Customizing the BeOS

Customizing the BeOS

Several BeOS applications allow you to customize the look and operation of your computer. This chapter shows you how to use them, and how to add fonts, drivers, and system add-ons. For information on adding printers to your system see "Adding a Printer" in Chapter 3, "Learning Be Application Basics."

This chapter discusses the following topics:

Section Page
Using the Boot Application
Using DriveSetup
Understanding File Types
Using the Font Panel
Setting Keyboard Preferences
Using the Keymap Application
Setting Menu Preferences
Setting Mouse Preferences
Setting Network Preferences
Setting Screen and Workspace Preferences
Understanding Workspaces
Setting Scroll Bar Preferences
Selecting a Printer
Setting Sound Preferences
Setting Time and Date Preferences
Setting Virtual Memory Preferences
Adding Fonts
Adding Add-Ons
Adding a Driver

Using the Boot Application

The Boot application is useful only if you have the BeOS installed on more than one disk connected to your computer. It lets you select the default SCSI or IDE device from which to launch the BeOS.

If you want to change the boot drive, launch the Boot application . The window that appears lists each mounted disk by name. You can change the boot preference to match the configuration of a mounted disk by clicking a name in the list. The current boot disk is marked with a bullet ().

For more advanced options, click the Easy pop-up and select Expert. In Expert mode, you can use the pop-up menus to change the boot disk to any drive on the SCSI or IDE drive buses.

If you're booting from a hard disk, as is most likely, leave the LUN (Logical Unit Number) set at 0.

Mounting Disks via the Disks Window File Menu

You can mount and unmount volumes via the File menu in the Disks window. Mounting makes the contents of a disk available to the operating system; unmounting does the reverse. You should always unmount floppies and other removable media before ejecting them.

To mount and unmount disks and volumes via the Disks window:

1. Choose Mount Settings from the File menu.

2. This brings up the Disk Mount Settings panel, which gives you three mounting choices:

Using DriveSetup

It's possible to lose data accidentally in DriveSetup (by initializing a drive, for example). Pay attention to warning dialogs to avert a catastrophe.

The DriveSetup application lets you work with any type of drive supported by the BeOS. You can mount, unmount, format, partition, eject, and initialize disks connected to your computer.

Some important terms to remember:

DriveSetup Features

To mount, unmount, format, partition, eject, or initialize disks connected to your computer, launch the DriveSetup application.

The DriveSetup window shows you the drives currently installed in the system. This window shows four drives connected to the computer: a floppy drive, a hard drive, a CD-ROM, and a removable SCSI device. A small triangle appears next to partitioned drives with multiple volumes. Click on the triangle to see all of the volumes on the drive.

The table below identifies and describes the features of the DriveSetup application window:

Feature Function
Device Lists the SCSI, IDE or floppy drive devices you can mount on this computer. These include floppy drive, hard drive, CD-ROM drive, and a removable SCSI device.
Map Style Identifies the partition map style. Currently the BeOS supports two styles: Apple and Intel.
Partition Type The specific partitions on a given volume. The BeOS recognizes Be, Macintosh HFS (Hierarchical File System), ISO 9660, and "ofs" (Old Be File System) partitions.
File System Shows the specific file system for each volume.
Volume Name The name for each volume on a drive.
Mounted At Shows the location of a volume.
Size Shows the size of each device and/or volume.

Mounting and Unmounting a Volume With DriveSetup

Mounting means displaying a drive or volume in your Desktop Disks folder. You can mount a drive or volume either via the Disks window (see "Mounting Disks via the Disks Window File Menu") or with DriveSetup. To mount a volume with DriveSetup:

1. Launch DriveSetup.

2. Select the device you want to mount: e.g., floppy, CD, Zip drive, etc.

3. Select the Mount menu., You can also use the context menus (press the right mouse button over the highlighted drive you want to mount) to see the Mount menu as shown below. You can choose to mount all volumes or a specific type of volume.

4. To unmount a volume, follow the same steps, selecting the Unmount menu or using the context menu you get by pressing the mouse over the drive to unmount.

Partitioning a Disk

Partitioning a disk destroys all the data on it! Back up data you want to keep before partitioning the disk.

DriveSetup can create multiple partitions on a disk, except on floppy disks, which are too small to partition, and on read-only media like CD-ROMs. You partition your hard drive to allocate half of it to the BeOS and half to the MacOS. You can create either Intel- or Apple-style partitions in DriveSetup.

Creating Intel-Style Partitions

1. In the DriveSetup panel, choose Partition from the Setup menu.

2. The Partition Map panel that appears lets you create up to four partitions.

3. Click the Layout button to choose from four preset configurations. You can alter the type of the partition by typing in the Type field, and the size by moving the slider left to increase or right to decrease the size. .

To configure your own partitions click the button next to the Type field and choose from the pop-up list of supports five different Intel partitions types (DOS), plus BeOS and "other," via the pop-up menu that appears when you . You typically use DOS Large or BeOS. To change the partition type enter the appropriate information in the corresponding text box; to change the size move the slider. If you change the size, you should click update to see the new sizes of all the partitions.

Use only one of the partition types in the dialog or your partition will not be recognized by the BeOS or by Intel-based operating systems such as Windows.

4. When you have the configured the partitions, click OK to partition the drive. A dialog warns that you may lose all the data on your disk; continue only if you are sure you want to erase all of the data on the disk.

Creating Apple-Style Partitions

1. In DriveSetup, choose Partition from the Setup menu.

2. In the Partition Map panel that appears, click the Layout button to choose one of four preset configurations. You can alter preset configurations by clicking on a preset partition and changing the name, type, or size.

Use only one of the preset partition types in the pop-up menu or your partition will not be recognized by the BeOS or MacOS.

3. To change the partition size move the slider left to increase or right to decrease the size. If you change the size, you should click update to see the new sizes of all of the partitions.

4. You can also add or remove partitions with the Add and Remove buttons at the bottom of the window. When you have the configured the partitions, click OK to partition the drive. A dialog warns that you may lose all the data on your disk; continue only if you are sure you want to erase all of the data on the disk.

Initializing a Disk

Initializing a disk prepares it for data in a certain file system format; e.g., Mac HFS, DOS, BeOS. You must initialize a new Be partition before you can write data to it:

1. In the DriveSetup panel, select the disk and volume to initialize, and unmount it if necessary.

2. Select Initialize from the Setup menu.

3. You have four initialization choices: Be File System, Mac HFS, ISO 9660, or the Old Be File System.

A dialog that lets you name the volume and determine the file system block size appears. The default size is 1024; this gives the best performance for most cases. If you are an expert and will have only a few very large files, you can increase the system block size.

Formatting a Disk

Formatting a disk destroys all data on that disk! Back up data you want to keep before formatting the disk.

Formatting is a time consuming, low-level process. You should attempt to format a disk only after initialization has failed. To do this:

1. In the DriveSetup panel, select the disk you want to format, and unmount it if necessary.

2. Select Format from the Setup menu. In the warning dialog that appears click Format to proceed.

Understanding File Types

The BeOS uses the Internet standard MIME as file types (descriptors). The file types determine how the system and Tracker deal with a file. For example, file type determines which application opens a file when you double-click it. The BeOS lets you change the file type and associated application for a file as well as the associated application for a whole file type:

Changing a File Type With the FileType Add-on

The primary way to change file type is via the FileType Tracker Add-On that is included with the system. To change a file type this way:

1. Select the file you want to associate with an application.

2. Click File and select Add-Ons/FileType.

The FileType Add-On panel that appears has two sections: the File Type and the Preferred Application. If you select File Type, you'll see this panel:

In the File Type section is the file's signature; this is the MIME type associated with the file. You have three options for choosing a file type:

In the Preferred Application section of the dialog you can associate a particular application with the file in three ways:

For additional information on changing a file type, see the sections 'Using the "Open With" Command via the Find Dialog' and 'Using the "Open With" Command via the Context Menu' in the chapter, "Learning Be Application Basics."

Changing a File Type With the FileTypes Application

The FileType Add-on works on individual files, while the FileTypes application also operates on the system database of file types. In addition to changing the application associated with a particular file type, the FileType application also lets you add and remove MIME types, attributes, file extensions, and associated icons.

The top section of the window is a scrolling list of all of the file types known to your system. When a new application is installed, new file types unique to that application are added to the system and this list.

File types are broken into categories like application, audio, image, text, and video. The screen below shows the Person File type. While the system adds new types automatically when you launch new applications, you can also manually add and remove types from the list.

A particular file type is associated with an icon.

The Preferred application section is similar to the FileType Add-on except that it establishes the preferred application for all files of a specific type.

The Extra Attributes section displays additional attributes that can be associated with a file type. In the screen above you see that the Person File Type has additional attributes associated with it: contact name, company, etc. You can add or delete attributes and the Tracker will display the updated list.

The File Extensions section displays file extensions that are commonly used on other platforms to identify file types. You can associate a suffix with a file type so it can be identified more easily when moved from other platforms.

For additional information on changing a file type, see the sections 'Using the "Open With" Command via the Find Dialog' and 'Using the "Open With" Command via the Context Menu' in Chapter 3, "Learning Be Application Basics."

Developers can use the File Type application to modify the behavior of their application. Because this is a developer function, we do not document it here.

Editing an Icon

To associate an icon with a file, or to edit an existing icon, you use the recessed box in the upper-right corner of both the FileTypes Add-ons panel and the FileTypes application panel. If a file already has an icon, you can drag and drop or copy/paste it into the recessed box. Double-click on the icon to bring up the Icon-o-Matic Icon Editor, where you'll find a tool palette and color palette with which to edit your icon.

If a file in either panel does not have an icon associated with it and you want to create one, double-click in the recessed box. A dialog tells you your icon is missing; click the New Icon button to bring up the Icon-o-matic Icon Editor.

Using the Font Panel

The Font Panel application lets you set standard system fonts and the size of font caches. There are three types of default system fonts: plain, bold, and fixed-spaced fonts. Currently you can choose from six plain and bold fonts, and two fixed fonts, by clicking on the pop-up button for each; additional popups let you set type style and size for each default system font.

The Font Panel application works in conjunction with the Menu application (see "Setting Menu Preferences" in this chapter) to let you customize the look of applications and dialogs in the BeOS. The Font Panel lets you customize text within dialogs and applications.

To change these characteristics, choose a font, style, and size and click the Apply button.

Screen Font Cache Size determines how much RAM is allocated to hold font bitmaps. Larger cache size means faster screen redraws, but less RAM available for applications.

The Printing Font Cache Size determines how much RAM is allocated to printer fonts. Larger cache size means faster printing, but less RAM available for applications. You need a Printer Font Cache only if you print to HP LaserJet-compatible printers.

Setting Keyboard Preferences

When you press a key, a character appears on screen (or some other action takes place). If you hold down a key, the BeOS waits a moment and then acts as if you were repeatedly pressing that key. If you do this in a text field, a character appears in the field; after a brief delay, it starts repeating. The Keyboard application lets you increase or decrease the delay between a key press and a key repeat, and to set the repeat rate.

Click Revert to restore your current key-repeat settings. Click Defaults to restore the settings that were in effect when you installed the BeOS.

Using the Keymap Application

The Keymap application opens a window that shows you the current keymap--the characters you see on-screen when you press each key. You can select a system keymap and type on the keyboard or click keys in the Keymap window to see the resulting character in the field at the top of the window. If you press one or more modifier keys (Shift, Control, or Alt) on the keyboard or click them in the Keymap window, the keycaps change to show new characters mapped to the keys.

Different fonts map characters to different keys. You can choose a font from the Font menu to see that font's mapping in the Keymap window. This is a useful way to look for characters you don't use often, such as bullets, accents, or other special characters.

You can change the keymapping for your keyboard to support different languages or keyboard layouts. The BeOS comes with a number of preconfigured keymaps to choose from in the scrolling System keymaps list. To customize a keymap or create your own:

1. Choose any user or system keymap.

2. Click File and Save As and enter the name of your new keymap.

3. Make sure the keymap is being saved to /boot/home/config/settings/keymap.

4. To make the keymap selected in the Keymap window active, click the Use button in the lower-right corner.

The new keymap is displayed in the User list.

You can customize a keymap by using the second mouse button to drag characters on the keyboard to the keys you want to map them to. Remember, though, that if you drag the "c" to the "z" position, you'll have two "c"s and no "z."

Each keymap is made up of nine mapping tables that show what each key produces when you type it with no modifier key pressed, or with the Shift, Control, or Alt key pressed, plus all the possible combinations of these keys.

If you use the third mouse button to drag a character from one keycap to another, you actually drag all nine characters associated with that key in the nine tables in the keymap.

To revert to the default keymap, choose one of the standard System keymaps.

Setting Menu Preferences

Use the Menu preferences application to change the color and other aspects of the appearance of menus throughout the BeOS, and to change the way menus behave. When you open Menu preferences, you'll see a window with a set of controls that look like an open menu. Choose items from this menu to customize the menus in the BeOS.

Choose a font from the Font menu and a font size from the Font Size menu. The panel changes to reflect your choices.

If you uncheck Click to Open, you can't open a menu or submenu by clicking its title--you can only drag through menus.

If you check Always Show Triggers, triggers for menu titles, commands, and other menu items are always visible, even when you're dragging through menus, rather than just when you're navigating menus from the keyboard or clicking menus and submenus to open them.

Choose Color Scheme to open a color selection panel. When you click a color in the panel (if you're using 8-bit color) or drag one of the red, green, or blue color component sliders (if you're using 32-bit color), the Menu preferences window changes to show how the highlighting and other uses of color in menus will appear. (For more information on setting 8-bit and 32-bit color, see "Setting Screen and Workspace Preferences" in this chapter.)

You can choose one of three styles of menu item separators from the Separator Style submenu.

Click Revert to restore the Menu preferences your current settings. Click Defaults to restore the settings that were in effect when you installed the BeOS.

Changes you make in the Menu preferences take effect in other applications the next time you start them (or in the case of the Tracker, the next time you start the BeOS).

Setting Mouse Preferences

The Mouse application sets preferences for the ways a mouse works with the BeOS. When you start up the Mouse application, the Mouse window opens.

A single-button mouse can emulate a three-button mouse: Press Alt+left Ctrl while clicking the mouse button to emulate the secondary mouse button, and Alt+right Ctrl while clicking to emulate the tertiary mouse button.

Setting Network Preferences

See the chapter "Connecting to the Internet With BeOS" to learn how to set up networking on your computer.

Setting Screen and Workspace Preferences

Use the Screen and Workspaces applications in tandem to define monitor configuration. Initially, the BeOS works with the graphics card and monitor to display a screen resolution of 640 pixels horizontally and 480 pixels vertically. This display uses 8 bits of color data per pixel (also referred to as the screen depth), and has a refresh rate (the number of times per second the screen is redrawn) of 60.1 Hz. If your graphics card and monitor can accommodate a higher resolution, more colors per pixel, or a faster refresh rate, you can change these settings in the Screen preferences panel.

For detailed information about what kinds of graphics cards work with the BeOS, see the Be web site (

When you start up the Screen application, the Screen window opens.

You change a setting by choosing from the pop-up lists, or by dragging the Refresh Rate slider, and clicking OK in the panel that asks you to confirm the change. You can also adjust the refresh rate by pressing the Left or Right arrow key on the keyboard--this technique is useful to fine tune the best-looking refresh rate.

If your graphics card or monitor can't support a setting you make, you may not be able to read anything on the screen--but the screen reverts to the previous setting in a few seconds if you don't click OK.

To solve most screen problems press Alt+Control+Shift+F12 to restore all default settings except desktop color (this shortcut works at any time, even when Screen isn't running, though the default settings aren't saved unless Screen is running).

You can do SERIOUS damage to a monitor if you select a resolution, number of colors per pixel, or refresh rate the monitor isn't designed to support. Read the manuals that came with your monitor and graphics card to find out what combinations of settings are safe for the monitor. An alert dialog that appears before your changes take effect gives you a chance to cancel a setting you're unsure of before implementing it.

The changes you make to the resolution and number of colors affect only the active workspace, so if you're working with more than one workspace (as described in "Understanding Workspaces" in this chapter), you can set a different resolution and number of colors for each workspace.

Adjusting the Screen Size and Position

When the Screen window is active, you can adjust the size of the screen image on the monitor by holding down the Shift key while pressing the Up or Down arrow key to make the screen smaller or larger vertically, or the Left/Right arrow key to resize the screen horizontally. You can adjust the position of the screen image by holding down the Control key and pressing the Up, Down, Left, or Right arrow key.

Setting a Desktop Color

The desktop--the "background" of the screen--is initially solid blue, but you can pick a different color in the Screen window.

If you're using the Workspaces application to work in more than one workspace (see "Understanding Workspaces"), the color you pick affects only the active workspace--the one where you're using Screen--so you can give each workspace its own desktop color.

Understanding Workspaces

When you first start working with the BeOS, you have one workspace: a desktop and a set of windows that open on it, which you arrange to suit your projects. The BeOS supports up to nine virtual monitors (or panes) via the Workspaces application. Each pane in the Workspaces window represents a workspace, with a miniature version of each window open in that workspace. Each pane can have a different resolution, frequency, bit depth, and color background. Applications can even be running in different workspaces.

Configuring Workspaces

An example of the usefulness of Workspaces is in a graphics application where you want to see how a graphic looks in both 8 bits and 32 bits. Just move the graphic between a 32-bit workspace and an 8-bit workspace to see it in the different environments.

To customize your workspaces, use the Screen application with Workspaces to give several workspaces a different resolution, bit depth, and a unique desktop color so you can tell them apart at a glance.

Navigating Workspaces

Click in a pane to switch to that workspace. You can also switch workspaces by holding down the Alt key while pressing the function key that corresponds to that workspace (counting from left to right, top to bottom in the Workspaces window): Alt+F1 to switch to the first workspace, Alt+F2 to switch to the second, and so on. The workspace you're currently working in is called the active workspace.

There are several ways to work with applications in different workspaces:

The Tracker keeps track of all applications running no matter which workspace they are in. If you select an application in another workspace via the Tracker, you go to that new workspace. Note also that when you reboot, a Tracker window will appear in the workspace where it was before you shut down or restarted your computer.

Setting Scroll Bar Preferences

Initially, many windows in the BeOS use proportional scroll bars, described in the chapter "Learning BeOS Basics" in "Scrolling the Items in a Window." If you don't like proportional scroll bars, use the ScrollBar application to set your preference to a fixed-size scroll knob and make some other choices about how scroll bars look and behave.

Click the Arrow Style, Knob Style, and Knob Type you prefer. Drag the green arrow to adjust the minimum scroll knob size. Click Defaults to return all the settings to the way they were when you first installed the BeOS. The settings you make in ScrollBar affect windows when you next open them.

Selecting a Printer

See "Printing " in the chapter "Learning Be Application Basics."

Setting Sound Preferences

You can use the Sound application to select the input and output sources and volumes of a number of audio features in the BeOS.

When you start up the Sound application, the Sound window opens. The arrangement of the features in the Sound window shows you how they relate to one another.

The Source buttons allow you to select one of the following input sources:

Checking the Feedthrough box causes sound from the input source to both enter the system and to play out the speaker or speaker jack.

The Input slider controls the level into the machine. There are left and right channels that can be controlled separately (via the second mouse button) or as one. To move them separately, click-drag on the left or right half of the slider with the second mouse button. With a 1-button mouse, press Ctrl+Alt while you click and drag with the mouse.

The DAC slider controls the volume going out the speaker jack. It too has a left and right channel that can be controlled separately.

The Speaker slider controls the volume of the internal computer speaker.

Setting Time and Date Preferences

You set the date and time with the Time application. (Clock circuitry on the computer motherboard keeps the time, even when the computer is turned off.) When you start Time, a window opens with the computer's notion of the current date and time. To change the settings:

The BeOS handles Daylight Savings Time automatically, so you don't need to remember to fall back or spring ahead.

Setting Virtual Memory Preferences

Virtual memory extends the amount of RAM available on your hard drive without the necessity of increasing the amount of physical RAM by adding more hardware. It does this by "swapping out" files from RAM to the hard disk. The Virtual Memory application lets you set the amount of hard disk space to use for virtual memory. The Virtual Memory preferences window displays the amount of installed RAM (Physical Memory) and the amount of hard drive space allocated to virtual memory (Swap File Size). To change the amount of hard drive space allocated to virtual memory, drag the green triangle to set the desired amount, then reboot to make the change take effect.

You can also change settings with the keyboard. Use the Tab key to select the Defaults or Revert button. You can also tab to highlight the Swap File Size indicator; with the indicator highlighted (a blue line appears beneath it), press the right/left arrow keys to adjust the hard drive space allocated by 1 MB up or down, and the up/down arrow keys to adjust by 10 MB.

Adding Fonts

The BeOS includes a TrueType font renderer, which displays TrueType-format fonts on the screen at virtually any size. The standard set of TrueType fonts included with the BeOS is stored in the /boot/beos/system/fonts/ttfonts folder. These are the system fonts and you should not change them.

You can purchase or download additional TrueType fonts in PC (not Macintosh) format and add them to the BeOS, so they're available in applications that work with fonts, such as StyledEdit and FontDemo. A few kinds of TrueType fonts don't work with the BeOS, but most do.

1. Move the fonts to the /boot/home/config/fonts/ttfonts folder on the BeOS hard disk.

2. Make sure the fonts have the .ttf extension (uppercase letters don't work).

3. To make your added fonts usable, either restart the BeOS or click the Rescan folders button in the Fonts preferences panel.

Adding Add-Ons

You can add software--called add-ons--to the BeOS that extends the functionality of applications and the system. BeOS system add-ons are stored in the /boot/beos/system/add-ons folder and should not be changed. User configurable add-ons are stored in the /boot/home/config/add-ons. Add-ons can be for various parts of the system: the app_server, DriveSetup, kernel, net_server, Print, Raster, and Tracker, as well as for any application.

Installing an add-on is easy: just move it into the appropriate folder in the /boot/home/config/add-ons folder on the boot disk. Tracker Add-Ons should be placed in the Tracker folder, application add-ons should be placed in the add-on folder associated with that application. See the documentation which came with the new add-on for the correct name and location.

Adding a Driver

You can add software device drivers to the BeOS to enable it to work with new kinds of devices or with familiar devices in new ways. In the BeOS there are two kinds of drivers: graphics card drivers (or graphics drivers) and all other kinds of drivers. Standard BeOS drivers are stored in the/boot/beos/system/add-ons/kernel and /boot/beos/system/add-ons/app_server folders and should not be changed.

Don't replace, rename, or delete the supervga file in the /system/add-ons/app_server folder, or you won't be able to restart the BeOS.

To add a graphics card driver, copy it into the /boot/home/config/add-ons/app_server folder and restart the BeOS.

To add any other kind of driver, copy it into the /boot/home/config/add-ons/kernel folder. The drive is immediately available for use without restarting the BeOS.

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

Copyright © 1998 Be, Inc. All rights reserved.

Last modified February 19, 1998.