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Go backTips for Single-Drive Users

A sidebar to the article “Evaluating the Macintosh Finder,” published in Byte, issue 12/1984, pp. A99.

Apple has been widely criticized for providing only one disk drive in the basic Macintosh. While two disk drives are definitely desirable, it is certainly possible to make productive use of a single-drive Macintosh. All it takes is attention to these techniques.

Use separate start-up disks for each major application. Because of the Macintosh’s limited memory size, most application programs are not able to fit entirely in memory. Instead, the program must often go to disk, bringing in code and data. This requires that you keep the “application disk” (the disk containing the actual application program) in the disk drive nearly all of the time.

When you’re ready to save the document on which you’re working, the application program will typically allow you to eject the application disk and insert another data disk. While this is handy at times, it enacts a penalty of several disk swaps every time you save your work, and you should save it often. You can avoid these swaps simply by saving your work to the application disk.

To use this strategy, you need to free as much space as possible on your application disk to make room for your data files. At first, you might think that the Finder’s system files (veritable disk gluttons consuming up to 230K bytes on every 400K-byte disk) would be good candidates for elimination. No way. Most application programs require frequent access to these files.

A better idea is to create separate application disks, each having the system files and a single application program. For example, to create a separate application disk for MacPaint, make a copy of your original Write/Paint master disk using the Disk Copy utility (included in version 1.1g of the Finder). Then delete everything on the copy except the system files and MacPaint. You’ll end up with a stand-alone MacPaint disk that can be used to start the computer.

Using this technique (and the techniques that follow) will usually leave you with 100K to 250K bytes of open space on each application disk. This should give you plenty of breathing room for storage. Of course, storing data on application disks is not very efficient. You can alleviate this problem by using application disks for temporary storage only; use separate data disks for permanent storage. When you quit an application, copy your document files to a separate data disk that doesn’t have the system files or application program. Then you can delete your data on the application disk and make room for more files.

If you find that you frequently need to switch back and forth between two application programs (e.g., when you are cutting and pasting MacPaint images into MacWrite), you may want to have a disk with both applications. In this case, you’ll probably have to keep your data on a separate data disk and endure the disk swaps every time you save the data. Try to avoid this if you can.

Use the Font Mover utility. The Finder stores character fonts (the bit maps that define the shape of each character) in the System file. Because these images take up quite a bit of disk space (138K bytes in version 1.1g) and because some users do not need all of the different fonts, a utility program, called Font Mover, is provided that allows fonts to be removed from the System file.

Deciding which fonts to keep is up to you. Keep in mind that the larger fonts offer the biggest rewards in disk-space savings. Note: certain fonts, required by the operating system, cannot be removed by the Font Mover program; they are Chicago-12, Geneva-9, Geneva-12, and Monaco-9.

Stay in application programs as long as possible. Since opening and quitting an application program are slow operations, do as much work as possible each time you run an application. For example, if you need to paste a number of images into a MacWrite document, draw all your images in one MacPaint session, storing them in the Scrapbook. This will reduce the number of times you need to open and quit an application program.

Practice good desktop housekeeping. The Finder stores a “hidden” file on each disk that gives the current status of windows for that disk. Updating this file often takes a significant amount of time, especially if you are ejecting and inserting several disks in sequence. Speed up your operations by keeping the number of open windows to a minimum.

Do all file copying at once. Every time you copy a file from one disk to another, a few disk swaps are required. If possible, postpone file copying until you can do it all at once with one copy operation. In this way, your average number of swaps per file copied will decrease.

Don’t forget that the Finder has two methods of selecting multiple files. You can drag a box around the group of files (this works well when the file icons are near one another), or you can hold down the Shift key and click each file icon in turn. When you have selected all the files you want to copy, drag any one to your copy destination. Like the Blue Angels, the entire group of files will fly in perfect formation across your desktop to the destination.

Use your Scrapbook and Clipboard effectively. They are stored as disk files. Typically, they are kept in the System folder. For the most part, the Finder uses the Scrapbook and Clipboard files on the start-up disk (the disk you used initially to boot the machine).

Things can get a little tricky when you start a new application program on another disk that also has Scrapbook and Clipboard files. This will cause the new application disk to become the start-up disk. But which files will the Finder use?

Actually, the Scrapbook and Clipboard behave differently. The Clipboard is copied from the old start-up disk to the new start-up disk, replacing the Clipboard file on the new disk. This means that the Clipboard will always stay intact even if you leapfrog from disk to disk as you run different applications.

The Scrapbook, on the other hand, is not copied. Instead, the Scrapbook file on the new start-up disk is pressed into service. Thus, each disk with a Scrapbook file essentially has its own Scrapbook.

This scheme has a pitfall. A typical scenario: you draw a number of images in MacPaint that you wish to paste into a MacWrite document. After carefully storing each image in the Scrapbook, you exit MacPaint. Because MacWrite is on a different disk, you eject the MacPaint disk, insert the MacWrite disk, and open up MacWrite. To your dismay, the images you have just stored have vanished. Where did they go?

They are still around, but they’re in the Scrapbook file on the MacPaint disk. How do you get around this problem? One solution is to avoid using the Scrapbook, use the Clipboard instead. But this approach can be incredibly time consuming when you need to transfer several items because of the time it takes to repeatedly open and quit each application program as you cut and paste each image.

Another method is to copy the Scrapbook file from the old start-up disk to the new start-up disk prior to starting the new application program. You do this by dragging the Scrapbook file (in the System folder) to the new disk before starting the new application program.

Use keyboard commands. The Finder includes command key equivalents for commands that are usually selected with the mouse from the pop-down menus. Many times executing these keyboard commands can be quicker than using the mouse.

Use the keyboard/mouse buffer. The Finder buffers the mouse movement/clicks and keystrokes. Since many operations are repetitious, you can often anticipate the next step and place it in the buffer in order to keep the disk drive from stopping. The computer must wait for a stopped disk drive to come up to speed before you can begin reading or writing.

Mark S. Jennings

Page added on 8th October 2004.

Copyright © 2002-2006 Marcin Wichary, unless stated otherwise.