Make Full Use of Application Manager

AppManager makes it easy to set up and launch DOS programs on the HP 100LX. Enhance that ease using these undocumented features and a free Subscribers Disk program.

By Mark Scardina

The HP 100LX's new Application Manager (&...) makes setting up and launching DOS or System Manager compliant programs easy. It is possible, but not as easy to do so on the HP 95LX. Hewlett-Packard obviously listened to user feedback in the creation of this new built-in application.

AppManager handles the previously undocumented chore of managing the APNAME.LST file. You no longer have edit APNAME.LST to assign a hotkey to a new EXM program. You can set up System-Manager compliant or DOS programs with ease and launch them by selecting an icon.

We'll discuss setting up system compliant programs in a future article. This one focuses on setting up and launching DOS .EXE, .COM, and .BAT programs.

Adding DOS Programs to AppManager

Up to 38 applications can be launched from AppManager. Any number of these may be DOS programs; however you must follow specific rules when adding a DOS program in AppManager (some of these rules are undocumented).

Press (&...) to go into AppManager and press (F2) to Add an application. (Press (F3) to edit an existing one -- you can only edit the Comments field of a built-in application.) You're presented with screen that looks like this.

AppMgr's Add Application Screen:  Graphic


Name: -- Put the program name or description in the Name field. While up to 13 characters can be used, AppManager will split them into two lines on the Icon Menu display. Experiment using spaces or punctuation to split the line where you want.

Precede a character in the Name field with the "&" symbol and that character becomes launch key for that program. For example, if you added the game INVADERS to in AppManager and gave in the Name In&vader, you could start it by pressing (&...) V. If you use the above name, the word Invader appears under the AppManager icon with the startup letter underlined.

You should exercise care in selecting startup characters. Many of them are already taken for the built-in applications and there appears to be no way to edit the Name field in a built-in applica tion. If you use the same startup character in two or more applications, AppManager starts the first application in the list with that letter.

Path: -- This is perhaps the most critical entry. Put the complete path and filename of the DOS program's executable file (you are limited to 63 characters). For example, if INVADERS.EXE was located in C:\GAMES, you'd enter: c:\games\invaders.exe.

You may put in any type of DOS launchable program including COM, EXE, and BAT files. Command line switches are also permitted. You need to include the entire file specification, even if you have the directory specified in your AUTOEXEC.BAT file's PATH statement.

If you add nothing else to the Path entry, your program will launch into the DOS partition provided by System Manager. The amount of System RAM used by this partition is specified by going into Setup and pressing (MENU) Options System Advanced and tabbing to the DOS. field.

If there is not enough System RAM specified for your program, it will not launch. On the other hand, if you specify too much System RAM for the DOS partition, you may not be able to run your program without closing some of the built-in applications. In addition, if you specify too much and run your DOS program, there might not be enough memory to open other built-in applications. Fortunately, there is a solution that was added to AppManager too late to be included in the HP 100LX User's Guide. (It is mentioned in the on-line Help).

By adding a | symbol (press (<Shift>)-(\)) to the end of your Path line you can over-ride the Setup allocation.

  1. 1. If you use a | without any thing else, your DOS program will be given all available System RAM memory.
  2. 2. By adding a number to the end, such as |200, you can specify the exact amount of KBytes of System RAM to be given to an application.



Determining the correct figure may take a bit of trial and error. Don't cut it too close because some programs behave erratically if they are working at the memory limit.

Key Assignment: -- You cannot edit this field for DOS applications. It will always display Ctrl+123, the hotkey for returning to the DOS program once it has been launched (or going to DOS if a DOS program is not running).

Once the DOS program is launched, you can even close AppManager to save memory and use (CTRL)-(123) to go back and forth between the built-in applications.

Comments -- You can use this field for a short note. There are also two undocumented uses for this field.

  1. 1. Include an upside down question mark (press (Fn) ? ) and you eliminate the "Press any key to continue" message and return directly to AppManager when you exit your DOS program.
  2. 2. Include an upside down exclamation point (press (Fn) ! ) and you prevent System Manager from interfering with DOS programs when they are communicating with the serial port. Unfortunately, this will also eliminate your ability to task switch to the built-in applications.



Icon -- this field allows you to specify the icon displayed on the Menu. While an icon editor is not provided with the 100LX, ICON.ZIP (ON DISK), a freeware version, is available on CompuServe in the HPHAND Libraries.

The icon file (with an .ICO extension) must be in the same directory as the DOS program in order for it to be displayed as a selection. Once the icon is included in your menu, the icon file can be moved or deleted.

AppManager Limitations

Once you start using AppManager, you may come up against its limitations.

Some DOS programs require that they be launched from a specific drive and directory. There's no way to specify this in AppManager.

Some DOS programs look best in a specific screen display mode. There's no way to specify that in AppManager.

It also would be nice to be able to prevent System Manager from interfering with a DOS program's use of the serial port, and not lose task switching.

Finally, some programs, most notably ACT! for the 95LX, will not task-switch at all.

Many of the above problems can be addressed by creating batch files for each application. However, batch files take up precious disk space and do not handle all variations. I wrote APLOAD.COM to help solve these problems.


Let's say you wanted to run ACT!95 on your 100LX. If you were to just copy it over and launch it from AppManager, you would end up with a blank screen and blinking cursor. This is because ACT! only runs in the 40x16 MDA screen mode. You can create a batch file to set the proper screen mode on the 100LX and launch ACT!, but it still won't be able to find its data files. It would also be nice if you could set it up to task switch!

Enter APLOAD.COM, a utility designed to be used with the 100LX App- Manager. APLOAD lets you pre-configure the 100LX to your DOS application's requirements during the launch process.

Adding a Program to AppManager Using APLOAD

Let's say you have the ACT! main program file (ACT.EXE) and APLOAD.COM on a RAM card in your A drive. You go into AppManager and press (F2) to Add an application. You type in ACT! in the Name field and press (ENTER) or (<Tab>) to move to the Path field. Enter the following command line in the Path field:

a:\ /4w a:\act act.exe |200

The first phrase (a:\ tells AppManager to load APLOAD, which will in turn load ACT!. Then comes one blank space and a foreslash (/), followed by the options that you would like to be in place when the program launches. In the above example, the 4 specifies 40x16 MDA Mono mode and the w tells APLOAD to prevent System Manager from disturbing the serial port.

After one more empty space, the startup drive and startup directory are specified (a:\act). In this case, the startup directory is where the data files and main program files are located.

Following this we have another empty space and then the actual name of the DOS program to launch (act.exe). If the program does not reside in the startup directory the entire path should be specified.

Finally, we have another empty space and the memory allocation for ACT (|200). In this case we allocate 200KB, which will handle about 1000 contacts.

Additional APLOAD Features

APLOAD allows you to specify not only the screen modes, but the color mapping and whether you want to reverse the display. This is useful for game programs where the default colors settings make the display harder to see.

The 100LX, like the 95LX before it, has Cursor Tracking and ArrowKey scrolling features that let you move to portions of a DOS program display not visible on a 40x16 or 60x18 screen. System Manager's default settings enable these features. APLOAD lets you change Cursor Tracking and Menu-ArrowKey settings from the Path command line.

You might want to specify command line switches or files to load when you run a DOS program. For example, when you run the DOS CHKDSK program, you might want to tell it which drive to check (C: or A:). APLOAD's "P" option causes a pop-up box to be displayed when you run the DOS program from AppManager. You type in the "command tail" and press (ENTER) to run the DOS program.

It's difficult to see the blinking line cursor in 80-column mode. APLOAD, by default, sets a more visible block cursor. This can be omitted with the "B" option. (Some DOS programs will change the cursor set by APLOAD.)

Also, there are some programs that will only launch if they detect that they are running on an HP 95LX. APLOAD includes option "9" that fools these programs into thinking they're operating on the original Palmtop.

Finally, setting up icons with APLOAD is more complicated. The easiest way to do it is to initially set up the Path without APLOAD, thereby letting you select the icon. Once this is done, go back with F3 and edit the Path field to insert the APLOAD commands.

Welcome Addition

AppManager is a welcome addition to the suite of built-in 100LX applications. With the addition of APLOAD and a bit of setup time, you should find running DOS programs as easy as using the built-in ones.

APLOAD is available on the Subscriber's disk or in the CompuServe HPHAND library as APLOAD.ZIP.