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DeskMan/2 v2.0- by Ryan Dill


As we all know, one of OS/2's most powerful features is its object-oriented interface, the Workplace Shell (WPS). Its architecture makes it extremely easy for Joe Q. Public to configure the look and feel of his OS/2 Warp system exactly as he likes it, while his friends using certain -- ahem -- other operating systems are out of luck. It only makes sense, then, that two of the most important issues on many OS/2 users' minds are:

  1. Tweaking the WPS on their system to their satisfaction, and
  2. Keeping their tweaks intact.
This is where DeskMan/2 comes in -- it provides extensive configurability and archiving features in one package, allowing you to configure scads of things, and make sure you'll always have those configurations saved for easy recall. In addition, DM/2 contains security features which make it an excellent choice for any security-conscious user, whether network administrator, office worker, or home user with a nosy kid sister.

Installation

DeskMan/2 arrived as a spiffy-looking box containing two installation floppies and a hard copy manual. Running the install program from the first disk started a text-based unpack of the files from the floppy to the hard disk, followed by the automatic start of DM/2's graphical installation program. Users can either choose an "express install" (DM/2 installs most components) or a "custom install" (where you can pick and choose components). One thing about the custom install that irritated me is that if you're installing DM/2 to a directory other than the default, you have to manually edit all nine path statements to reflect the desired path. I've seen some OS/2 applications where all path statements are linked so if you edit one, all the rest are updated too -- that would be a nice feature here.

Still, installation progressed with no real problems, and pretty soon I was looking at DeskMan/2's Desktop folder (GIF, 8k). Being a cool-Desktop junkie, I immediately proceeded to check out DM/2's WPS Extensions and PM extensions, to see how I could jazz up my system.

Desktop Enhancement

DM/2's PM Extensions object gives you some of the capabilities of other Desktop enhancer programs, including a window close button (not needed in Warp 4, but it still works), a "Roving Mouse" feature (a la X-Mouse), virtual Desktop-like "workspaces", and the ability to have nested menu items automatically spring out without clicking. In addition, it gives every window a menu which allows for "window tweaking" (center window, move window to 'bottom' of window order, make window sticky, etc.) or changing from one workspace to another. You can even add features to OS/2's own Window List (GIF, 7.4k), such as showing the current time on its title bar, or adding DM/2 shortcuts to it.

DM/2's WPS Extensions include even more features -- users can: set what happens to a parent folder when they open or close one of its children (close, minimize, etc.); provide multiple Desktops on the same machine (a Desktop for you and a completely different one for the kids, maybe?); eliminate shutdown confirmation; and more. You can even restart the WPS with a couple of mouse clicks, leaving all running programs intact, which is great for those lockups when everything else is still working. The WPS Extensions also allow you to remove menu items (such as delete, rename, move, etc.) from pretty much any object in the WPS, including folders, drives, printers, and network connections. When this 'omission' feature is combined with DM/2's built-in Access Control Objects, the package gains a decent level of security.

Security

Since the 'omission' feature isn't that much of a challenge to surmount if you've used OS/2 before, Access Control Objects go a leap or two further, allowing one to password-protect any object for a particular action. In other words, you may be allowed to open (run) object Z, but trying to do anything else (like deleting or moving it) would not be allowed without the correct password. Object Z may have multiple actions protected with a different password for each one. Since the Shredder is just another object, it can be controlled in this way too, requiring a password before it shreds anything. To prevent access from underneath the WPS, command prompts can be locked in a similar manner, although there's always the option of a hard reboot and Alt-F1 to circumvent this tactic. DM/2's Audit feature (GIF, 8.1k) is used to keep track of exactly what objects are used, changed, deleted, and so on.

Archiving

DeskMan/2's Object Manager makes it easy to save archives of your system. For individual objects, one can simply create a new archive by dragging the archive template to the desired location, then dragging the objects to be saved into the new archive. Now saved in the archive, these objects can be used as backups if the original objects are lost, corrupted, or even moved out of whack by an accidental 'Arrange' or 'Sort' of the Desktop.

Also, archives can be easily transferred to another computer. Since in this case the software associated with the archived objects might now be stored on a different drive letter, you would normally have to manually change drive references, one by one. However, DeskMan/2 provides an easy "drive mapping" feature which allows you to change the drive letters for more than one object at a time; simply select the objects whose letters you want to change and choose the new drive letter you want them to have, and you're done.

Using its Configuration Image Facility (either the command-line or the PM version [GIF, 9.2k]), DeskMan/2 can go a step further and save your entire Workplace Shell environment -- including your OS/2 Desktop, CONFIG.SYS, AUTOEXEC.BAT, INI files, STARTUP.CMD, and even your Win-OS/2 Desktop -- in an archive it calls a repository set. Since the Image Facility allows for multiple sets, it's easy to have system archives for any number of system setups. (The manual suggests that this feature is perfect for software demo machines, which may use a different setup for a number of demo shows.)

Other Features

On top of all that's been mentioned, DeskMan/2 has even more stuff packed into it. It includes VueMan/2 (a complete management utility for its workspaces), an Object Explorer which can be used to view and edit any object's settings; a Black Hole which can delete things OS/2's Shredder can't (heck, it eats Shredders for breakfast...); and instructions for best network installation. The amount of features crammed into this package is impressive, to say the least.

Glitches

Nothing's perfect, though. As mentioned, part of the custom install routine was slightly irritating, and could be improved upon; in terms of bugs, the 'Roving Mouse' feature seems to have one or two, as even when it's told not to bring a window to the top of the window order, it sometimes does. Netscape is one program affected by this bug, as are the windows of DeskMan/2 itself.

Conclusion

DeskMan/2 is a jack-of-all-trades package which does a good job at all the features it promises to deliver. The manual is extensive, there are very few bugs that I found, and it allows you to configure loads of stuff on your Desktop. If you like the sound of it, and you have Warp 4, you can take a closer look at the demo copy (v1.51) on your Application Sampler CD. Anyone who needs archiving (which is a good idea for most of us) and definitely anyone who's looking for a bit of affordable security, DeskMan/2 is a great solution.
 * DeskMan/2
by DevTech
MSRP: US$99.00
Ryan Dill is a student in Computer Science at Acadia University in Wolfville, NS and one of e-Zine! 's assistant editors. He is reported to be relieved that, with the advent of Warp 4, talking to your computer is no longer considered a sign of mental instability.

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