Workbench 1.4 Beta: A Preview

Well people, 1.4 is in beta and what is to follow is my evaluation/commentary/criticisms. IMHO it is an excellent upgrade from a Workbench user's point of view and DESERVES to be called 2.0.

The Package

Workbench 1.4 is distributed with a set of disks:

First off, you cannot run the beta (at least as far as I have seen) unless you have 2 MB of RAM that start at $200000. KickIt loads Kickstart into RAM then you get the Workbench 1.4 prompt (a nifty animation, they have kept the checkmark!) After booting 1.4, an amazing thing becomes evident... IT'S 3D!!!!!!!!! Hide your NeXTs and OS/2 1.2—Workbench is 3D and it is NICE!

The Look

That's right... as 3D as four colors will get you. This applies to all utilities, programs and windows. You can have up to a 16-color Workbench, but it does not enhance the 3D-ness at all.

Windows have a solid border along all edges. All standard gadgets (close, front-to-back, back-to-front and resize) are now white squares. The front-to-back gadgets now have new functions. The left gadget will:

  1. Expand a window to occupy the whole screen if it is a window, or
  2. If it is an application it will iconify it.

THAT'S RIGHT... BUILT-IN ICONIFICATION! Now let's hope Commodore gave us a place to define a custom image for iconification.

All other things are 3D-ish. Workbench icons 'depress' themselves when selected, unselected windows are 3D-beveled with a curious slider gadget that's on all windows including the Shell. You can have 16-color icons and PATTERNED BACKDROPS (using 16 colors). Currently, you have backdrops for the Workbench and for windows. I would like to see a backdrop for pull-down menus as well.

You now have options to "Show All" icon files and you can View them by Icon, Name, Date, and Size. You can fully manipulate files by name as well, (ie. you can pick up filename, drop it in a window that has icons and BOOOOOM!! you have moved it and the icon appears in the window! SMART OS eh?) You select group files by just pressing the LMB and dragging the outline window and you have just selected a group of files to act upon. This works with filenames in a window as well.

The Menu Strips

Here is a list of menu strips from Workbench 1.4:

Workbench     Window                    Icons        Tools
---------     ------                    -----        -----
Backdrop      New Drawer                Open         Reset WB
Execute Cmd   Open Parent               Copy
Redraw All    Close Update              Remove       (other apps can
Update All    Select Contents           Info         be added here)
Last Error    Clean Up                  Snapshot
Version       Snapshot >>> Windows      UnSnapshot
Quit                       Contents     Leave Out
              Show     >>> Only Icons   Put Away
                           All Files    Delete
              View By  >>> Icon         Format Disk
                           Name         Empty Trash

The Shell

The CLI has one MAJOR enhancement. It has 24 commands built in (Resident lists them as INTERNAL). This was done for:

  1. Speed of commonly used commands.
  2. Space; with all of the new programs on the Workbench 1.4 disk you need the space.

They are as follows:

Prompt, CD, Stack, Why, Skip, Quit, Path, If, Fault, FailAt, Else, Ask, Resident, Echo, EndShell, EndCli, Lab, EndSkip, EndIf, GetEnv, Get, SetEnv, Alias, Set

As far as I can tell, not much has changed as far as script language goes. And I have no idea how we are going to add new commands that are called the same as the INTERNAL command (resident says—"resident can't remove XXXXXXX") But then again, I didn't get any docs. :-)

The Invisible Stuff

Since this is BETA it is assumed no new features will be added. Noticeably absent were:

  1. Outline fonts (There is a Fonts program but I didn't have the time to mess with it).
  2. Scrollable and editable Shell/CLI histories. You still have command line editing though.
  3. Rexx was there. The ASL library was there. Commodities Exchange too. Workbench now USES the env.handler, all of your patterns, screen selections etc. are kept in the ENV drawer in RAM:

One interesting thing... if you have 1.3 in ROM and 1.4 Kickstart in a file you can dual-boot (shades of OS/2). Nice for use with incompatible programs.


Regular boot (1.3 Workbench same as usual)
KickIt boot (1.4 Workbench with RAM-based Kickstart)

Now if Commodore would distribute 1.4 as a file. (RIGGGHHHTTT!!!!! Snowball in HELL's chance).

Miscellaneous Things

When you run a program like KDVIII you will get a green requester saying:

"Something is intercepting XXXXXXX "— DoIO, Trackdisk

" At address $XXXXXX" — An address

Not too bad...

This is a "recoverable alert" it is an informative, no-memory needed requester. A "dead_end alert" is red and means "uh oh your system is in serious trouble its going to crash!"

You also get requesters for things a program needs but are not there, like:

"Please insert disk with libs/arp.library" — When using programs that need the arp.library.

Requesters can now have the following booleans:

Hard Disk Support

Included on the Extras disk is what seems to be a HD backup utility, called BRUShell. I don't have a hard drive, so I couldn't test it; looks a lot like Quarterback. Not related to hard disks but useful nonetheless is the fact that FFS is available on floppies and you can now boot in any drive other than DF0: (DLII Escape FSC booted and got to the "Hit Fire to Play" then froze—oh well).