings on for dear life, flashing his obstinacy and constantly repeating the message 'Error while removing (202) object is in use'. Then suddenly everything grinds to all halt The reason why he won't go is simple. Some drawers (directories) have what is called an Assign made to them which is simply a labei that directs a particular program to that directory. A drawer cannot be deleted if it has an Assign attached to it (Assigns are explainedin more detail later on).Any Assigns a program needs should be entered in the file User-Startup in the S directory. Open the Shell and type:
ed s:user-startup
You should look for a line that begins with Assign and has the name of the directory you are trying to delete at the end of it. For example:
assign Hello: sys:tools
Delete this line, save the new User-Startup file, and then reboot your Amiga. Now the Assign has been removed you should be able to delete the drawer.

Drag and drop

If you are using the Workbench Icons... menu command Copy to duplicate disks you'll be pleased to know that there is a simpler method if you are lucky enough to own a second disk drive. Put the disk you wish to copy from into DFO and the disk you want to copy to in DF1 (your second disk drive). When the disk icon for DFO appears on the Workbench simply click on it once and with the left mouse button held down, drag and release it over the disk icon for DF1. The copying process will now begin. Simplicity is such a beautiful thing.

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