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Commander for OS/2 v2.24-4- by Pete Grubbs


Overview

It's a little embarrassing to admit, but it's true: I liked the old Windows File Manager. Yeah, it's buggy and strange in places and its search feature might leave a lot to be desired, but I understood it. I could get a lot of work done with it in very short order. When I made the jump to OS/2 2.1, I didn't miss Windows' GPFs and kludgy interface but I did miss File Manager. While I could manage files from an OS/2 prompt or open the appropriate folder to drag and drop objects, I was never completely comfortable with the first routine and the second seemed to take forever.

So, I searched for a replacement for File Manager. I ran SofTouch Systems' FileStar/2 (v1.0) for a couple of years and found a lot to like, but even more to dislike especially the way it would hang my system whenever I worked extensively with .ZIP files. (When I e-mailed STS for advice or a fix for this, I was told that it wasn't a problem in the latest version and my only recourse was to buy the upgrade.)

Then I tried ZTree Bold and loved the way it zoomed through my drives but could never get comfortable with its display. I downloaded Mark Kimes' FM/2 and used it for a few weeks but got tired of devoting disk space to an app that took close to a minute to load and had a gazillion neat functions that I never used.

Finally, I stumbled upon Commander for OS/2, a Norton Commander clone for OS/2 written by Emil Fickel of EF Software. Within an hour, I was hooked. Here was an app that worked the way I wanted to work, had enough bells and whistles to satisfy the wonk in me but didn't take up a huge chunk of disk space and loaded in less than six seconds.

Test System

The machine used to rate this product is powered by a Cyrix 100 chip running with 32 megs of RAM. The graphics card is a D24 BitBlaster with 1 meg of RAM hooked into an AcerView 56 15" monitor. The single hard drive is a Fujitsu 1090M and the operating system is OS/2 Warp 4.0 (sans FixPaks).

Installation

After downloading the archive file from Fickel's English language home page (there's a separate page for German speakers), I created a directory, unzipped the file into it and ran the installation program. This brought up a dialog window asking for a drive and directory (the default is C:\COMM) and created a program object on my Desktop. Double clicking on this object launched Commander and brought up a small window which allowed me to choose from five different language modules (Dansk, Deutch, English, Francais and Romaneste) Commander can use to display menu/task bar information. The full application opened after I had made my selection and this window did not reappear.

Commander's Interface

Commander's ease of use is a direct result of its clean, simple interface (GIF, 14.3k). Commander presents directory/file information in two windows or panels. Directly above these windows are their title bars, which can be displayed in two different modes (3D and Normal) or not at all. Above the title bars is a "Diskbar" which puts all drives (including floppies and CD-ROMs) on clickable buttons. Navigating between disks is as simple as clicking on the appropriate drive button.

On top of the Diskbar is a customizable Toolbar which has 48 different options to choose from. Commander comes configured with about two dozen different buttons on the Toolbar and adding or removing buttons is a breeze.

Above the Toolbar is a standard menu bar which also provides access to options for the left and right panels. Beneath the panels is a command line which displays the current active directory and a status bar that indicates the current file and its attendant information, the amount of free space on the drive, the display format for the panels, and the date and time. A right mouse click in the various sections of this bar brings up different menus which provide more detailed information on the file, disk, etc. The Status Bar can also be customized in a variety of ways, including font selection.

The Basics

When it comes to file/disk management, all the bells and whistles in the world don't mean a thing to me if I can't copy, move and delete files quickly and easily. Commander assigns these commands to the function keys so any operation is simply a matter of selecting the target file/directory with the right mouse button and pressing a key. Copy and Move operations default to whatever directory is displayed in the other panel, i.e., if you select files in the left panel to copy (or move) and the right panel is showing your Temporary directory on C:, Commander's copy dialog window (GIF, 3.9k) will automatically copy the files there unless you specify another drive/directory. None of this is terribly exciting or new, but it all works quite easily, even if some of the keystroke choices seem a bit odd (delete is mapped to the F8 key instead of the Delete key).

Clicking within a panel or on its title bar makes that panel active; double-clicking on a subdirectory opens it and displays the contents in an easily customizable format. One very convenient addition to the panels are two small buttons located near their upper right corners. A single click on the button marked with an ellipsis takes you up one directory level; a click on the other button (marked with a backslash) takes you to the drive's root directory. I've found this feature to be very convenient and use it almost every time I load Commander.

A right mouse click within either panel's title bar brings up a menu (GIF, 3.2k) that contains eight commonly used file commands along with three settings for the panel's size relative to its neighbor. The right mouse button can be configured to select or to drag and drop, but not both. (This is one feature that takes a bit of getting used to and since it changes the behavior of some of the commands within Commander, I'm not convinced that it isn't a weakness which should be addressed in future versions.)

Other Goodies

With all of the basics well covered, this file manager includes some more exotic options that are very useful. Commander will compare the contents of any two directories (GIF, 12.6k) displayed in its panels, highlighting those files which are not common to each. You can also synchronize the contents of two different directories (a real asset to those of us who have to share files on two different machines).

Commander includes its own text editor and viewer and will allow the user to specify external editors if these aren't acceptable. The user can associate file extensions to applications so that, for example, a double click on any .TXT file loads it into the Enhanced Editor, but this feature doesn't transfer to the Desktop.

There's also support for compressed files in eight different flavors, including PKZip, but not, alas, InfoZip. You can kill processes from Commander and perform a Shutdown. There's even an applet that provides a convenient interface for setting the system's clock. The panel displays are fairly flexible with two pre-configured layouts (Brief and Full) and a third (Custom) which is open to suggestions. Colors are also variable but font selections are restricted to monospaced fonts in Brief and Full layouts; however, the Custom layout has no font restrictions. Still not enough for the power-wonk in you? Well, there are more bells and whistles in Commander, but I'll let you explore them for yourself.

Love It or Leave It

Commander isn't a perfect application. I miss being able to select all the files in a given directory with a simple Control-/ keystroke and I confess that I'm bemused by the author's decision to use the F8 key to delete. I'd also like to see Commander drop the dialog windows for Copy/Move commands and give me the option to make one or the other the default setting for a given keystroke or mouse click.

Drag and Drop from Commander to the Desktop isn't supported and the English text files leave a LOT to be desired (however, I understand that the author is in the process of updating them).

Conclusions

But these are small gripes when I consider the ease and speed with which this program handles my day-to-day chores. It's small, loads quickly, doesn't hang my system, shows me all the information I need at a glance, has a slick, polished feel and, for US$39, it pretty much blows any of the other managers I've used clean out of the water, even good ol' FileMangler. It's definitely worth taking out for a test-drive.
 * Commander for OS/2 v2.24-4
by EF Software
download from the OS/2 Supersite (ZIP, 413k)
Registration: US$39.00
Pete Grubbs is a self-described OS/2 wonk and doctoral candidate in English literature at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, a part-time faculty member at Penn State and is currently developing a copy editing/creation service, The Document Doctor, which tailors documents for small businesses.

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