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Using Application Manager to Connect Your Program and Data Files to Yo

Through the Looking Glass: Using Application Manager to Connect Your Program and Data Files to Your Fingers

If you want to coax more out of Application Manager here is a procedure that won't cost you anything except some time and a little planning. The rewards will surprise you.

By Ed Keefe

If you like to connect your fingers to your software using the icons in Application Manager (&...) you're not alone. Over the past several years I've received hundreds of messages about Application Manager (App Mgr). The messages usually expressed a liking for the App Mgr program and most often ended with a desire that it could do more.

I've collected these desires in an "App Mgr Wish List" and condensed them down to the following seven wishes. I'll try to grant as many of these wishes as I can in this article.

1. I wish there was a way to have more than 38 applications in App Mgr.

2. I wish there was a way to have more than 16 icons visible on the opening screen. More icons would mean not having to press the Page Down key to find an application.

3. I wish there was a way to get rid of the icons for the built-in software that never gets used, e.g., cc:Mail, Pocket Quicken, DataComm, LapLink Remote, etc.?

4. I wish there was a way to change the hot-keys for the built-in software?

5. I wish there a way to associate an icon with either a database file, a Memo file or a specific Lotus 1-2-3 file and start the application along with the data file?

6. I wish there was a way to add an icon to App Mgr without have to rename the icon and put it in the same directory as its program.

7. I wish there was a way to have more than one App Mgr session with no extra software.

Your Wish Is Our Command: Almost

There's some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that there's no way to grant the first three wishes directly. The programmers who designed Application Manager fixed the total number of applications at 38. They locked in the 16 or 18 built in applications leaving room for only 22 or 20 user-added applications. (The 200LX has two extra built-in programs that take up two more slots.) That's the bad news. The good news is that there are several indirect ways to grant these first three wishes.

Known Solutions

The desire for a better Application Manager has prompted several programmers to create alternative programs.

The most noteworthy offering is the HDM program by Harry Konstas. HDM looks and acts like Application Manager. However, HDM lets you add over 200 icons and their associated applications. HDM also displays 24 icons on the screen at the same time. You can also have more than one HDM session and even nest one HDM session within another. It's a slick and sophisticated program that has been put to good use in the Super Software Carousel package from Thaddeus Computing. The downside is that HDM only works with DOS programs--not System Manager compliant programs.

Tonata, a Japanese programmer, used a different approach with Pocket Launcher (LAUNCHER.EXM). This program, among other things, adds applications to App Mgr on the fly.

When you run Launcher it lets you pick a program from a list. It then uses another program (EXKEY or Keystuff) to stuff a path statement into the last available slot in App Mgr and then runs the new program. The program works but, to me, it seems like a round-about workaround and the setup procedure is not intuitive. If you've tried Pocket Launcher, be sure to read the tip in the sidebar entitled "Temporarily Fooling App Mgr". You'll see how to get similar results without using Pocket Launcher.

There are other programs, such as MoreEXM and XFinder that overcome some of App Mgr's limitations but at the expense of extra time spent in setting up and maintaining additional software.

"If you can't beat 'em, join 'em"

Since there's no way to overcome the limitations of App Mgr directly, why not think of the limitations as undocumented features and see if they can be used to our advantage? Here's how.

If you limit the number of user-added icons in App Mgr to sixteen or fewer, you'll be able to see all your icons on the opening screen. You won't have to press the Page Down key to see more. Also you'll have fewer hot-keys with which to contend. Likewise, reducing the number of icons eliminates what I call "visual clutter," i.e., too many icons in your visual field.

Getting By With Fewer Icons

If you can get by with sixteen or fewer icons you can make App Mgr even more useful by moving the most frequently used icons to the first two rows. This means that the icons for the built-in applications will be pushed down in the list, but that's all right. You already have the blue keys at your finger tips. Having an icon that performs the same function seems redundant.

The easiest way to move the icons is to press the F8 (List) key to display a list of the applications. Then highlight one of the blue key applications, e.g., HPCalc, and press the F7(Order) key. Use the down arrow key to move the item to the bottom of the list and press F7 again. Do this for all the blue key programs.

With the blue key programs out of the way, you could eliminate their hot keys but this really isn't necessary. Once you move a blue key application lower in the list, you can use its hot key for an item that is higher in the list. For example if you move HP Calc to the bottom of the list, you could add "Hex Edit" to App Mgr and set its hot key to "H" by putting an "&" before the "H" in the Name: field of the "Add an Application" screen. When you move the icon to the top of the list you can press "H" and always start "Hex Edit".

However, if you still want to remove or change a hot key for a built-in application, see the sidebar for a way to perform this trick.

Once you've moved the built-in blue key applications to the bottom of the list, you might want to add some more icons to App Mgr to fill up the opening screen.

To add an application, just press the F2(Add) key, fill in the various fields in the "Add an Application" screen and press F10.

When you install an icon you can choose one of the four default icons or pick an icon that has the same name as the associated program. Ordinarily the icon must be in the same directory as the associated program. To get around this restriction see the sidebar tip entitled "Adding Icons in a Round-about Way." The sidebar also shows how to use the OPEN.EXE program to add an icon for a Database file. There's even a way to use an icon in App Mgr to switch to a different Software Carousel work area. Again, see the sidebar for how to do this.

Creating Two or More App Mgr Sessions

If you have more than 16 programs (but fewer than 30) then it's time to consider using two (or more) Application Manager sessions.

You won't need any special software to do this. Everything you need is already on your HP Palmtop. However you'll need some forethought before creating extra App Mgr sessions and some patience to get things just right. When you're finished, you'll find that switching between App Mgr session is relatively fast and effortless.

I'll describe the procedure for creating two App Mgr sessions and present some guidelines for adding more sessions if you want them.

Creating multiple App Mgr sessions is somewhat like creating Group Boxes in the Program Manager of Windows 3.1. Group boxes let you gather together applications that are similar in nature, e.g., Games or applications that pertain to a project such as editing The HP Palmtop Paper. If you're not familiar with Group Boxes, Screen 1 may give you an idea of what they look like on my Win 3.1 desktop.

Screen 1: Group boxes in ProgMan

The instructions that follow show how to create the App Mgr equivalent of Win 3.1 group boxes called "WORK" and "PLAY." The steps in the procedure are prefaced with a small check box. As you work through the procedure, check the box when you've completed a step.

Subscribers to The HP Palmtop Paper ON DISK can avoid some typing. All the files that we'll describe are available on the disk. You can also download them from our Web site at www.PalmtopPaper.com/download.htm. Just type APPMGR in the search field and click on the Fetch! button.

Start Memo or your favorite text editor and type in the following DOS batch program.

@echo off

copy c:\_dat\apname.lst c:\_dat\%1 >nul

copy c:\_dat\appmgr.dat c:\_dat\%1 >nul

del c:\_dat\apname.lst

del c:\_dat\appmgr.dat

copy c:\_dat\%2 c:\_dat >nul

c:\_dat\apm.com

Check your typing and, when ready, save the file as C:\_DAT\ APPM.BAT.

Create a new file in your text editor and type in the following assembler code.

N APM.COM

A 100

MOV AX,0500

MOV CX,1C0D

INT 16

MOV AX,0500

MOV CX,011B

INT 16

MOV AX,0500

MOV CX,A400

INT 16

MOV AX,0500

MOV CX,3D00

INT 16

MOV AX,0500

MOV CX,4400

INT 16

MOV AH,4C

INT 21

RCX

2C

W

q

Be sure to leave a blank line before the RCX line and after the last line.

Save the file as C:\_DAT\APM. SCR and quit the editor.

Quit System Manager with the MORE, MENU, Applications, Terminate, OK keys.

Change to the C:\_DAT directory in DOS and, at the DOS prompt, type the command D:\DOS\DE BUG< APM.SCR and press Enter. If you see the word "error" when Debug assembles the file, you probably made a typing mistake. Correct the mistake and try again.

To check your work, type DIR APM.COM at the DOS prompt and press Enter. You should get a report that APM.COM is a file of 44 bytes. If you get some other size for the file, you may have mistyped the 2C command in APM.SCR.

(Optional: use the D:\BIN\ICN 200LX.EXE or ICN100LX.EXE program to create two icons: call them WORK.ICN and PLAY.ICN and save them in the C:\_DAT directory.)

Use Filer to create a new subdirectory in the C:\_DAT directory by highlighting the C:\_DAT directory and pressing MENU File, Create Dir... Name the directory WORK and press F10 (OK). Then highlight the C:\_DAT\WORK directory and press MENU, File, Create Dir... again. This time name the directory BAK and press F10 (OK).

Repeat the above instructions but substitute the name PLAY for WORK.

In Filer, tag the APNAME.LST and APPMGR.DAT files in the C:\_DAT directory and copy them into both the _DAT\PLAY and _DAT\PLAY\ BAK directories.

The next step involves modifying the APPMGR.DAT file. Since this file contains information used by the Application Manager program, make a copy of the file somewhere else on your Palmtop just in case you want to undo everything and return to your current setup.

Open Application Manager and create the App Mgr WORK session by deleting any Game items. (Just move the box-cursor to an icon and press the F4 and Enter keys.)

Press the F2 (Add) key and fill in the fields for the Game icon. This will let you switch from the Work session to the Play session.

In the Name: field type &Games

In the Path: field type C:\_DAT\ appm.bat work play |64

Leave the Comments field empty and press F10 (OK).

See the sidebar for a roundabout way to get the PLAY.ICN to appear or pick one of the default icons provided by App Mgr.

Press the End key (Fn+RightArrow) to find the Games icon at the end of the list and press the F7 (Order) key and move it to the top of the list. (If you use the CLOSEFLR program you'll need to put the Games icon as the second item in the list.)

Rearrange the other icons so that the most frequently used applications are in the first two rows.

Close App Mgr, return to Filer and copy the new APNAME.LST and APPMGR.DAT files to both the C:\_DAT\WORK and C:\_DAT\ WORK\BAK directories.

Copy the files in C:\_DAT\PLAY into the C:\_DAT directory, overwriting the current files.

Open AppMgr again and delete (F4 and Enter) the work-related applications leaving the Game icons.

Press the F2 (Add) key to create the Goto Work icon. Fill in the fields with

Name: &Goto Work

Path: C:\_DAT\appm.bat Play Work |64

Select the WORK.ICN or choose one of the icons from App Mgr. and press F10 (OK).

Move the WORK entry to the first or second spot on the list of icons.

Rearrange the other icons so that the game icons are in the first two rows of App Mgr.

Close App Mgr, return to Filer and copy the new APNAME.LST and APPMGR.DAT files to both the C:\_DAT\PLAY and C:\_DAT\ PLAY\BAK directories.

Switching Application Manager Sessions

Open Application Manager to see the App Mgr Play (Games) session. (My Games session is shown in Screen 2).

Screen 2: A Sample App Mgr Games Session

Close any DOS application that may be running.

Press the G key.

If all is working well the screen will go blank. Then App Mgr will open and close (you'll see the topcard or another open application briefly) then App Mgr will start again. The first item will open and close. You should see your App Mgr Work session. (Mine is shown in screen 3.) Press G again and you'll be back in the Games session.

Screen 3: A Sample App Mgr Work Session

The APPM.BAT file copies the current set of App Mgr files to the appropriate directory, deletes the files and then copies another set of files into C:\_DAT. The APM.COM file closes the current App Mgr session and gives it a chance to read the new APP MGR.DAT and APNAME.LST files before starting up again. The APM.COM file also opens and closes the first icon to force App Mgr to register new applications in the APPMGR. DAT file). There's a lot of winking and blinking of the screen but the swapping is relatively fast and effortless.

More App Mgr Sessions

If two sessions aren't enough for all your DOS and SMC (Systems Manager Compliant) applications you can extend the above procedure to create three or more sessions. For example you could have AppMgr sessions for Math, Graphics, Editing, Programming, Project Management, etc.

If so, you'll need to make directories for each session. You'll also need to create icons for all your new sessions.

The only trick will be in setting the Path statement in the "Add an Application" screen of App Mgr. The generic path statement is C:\_DAT\appm.bat <current session name> <new session name> |64

If you create three sessions, you'll need to reserve two icons per session for switching. If you want 6 sessions, each session will need 5 icons. That's 30 icons and applications to maintain and that's awkward. To make this less awkward, create a MAIN App Mgr session that contains icons that indicate a switch from the Main to Work session, Main to Play session, Main to ProjMgt, etc. In the working sessions use only one icon that switches from Work to Main or Play to Main. To get from the Work to Play sessions you can switch from Work to Main and then switch from the Main to Play session. It may take a few more seconds to switch but it will take far less time to maintain such a setup.

Dealing With APNAME.LST Files

If your Palmtop usage dates back to the HP 95LX you're familiar with APNAME.LST files. They were the only way to add extra SMC (.EXM) programs. The HP 95LX didn't have an Application Manager. APNAME. LST files are still available on the HP 100/200LX but you won't find any mention of them in the User's Manual. App Mgr automatically creates or updates the APNAME.LST file in the C:\_DAT directory whenever you add, edit or delete an SMC entry. If an SMC program resides on a PC Card, App Mgr will also create or update an APNAME.LST file in the root directory of the A: drive. Whenever you start App Mgr, it reads both the APNAME.LST files and updates its information. If you do a system reset or swap a card in the A: drive, the files listed in the A:\APNAME.LST file will be added to App Mgr.

You may have noticed that I did not refer to the A:\APNAME.LST file in the APPM.BAT file above. This reflects my current practice. I keep all my EXM files on the C: drive in a \EXM directory. That way I don't have to contend with the extra A:\APNAME.LST file. You might consider this strategy as well.

One Word Of Caution

You won't harm your Palmtop by trying the technique described in this article but you may lose a few App Mgr sessions if you make a mistake along the way. I've tried to eliminate the risks for you but there are no guarantees. Note that the technique was developed on a standard HP 200LX. If you have Software Carousel on your Palmtop and have two or more System Manager sessions, you run the risk of swapping App Mgr sessions in one SC session and forgetting to swap back to the original session before changing SC sessions. I guarantee that you'll wind up confusing your Palmtop, and yourself. The best advice I can give is "don't do that."

Be sure to read the tips in the sidebar for this article. One or more of them are sure to make Application Manager your most frequently used Palmtop program.

Tips For Application Manager

Commercial products mentioned in this article

Freeware mentioned in this article

iPhone Life magazine


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