|The Rave: FileBar v2.05||- by Trevor Smith|
Welcome everyone. This is not another review column. You won't find a ton of facts or screen shots galore here. The purpose of this column, quite simply, is to discuss an OS/2 specific product that is so great that it just has to be raved about.
For the first installment I could have chosen some fancy new application rich in the latest buzzwords or riding on any one of a dozen popular bandwagons. But I didn't. Instead I want to tell you about an old gem whose author finally pulled it out, recut and polished it - FileBar v2.05.
Before you say, "Huh?" and dismiss me, read on - especially if you are running a memory-challenged OS/2 machine.
In preparation for editing this month's Object Desktop reviews I was using OD as well as various applications being reviewed as alternatives to OD. While investigating MDesk, I found that it can be run as a WPS replacement saving a fair amount of RAM. It was nice and speeded my somewhat sluggish 8 meg test machine. But it wasn't something that I personally wanted to use for a long time.
Then I tried FileBar. I had tried an earlier version (1.x) but dumped it because it seemed to crash a lot. Since this is a hobby and a job, I thought I should try the latest version just to be safe, so I went off to my favourite FTP site, grabbed v2.05, installed, read the instructions and made it my default shell (in that order).
Things were noticeably faster with MDesk. Things are incredibly fast with FileBar and it's incredibly customizable. I was so amazed, I played with it until 1:00 am, just waiting for the catch. But there was none. OS/2 on my 8 meg machine now runs as fast (almost) as Windows 3.1 does. No joke. I have things tuned a bit and I have a 1 meg disk cache. Check out these numbers. If they don't impress you, you're not using an 8 meg machine. These tasks typically took 5 - 10 times longer using WPS because of disk swapping. Web Explorer now takes about 13 seconds to open completely. PMMail finally competes head to head with Eudora opening under Windows: 6 seconds to open completely. PMView: 4 seconds. Closing of most apps is almost instantaneous instead of the incessant grinding I was accustomed to. I even opened a dialer connection to my local Internet Service Provider and Neologic's news reader. Previously if I queued messages for auto-uudecoding there was noticeable swapping and performance suffered. Now the entire operation took place almost entirely in memory! Even with PMMail open at the same time!
For those annoyed by the long boot time of OS/2 and the WPS, try a replacement shell. I go from choosing OS/2 (as opposed to DOS) to a fully booted FileBar in 1 minute 5 seconds. Every time. It's not the 35 seconds of Windows 3.1, but then it's not Windows 3.1. It's a rock solid, pressure tested, OS/2 machine. I can spare the extra 30 seconds once a day.
The performance boost is not the end of the wonders of this little program. The menus are a breeze to set up (gif 9k) and can have sub-menus. Everything is intuitive and if you are using it in conjunction with the WPS, you can even drag and drop objects to set up menu entries. If you don't like the order of a menu, no problem, just shift items up or down with one mouse click. Don't like the font or colour of the bar? Drag a new colour or font from the WPS palettes. Done. I'm just amazed.
To top this, If you need the functionality of the WPS, you can click a FileBar menu and jump into it with no more of a footprint than if you had booted directly there. FileBar doesn't use objects, folders and all that other great stuff, so you might want to take advantage of this occasionally. Also, you'll want to get some kind of file/directory manager, but then the drives object isn't much of one anyway.
Don't get me wrong - I love the WPS - but why didn't IBM provide this with Warp? If you want to claim that OS/2 runs in 4 meg (or even 8), give people something like this as an option to the WPS and Launchpad. Gone would be those shortsighted fools who complain about Warp's speed on an 8 meg machine.
I was a little sad that I had to give up the one click exit button which I had previously been getting from NPS WPS enhancer. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that NPS WPS actually works even when using FileBar as a shell. I'm not quite sure who to kiss for this, NPS or FileBar, but I'm happy.
Even if I were to come into sudden wealth and buy another 16 meg or so of ram, I think I like FileBar better than the launchpad so I'll probably keep it even if I don't need it as a shell. Eric A. Wolf is about to become $25 richer. Yep. That's the price of this little wonder. A great deal cheaper than 8 meg of RAM. Or 4 meg.
The docs could stand some polishing but they are clear and informative. I, for one, am glad that Mr. Wolf spent his time coding instead of editing. It could also use an automatic installation for shell replacement and a deinstallation program, but if you are brave enough to replace the WPS, you probably don't need them. Still if they were there, those not brave enough might finally be able to have an incredibly stable, ripping-fast OS/2 box.
All I have to say is thank you, Eric A. Wolf, for making Warp smoke on my 8 meg machine.
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