By Lawrence Charters
Basic Computing, September 1983, pp. 93-94.
Model I/III, 32K 1 or 2 disks req.
P.O. Box 642
Layton, UT 84041
(800) 546-2833 $29.95
Compared to using cassette tapes, disk systems are fast, efficient and easy to organize – up to a point. While a cassette can reasonably be expected to hold just a few files, a diskette can hold dozens of files. If you have a couple dozen disks (and disks seem to multiply faster than rabbits), keeping track of what file is on which disk can become a mind-boggling burden. Speed and efficiency disappear if you must spend twenty minutes finding the proper diskette.
There is also a problem of wastage. Just thirty double-density diskettes, or sixty single-density diskettes, can hold five megabytes of information (as much as some hard disks). Unfortunately, this is usually little more than theory. If you have 60 diskettes, most of them are probably just partially used, or are filled with redundant files . At $2 to $6 per diskette, it is expensive.
These problems can all be overcome with Arranger, an inexpensive disk cataloging system available from a small, enthusiastic, software firm. Arranger is available in two versions: a single-density version for the Model I, and a double-density version for double-density Model I and Model III systems. Unlike similar programs, ads for Arranger claim it is able to read disks created by a wide range of operating systems. Skeptical, but attracted by the price, I purchased the double-density version for my Percom Doubler-equipped Model I.
Doubts soon vanished. Arranger had no problem cataloging a mixture of single- and double-density diskettes created by TRSDOS 2.3, NEWDOS+ , NEWDOS/ 80, DOSPLUS, and DBLDOS. Feeling daring, and still using the Model I, Arranger was then fed diskettes written for the Model III under TRSDOS 2.3 , NEWDOS / 80, and DOSPLUS. All were cataloged without complaint. Feeling giddy, but ridiculous, an attempt was made to catalog a Color Computer diskette without success. On the other hand, Arranger did not crash or lock up. It politely stated that it didn’t recognize the disk format. Though not tested, Arranger is also able to catalog LDOS, VTOS, ULTRADOS, and MULTIDOS disks, and probably a few other stray DOS’s as well.
Another nice feature is the ability to catalog disks using their existing diskette names. (Many similar cataloging systems require diskettes to be numbered or coded.) Since it makes more sense to store a program named PACMAN/ CMD on a diskette called GAMES1 than on one called 23A, organizing diskettes becomes quite natural. To help this organization along, Arranger has a RENAME command to assist in giving diskettes reasonable names. This feature is especially valuable when working with Model I or III TRSDOS diskettes. While many DOS’s allow diskette names to be changed as the need arises, TRSDOS does not.
Alphabetical listings of the catalog can be viewed on the screen or printed on a printer. When viewed on the screen, the up and down arrows allow rapid scrolling through the listing. Printed listings require an 80-column printer, and are printed in three columns of 60 programs. If there are more than 180 programs to be printed, pin-feed or roll paper is required since Arranger does not pause for page breaks. Selected listings, consisting of just those programs with a certain extension (such as CMD, TXT, BAS, ORC, etc.), can also be listed to either the screen or printer.
Arranger does not keep track of file lengths – just filename and the diskette on which it is located. On the other hand, it does keep statistics on all diskettes that have been cataloged, and one command will locate all diskettes with a specified number of free granules. Another command provides a list of all diskette names, the date they were last cataloged, whether they are single- or double-density, what operating system was used to create them, how many free grans are available, how many tracks they have, and whether they are system or data diskettes. At present, however, this information can only be viewed on the screen. No provision is made for printing it on paper.
Up to 250 diskettes, with up to 44 files per diskette, can be cataloged (200 diskettes/30 files for the single-density version). This huge capacity, plus Arranger’s ability to handle a wide variety of operating systems, make it a must for every disk system. Using the printed catalog as a guide, disks can be reorganized, redundant files killed, and enough diskettes freed in the process to easily pay for the program. This leads to a new problem. Does anyone want to buy a couple dozen slightly used diskettes?
Update: Arranger now comes in two versions, Arranger I and Arranger II. The Arranger II version sells for $49.95 and has many enhancements that are a direct response to user requests. Version II runs faster and comes with a better manual. But it works so well that you can throw the manual away. It is that easy to use. The capacity has been increased to handle up to 255 files per diskette and it almost instantly alphabetizes all entries. It automatically recognizes diskette configuration (35, 40, 80-track, single- or double-density) without operator input.
Paper printouts are now possible during many key operations and a scrolling screen is used for improved video displays of the expanded information base. A sophisticated filter command allows you to select quite specific information such as all programs on a Model I disk, all DOSPLUS disks, all games on 40-track NEWDOS/ 80, etc.