Contents | < Browse | Browse >

===========================================================================
== Review: Workbench 3.1                                By: William Near ==
===========================================================================

PROGRAM:  Amiga Workbench v3.1  (Kickstart version -  40.63)
                                (Workbench version -  40.42)

PUBLISHER:  Commodore-Amiga Inc.

            Distributed and manufactured by Village Tronic Marketing GmbH,
            Germany

DESCRIPTION:  Workbench/AmigaDOS v3.1 for the A500/2000 computer

PURCHASED FROM:  Expert Services

                 (606) 371-9690 - Orders
                 (606) 282-5942 - BBS 

PRICE:  I paid $130 U.S.  This includes $5 S&H

        There are other people selling the Workbench (WB) 3.1 kits for as
        much as $225 U.S., so shop around to get the best price.  Note:
        There are substantiated reports of pirate copies of WB 3.1 being
        sold.  These bogus kits are just Xeroxed copies of the manuals and
        copies of the disks.

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS:  Amiga 500/2000 hard drive recommended, but not
                      necessary

SYSTEM TESTED ON:  Amiga 2000 (Rev 4.4), ECS chipset, GForce '030
                   accelerator @ 50MHz., 1 meg CHIP + 6 megs FAST memory,
                   2 standard floppy drives, Quantum LPS270S hard drive
                   with Trumpcard Professional controller.

PACKAGING: Workbench 3.1 came with Workbench, AmigaDOS, and ARexx manuals
           (the manuals are the plain paperback type, not the nice 3-ring
           binder type I received with WB 2.04), an AmigaDOS quick
           reference card, a 3.1 ROM installation instruction sheet, a 3.1
           ROM chip, and six disks. 

NOTE: This review is written with the assumption that you have previously
      used Workbench v2.04, 2.05, or 2.1.  It would make this review ten
      times longer if I had to compare this Workbench to the pre-2.x
      releases.  So, all references to new features will be written on a
      Workbench 2.x comparison basis.


INSTALLATION: The instruction sheet contains the necessary steps for
installing the 3.1 ROM in either an A500 or A2000 computer.  I will briefly
cover the special notes for each installation just so you'll know what
you're getting into here.  For the A500 motherboard Rev.  3 & 5, the 3.1
ROM must have Pin 1 jumpered to Pin 31 and for Rev 6A and above the 3.1 ROM
requires no jumper.  For the older A2000s with the motherboard marked "1989
COMMODORE AMIGA 2000 MADE IN GERMANY (BSW) or for Rev.  3 motherboards, the
3.1 ROM must have Pin 1 jumpered to Pin 31, for Rev.  4 and higher
motherboards, no jumper is needed.  The ROM I received came with no jumper
wire attached, but I didn't need one anyway.  The new ROM was easily
installed into my MultiStart ROM switcher after removing my old 2.04 ROM. 


    I chose to reformat my entire hard drive with the new version of the
Fast File System (FFS) included with WB 3.1 (note: I did NOT use the
directory caching feature of the new FFS because I also boot up in WB 1.3
from the hard drive and the older OS would not recognize the hard drive as
a valid DOS disk if directory caching were present.) The representative at
Expert Services said that I could expect a 10-20% increase in hard drive
reads/writes by using the new FFS -- the speed increase was more like 5-10%
in actual use as determined by SysInfo v3.24.  Any speed increase is
welcome and it didn't take that long to back up the crucial information on
my hard drive.  I just booted up the computer with the WB 3.1 disks after
installing the 3.1 ROM and accessed the hard dive using the HDToolbox
program. 

    The software uses the Commodore Installer program which makes things
run quite smoothly.  If you have previously installed Workbench v2.x then
you should be familiar with this process.  If you have a previous version
of Workbench installed on your hard drive then the Installer program will
delete any old files that are unnecessary to the new version of the
Workbench and it will also preserve any preferences and user-startup
scripts you are using. 


A NEW LOOK AND FEEL: WB 3.1 has a new 3-D look to the windows and sliders
that adds some professionalism to the Workbench.  It uses the exact same
pulldown menus as WB 2.x does, so things won't look all that different if
you're used to WB 2.x.  The differences are somewhat subtle, but there is
some real power lurking underneath. 

    The back of the Workbench box claims improved support for graphics
boards e.g.  Picosso II RTG with up to 1600x1200 pixels in 256 colors (I
can't verify this since I don't have a 24bit card.) The graphics rendering
is also significantly accelerated due to the completely rewritten graphics
and layers libraries.  You can definitely notice the difference, especially
with the screen refreshes and when scrolling text etc. 

    The following sections contain a description of what objects are
contained within each drawer of the new WB 3.1 -- they do not list every
object in each drawer, just things that have been changed or added with the
new WB release.  All unlisted objects are assumed to be the same from WB
2.x to WB 3.1.


UTILITIES: The Utilities drawer contains a program called MultiView.
MultiView is a powerful utility that can read an IFF text file, view a
picture file in almost any format, play sound files, view AmigaGuide
hypertext documents, play animations, and perform many other functions.
The MultiView utility relies on DataTypes (see below for a list of included
DataTypes) to access the many types of formats available to the Amiga.  A
DataType is a description of the data to be used, you can get DataTypes for
virtually anything you want to view, play, read, or whatever.  DataTypes
are included with WB 3.1 and others are available on many BBS's and
commercial services, such as: GEnie, CompuServe, etc.  If you can't find a
DataType for a file format you want to manipulate with MultiView then just
write one for yourself! 

    The MultiView icon can open a standard file requester or, because it is
an AppWindow, it can just open a window on the Workbench screen into which
you can drag various icons to manipulate.  Just drag a sound file into the
MultiView window and a little speaker icon will appear in the window.
Click on the speaker icon and the sound will be played.  When you load an
animation file into MultiView you will get a VCR-type control panel for
manipulating the animation with FastForward, Reverse, Play buttons and a
slider for jumping to any part of the animation.  This is a very powerful
utility and it's fun to use! 

    Although the Say utility is not included with WB 3.1 you can easily
enable it by copying the necessary files from an old WB 1.3 disk.  It works
flawlessly under WB 3.1.

TOOLS: The Tools drawer contains one new commodity program, a mouse
blanker.  The mouse blanker is very simple, just double click its icon to
enable it.  Whenever you type at the keyboard the pointer will disappear. 
To make the pointer reappear just move the mouse.  I would have liked to
see a better mouse blanker that would allow a user-defined time limit
before blanking the mouse.

SYSTEM: Nothing new here.

DEVS: The Devs drawer contains the DataTypes used by MultiView, some new
Monitor drivers, and a CD-ROM DOSDriver. 

* The DataTypes included with WB 3.1 are:  

     8SVX - IFF sound files

     AmigaGuide - Amiga help files

     FTXT - IFF text files

     ANIM - ANIM-format animation files

     CDXL - CDXL-format animation files

     ILBM - Bitmap picture files

* The new monitor drivers are : DblNTSC, DblPAL, and VGAOnly.  The DblNTSC
and DblPAL drivers add eight new screen modes:

     DblNTSC

                    High Res Laced - 640 x 800  4 colors

                    High Res No Flicker - 640 x 400  4 colors

                    Low Res Laced - 640 x 800  16 colors

                    Low Res No Flicker - 640 x 400  16 colors


     DblPAL

                    High Res Laced - 640 x 1024  4 colors

                    High Res No Flicker - 640 x 512  4 colors
       
                    Low Res Laced - 640 x 1024  16 colors

                    Low Res No Flicker - 640 x 512  16 colors


The VGAOnly driver is used when a VGA monitor is attached to the Amiga and
the Multiscan screen modes won't work correctly.  The VGAOnly driver
modifies the scan rate and will cause the left edge of the screen to flash
when scrolling horizontally.

* The new CD-ROM DOSDriver (CD0) allows you to access a connected CD-ROM
drive by using the device name CD0:.  This is quite a nice feature of WB
3.1, now any connected CD-ROM drive shows up as just another Workbench icon
like any other device -- no other software is necessary for basic CD-ROM
access.

PREFERENCES: The Preferences drawer contains new WBPattern, Palette,
Pointer, and Overscan preference editors. 

* The new WBPattern preference editor allows you to place a backdrop image
on the Workbench, windows, and screen.  The images can be different from
one another.  So, you could have one image inside any open windows, another
image inside the Workbench window (providing you have the
Workbench/Backdrop feature disabled), and yet another image on the actual
screen behind the Workbench window!  Of course you can still use the boring
pattern selection and choose one of the eight pre-defined patterns or draw
one of your own.  Who would want to use the same old patterns when they can
select any IFF image to use?  This is a very nice feature of the new
Workbench -- no more hacks needed to accomplish this feat.  Besides, the
hacks I saw were only able to place an image as the backdrop to Workbench,
now you get three choices that you can use! 

* The new Palette preference editor is totally reworked from previous
incarnations. 

The set of color blocks are located at the upper left corner of the editor.
You can click on any one of the colors to set its new value.

The colors can be adjusted by one of four means: Red Green Blue sliders,
Color Wheel, Gradient slider, or Hue Saturation Brightness sliders.


     Red Green Blue sliders - These are the familiar sliders found on
                              previous versions of WB.

     Color Wheel - Selecting the Color Wheel bar from the main palette
                   editing screen brings up a color wheel with a pointer
                   inside of it.  You can drag the pointer around the color
                   wheel with your mouse to change the basic color of the
                   selected block.  

     Gradient Slider - The Gradient Slider works in conjunction with the
                       Color Wheel.  As you move the pointer around the
                       color wheel the gradient slider, off to the right,
                       changes its range of possible colors according to
                       the position of the pointer on the color wheel.  You
                       may then move a slider up and down, throughout the
                       range of colors, on the gradient slider.  This
                       method allows you to select a more precise shade of
                       the general color selected with the color wheel.  

     Hue Saturation Brightness sliders (HSB) - You can select this option
                                               from the pulldown menu.  It
                                               replaces the RGB sliders
                                               with Hue, Saturation, and
                                               Brightness sliders for
                                               controlling the colors.

  

Off to the right of the main palette editor is a list of items to choose
from for adjusting certain screen attribute's colors.  The list includes:

     Background

     Text

     Important Text

     Bright Edges

     Dark Edges

     Active Window Title Bar

     Active Window Titles

     Menu Background

     Menu Text

At the bottom of the palette screen is a mock representation of a Workbench
title bar, a pulldown menu, active and inactive windows, and various
buttons and requesters.  This allows you to get a visual idea of how any
changes you make will appear, instead of having to use your changes and
exit the palette editor numerous times.  There are also several predefined
palettes available from the pulldown menu

The new palette editor really allows you to change all aspects of how the Workbench will look -- this 
makes it possible to personalize your Workbench like never before.

* The new Pointer editor allows you to edit both the mouse and busy
pointers.  If I had an AGA machine then I could have a hi-res mouse pointer
and busy pointer, but with an ECS machine I'm still saddled with the lo-res
versions. 

* The new Overscan editor has a nice little addition in the form of four
arrows that allow you to make small changes to the screen positioning.  By
clicking on one of the four arrows you can move the display one pixel at a
time in any direction instead of dragging the screen by the center handle
(which you can still do if you so choose.)


NEW WORKBENCH FEATURES: The following are new additions to WB 3.1 over the
earlier 2.x versions (these come in order of how they appear in the
manuals):

* Under the Icons/Format Disk menu choice you have a new option called
Directory Cache.  Directory Cache speeds up the opening of drawers, file
requesters, and listings.  This feature seems to be of greatest use on
floppy disks as their access is considerably slower than hard drives.
Directory Cache should only be used on disks and devices that will not be
accessed by pre-3.x Workbenches as they will be unreadable by them.  This
option makes a noticeable difference in accessing data from floppy disks,
but due to the incompatibility you will have to avoid using it when giving
data to fellow Amiga users with older versions of Workbench.

* The ED menus come in two flavors, contrary to several messages I've read
on the Amiga FIDO echo where some people have been saying that it was a bug
in the OS!  It used to be a secret that you could reap the benefits of the
expanded ED menus by renaming the ED-STARTUP file in your S directory.
Finally, Commodore has put this little treasure in the manual instead of
letting the user rely on word-of-mouth sources or various books and
articles on the Amiga.  All of the new menu options are fully documented. 
I highly recommend using the expanded menus because they add many features
to ED's operation.

* There are many new Early Startup features programmed into the ROM.  Here
are all of the choices available in the 3.1 ROM:

    Disabling Devices and Caches - You can disable devices and caches from
a list of available devices.  Choose the hard drive partition(s) and/or
disk drive(s) you wish to disable from the list and then boot the computer
to save valuable memory.  If you select the disable CPU Caches option then
all Instruction and Data caches will be disabled on 68020, '030, and '040
CPUs. 

    Choosing Display Options - You can emulate the Original Chip Set (OCS)
on earlier Amigas by selecting the OCS button.  This will allow you to use
older programs that will not run correctly under the Enhanced Chip Set
(ECS).  Also, you can boot up in PAL or NTSC modes.  You must have at least
the ECS chipset to use these options.  Users of Degrader will find these
modes quite useful in getting older and PAL-based programs to work.

    Diagnosing Expansion Board Failures - This option will pull up a screen
that lists all the available expansion boards installed in your Amiga.  The
list contains:


        Board Number -   The number of the expansion board

        Manufacturer -   The number of the maker of the board

        Product Column - The manufacturer's product number for the board

        Status Column -  The status of the board: Working or Defective

* There are a few new AmigaDOS commands:

     LOADRESOURCE - This command allows you to preload resources into
memory to cut down on excessive disk swaps on floppy-based systems.  You
can preload: Libraries, Devices, Fonts, and Catalogs.

     REQUESTCHOICE - This command allows you to use custom requesters from
ARexx scripts and AmigaDOS.  You could set up a custom requester that
contains the text "Is it OK to proceed?", and then have OK and CANCEL
buttons at the bottom of the requester.  This is very nice!

     REQUESTFILE - This command allows you to open a standard file
requester from AmigaDOS or an ARexx script.

     SETKEYBOARD - This command allows you to temporarily redefine the
keymap to be used in the current Shell.

HIDDEN MESSAGES: Remember those neat hidden messages that could be found
with a weird combination of key presses in Workbenches past?  Well, there
are some new ones included with WB 3.0 and probably WB 3.1, too!  Here are
the hints from Denny Atkin's Best Amiga Tips and Secrets book:

     #1 - Control is given to those who are shifted four from the start and
          do not give up on the alternate course.

     #2 - When it is about time to learn the secrets of the master, one must
          also qualify for enlightenment.



If anyone figures this one out, please leave me some Email at my Internet
address telling me how you did it.
  
SUMMARY: I really love the new Workbench.  It is a nice improvement over WB
2.1 and it is definitely worth investing in.  I didn't notice too much
software incompatibility, on an ECS machine with WB 3.1 you can expect
about the same software compatibility as you have been accustomed to under
WB 2.x.  The addition of the new 3-D look, added hard drive speed with the
new FFS, MultiView, graphics board support, eight new screen modes, CD-ROM
support, new Preferences editors, Directory Caching, Early Startup Menus,
and the added AmigaDOS commands make Workbench 3.1 a real winner.  With the
current uncertainty of the future for the Amiga it can't hurt to help
support the platform and you would at least have the latest incarnation of
the Workbench.  Buy it -- you won't regret it!