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June 2001

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FileStar/2 V2.10

By Bob Stan © May 2001

I have used OS/2 for over 6 years and have never been comfortable with graphical file management. Using the Drives Object or Object Desktop's Object Navigator had some advantages, but by and large I found myself opening an OS/2 Window to copy, list, or move files. Recently I saw some information on FileStar/2 and checked out the developer's web site. I liked what I saw and immediately bought it. For me, it replaced everything I really used in Object Desktop (except multiple desktops). If you do frequent file manipulation, deal with multiple drives/partitions, or frequently work with zip archives - this program is for you!

For this review, FileStar/2 was installed on my home system, running eComStation Preview 1, with an AMD KII 400 processor and 196 Meg of RAM. I run with SciTech's Display Doctor Beta 39 and a Matrox Millennium II video card at a resolution of 1024 by 768. I have also installed a beta version of eStylerLite and XWorkplace. My system has FAT, FAT32, HPFS, JFS, and Linux partitions. I access the FAT32 partitions with Henk Kelder's FAT32 IFS . I set up one JFS partition to confirm that FileStar/2 would work with it, which it does, but did not extensively test anything on JFS. I have no driver that will access Linux from eCS Preview, so those partitions were inaccessible.

When purchased electronically from a vendor like BMT-Micro you receive an e-mail with download and installation instructions. A boxed copy with documentation is also available for about $25 more, or you can get the electronic version and purchase the documentation separately.

The installation of the electronic version is very simple. You download the file FS21BASE.EXE and execute it in a temporary directory. From this directory you then execute the SHSINST command followed by the program package name, currently F2199306.001. Answer a few questions during the install about installation locations and you are done. The program creates a desktop folder which you can use to start the program.

There are extensive setup and configuration options available in the setup menu once the program starts. Do yourself a favor and read the on-line help. It contains a wealth of information and gives you an idea of what some of the setup options mean. You can choose your favorite editor as the "edit" application and assign a program of choice as a viewer. I set up my system to use MED as the editor and PMView as the viewer. If these aren't enough, you can also set up 17 additional user defined associations to open certain types of files when they are double-clicked or run in FileStar/2. I decided to add Netscape 4.61 as my HTML viewer, but I could just have easily picked Star Office or any other suitable program. I don't know what I'll do with the remaining 16. The program includes a version of InfoZip but you can use any version you have currently installed. It is impossible in a short review to mention all the features available in this program. I will cover that ones I use most frequently.

Panel Overview
Figure 1

FileStar/2 opens in a window dominated by a drive listing and three panels. The drive letters on the extreme left are in the Drives Window, the leftmost panel is the Directories Window , and the two remaining panels are the File Windows (Figure 1) . This working window consists of a top ActionBar , the Drives Window , the Directories Window , the two File Windows and a bottom Data Panel . The Directories Window displays the currently selected drive tree(s). One Files Window displays files in a currently selected directory, while the other displays files in another selected directory. More on this later. The Data Panel displays useful information on currently selected items and contains objects that function as additional controls. All panels can be resized and the Files Windows can be displayed either vertically as shown, horizontally, or cascaded. Colors and fonts can be modified by the user.

The Action Bar

This bar contains icons for commonly performed operations. While I find the icons themselves visually unappealing, they are functional. The items on the bar can be configured by the user, much like the SmartIcons in Lotus WordPro. If desired, the bar can be completely eliminated because selections are duplicated by RMB Pop-Up Menus. There are also keystroke shortcuts for almost every command as well as Pop-Up menus, but I have no idea how anyone would remember them all. Fortunately, the "bubble-help" style tooltips are extensive. If you are a user irritated by the "bubbles", they can be permanently disabled, or, my preference, toggled on/off with a simple <CTRL-H> key sequence. The arrows at either end of the Action Bar allow you to scroll left and right if you have installed more buttons than will fit on your screen. The Action Button listing below describes the general features of the program.

Action Bar
Figure 2

Although not shown in Figure 2, there is an Undelete option, which requires that you have enabled DELDIR in the config.sys and a Help button. A very useful feature is that if Help is selected, the entire Action Bar is transformed into a help menu (Figure 3). The online help is very good .

Help Menu Bar
Figure 3

Main Operation

Panels Detail View
Figure 4

Of course, the purpose of the program is file management. Files are selected through the use of the panels. Selections are interrelated. This is where the explanation is difficult while the operation is sooooo simple. The Drives Window shows the selected drive(s) and the Directories Window shows the tree for the selected drive(s) . Adding more than one drive to this panel greatly assists in copying and moving files. The two File Windows always show files contained in the selected directory, which is highlighted in the tree. The question is WHAT selected directory? Well you've noticed that the panels have different colors. While the colors used are user selectable, the Drives Window and the three panels will always share two colors. As shown above, I have clicked in the right Directories Window, making it the active panel. I know this because the Drives Window and Directories Window have also changed color to yellow, showing me that they are associated with each other. If I clicked on the center Directories Window, the Drives Window and center Directories Window would change to blue and reflect the drive and tree information associated with the center panel. The right panel file list would remain unchanged. If I then clicked on drive D: in the Drives Window, the Directories Window would change to the D: drive tree and the center panel would show files from the last selected directory on drive D:. You can begin to see how easy this makes working with files. To get images into my review directory, I can simply drag and drop or copy them from panel to panel.

Copy Files Popup
Figure 5

The copy action also illustrates the interrelation between the panels. I select the file(s) in the right panel I want to copy with standard mouse actions. With a RMB, I bring up the Pop-Up menu and select Copy. The copy dialog is already filled in with the directory selected in Panel 2 (Figure 5). The program assumes, probably correctly, that the copy destination is the other panel. If the choice is not the one I want, I can change the destination by typing the correct one, or I could click on the drive in the Drives Window and the directory in Directories Window to get to the destination I wanted, then select it by clicking. If I was simply moving them, I could drag them to the center panel to place them in that displayed directory OR all the way to a directory in the Directories Window and drop them there. Incidentally, the fact that moving is the default action for a drag and drop is a choice I made in the setup options. I could have made copying the default action for a drop if I wanted.

For those of you who like to work with icon views, they can be displayed by clicking the "I " in the lower left of each panel (Figure5). Notice that the icons for my gifs are thumbnails of the image. Similarly, clicking the " T " in the lower right of each panel switches between detailed and plain text views (Figure 6). The view for each panel is selected independently, and is remembered from session to session. There is even a setting that will display EA sizes in the detailed text views.

Text Detail and Icon View
Figure 6

If these displays aren't sufficient, you can open up the standard OS2 folder with its default layout (Figure 7).

Standard Folder View
Figure 7

A double-click on a file in any panel causes actions dependent on the type of file. An executable file will execute, other files will open in the editor, file browser, or in any application for which you have created an association. If you have NOT set up a specific association in FileStar/2, you will NOT open a data file's application by default. Clicking on a *.sdc (StarCalc File) does not open the file in Star Calc if there is no established association in FileStar/2. However, you can still open the file in its application by using the WPS_OBJECT option from the Pop-Up menu (Figure 8). This means you don't have to set up a bunch of associations for files types you use infrequently. By the way, you can use the same menu to get to the Settings Notebook for the file.

Figure 8

When a zip archive is clicked, the ZipView Window opens. You can read documentation within the archive without extracting anything, select files to extract, set the working directory, etc. Think of the possibilities - without leaving FileStar/2 you could launch Netscape, download the latest PMView Beta into a directory, double click on the zip file, read the instructions, select a destination, unzip the files, execute the install, then delete the files from the temporary directory you installed from . Talk about convenience! The program is multi-threaded, so operations that take some time, like copying or zipping a lot files can continue in one panel, while you work with a different directory in the other panel.

Zip View WIndow
Figure 9

The bottom Data Panel has features to make file management more convenient. At first glance it appears to be nothing more than labels and brief messages. It is actually a convenient set of controls. The blue "labels" are actually buttons. If you have a file or files selected in the window, pressing the Name, Date, Time, or Attributes button allows you to change that item for the selected file(s).

Data Panel View 1Figure 10

For example, clicking the Attributes button brings up the panel where the attributes of any (or all) selected files can be set.

File Attribute Popup
Figure 11

To rename a selected file, just press the Name button. Then type in the new name (Figure 8).

Rename File Popup
Figure 12

The little "LED" like indicators on this Data Panel also have a handy feature. If they are green, the File List is sorted in ascending order by that attribute. If it is red, the files are sorted in descending order by that attribute. Notice that there are two "LED's" under the name panel (Figure 13). That is because the files can be sorted by name OR by extension. The active sort "LED" is red or green while the inactive one is off. Select sorts in ascending order with a right click in the panel under the attribute you want to sort by. Left click to sort in descending order. The sorts are really quick. In the Name panel, because you can sort by name or extension; clicks on the left side of the panel affect sorts by name and those on the right side of the panel affect sorts by extension.

Data Panel View 2
Figure 13

Another neat feature is that you can use the Create menu item to create new directories with as many levels as you need. For example, I needed to new directory under Q:\DOCS to store my scanned tax returns. I wanted to make a subdirectory TAXES and then 2000 for this year. All I needed to do was create Q:\DOCS\TAXES\2000 and both the TAXES and the 2000 directory were created in one go.

Multiple Directory Creation
Figure 14

Some of the more advanced features are difficult to describe, but easy to accomplish. It is very simple to place the directories of two different drives in the Directories Window. Window. This makes it extremely easy to move files. By selecting "Multiple Trees", I can put drive G: and drive Q: together and move files easily.

Multiple Tree File Copy
Figure 15

One real example of the power of these multiple trees is in finding duplicate files As shown in Figure 16, I have selected drive G: and drive Q:. I want to see if I have duplicate files in the G:\DOWNLOADS and the Q:\DOWNLOAD\SAVEFILES directories. In the Drives Window, I made sure that I selected "Multiple Trees." I placed both trees in the Directory Window. I then double-click on the Q:\DOWNLOAD\SAVEFILES directory, which loads its files into the Files Window. Then I hold down the <CTRL> Key while double-clicking on the G:\DOWNLOAD directory. This lists its files in the same Files Window. Then from the menu, I select Files->Compare->ShowDuplicates->Name to get a view of only duplicate files. The help warns that this can take a significant amount of time if numerous files are involved and recommends limiting the files compared through the use of filters. On my system a check of 4,138 files took under 10 seconds. The choice of duplicates by name is only one alternative. I could compare by size, CRC, name/date, or name/size/date if I wanted

Duplicate Files
Figure 16

I hope this has given you an overview of the power of this application. The developer has provided an extensive setup menu so that you can configure many program defaults to work exactly the way you want it to. Pop-Up menus are available almost everywhere and the bubble help actual shows useful information. However, while anyway can get tremendous benefit from using the program, it takes some time to learn all its features. That's half the fun.

The developer, Jim Read, obviously takes great pride in his program and is very responsive in answering questions. Would I buy it again - you bet. I'm only sorry I took so long to discover this great program.

By the way, FileStar/2 V3.0 is due out in the near future. After playing with the beta, it seems a little snappier, has its own lightning fast editor built in, and allows you to perform the same actions on remote files that you can on local drives. Plus, if you buy the current version now, the upgrade is free. You can't go wrong with this program. You can learn more on FileStar/2 v3.0 at their page describing Version 3.0

Article References:
Filestar/2V2.10 available for electronic purchase $45.00 www.bmtmicro.com
Zip and Unzip Utilities freeware www.infozip.org
Developer's home page www.filestar.com
FAT32 IFS freeware www.os2ss.com/information/kelder/index.html

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