RISC World

PD World

Paul Brett with the latest freeware and PD releases for RISC OS.

Yet again I have found another bumper collection of PD and freeware releases filling up my e-mail account this issue. It would seem that software development on RISC OS is continuing to pick up speed. The release of the Iyonix by Castle Technology and the imminent release of the Microdigital Omega seem to be waking up programmers all over the world. So lets dive into this months new software releases.

Eclipse99 - Jochen Lueg

This little animation shows the shadow of the moon move across the South Atlantic and Africa during a solar eclipse in June 2001. The photographs are from EUMESAT's Meteosat space craft. The moon's shadow travels across southern Europe. Best resolution is achieved in a 256 grey mode. The program is freeware.

EXIFinfo - Chris Terran/Lee Montgomerie/Vermilion Sands

EXIFinfo generates files containing the information hidden inside the EXIF files produced by digital cameras. It can make anything from a simple text summary to a web page complete with thumbnail images, and because it uses script files the program can be made to produce just about any format you want. It can also provide caption files for the splendid image browser Thump. It is not useful for ordinary JPEGs, or images of any other kind. This includes digicam files which have been processed in any way, most RISC OS applications destroy the EXIF data, so keep your originals!

Frontender - Dave Watson

We have had quite a play with Frontender, and in the RISC World office we rather like this, in fact we like it a great deal, oh alright we think its absolutely brilliant. There are lots of natty command line utilities around that quite frankly we can't be bothered to use. Using Frontender you can convert these utilities into multitasking applications, Frontender deservedly gets out highly recommended award.

Frontender is a program that will allow non-desktop, command line based programs to be setup and controlled on the desktop. Using a simple scripting system, you can add a frontend to almost any command-line driven program. Before you can do anything with Frontender it needs to be 'seen' by the filer. So, put it in the same directory as your child apps, Filer_Boot it on boot up or put it in your Boot:Resources directory. Now it is just a simple matter of double-clicking any of the child apps to run them. The will act like any normal wimp application. Child apps for Frontender are simple to create. All you need to do is create an application directory and place in it a !Run file and a Frontender Script file. If you like, you can also stick a !Sprites file in there too with an icon for the child.

The !Run file should look something like this:

 #!Run file for !child
 set child$dir 
 if "" = "" THEN ERROR "You need Frontman to use !child"
 run .!Runimage .Script

where you should replace the name 'child' for the name of your child app. Check the example child apps (located in separate archives inside the Frontender directory on this RISC World CD) for pointers.

OneDay - Jochen Lueg

This little animation shows a view of the Earth from space during one day. The planet lights up from East to West. Notice how the sun is reflected by the sea off the coast of the Arabian peninsula. The program is written for the RiscPC and will now work in any RiscPC mode. The graphics file is quite large, due to the sprites (provided by ESA) and but is already stored inside the application.

PDF - Colin Granville, Leo Smiers and Derek B Noonburg

PDF is a Public Domain PDF file viewer for RISC OS. It is a port of Derek B Noonburg's xpdf program and further develops Leo Smiers PDF program.

Copying and licences You may only copy/distribute/modify this program under the terms of the GNU General Public Licence (GPL). Some of the source files are released under a modified BSD licence which is a GPL compatible licence.

Updates, bugs or problems

You can get the latest version of !PDF from:

If you have any problems with !PDF you can contact me at

Iconbar icon

If you run !PDF an Iconbar icon will appear and you can quit the program from the menu.

If !PDF is not running but you run it by double clicking on a file or it is run by another program eg a browser. It will not have an iconbar icon and the program is quit by closing it's windows.

Main window

When the pointer is over a link it changes to a hand. Clicking with select follows the link in the same window. If you click with adjust the link is loaded into a new window.

You can scroll the window contents by dragging them.

Clicking Adjust on the close icon opens the directory containing the file.

Button bar

From left to right:
Document Outline If faded there is no Document Outline available. Clicking on the icon opens an Outline window and when it is open:
  • Click on an entry to go to that page.
  • Click adjust on an entry to go to that page in a new window.
  • Click select on a boxed + to show more entries in the outline window.
  • Click adjust on a boxed + to open all entries with a boxed + or -, at the same level, at and below the clicked on box.
  • Click on a boxed - to hide some entries.
  • Click adjust on a boxed - to close all entries with a boxed + or -, at the same level, at and below the clicked on box.
  • Click on window background or outside window to close it.
History Back Move backward through history of pages visited. eg if you follow a link selecting back will show the last page you looked at. If the last page was in a different document it reloads that document.
Document sizeShows the number of pages in the document.
Current page Shows the current page. You can change the current page by entering the page number here. Note the page number may be different to the one shown on the page.
Previous Click Select moves back 1 screenful. If at the top of page you move to the bottom of the previous page. Click Adjust moves to the top of the previous page. Select moves back 10 pages.
Next Click Select moves forward 1 screenful. If at the bottom of page you move to the top of the next page. Click Adjust moves to the top of the next page. Select moves forward 10 pages.
Page slider Browse through pages by clicking or dragging the slider

KeyBoard ShortCuts

UP Move back 1 screenful.
UP Move back 1 page.
UP Move back 10 pages.
DOWN Move forward 1 screenful.
<shift> DOWN Move forward 1 page.
<ctrl> DOWN Move forward 10 pages.
+ scale by 140%.
- scale by 70%.
* scale 100%.
Print Show print dialogue box.
TAB History forward.
<shift> TAB History back.
<ctrl> F4 Find


The display options 'No text' and 'No images' affect what is printed. Printing is always done in Accurate mode. Landscape printing has no effect when printing as a pamphlet.

Single sided printing

all Print all pages
from - to Print pages from 'from' to 'to'
copies number of copies to print

Double sided printing

Double sided printing requires Print setup to be correctly filled in for it to work properly. (Click setup on the Print dialogue box)

If your printer reverses the order of sheets then tick 'Reverses the sheet order'. If the paper is turned over by your printer tick 'Turns the paper over'. Once set you can save these settings.

To control what pages to print you have 'all', the 'from-to' range and the 'start-end' range.

Start-End The start-end range indicates the section of the document to be printed so if you wanted to make a pamphlet from a chapter in a document you would set 'start' to the first page in the chapter and end to the last page in the chapter. If the start end range is faded then the range defaults to the whole document.
All Print all of the start-end range
From-To The from-to range is used to specify the pages from the start-end range you want to reprint. Note it will print whole sheets of paper so if you specify a from-to range of 1-1 you will get both sides of the sheet printed.

Turning the paper over

When you have finished printing the first side you will be asked to turn the paper over. At this stage you can cancel the printing and print the second side at another time by selecting '2nd side' in the print dialogue box when you print it.

To turn the paper over you should ensure that the same end (short side) of the paper is fed into the printer first so for example my laser doesn't turn the paper over when it stacks the paper so I need to turn it over ensuring that the same end of the paper is fed into the printer first. My old inkjet turns the paper over so I just need to turn the paper round so that the same end is fed into the printer first.

To clarify:

    'Turn the paper round' means move the end nearest you so that it is the end furthest away from you keeping the same face of the paper uppermost.

    'Turn the paper over' means keeping the same end of the paper toward you turn the paper over so that the bottom face of the paper is now at the top.

The paper needs to be turned the same way whether you print as a pamphlet or just double sided.


Find searches for the word entered either from the current page or from the beginning of the document. The search text is case insensitive.

Logical page numbering

When viewing a pdf file you may find that the page number on the toolbar is different to the one shown on the page. This can occur, for example, when there are contents pages which numbered separately from the main body of the document. So, if there are 16 pages in the contents the toolbar page number would show page 1, and be seen on the page as page 17. To go to page 80 you would have to type 96 into the page selector on the toolbar.

You can make the page selector use the same page number as displayed on the page by:

  1. going to a numbered page of the file...i.e. NOT a contents page.
  2. going to the 'Set logical page number' dialogue box (in 'Misc')
  3. entering the number displayed on the rendered page.
Speed Tips

A page which consists mainly of type 3 fonts (you can tell them because the fonts are not anti-aliased like RISC OS fonts) can be very slow to render for example the RISC OS Annual report can take over 20 seconds to render a page, set 'No Type3 fonts' and the same page can take less than 2 seconds. Luckily font substitution works for the RISC OS Annual Report but it doesn't always.

Having the pdf file on a RAM disc can speed some pages up a lot - especially if the page is filled with Type 3 fonts.

!PDF limitations

!PDF can't render fonts that are embedded in a pdf file directly, it tries to use a substitute RISC OS font. This means that sometimes the text is not rendered correctly.

!PDF doesn't support polygon path clipping so may get drawings wrong. Selecting one of the settings on the 'Display menu' may allow you to see what you want if, for example, some text has been obscured.

If the display from !PDF isn't good enough, you could save the page/document as postscript and render the postscript file with Ghostview (distributed with GhostScript).

Dynamic areas

By default PDF will look for memory in application space. This limits the maximum amount of memory available to PDF to about 28Mb. If you would like PDF to be able to use more memory you can make PDF use a Dynamic area by setting PDF$DynamicAreaSize as follows:

To use application space.

     Unset PDF$DynamicAreaSize 
     Set PDF$DynamicAreaSize 0

To specify how much memory PDF can use.

     Set PDF$DynamicAreaSize 64

where value, in this case 64, is in Mb. You choose the value you want.

To allow PDF to use as much memory as possible.

     Set PDF$DynamicAreaSize -1

Syncopath - Lenny at MidiWays

This is a very simple utility that 'drives' David Pilling's !SyncDiscs disc backup program. Once setup, !Syncopath removes the need to enter path details into the !SyncDiscs front panel.

Thus !Syncopath is used to duplicate disc images (or parts thereof) onto another drive. It is not intended to be a fully fledged backup program, and has no facilities for restoring backed up data in the event of a mishap. Though the main point of drive duplication, is that restoring data (should the need arise) is relatively straightforward, as the backed up data is not compressed and retains a recognisable directory structure.

I use it to backup my four internal drives (actually, one IDE drive and three partitions on a single SCSI drive) onto a single APDL DataSafe drive.

For each drive/partition, the user needs to specify which paths are to be backed up (synchronised). The program uses just one main window, in which it presents all the paths associated with a single drive/partition (as defined in the !Paths file).

!Syncopath enables the user to synchronise these paths either individually or on an all-paths-per-drive basis. It does this by farming the task out to !SyncDiscs. !SyncDiscs thus has to have been seen by the filer.

!Syncopath keeps a record of when each path was last backed up and its file and byte-counts (in the file '.!Record'), and using these details provides a means to check a path for certain types of changes, without the backup medium (in my case the DataSafe) needing to be 'on-line'.

RISC OS 4 style E+ format discs (ie with long filenames) are supported.

Version 0.13 adds a user options window which provides access to a couple of new features (see section 6.0).

The interactive help system is supported, so run !Help (or !BubbleHlp, etc) when first trying out the program.

Thumbcat - Malcolm Ripley

Thumbcat is an image catalogue application. It will handle a variety of formats without additional applications. "Native" formats currently handled are : Sprites, Drawfiles, JPEG's, EXIF's and Digital Camera AVI's (if they have an embedded thumbnail). In addition it recognises ImageFS and ChangeFSI (if running/booted) and all formats handled by those applications.

It will handle files and directories dragged to the iconbar for immediate views.

It also includes an editable image details database based on the EXIF tag standard.

Catalogues can be pre-built from a directory(ies) full of images or appended to by dragging from a filer window. Images can also be dragged from a Digiflash window and applications.

It will create an HTML version of a catalogue.

Read-Only sources can be catalogued (including HTML).

Verma - Lenny at Midiways

This must be a first for RISC World, we have two highly recommended programs in one issue. If you have every wondered what versions of all the !System modules you are running, or had any !System based problems then Verma is the tool you have been waiting for.

!Verma is a utility that displays version, etc information about relocatable modules, both those in memory (ROM/RMA) and those on disc (filetype &FFA) - in the latter case without the need to first install them in the RMA. These two types of module list involve different sets of data, so two different window layouts are used. For more details please consult the !Help file supplied.

XChars - Martin Wurthner

Finally we have an update to on old favourite with some great new features. XChars is a replacement for the Chars utility that comes with RISC OS with a lot of additional features, such as:

  • multiple windows
  • Outline fonts at arbitrary sizes
  • Support for different encodings
  • Font aspect, line and character spacing control
  • Different arrangements of characters (+optional display of ctrl chars)
  • Configurable default settings
  • Character zoom window at configurable size by clicking Adjust on a letter (during the duration of the button press only or as a persistent window)
  • Configurable character insertion hot key
  • Option to install an application icon on the icon bar
  • All options can be set independently in each window
  • "Hotlist": the state of all options (font,font size,line spacing etc.) of a window can be saved (by associating a name with it) and restored later from the hotlist menu
  • Automatic display of character code under the pointer

Signing off

As you can see the variety and quality of RISC OS software releases remains high. Everything featured in this issue was released in the last couple of weeks. We haven't even included all the releases (otherwise this column would be many times its current size). What delights await us next time? I have no idea but I will certainly enjoy finding out.

Paul Brett