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System Essentials - Part 3
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Author:dhomas trenn
Published by:Amiga Informer magazine (US)
Date:January 1999

This issue we finish off the system essentials mini-series with a few more must-have utilities that enhance the operating system and increase the efficiency of everyday Amiga use. As always, this software has been tested and determined to be system friendly through extended periods of use.

There are literally hundreds of commodities available, each performing some unique system enhancement. Many of these provide very handy functions, so it is not unusual to want several running simultaneously. The inefficiency in this is that each of these utilities require a certain amount of similar program code to make them function as commodities. In many cases, the actual feature that the commodity provides takes up a very small fraction of the program's size.

And so... multi-function commodities were born. This is not a complete solution, because a particular multi-function program may not include all the functions you want. But, it certainly can cut down on wasted memory.

Several of these all-in-one programs are available. Among the best is Martin Berndt's MultiCX (Aminet: util/cdity/MCX280.lha) which currently has more than 50 functions, including: screen and mouse blanking, window and screen cycling, opaque windows, window auto-activation, public screen selection and activation, drive protection, trackdisk.device parameters, popcli, ASCII enter, memory flush, advanced string gadget editing, and much more.

Tool Docks
The best way to access frequently used applications, is to use some kind of tool organizer. Stefan Becker's ToolManager (Aminet: util/wb/ToolManagerBin.lha, util/wb/ToolManagerExt.lha, util/wb/ToolManagerLoc.lha), etc.) allows you to start applications through the Workbench's Tools menu, Workbench icons, definable keyboard shortcuts (hotkeys), or special image/text button windows called "docks".

In addition to starting workbench applications, ToolManager can start shell commands/scripts, execute ARexx programs, trigger another program's hotkeys or open/close its own docks. It will even play back external sounds to give you that instant feedback... "Yes Master, I comply", "Starting Directory Opus" or "Beep! Honk!".

One plus one is... probably too easy to warrant the use of a calculator. But, for more difficult math calculations there are dozens of utilities to choose from. Two stand out above the rest.

Denis Gounelle's ACalc (Aminet: misc/math/acalc.lha) provides very basic mathematical operations and 10 storage memory locations. It is a commodity and can be assigned a hotkey for quick access, opening its window on the current screen. Programmers will appreciate modes for working in decimal and hexadecimal to perform base conversions and bitwise operations. Current results are automatically copied to the clipboard or to an environment variable.

If you need something more scientific, Luca Carminati's TotalCalc (Aminet: misc/math/TotalCalc1_23.lha) adds functions for: roots, logarithms, powers, reciprocals, factorials, trigonometrics and percents. It also has a handy memory viewer for quick recall.

Workbench Windows
Marcus Tobias's WarpWB (Aminet: util/wb/WarpWB21.lha) commodity provides a unique function for the operation of Workbench. The idea behind it is that when you open a sub-directory window, you no longer need to see the parent directory window. With this in mind, WarpWB performs the function of automatically closing the parent window when you open a sub-directory window. Whether WarpWB performs this auto-function or not, can be configured through qualifiers or through a list of pattern matched directory names.

As most Amigans know, holding down the CTRL + Left Amiga + Right Amiga keys causes a system reboot. But, what some might not know is that this is called a warm reboot; it is actually one of two kinds of reboot. The other is called a cold reboot, which is basically the same as turning your computer off and then on again. Generally, a warm reboot is all you need to solve problems; other times, with particularly poor programs, it is not enough.

Miklós Árpád's ColdReboot (Aminet: util/boot/ColdReboot.lha) is a very small utility that causes the Amiga to perform a cold reboot, resetting to a power-up state. Note that system resources such as RAD: will not survive a cold reboot.

System Monitors
A system monitor is a tool that allows you to monitor your computer resources. It can tell you detailed information about windows, screens, memory, tasks, cpu usage, ports, assigns, expansion boards, interrupts and more. Some even allow you to perform related actions, for example: halting tasks or closing windows and screens.

One of the earliest of these utilities is Werner Günther's XOper (Aminet: util/moni/Xoper28.lha) which provides information in response to various keyboard commands. If you want something with a gadget interface, more functions and network support, try Richard Körber's Scout (Aminet: util/moni/Scout.lha).