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Singing the Praises of CHORUS for OS/2- by Christopher B. Wright


OS/2 has some of the best utilities on the PC market. For some reason, OS/2 users belong to a demographic of people who like to tinker with their systems, and there's plenty of shareware that will let you do just that.

A while back, BMT Micro got the bright idea to take some of the more popular shareware games and utilities and bundle them together in one handy package. The result of this idea is Chorus for OS/2, also known as "Chorus/2" (GIF, 16.5k): a suite of utilities designed to make your life easier.

Chorus/2 takes 5 useful utilities (DragText, FileFreedom, Smalled, SwapMonitor, and Xit), 1 add-on utility (Smalled HTML Extensions) and 1 game (Matrix), throws them into one simple installation package (GIF, 11.3k), and puts a price tag on it that is lower than all of the individual programs combined. This package is a must for beginners who would like to make life using OS/2 a bit easier. For those of you who already have more than one of these applications, however, your mileage may vary.

The Apps

For those of you who don't know much about the utilities and games included in Chorus/2, here's a quick rundown on what they are and what they can do:

DragText v2.0

DragText is an amazing application that is so simple it's easy to overlook how useful it is.

Basically, with DragText, you can highlight almost any text, anywhere and drag it to the Desktop as a new file. If you're browsing along the web and you come across some interesting text, you can highlight it with your mouse, drag it to the Desktop and you get a text file. If you're perusing a newsgroup and find the URL of a magazine has made another bone-headed claim about something OS/2 supposedly won't do, you can highlight it, drag it to the Desktop (or a folder) and it will become a URL object -- double clicking it will launch Web Explorer or Netscape/2, depending on what program URL objects are associated with on your machine.

DragText has a settings notebook (GIF, 9.5k) that allows you to customize what it does, but other than that you don't need to do much to use it. It integrates with your system and operates invisibly. After a while, you'll forget you're using it and you'll get annoyed when you're using an OS/2 machine without it because it won't "work right."

The success of a good app is that you forget what it does and start assuming the operating system does it. This is a good app.

File Freedom

While this doesn't have all the bells and whistles some other file managers (notably Windows' File Manager and Stardock's Object Navigator) do, it is one of the fastest I've seen. File Freedom is a simple, useful, fast and configurable file manager that covers all the basics. It's a good file manager for beginners who don't want so many options that they get lost using a program that's supposed to make disks easier to navigate.

It does need a feature I sorely miss, however: the ability to show more than one drive at a time. Moving a file from one drive to another should be a simple matter of drag-and-drop, but unfortunately, I haven't been able to figure out how to do this. I can't even open multiple instances of this app from the same icon!

Still, File Freedom is a nice but lightweight file manager. If it showed multiple drives simultaneously it would offer a little more flexibility, but it's still a good app for beginners to use.

Matrix

Matrix is not a utility, it's a game. While most of the other apps in Chorus/2 are designed to make work easier and save you time, Matrix is guaranteed to waste your time, because you'll be engrossed in trying to beat the computer when you should be getting work done (like, er, this review <g>).

Matrix is sort of an unholy mix of Tetris and Othello -- unholy because it's terribly addictive and your productivity will go down the tubes. It's a devilishly fun game to play, though.

Smalled

While the basic editor that comes with OS/2 is sufficient for most things, I find it a bit annoying that it won't let you print. The Enhanced Editor, on the other hand, doesn't have a true "wrap" function and seems more set up to be a programmer's utility than anything else. Smalled is a great tool that combines the best of both programs. While it is small and fast, like the OS/2 editor, it's very configurable (like the Enhanced Editor) and, most important, it can PRINT.

While it doesn't have some of the features of word processors (like a spell checker) it does let you wrap text and do some basic paragraph formatting (GIF, 4.9k). It makes a pretty good editor for on-line text.

In fact, I'm using Smalled to write this article now... (GIF, 14.8k)

Smalled HTML Extensions

Smalled comes with a surprisingly full-featured application that allows you to create moderately complex HTML documents. While it doesn't have the ability to create frames-based documents, it does have some text format features I haven't seen in some other HTML programs, such as the ability to insert umlauts over letters. It also has a tab that allows you to set up your own HTML fields.

Smalled HTML Extensions isn't restricted to Smalled, by the way. You can configure whatever editor you want (GIF, 8.7k) it to default to on the settings tab of the notebook.

For those of you who are serious about web design, you might find Smalled HTML Extensions a bit limiting. On the other hand, you can do quite a lot with the tools it gives you, and it could be a valuable addition to a web enthusiast's resources.

SwapMonitor

Creating a decent-sized swap file can be a chore for a lot of people, and if your swap file is too big or too small, it can noticeably affect OS/2's performance. SwapMonitor is a utility that allows you to keep track of OS/2's swap file (GIF, 1k) while you're busy doing other things.

SwapMonitor is a handy tool to have around if you don't already have a swap monitoring utility. When I first installed it, it polled the swap file every five seconds, which slowed down my system noticeably (for an idea of what that means, take a look at my machine's stats below). I recommend setting it to 10 or 20 seconds to keep your system functioning smoothly.

Xit

Xit is another one of those programs that integrates so tightly with OS/2's Presentation Manager interface, you forget that some of its functions aren't part of the operating system itself.

The most noticeable features of Xit are its title bar icons (GIF, 11.9k). Xit allows you to configure a series of buttons that can appear on the right, left, or both sides of a window's title bar. These buttons can do many things: sort icons, copy and paste highlighted information, even change the font size of OS/2 and OS/2 DOS CLI (Command Line Interface) windows.

This ability is neat, but there are other, less noticeable features of Xit that I like even more. Most notable of these are the ability to configure the third button on a three-button mouse, and the ability to automatically drop-down combo boxes just by clicking on an entry field.

Xit, like DragText, is another "good app" in that the more you use it, the less you notice it.

Dislikes

Chorus/2 is a good package, but I was disappointed that there were no new releases of any of the apps in the suite. Xit and DragText have been at versions 2.4 and 2.1 (respectively) for a long enough time that a lot of people probably already have them. And the more apps you already have, the less compelling it is to buy the suite.

Also, I would have liked to have seen Xfile included in the suite. Xfile, from the maker of Xit and Matrix, allows you to configure file dialogs on your system and would make an excellent addition to the suite.

Overall Evaluation

If you don't have any of these apps, you should definitely get Chorus/2. It's a good price for what you're getting, and you'll find all of the applications useful to some degree. If you already have some of the applications, buying the suite may be redundant. Still, all of the applications are quite good -- and Xit and DragText are "must-haves".

So, I'd strongly recommend it to anyone who doesn't have any of the applications -- it's too good a bargain to pass up -- and recommend at least considering it if you have one or two of them. If you already have most of the applications, or counterparts that you're comfortable using, it's probably not something you should purchase at this time, but keep an eye out for future versions.


Test system:

Pentium Pro 200
128 mb RAM
4gig EIDE drive
2gig SCSI drive
Matrox Millennium PCI video w/4mb WRAM


 * Chorus for OS/2
by BMT Micro
MSRP: US$49.95
Christopher B. Wright is a technical writer in the Northern Virginia/D.C. area, and has been using OS/2 Warp since January 95. He is also a member of Team OS/2.

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