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COLUMN: Getting Started

Getting Started: Files and FILER

In this issue we review fundamental concepts: File name, extension, data file, program file, path, directory, default. We apply this information by examining directories in FILER, by using the FILER HELP, COPY, DELETE, and RENAME function keys, and by considering file naming strategies.

By Hal Goldstein

In the last two Getting Started columns, we examined the two essential concepts an HP 95LX user must know to safeguard and organize his data: "Files" and "directories." Because these concepts are so fundamental, let's spend a little time reviewing them using a concrete example.

File Names

Suppose we took some meeting notes in MEMO. We wisely decide to save that information into a file by typing (MENU) File Save, followed by the arbitrary file name like NOTES. The file name could have been any eight-character name. The characters in the name could have been letters, numbers, or other special characters such as underline or dash (blank spaces not allowed). Examples of legal names include 12XYZ, BEAUTY, and MAIN_RPT.

Because we are saving notes from MEMO, the 95LX automatically adds the "file extension" .TXT to the name we give the file. In other words, NOTES is really saved as NOTES.TXT. If we had been in Lotus 1-2-3 and saved a file as BUDGET, 1-2-3 would have appended the extension .WK1 to it, making the file BUDGET.WK1. Similarly, the Phone Book application appends the extension .PBK to a saved file, and the Appointment Book, .ABK.

Actually, the absolute "real" name of the file contains its entire directory, or "path." The complete name of the MEMO file we saved above is not NOTES or NOTES.TXT, but C:\_DAT\NOTES.TXT.

Whenever a MEMO file is saved, it automatically (by "default") gets saved to the HP 95LX's built-in subdirectory, C:\_DAT. The 95LX also saves PHONE, APPT, and HP CALC files into C:\_DAT. Lotus 1-2-3 files are by default saved into the "root" C:\ directory.

The Subdirectory and The Root Directory

The main directory built into the HP 95LX is known as the "root directory," and is denoted as C:\. Any directory can have within it two different types of objects: Files and additional directories (known as "subdirectories"). Subdirectories, in turn, can have within them files and subdirectories.

The HP 95LX comes with the C:\ root directory and a C:\_DAT subdirectory built-in. Both C:\ and C:\_DAT already contain files. (It also comes with a "hidden" directory, C:\_SYS.)

There are two types of files, "data files" and "program files." When you save a document from MEMO or a spreadsheet from 1-2-3, you are creating data files (e.g. NOTES.TXT or BUDGET.WK1). A "program file" is an application or a program. For example, HPTRIS.EXE is the program file for the Tetris game included on the Subscriber's Disk, and CHKDSK.EXE is the DOS Check Disk program you'll find built in on the root directory (C:\) of your 95LX.

Looking at Files and Directories from FILER

Now let's enter the built-in FILER application by pressing (FILER) key. Examine the upper left of the FILER screen just below the double lines. FILER lists here the name of the directory or subdirectory you are currently viewing. You will probably see C:\, the name of the root directory of your built-in C drive. (If you see another name, press (F5) C:\ (ENTER) to "Goto" the root directory. You should now see C:\ in the upper left.)

Now look under C:\ to see the list of subdirectories and files. FILER always lists the subdirectories before the files. If you haven't yet created subdirectories of your own, the first line below C:\ will list the _DAT subdirectory followed by <DIR> (indicating that _DAT is a subdirectory, not a file), followed by the date and time HP originally created the subdirectory. Your screen will look something like this:

FILER Screen At \_DAT Directory:  Graphic

 The first column in FILER always contains the name of the directory or file (up to 8 characters). The second column contains the file or directory name extension. Even though the FILER screen shows one or more blank characters between a name and its extension, the correct filename consists of the up-to-8-character name, followed by a period, followed by the extension. (e.g. CHKDSK.EXE). There are no spaces in between!

Now, move the cursor to _DAT and press (ENTER) to reveal a whole new world of files. The upper left part of the FILER screen indicates that we are now in the C:_\DAT subdirectory. Listed on the screen are the files in the C:\_DAT subdirectory.

FILER Screen IN \_DAT Directory :  Graphic

 Upon entering the C:\_DAT subdirectory in FILER, the highlight bar rests on the first line below C:\ _DAT (the one with two periods {..} followed by View Up . The two periods at the beginning of that line stand for the "parent" directory, in this case, the C:\ root directory. Press (ENTER) when the cursor is on the two dots, and FILER moves us back to the C:\ root directory.

If we had saved our MEMO file as NOTES, we would find NOTES.TXT in the C:\_DAT subdirectory. As we mentioned earlier, the full filename would include the path, and be C:\_DAT\NOTES.TXT. This name contains complete information about the file: Its name, extension, and path (where the file is stored).

FILER Commands

Once we have a clear understanding of how files are named and stored, we can make full use of the built-in FILER program.

As with all the built-in applications, we can get a quick intuitive overview of what FILER can do by simply examining the function key labels at the bottom of the main FILER screen, and by pressing the MENU key. For the remainder of this article, let's first look at a few of the function key labels at the bottom of the FILER screen.

FILER (F1) Help -- As in the other built-in applications, the F1 key provides help. Here is excellent advice whenever you run any application on any computer: Always study the computer screen for the instructions it provides. Secondly, form the habit of exploring and utilizing an application's help facility, even if you don't always understand what is being said. In complex programs such as Lotus 1-2-3, the help facility is invaluable and saves lugging around a huge Lotus manual.

One hint in exploring FILER's help facility: After pressing (F1) Help, move cursor to Filer commands or Function keys by pressing the Down Arrow key two or three times. Then press (ENTER).

FILER (F2) Copy -- The F2 key allows you to copy files. There are many reasons you might want to do this, but I'll list just two here as examples.

First, you could create a MEMO "template." This is a file with some standardized text or formatting you intend to use over and over. Let's say you create a correspondence template consisting of a few blank lines followed by the word "Dear," followed by a few more blank lines, and ending with your name, address, phone number, and fax number. You save this template in MEMO with the name LETFORM.

You can use the template by entering FILER and pressing (F2) to make a copy of LETFORM. You are then prompted to Copy `letform' to:. Type a new name, say, LETJOE. Then go to MEMO and retrieve LETJOE. You can write your letter to JOE without having to bother typing your name and address, phone and fax.

Another essential use for the F2 Copy key is in backing up your files. For example, suppose your phone book is saved in the C:\_DAT subdirectory as MAIN.PBK. You can back this up on your RAM card (if you have one) by entering FILER and moving your cursor to MAIN.PBK in your C:\_DAT directory. Then press (F2), type a:, and press (ENTER). Your phone book would now be copied to your A drive. If anything ever happened to your built-in C drive, you would have a backup of your phone book as of the last time you used the F2 Copy command to back up MAIN.PBK.

If you don't have an A drive, you can make a copy of your phone book to the C root directory by pressing (F2), typing C:\, and pressing (ENTER). This method is not as safe as copying a file to the A drive, since you would lose both the main and backup PHONE files if the C drive gets corrupted. However, this method still protects you from inadvertently destroying or corrupting your main phone book in C:\_DAT. The backup on the C:\ root drive could save the day.

FILER (F3) Delete -- Suppose you no longer needed the NOTES.TXT file that we created in MEMO earlier -- space on the 95LX is precious. To delete NOTES you would simply move the cursor to NOTES.TXT and press (F3) Delete.

FILER (F8) Rename -- Suppose you use the HP 95LX to regularly take notes at three different meetings: Your staff meeting, project meeting, and an investment club meeting. You keep these notes in three separate files: STAFF.TXT, PROJECT.TXT, and INVEST.TXT.

Later on you decide to develop a more consistent naming convention for your note files. You want to change the name of STAFF.TXT to MEETSTF, PROJECT to MEETPROG, and INVEST to MEETINV. To rename STAFF, for example, go into FILER and move your cursor to STAFF.TXT. Then press (F8) to rename, type in MEETSTF.TXT and press (ENTER).

In future issues, we will continue to look at how FILER can help us organize and safeguard the precious work that we perform on the HP 95LX.

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