Learning BeOS Basics

Learning BeOS Basics

This chapter shows you the basics of working with the BeOS: startup and shutdown, working with the mouse and keyboard, and mastering the fundamentals of the user interface. Chapter 2, "Learning Be Application Basics," begins where this one leaves off, covering the basic techniques you use with Be applications. Subsequent chapters show you how to use the applications that come with the BeOS. This chapter discusses the following topics:

Section Page
Booting the BeOS
Getting to Know the BeOS Workspace
Using the Mouse
Using the Keyboard
Working With Windows
Working With Menus
Working With the Tracker
Working With the Deskbar
Taking a Screen Shot

Booting the BeOS

Once you've set up your computer and installed the BeOS (see the installation pamphlet that came with your BeOS Release 3 CD-ROM), you can boot it.

1. Make sure that no floppy disk or CD-ROM with Be system software is inserted in a drive connected to your computer. The BeOS looks for system software on removable media before looking on a hard disk.

2. Turn on the computer and peripheral devices (e.g., screen, external drives).

3. If you're running the BeOS on a Power Macintosh, double-click the BeOS Launcher application or choose BeOS when the OS selection dialog appears during startup. This is in the BeOS Mac Tools folder on the Macintosh hard disk, which you copied from the BeOS CD-ROM as described in "30660: chTitle: BeOS Installation Guide Part 1: Intel Installation."

The BeBox will be supported for BeOS releases until January 1, 2000. For all BeBox-related information, see "Appendix B: BeOS Directory Structure."

When you boot the BeOS, the Be logo appears momentarily, and then the computer loads the system software from the startup disk. Then the BeOS starts the Deskbar and Tracker application. The Tracker is the BeOS file management and navigation tool, used for arranging and opening files, starting applications, and so on (see "Working With the Tracker" in this chapter for more information).

Selecting a Boot Volume

To record your boot volume choice (that is, your choice of a disk or partition to boot the BeOS from), use the Boot preferences application. To learn how to do this, see "Using the Boot Application" in the chapter "Customizing the BeOS ."

You can also set the boot volume during installation: the Installer asks if you want to change the boot preference to the disk you're installing onto. Click the Onto button to see a pop-up menu of all attached volumes, and select the one you want to boot from.

Another way to select a boot volume is in the boot selection screen. To get the boot selection screen, you need to interrupt the boot sequence:

The boot selection screen looks like this:

The screen lists each bootable volume by its device name and by the name it has in the Tracker. Use the Up and Down arrow keys to select a boot disk and press Enter to make the selection take effect. The boot process then continues.

Shutting Down the BeOS

The BeOS uses a "journaled" file system, which means that amount of data you risk losing even on the most abrupt shutdown is minimal. Before you turn off the computer, however, you should shut down the BeOS to ensure that applications have a chance to clean up after themselves.

1. Save files you are currently working in. You can also quit any running applications, but this is not absolutely necessary.

2. Click on the Be logo in the Deskbar to bring up the Be menu, then choose Shut Down (or Restart).

3. If there are tasks in progress (copying or moving files, emptying the trash, etc.) when you choose Shut Down or Restart, a dialog asks you to confirm that you want to shut down or restart when these tasks are complete.

4. After a series of shutdown status dialogs, a final dialog tells you it's safe to turn off the computer. You can also click the Reboot System button in the dialog (or press the Enter key) to restart the BeOS immediately.

Resetting the BeOS

Resetting the BeOS is less elegant than normal shutdown, but it may be necessary if, for example, your computer crashes.

There are two ways to reset the BeOS. One is to press a platform-specific key combination:

The other way to reset the BeOS is to press the Reset and Interrupt buttons. Check your computer's user manual for the location of these buttons.

If you reset the computer without choosing Restart or Shut Down first, you risk losing data. In particular, you'll lose changes made to documents since you last saved them.

Getting to Know the BeOS Workspace

When you start the BeOS, the Deskbar appears in the upper-right corner of the screen. The background of the workspace is called the Desktop.

The following are features of the Be workspace:

The Deskbar contains Be menu items, the Tracker application, a list of any other open applications, and the Status view, all described below:

The cursor is the hand-shaped icon that moves when you move the mouse.

Windows are where you view and work with files, text, pictures, and other information.

The Disks window shows all mounted volumes, on both internal and external drives.

The /home folder contains the /config folder. /home is where you should put all files you create, including e-mail files. For detailed information on the BeOS directory (i.e., folder) structure, see Appendix B: BeOS Directory Structure

The Workspaces application provides up to nine workspaces. These are, in effect, separate desktops, where you can have a given set of applications and files open. You can switch among desktops in the Workspaces app. Most of this guide deals with the basic desktop workspace; to learn more about the Workspaces application itself, see "Customizing the BeOS ."

The Trash can is where you drag files you want to delete.

Using the Mouse

When you move the mouse, a small icon called the cursor moves across the screen, changing its appearance depending on its screen location. It appears as a hand for selecting items and choosing from menus, an I-beam for selecting text, and so on.

The BeOS can take advantage of one-, two-, and three-button mice. By default, the left button is the first button, the one you click to perform most tasks; the right button is the second mouse button; and the middle button is the third button. To reset the button order, use the button pop-ups in the Mouse preferences panel:

A single-button mouse can emulate a three-button mouse. On a PC keyboard, the key combinations are

On a PC-type keyboard, the keys look like this:

The Macintosh key combinations are as follows:

On a Macintosh-type keyboard, the keys look like this:

Basic mousing terms are described below:

This Means To Do This
Move Move the mouse without pressing a mouse button.
Click Press and quickly release a mouse button without moving the mouse.
Press Press and hold down a mouse button without moving the mouse.
Drag Press and hold down a mouse button while you move the mouse.
Double-click Press and release a mouse button twice in quick succession.
Triple-click Like double-clicking, but three times.
Double-click and drag Like double-clicking, but hold down a mouse button instead of releasing it the second time, then move the mouse.

Use the Mouse preferences application to adjust how the BeOS interprets multiple clicks and how rapidly the cursor moves across the screen when you move the mouse (see "Setting Mouse Preferences" in the chapter "Customizing the BeOS ").

Using the Keyboard

You are no doubt already familiar with standard keyboards. However, the BeOS uses some keys on a PC keyboard in ways you might not expect:

PC Key Label Mac Key Label BeOS Key Name BeOS Function
Alt Command Command Used with other keys as a shortcut to choosing menu items.
Ctrl (on left) Control Control Used to type special characters, particularly when you're working in the Terminal application.
Ctrl (on right) Option Option Used to type special characters, such as symbols and accented characters.
Enter (or arrow) Return Enter Used to end a typed paragraph. Also, as a shortcut for clicking on-screen buttons, opening files, and other common tasks.
Esc Esc Escape Used as a shortcut to clicking Cancel in many panels and to close open menus.
Tab Tab Tab Used to tab, which means you can cycle through objects and select them one at a time, and then manipulate them from the keyboard.
(arrows) (arrows) arrow keys Used to move the cursor in text, to select items, and so on.

Tabbing Through Controls

In dialog boxes you can use the Tab key to select or highlight buttons or fields. As you tab through controls, you'll see the selected control highlighted by a blue outline or underline:

You can move through controls in reverse by pressing Shift+Tab.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Each application can decide how to implement keyboard shortcuts. The table below lists common shortcuts.

PC Key Label Mac Key Label Function in the BeOS
ALT+X Command+X Cut
ALT+C Command+C Copy
ALT+V Command+V Paste
ALT+A Command+A Select all
ALT+N Command+N New
ALT+O Command+O Open
ALT+S Command+S Save
ALT+W Command+W Close a window
ALT+Q Command+Q Quit
ALT+F Command+F Find
ALT+Z Command+Z Undo

The BeOS is platform sensitive, so in a menu, you see an A (for Alt) on Intel-based systems and a (Command symbol) on Macintosh-based systems.

Working With Windows

This is a window:

Most windows have a tab at the top that contains the window's title and one or more buttons.

You can have one or many windows open at a time, but only the active window responds to your actions. For example, pressing keys on the keyboard only affects the active window--the one with the yellow tab.

To make a window active, click its border or (for most windows) anywhere inside it. When you start up a new application or switch applications, the frontmost window in the new application is usually the active window.

Moving a Window

To move a window drag it by its tab or border (the gray area at the extreme edge). When you drag a window by its tab, take care not to click the close or zoom button accidentally.

Resizing a Window

The resize knob is the triangular dotted area at the bottom right of the window. To change the size of a window that has scroll bars, drag its resize knob in or out.

Some windows that lack scroll bars have a "resize border" rather than a resize knob. You can resize these windows by clicking and dragging the window frame from the lower-right corner.

You can also resize a window by zooming. See the section "Zooming a Window" for more information.

Scrolling the Items in a Window

When a window contains more than you can see in it, its scroll bars become active to show that you can scroll to see more.

The simplest way to scroll is to click or press a scroll arrow, but there are other ways:

Do This To
Click a scroll arrow. Move the contents of the window a little.
Press a scroll arrow. Keep moving the contents of a window slowly.
Drag a scroll knob. Scroll the contents of the window quickly.
Click in a scroll bar. Scroll by a windowful.
Press Page Up. Scroll up a windowful.
Press Page Down. Scroll down a windowful.
Press Home. Scroll all the way to the top.
Press End. Scroll all the way to the bottom.

Zooming a Window

Clicking a window's zoom button increases its size so it's big enough to display everything it contains. (Choosing the Resize to Fit command from the Window menu has the same effect.) Click the zoom button again to return the window to its previous size and location.

Selecting a Window

All open windows appear in the Tracker or the application list in the Deskbar. The Tracker pop-up shows folders, query windows, and Open With windows (see "Opening a File" in the chapter "Learning Be Application Basics" for information on Open With windows); the application list shows currently running applications. To make an open window active, select it from the Tracker pop-up or the application's pop-up in the application list.

Hiding a Window

You can hide a window by double-clicking its tab anywhere except in the close or zoom button. When a window is hidden, its name in the Tracker pop-up list is gray; to unhide the window, click on the gray item, and the window reappears on the desktop.

To reduce desktop clutter, choose Hide All in the Tracker pop-up (Show All makes the open windows reappear on the desktop). Close All closes all open Tracker windows.

Closing a Window

When you finish working in a window, close it by clicking the close button on the left side of the window tab. In many applications you can also choose the Close command, usually in the Window or File menu.

If you're working in an application where you need to save your changes, a dialog asks if you want to save any unsaved changes when you close a window.

In most Be applications, when you close an application's last (or only) window, the application quits.

Working With Menus

Menus are the principle interface to commands you can execute on the BeOS system. They appear in the Deskbar, in application windows, and in panels and dialogs.

Menus and Submenus

A menu appears when you press on a menu title in the Deskbar or in a window. An arrow to the right of a command indicates a submenu, which you open by clicking the arrow.

Panels and dialogs have pop-up lists that work the same way as menus:

This section describes the default behavior of menus. You can change their appearance and how they work with the Menu preferences application, described in "Setting Menu Preferences" in the chapter "Customizing the BeOS ."

Navigating Menus and Selecting Items

There are several methods for navigating menus:

The lists below summarize navigating menus and selecting items:

To open a menu...

To navigate a menu...

To choose a menu item...

To close a menu without choosing a menu item...

Navigating Context Menus

Context menus appear when you select an item or position the hand cursor over it and then press the second mouse button (emulate this on a single-button mouse by pressing Ctrl+Alt, then pressing the mouse button). It takes a moment for the menu to appear; the delay is related to the double-click speed you set in the Mouse preferences (described in "Setting Mouse Preferences" in the chapter "Customizing the BeOS ").

Context menus accompany the Desktop, the Trash can icon (this is how you open and empty the Trash can), the icons in the file selection windows brought up by the Open and Save commands, and file and folder icons in Tracker windows.

Context menus have the same selection options as standard menus. To choose an item, drag to the one you want and release the mouse button, or use the item's trigger letter or keyboard shortcut (see "Navigating Menus and Selecting Items"). If you don't want to choose an item, drag the cursor out of the menu and release the mouse button.

Working With the Tracker

The Tracker application is the interface to the file system. It displays files in folder windows, and lets you organize your files, applications, queries, and so on.

Understanding the Hierarchical File System

Applications, documents, and other files in the Be file system are stored on disks. Since you accrue a large number of files, it's convenient to sort them into related groups. To do this, the BeOS--like many other operating systems--uses the metaphor of folders (also called "directories"), where you can keep related files and folders together. The following illustration shows the fonts folder, in the system folder, in the BeOS folder, on the disk named latest BeOS.

Another way to express the location of items in a hierarchy is to use the path name--a series of folder names separated by slashes. The path name of the fonts folder in the illustration is /beos/system/fonts. The leading slash indicates that the system folder is in the root of the boot disk; that is, on the disk you booted from but not in a folder.

Viewing Tracker Windows

By default, items in windows are displayed as large icons with their names beneath them. You can also view the items as small icons with their names to the right, or in an ordered list view, which shows additional information about the items. Query windows and some panels, such as the Open and Save panels, use List View.

Working in Icon View and Mini Icon View

You change views by choosing Icon View, Mini Icon View, or List View from the Window menu.

In Icon View and Mini Icon View, you can move items in a window by dragging them to the location you want. If more than one item is selected, they all move when you drag one of them. If you hold down the Alt key while you drag icons, they snap to an invisible grid when you release the mouse button.

In Icon View and Mini Icon View, you can use commands in the Window menu to arrange the icons. Choose Clean Up to align each icon in the window to the nearest location on the invisible grid. If you hold down the Shift key, Clean Up changes to Clean Up All, which you can use to sort the icons in the window in alphabetical order on the grid.

Working in List View

In List View, you can change the order of items in the list and choose which fields you want to see from the Attributes menu. Fields you check in the menu are shown in the window; they appear below the menu bar in the order in which you select them. You can change their order by clicking on a field title and dragging it to another location.

Initially, items are sorted alphabetically by name. If you click on another field title it becomes the primary sort field and the items in the list are sortedappropriatly for that field. Also, the field title you clicked is now underlined. If you click a second time on a field title, the items are sorted in reverse order.

You can create a secondary sort order by holding down the Shift key while clicking on a different field from the primary sort order. The secondary field is indicated by a dotted line below the field title.

Selecting Items

The table summarizes ways you can select items in Tracker windows, query windows, and some panels, such as the Open and Save panels.

Do This To
Click an item. Select it.
Click and drag from an empty place in a window across one or more items. Select the items you drag across.
Type one or more letters. Select the item that starts with that letter or letters.
Press an arrow key. Select the next item in the direction of the arrow.
Press the Tab key. Select the next item to the right.
Hold down the Shift key while pressing the Tab key. Select the next item in reverse alphabetical order.
Hold down the Shift key while you click, drag, or type. If you drag with the mouse, release the mouse button before releasing the Shift key. Select or deselect additional items.
Choose Select All from the File menu. Select all the items in the window.

Getting Information About an Item

To get information about an item in a window, select it and choose Get Info from the File menu. Most context menus also have a Get Info command.

The information you receive depends on the item. For disks, you get information about their capacity and free space. For files, you get information about their size, creation and modification dates, and location in the file system. For applications, you get this same information, plus a version number.

Navigating in Tracker Windows

When you double-click a folder a window opens that shows the folder's contents. The folder name appears in the window's tab. A folder that contains another folder is called the parent of the folder it contains. When you're viewing the contents of a folder in a window, you can open its parent by choosing Open Parent from the Window menu.

You can also open a folder's parent (or if it's already open, make it the active window) from the pop-up menu that appears when you click the lower-left edge of a folder window--the area that normally lists the number of items in the window. If you hold down the Right Control key when you click the parent folder in the pop-up menu, the original folder closes when the new window opens:

If you press the first or second mouse button when the cursor is over a folder or disk icon, or an empty area in a folder window, a context menu opens under the cursor. The top item in the menu is a submenu with the same name as the folder the cursor is over, or the name of the parent folder if you click in an empty area. All folders, applications, and other files contained in the folder the cursor is over are arranged hierarchically in the Folder Name submenu. You can navigate the submenu to choose any folder or file to open it. (See "16451: head2: Navigating Context Menus" for more information.)

Using the Keyboard to Navigate in and Among Tracker Windows

There are also keyboard shortcuts you can use to navigate folder hierarchies:

To Press these keys
Return to the parent of an open folder. Alt+Up Arrow
Open the parent folder you've just returned to (or open any highlighted folder). Alt+Down Arrow
Close the original window and open the parent. Alt+Right Control+Up Arrow
Close the parent window and open the child. Alt+Right Control+Down Arrow

Renaming Items

You can rename any file, folder, disk, or other item in a folder window by clicking on the name and typing a new one. You can also select an item in a window and choose Edit Name from the File menu to select the name, or choose Edit Name from a context menu that appears if you click and hold on the folder's name or icon. Type and edit the name as you would any other text. You can use any name not already in the same folder, up to 255 characters in length-- anything but a front slash ( / ).

If you change your mind about renaming a file or folder while editing its name, press the Escape key to restore the original name.

Do NOT rename the /beos folder located on the boot disk or the BeOS will no longer work.

Creating a Folder

You can create a new folder to store related files and other folders.

1. Open the folder where you want to create a new folder, so the folder's window is active.

2. Choose New Folder (Alt+N) from the File menu.

3. To create a new folder on the Desktop, click and hold the mouse button to bring up a context menu and choose New Folder (Alt+N).

A folder named New Folder is created. The folder's name is selected; type a name and press Enter to put the folder into the parent folder's sort order.

Creating a Link

You create links--for example, from an application to an icon on the desktop--to simplify access. For example, if your application is linked to a desktop icon, you just double-click the icon to open the application.

There are two ways to create a link:

Moving and Copying Items

You can move an item (such as a file or folder) from one folder to another, by dragging it into the window or onto the icon of the folder where you want to move it. You may have to arrange the windows on your desktop so both the item you want to move and the window or folder you want to move it to are visible.

If the folder you drag an item onto is on a different volume, the item is copied instead of moved.

If you want copies of the item you're moving in both the source and destination folders on the same disk, hold down the Left Control key while you drag the item. This forces a copy whether the destination is on the same disk or not.

Another way to copy or move files or folders is with context menus. Position the cursor over the item you want to move or copy and press the mouse button. In the menu that appears, drag to the Move To or Copy To submenu and then through the hierarchy of submenus to select the folder where you want to copy or move the item.

If you're copying or moving a lot of files, a status window shows you the progress of that task. You can click a status bar in the Status window and click Cancel to stop a task in midstream, but whatever you've done so far is not undone.

Replicating Items

A replicant is a component of an application that you can replicate so that it resides inside another application. To replicate an item, click on the Be logo in the Deskbar and choose Show Replicants. This creates "draggers" on the item you are replicating. By clicking on the dragger and holding the mouse button down, you can place the replicant anywhere, including the Desktop.

To delete a replicant, press and hold the second mouse button (or Control+Alt to emulate the second button) on the dragger; a pop-up menu gives you the option to delete.

Duplicating Items

You can copy any item by selecting it and choosing Duplicate from its window's File menu. The duplicate has the same name as the original, with "copy" appended. If you make multiple copies of the same item, "copy 2," "copy 3," etc., is added to the name.

Deleting Items

You can delete files, folders, and other items by dragging them into the Trash can, or by choosing the Move to Trash command from the File menu. When there are items in the trash, the Trash can icon appears to have trash in it:

Items in the trash aren't deleted permanently until you empty it. If you decide not to delete something, double-click the Trash icon and drag it out of the Trash window .

When you want to remove items permanently, choose the Empty Trash command from the File menu in the Trash window, or click and hold the mouse on the Trash can icon to see the Trash context menu, then choose Empty Trash. You should empty the trash periodically, because eventually it can take up a lot of disk space.

Working With the Deskbar

When you boot the BeOS, the Deskbar appears in the upper-right corner of the screen.

Click the Be Logo once to see the Be Menu items. The Be Menu contains Find, the system commands (such as Restart, Shut Down, and Show Replicants), and items in the Be folder located (in the /home/config folder) on the startup disk. The /home folder is preconfigured to contain the /apps and /preferences folders.

The area between the Be logo and Status view is the application list, which shows the Tracker and all currently open applications:

Moving the Deskbar

The Deskbar can be moved to any of the four corners and across the top and bottom of the screen by dragging it by the dotted area in its lower-right corner. You can't literally drag the Deskbar the way you can a window, but clicking and holding the dotted area and moving the hand cursor where you want to put the Deskbar causes the Deskbar to relocate to that position.

You can also open and close the Deskbar by clicking and holding in the dotted area and dragging up/down or left/right, depending on the Deskbar's position on your screen.

Finding Items

You can use the Find command in the Be Menu to search for files, folders, and other items in the Be file system. You can also search for entities such as e-mail or the names of audio CD tracks you enter in the CDPlayer application. When you choose Find, the Find window opens; there you specify in greater or lesser detail the attributes of what you're looking for. These specifications, called queries, are saved in a folder in /home/queries, so you can reuse them later.

To find an item follow these steps:

1. Choose Find from the Be Menu.

2. Choose the type of item you want to find (all files and folders, or a specific type from the All files and folders pop-up list).

3. Choose how you want to search (by name, attribute, or formula). If you search by name or formula, you'll see a simple window with a single text entry field. In addition, if you check More options you can name your query, which makes it easier to identify if you want to return to it later. You can also include the contents of the Trash can in your search.

4. Specify the disk on which to search.

5. If you search by Attribute, the Find dialog appears with an Add button that lets you refine your search criteria as specifically as you want to. Each time you add a criterion, you can choose to search for name, size, and date modified, with additional subsets in each category appended in a pop-up menu.

6. Click Find. A query window opens, listing all the items that match the attributes you set in the Find window.

Query windows are similar to other Tracker windows, except that they have a gray background and work only in List View. You can double-click items to open them, drag items to the desktop and to other folders, add and remove fields using the Fields menu, and so on. (Think twice before dragging items from a query window to a location in the file system, because they usually contain items from many parts of the file system, and once you move them, you can't move them back as a set.)

Opening a Query

All queries are saved in a /query folder inside the /home folder until you delete them. As mentioned in "Finding Items," it's easier to find a query later if you name it when you do the search. Otherwise, the saved folder is called "Name" plus the name you searched on, "Attribute Query," or "Formula" plus the formula you searched on--all more difficult to spot in a full query folder than name you specify yourself. To see the current results of a saved query, double-click on it to open the window.

To edit a saved query, highlight it in the Query window and press Alt+G. This brings up the Find window, where you can change the search criteria or modify any other search options.

To delete a query, drag it from the Query window to the trash, or click and hold on the query file until a context menu appears and choose the Move to Trash Command (Alt+T).

Taking a Screen Shot

There are two ways to take a screen shot in the BeOS: press the Print Screen key or Alt+Shift+3. The screen shot appears in the /home on your boot disk. All screen shots are in targa format. You can open the screen shot be dragging it onto the Rraster application, located in /boot/beos/apps/rraster/.

The Be User's Guide, in lovely HTML, for BeOS Release 3.

Copyright © 1998 Be, Inc. All rights reserved.

Last modified February 19, 1998.