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September 2000

An Alternate .inf Viewer

Article by Peter Lazenby ©September 2000

NewView: http://hobbes.nmsu.edu/cgi-bin/h-search?key=NewView

Preferring .inf files over any other document format for reading offline documents, I welcomed the announcement of the new freeware .inf file viewer NewView by Aaron Lawrence. As of this writing, v1.13.2 is the most current release (according to the "About" menu selection under the Help pull-down menu... according to changes.txt it's v1.12.19). While it's still a work in progress, most users will find it to be a welcome replacement to the default viewer that IBM thought to provide.

Installation is a complete no-brainer. Just unzip the archive, and copy newview.exe to any location. That's about it. Newview, at this point, carries no additional baggage above the executable, which weighs in at around 400k. Stick it somewhere referenced in your PATH statement in config.sys, and you'll be able to access it via command-line in any directory by passing the filename as a parameter: newview (filename).inf, or newview (filename).hlp. I also added the file associations *.hlp and *.inf to the newview.exe program object, in order to have NewView available as an option in the rmb menu for .inf and .hlp objects. Multiple documents can be opened, each in their own instance of NewView, by using standard object selection with the rmb menu. Unfortunately, I haven't yet been able to replace view.exe with NewView as the system default.

NewView overview

Note: image size has been reduced to 640x480 for all full window captures

On first run, I reset some options (File -> Options...). The default font sizes were far too small on my 1600x1200 desktop, so those were first to be changed. This caused NewView (a previous release) to crash, but when I restarted the settings had remained. Changing the fonts again with the latest release went smoothly, so I presume this has been fixed. I also sized NewView to occupy a comfortable portion of my desktop, a habit I've acquired from prolonged exposure to view.exe. As promised, NewView retained my preferred size when reopened, something that I don't think is possible using the default viewer.

options dialogue

NewView Options notebook

On my system, smooth scrolling works nicely except for one annoyance... when advancing line by line and encountering an image, NewView will jump through to a point where the entire image is centred in the document window. Using the slider control causes only a slight painting delay as the image space is refreshed, but paging through the document above and below the slider control works without any visual effects.

Since I don't use any dialogue extenders, I left NewView to its own devices. The result is a pleasing set of default dialogues:

file open dialogue

File Open dialogue

Usage couldn't be simpler. The left panel always remains visible and allows quick navigation through the contents. Tabs on the panel are provided for quick access to Index, Search and Notes functions. While index and search require no explanation. Notes, along with NewView's Copy and Paste abilities, take this viewer far beyond the capabilities of our default .inf viewer.

NewView has the capability of storing notes to yourself in an open document. Position the cursor where the note should start, then select "Tools -> Add Note..." from the pulldown menu. Type in your text, and hit OK. Your note will appear in red text to the right of your cursor location.

Though the Bookmarking function is one of the features yet to come, I found that notes work almost as well. Selecting the Notes tab will display all notes in the document... just highlight your choice and press the "Go To" button at the bottom right of the notes container panel. NewView will jump to the top of the page containing the note. From there it's just a matter of scrolling to the red text which is easily noticeable. Perhaps the bookmark function will jump to the exact spot, but for now the Notes function works in a pinch.

Ever wanted to print or save some parts of the .inf document? With view.exe, this is accomplished by either printing the entire document, the entire page, or saving the page to disk then editing out what you probably didn't want (some of those pages can print forever I've found...) in order to get the hardcopy you need. NewView provides an excellent solution for this. Using the standard conventions, just highlight only the information you need, then copy and paste to where it's needed.

NewView doesn't support MDI (Multi-document interface), but can still handle multiple windows easily. Using a hyperlink that would normally spawn a new text window using view.exe, the same text is presented in a "split-screen" format in the main document window within NewView. The only drawback is that this screen splitting doesn't go away as soon as the focus is brought back to the calling document, but it will disappear by selecting another topic in the contents window.

Notes and selected text in the document

Notes, highlighted text, and "split screen"

Although still unfinished, NewView promises to evolve into a feature-rich and welcome addition to my OS/2 desktop. As it stands now, it's still my viewer of choice as far as .inf and .hlp files are concerned. The only major improvement I could ask for is for NewView to become the system default viewer, but according to the readme, "One possibly incredibly difficult thing would be to make NewView work as part of OS/2's context sensitive application help i.e. not only could it be used to view standalone documents but also within applications. This probably involves DDE and other scary things not to mention lots more undocumented stuff."

Well, that aside, NewView does an admirable job as it stands. Hopefully, Voice newsletter readers will give this application a try, and our editor will continue to deliver our newsletter in both .inf and .html formats. That way, I won't be accused of downloading the .inf format multiple times per month in order to make the numbers look better :-)

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