Archive, July 1994 (Vol 7, No 10): p76-77

Larger is a piece of software being sold by a company called `Warm Silence Software' at a mere 10. This includes VAT and p&p and, at the company's discretion, free future upgrades - not a bad start.

The version received for review is 2.05 but WSS are currently working on version 2.06. There appear to be frequent modifications to the software, mainly based on requests made by users.

The package

The Program comes on one 3 1/2" floppy disc accompanied by Sparkplug from David Pilling (PD dearchive utility), and two `sparked' directories - `Backdrops' and `Manual'. There is no fancy packaging, no printed manual, just the disc and a covering letter from the company. What a refreshing change - you are paying for the software. I know one other person who works on these lines - he is also mentioned above!

The manual and backdrops

The sparked file called `manual' contains files in Impression, Draw and Easiwriter formats. Future versions are hoped to include Ovation, Pipedream and Wordz versions, if required. I used the Impression manual and printed out 25 sheets of A4. The manual is well thought out and is laid out very professionally. It is clear, concise and easy to follow - a pleasure to read. Larger was soon loaded onto my machine configured and up and running.

The backdrops directory is self-explainatory and contains four sample backdrops designed for WSS - great for WSS but a waste of space for you or me. This would be better left off or a few more general samples included.

The program

The disc is not copy protected, but each has a unique serial number registered to the owner. The application can be transferred to hard disc by dragging, this being the preferred environment for use of the program. Loading the application requires the usual double-click, with the application appearing on the iconbar, but this is configurable to load on the bar or not. Even if no iconbar icon is selected, the application menu is obtainable from any area of the backdrop. Once Larger is loaded, your desktop takes on a new dimension - instead of being the size of your screen, the backdrop can now be up to a million times bigger.

Items you now select to be dropped onto the backdrop can be configured via the application menu option to appear on slabs textured in a similar way to the Acorn Newlook pattern, or like the usual pinboard with icons and application names. Applications can have their names shown or just their icons. When a selection is made, you can shoose to have inverted icons and/or depressed slabs.

The main option is for the organisation of `pins' applied to the backdrop. There are `gravity' options ofleft, right, up and down, or none, for Applications, Directories and Iconised sprites. This gives you a neat backdrop by just dragging and letting go. Alternatively, by selecting `none', you have the versatility to arrange your own layout. All sprites are grid-locked for the sake of neatness.

If directories are loaded on the backdrop, you have the further options to either open the filer window and/or set the directory as the CSD. The usual filer operations can also be applied - access, copy, rename, etc, but you also have extra facilties. Any files dragged onto them can be saved or autostarted, the parent directory can be opened, or hot-key options can be applied as per settings within the config file.

The virtual desktop section allows you to set the way you are able to move around this extra large desk spaece. The best way I found was the default selection of holding <shift> and moving the mouse to the position required. Backdrop sprite control is also configurable from this menu, giving the usual centred, tiles or scaled options, and automatic path inclusion by dragging and dropping your backdrop sprite to the window having the text input focus. [Sorry - I don't understand this bit either, and I wrote the program! RJW]. Hot-key selection is defined within this menu for the frequently used options of Larger if required. Another option available is the selection of desktop focus as either `click to type' or 'focus with pointer'. I found this best left on the `click to type' option, as the cursor then stays where you left it, especially useful in Impression documents.

The nicest aspect of this program is the possibility of having many different backdrop configurations saved on the main backdrop. A simple double-click on the required backdrop selects it and changes your pinboard to the new selected topic. A double-click with <adjust> on the blank background takes you back to the main backdrop. This allows you to configure different pins for different tasks, e.g. DTP, Comms, Graphics, etc and thereby avoid the clutter of a large number of `pins'.

Once you have configured your backdrops and sub-backdrops, it is necessary to save the icons used within Larger in order that the correct sprites are applied to the correct slabs. It is also necessary to save the backdrop settings - both are easily done from the main menu. On my set-up, I lost a sprite from the ArcFax printer when the system was rebooted. This is not really a problem - you either save the relevant sprite into Larger's internal sprite pool, or you include a filer-boot in your boot file. This latter method I found to be best. If you modify your backdrop, you need to resave both backdrop and a new sprites file - saving the new sprites file will erase your included sprite.

All of the configuring completed, you now come to the use of the larger backdrop allowing you to have numerous windows open, memory permitting. If you have a desktop area for graphics, for instance, you can load your application(s), open a window andwhilst holding down <shift>, move the window off the screen until a clear backdrop is found and use the DTP here. (Pins remain visible regardless of screen movement.)

If you wish to return to the graphics area, either move back the same way, or use the map option. This is a graphical display of the whole backdrop and simply clicking on the desired location brings this to the centre of the screen. If you want all windows back on the work-screen, a retrieve option is available.

There is a user-defined menu section for installation of your own most used commands. Examples are given ready installed on this menu option, and programming your own items is relatively simple - the manual contains examples to help.

Conclusion

This has got to be easily the best piece of software of its kind available at present. Although there are several PD programs available, which work along similar lines, they fall well short of this program. Larger is highly recommended.

Warm Silence Software can be contacted on (0585)-487642 or by snail mail at [PO Box 28, Woodstock, Oxfordshire, OX20 1XX].

Dave Wilcox


Robin.Watts@wss.co.uk