Directory Opus v5.5 Review

by Adam Hough

For this month I decided to take a closer look at Directory Opus 5.5. Most of you are familiar with directory utilities I suspect, and many of you with earlier incarnations of Directory Opus. For those who aren't, here's a really quick primer. A directory utility bridges the gap between the CLI and Workbench by providing a easy to use, flexible interface for manipulating files, whether it be moving, deleting, viewing, editing, copying, and indeed anything else you can think of.

In my opinion Directory Opus is the best of the bunch. And Directory Opus 5.5 is the best of the Opus series. This is most definitely a personal statement rather than an objective one since GPSoft, the authors, made a significant change of direction from 4.12 to 5.0. Previously the software was a simple two window application. You could list directories in either window and use the various options in a window below to manipulate them. From v5 on, GPSoft went for the Workbench replacement approach. That means that DOpus *is* your Workbench, and a darn fine replacement is is too, but you don't have to run DOpus in that mode. Personally I'd recommend it.

One major difference (there'll be many others) is that DOpus is completely multithreaded. This means that the program multitasks internally. In turn that means that the program can do multiple functions simultaneously. In Workbench if you copy a file from one directory to another, you cannot use Workbench for anything else until that operation is finished. With Directory Opus you can. This reduces the amount of waiting frustration trying to use the Workbench used to entail.

The application was been broken up into separate sections so that the two original directory windows become Workbench style windows, meaning you're no limited to just two directory views. The button bar at the bottom has been broken off into its own window and can operate on any of the new directory windows. In the button bar, buttons can be configured to perform almost any task, and using AREXX extensions even a few more... For example, if you happen to use Cyberview for looking at 24 bit pictures on your Cybergraphics based system, you can set up the toolbar such that whenever you want to view those pictures, you just have to highlight them and click on the corresponding Cyberview button on the button bar. Now I've given the impression that you're limited to just the one button bar. You're not. I currently have three set up -- one with drives that will automatically open up a window for that device (or assigned device) and another with all the program functionality built in. The third is used for configuration. Button bars also have a built-in bring to front functionality. If you double click on their edges, that's exactly what they do. Very useful when you can't find depth gadgets within easy reach.

For those familiar with WB2.1 and above, they'll be familiar with the ability to list the files in directories by name, rather than icon. The principal problem with that is that the chipram used by the icons is still eaten up and it takes a while to load them, despite not being used. DOpus 5 turns its pair of directory windows into as many as you want -- rather like the Workbench. The principal difference is that it's much faster, uses far less memory and you have access to all the functionality of a directory utility. It's a system that really does make sense.

The modular format of the windows has also changed. Now while they're being used for one process (say copying a file) other work can be done in them.

DOpus 5.11 unfortunately developed a bad reputation for the software since although extremely useful tended to be unstable. V5.5 however is a substantial rewrite and addition to the paradigm. I always wanted to use paradigm in a review and now I have, but back to the real issues.

The new version has added what it refers to as an Icon action mode. This is a hybrid between the text and icon modes of the windows. The text mode was directly derived from the original dirutil concept and meant that all files appeared as text and the buttons configured in the program would work on them. The icon mode looked and worked identically to the Workbench form. The icon action mode is a hybrid which shows the icons yet allows access to the files via the assorted buttons. It's a neat extention to the available utility of the program. A further neat addition to the functionality of the windows is that when you switch between text and icon formats, the size of the window changes. What's suitable for viewing icons is frequently not suitable for text, and DOpus takes that into account.

An FTP client has been added to the program. This acts like a standard FTP program except it's completely transparent to the user. It uses standard DOpus windows and reacts like any local directory listing. FTPing a file either from or to a remote site is just like copying it from one directory to another on your local system. There is a separate configuration section where you can enter new FTP sites to connect to as well as set up passwords, specific directories to enter and so forth.

Also in the same vein is a resource that allows you to treat LZX and LHA archives like regular directories. This is great if you don't want to unarchive an entire archive just to access a single file, or perhaps if you want to add a file to one.

If you're a fan of Toolmanager, Dopus will also fit your needs. It can have button bars with graphics built into them which run programs when clicked on. It (naturally) allows access to those menus at the top of the screen so you can run programs from there. Pop up menus now abound throughout the program meaning that much of the functionality of the software can be accessed without having to go to the menus up top. There' snow also global hotkey set ups, so you can perform particular actions with just a keypress. Currently my system is set up to create a Shell window automatically if I press Alt and F10. It saves having to either leave a shell icon out or dig through directories to find it. If you like Win'95 (scary thought) much of the better interface design in there has made its way down to Dopus including the automatic resorting of directories based on a single click to a title bar (like name, size, date and so forth.)

Everything is set up so that its nicely snapshotable. Assuming that's a word for the moment, this means that you can fix button bars, windows, icons and just about everything else to a specific position on the screen. You can even get DOpus to open up specific windows when you first load it. On the other side, that means you can also hide unwanted icons -- for example I have a Shapeshifter formatted drive which appears as MAC:$#@%#$%# or something to that effect. Looks awful. So I just have DOpus hide it. Backdrops work well for both the workbench screen and in windows.

And there's more; far more. Every time someone asks "Does it do such and such", my reply is "Dunno, but it might." Usually it does.

Documentation is excellent. So much is given the manual supplied appears to be straining at its ringbinding. Everything is documented (well, everything that I've needed so far) and the index is excellent so you can find what you're looking for.

And one of the nicest things about DOpus 5.5? It's stable. Very stable. There're one or two bugs, but I rarely hit them and they're not critical. Support from GPSoft has been excellent, both from reports of those bugs to suggestions for new features. I've found ease of use has been far better than earlier version due to a much better design and implementation and I feel (could be wrong though!) that even the novice user will be more than happy with it. While extensive configuration is available, you don't have to use it until you're comfortable with the program as the default settings are well chosen. If you're upgrading from v4, it'll read in the old settings and create new ones based on those. I still use button bars derived from my old 4.12 installation.

I very, very, very highly recommend this program if you're running WB2.x and above and want to make your machine considerably nicer to use. I certainly won't move back to even v4.12, never mind Workbench.

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