Basics of the operating system

The following are basic concepts to keep in mind throughout your design work on the Amiga:

Design for the Novice

Designing for the lowest common denominator does not mean your application is doomed to mediocrity. In most cases it just means pondering a little longer on how to solve a problem or present a procedure so that almost anyone can grasp it easily. Even power users appreciate it when you give them simple solutions for such things as hard disk installation or navigation through procedural steps. Conserve your user's energy for creative tasks.

Conserve the user's energy for creative tasks.

Let the System Work for You

In general, if the system will do something for you, let it. For example,GadTools provides pre-programmed gadgets for use in your application. If one of these gadgets suits your needs, use it instead of coding your own. Two other examples of using this built-in support are:

If the system will do something for you...let it.

The Amiga's Resources

Remember that the Amiga is a multitasking system. Any time you allocate a part of the system for your use, you prevent other tasks from using it.

Try your best to economize your use of shared resources. If possible, only obtain a resource when needed and free it as soon as you are done. This applies to just about every computing activity your application can perform. There are only limited amounts of RAM, serial ports, printers and disk drives for all applications to share.

Your application should provide controls that allow the user to temporarily suspend usage of any non-shareable resource it may use, such as the serial or parallel device. For example, a MIDI application should allow the user to suspend serial port usage so he can switch to a terminal package and download a new sample without having to exit the MIDI application.

Speech and Sound

Speech and sound can be excellent ways to provide feedback to the user, especially if the user is visually impaired or if your application includes lengthy processes during which the user might walk away from the system.

However, a significant number of users may be hearing impaired, so don't use sound and speech as the only cue. Use it in conjunction with other cues such as position, size and rendering.

Sounds can be annoying. Provide a means for the user to turn off sound [and/or] speech.

Provide a means for the user to turn off sounds [and/or] speech.


It may be a good idea to provide additional controls so the user can modify the speech or sound in your program. Consider this if speech/sound is integral to the application. If they are secondary, you may just be over-complicating the controls in your program.

Closing Down the Workbench

If your application needs more memory than is available, it may attempt to close Workbench.

If your application does this, it should allow the user to re-enable Workbench from a menu item if more memory becomes available. A preference setting should also be made available so the user can specify that Workbench should always be closed (or not) on entry to the application.

If your application closes Workbench, it must reopen it again before exiting.

Defining Your Basename

A basename is a short, one-word name that you assign to your application. It's usually (and preferably) the same word as the name of your program's executable - the word a user types into the Shell in order to run your program.

All user-accessible names from your program should be built from the basename. These include such things as ARexx ports, public screen names, and configuration settings names.

For example, a database program called MondoBase may have the basename of MBase. Users running the program from the Shell would type MBase on the command line. The program may open on a public screen named MBase.1 with an ARexx port of the same name.

Basenames should be logical to the user, easily remembered and short. Making it too short, however, could raise the likelihood of conflicts with other programs. If MondoBase's basename were simply M, it could conflict with MusicBoard's basename.