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MicroLogic Diskmapper
by Rick Smith (October 1997)

DiskMapper from MicroLogic gives a unique, intriguing and quite colorful display of files on your disk drive. You can quickly and easily visualize how much space your file and folders/ subdirectories take on your disk drive. You can also use this program to visually display the age, type, archive status or hidden/system/read only status of the displayed files.

Product Overview
The $49.95 (retail) DiskMapper package contains a 7" x 9" black and white 29 page (22 with instructional content) manual without an index, a Quick Start card and a registration card. The enclosed 3.5" diskette contains both the Windows 3.X version and a 32-bit Windows 95 version.

The license agreement allows usage of the same licensed copy on your computer at work and on your portable or home computer, but MicroLogic requires one copy for each different person using the software. Site licensing and concurrent use monitoring options are not offered. Technical support consists of a Web site, email, fax and mail. Installation only questions are handled via a toll line, from 11 to 5 Eastern, Monday through Friday. Priority support access to Support Engineers is from 9 to 6 Eastern, Monday through Friday and costs $25 per incident and is billed to your Visa, Master Card, American Express or Discover card.

Installation
DiskMapper requires a 386 or better PC compatible computer with Windows 3.X or Windows 95 installed, a 3.5" diskette drive and requires less than a megabyte of free disk space. The program can also be run directly from a floppy diskette and requires only four megabytes of RAM.

The program takes about a minute to install, even on a 486/25 machine with 16 megabytes of RAM running Windows 95! The installation procedure gives you a choice of where you want to install the program and defaults to C:. After the installation has finished, clicking on the newly created icon causes a Quick Start Help screen to appear. This screen is the verbatim text from the Quick Start Chapter of the manual, along with a portion of the Quick Start card.

This sudden and unexpected display may be confusing for novice users, since they must know how to close a help screen. There were no easy close buttons here. Once this window is closed and out of the way, a popup screen (modal dialog box) appears with a pull down list of your drive letters with the word floppy or hard following each letter. Displaying the drive label also would have been much more useful.

After choosing the drive to be displayed and clicking the OK button, the drive clicks and voila! -- a colorful display appears consisting of large and small adjoining rectangles, nested inside larger rectangles and those rectangles nested inside even larger ones until the screen is completely full. The size of each colorful rectangle is directly proportional to the actual size of the files that the rectangle represents.

Features
The rectangles are colored differently, according to their relative directory level. The root directory is color 1, directories and files under the root are color 2, subdirectories and files under those directories are color 3 and so on for seven colors. You can change these colors to suit your tastes and your screen display. Other different coloring methods can also be used such as the age of the file, extension type, archive status or the hidden/system/read only status of a file.

The Windows 95 version lets you display the creation date, modify date or the last access date. This 32-bit version can also highlight files that have never been used since their creation. You can even run multiple copies of this program in Windows 95, which allows you to look at multiple views of a single drive or multiple drives simultaneously.

Both versions let you delete, compress, run and get more information about a selected file. Files are selected by a left single click and the rectangle changes color to alternating red and white diagonal stripes. A right click also selects a file and displays a drop down menu which could let you zoom-in/zoom-out, go to the root directory, show only one level, delete, zip/unzip, print file or show information. The zoom-in feature lets you display a lower level subdirectory on the entire screen, while the zoom-out feature lets you display the parent directory on the entire screen. Showing only one level reduces the small file "clutter" and lets you concentrate on files and directory at the current level. Delete does ask for confirmation before proceeding.

"Zipping" a file helps free up space on your disk drive allowing you to compress rarely used, but useful programs and even entire directories without permanently removing those files from your drive! This powerful feature can then expand these files when you want to use them again. Other programs have similar features, but this program makes it easy for the novice to accomplish the task in one step.

Show Information displays the filename, size, created date (without time) and file attributes. If the file extension type is recognized a description of the document is also shown.

The ability to click on a program and have it run is quite useful. Clicking on a data file causes the associated program to run, much like File Manager in Windows 3.X or Explorer in Windows 95.

The program can be somewhat customized and allows choices such as: the ability to set the number of displayed levels and their individual colors, the ability to show the free space on the drive as another rectangle, confirm the launch of a program, show tool tips, display the entire path on tool tips, show partial filenames in the rectangles and display the rectangle sizes proportional to either their directory size or their actual physical size.

Showing physical size is useful as it shows the real size of the file. Due to a operating system characteristic called cluster size, these two sizes are different and depending on your configuration, a one character file could fill over 32,000 bytes of hard disk space!

Problems
This is an interesting program that can help you get a visual sense of what's taking up space on your drive, but don't expect every function detailed in the manual, to work as described. And if you think the on-line help is any different from the manual, it's not.

In fact, the help file is simply a verbatim copy of the manual without any cross references. The contents of this help consists of 14 links -- the copyright notice, license, Table of Contents and the original ten chapters of the manual, along with an order form for the unlimited version of the product.

Although this program can utilize keyboard shortcuts and pull down menus, they don't always work properly, so the program absolutely requires a mouse or other pointing device.

The right double click does not zoom-out as described in the manual, because a drop down menu appears after the first right click.

Pressing the tab key to "flatten" the display and show only a single directory level, does not work either, but the "Flat button" does work. This feature does work properly in the Windows 95 version.

Another keyboard option, control E, which should launch the File Manager or Explorer, also did not work and the pull down menu choice (Alt F, E) described in the book did not exist. A File Manager button, not described at all in the text, did perform this task. All of these features work in Windows 95.

Control \ goes only one level up the directory rather than going directly to the root directory as described. This also works properly in Windows 95.

This program only compresses files (performs Zip) when there is sufficient free space, but doesn't tell you how much free space is needed to start the compression.

If you like one of the 23 color schemes that are provided with the program, no problems. If you want to create your own color scheme and give it your own name, you can't. You cannot add a new color scheme, you can only modify the colors of an existing scheme. You can't even correct the spelling of the Grey 3D scheme to Grey 3D. Yes, the Windows 95 version did have this word correctly spelled.

Relatively small files get grouped together into a single rectangle and will never be visible. This is based on factors including how many other files are displayed and the screen size. This is fine if you are only concerned about what big files to compress or delete. If you are looking for a particular type of data file or data files that have changed since the last backup (which may be small files), you won't find these files displayed at all. Since the zoom-in/zoom-out feature is really a change to a lower/higher directory, the ability to magnify the display to show these small files would help alleviate this problem.

Shrinking the font helps get more filenames on the screen and the printout, but also shrinks the color legend and the Method button in both the Windows 3.X version and the Windows 95 version.

The program really missed the mark in printing the disk map. Although it did a nice job of re-scaling the map for the page, with a potential resolution of over 3000 by 4000, more filenames and small files could have been printed. Unless the entire filename with extension can fit along an edge of the file's rectangle, no name is printed. The screen view showed partial filenames, but the printout did not, even when the show partial text check box was marked.

To display more small files, the "small rectangles" size can be changed to 4, the smallest size the program accepted. This causes another problem. The program begins to shudder -- literally -- the words on the pull down menus start flickering and after awhile only a partial map appears. Now, none of the Pull down menus work and neither do the buttons. Leaving the program and restarting won't help either. The program "remembers" your last setting in an .INI file, so you must click on a small subdirectory so the display can completely finish. That's why you need to have a pointing device with this program. The rectangle size can then be changed back to the default size of 10. This problem doesn't seem to happen in the Windows 95 version.

Conclusion
DiskMapper can help people clean up their hard drives by looking at and concentrating on the big files instead of the hundreds of little ones. But with today's disk media costing less than five cents a megabyte and with fast and low cost removable media, I question how much time should be devoted to hard disk drive cleanup.

The program is worthwhile for laptop users because it offers an easy and convenient way to compress rarely used files and still keep them with you when needed. However, if you are a Windows 3.X user, some of the DiskMapper's other problems can cause difficulty for a novice.

If all the problems mentioned were to go away in the next version, all the features worked properly and although I think it is a very handy tool, I won't be trading in my Gazelle QDOS or Gazelle Rapid File Manager in for it.

Pros
Fast Installation

Interesting and colorful display

Haven't seen any program quite like it

Includes 3.X and Windows 95 version in same box

Runs in 4 megabytes of RAM

Runs on a 386 processor and above

Ability to zip an entire directory and unzip when desired

Cons
Windows 3.X problems (many are fixed in the Windows 95 version of DiskMapper.

Lack of a cross referenced help (Help is simply a verbatim copy of the manual without any cross references.

Features in the manual don't always work as described and problems occur with small rectangle sizes

Can't display any attributes of the small files

Can't create your own named color schemes

Company Information
MicroLogic
89 Leuning Street
Post Office Box 70
Hackensack, New Jersey 07602
Phone: (201) 342-6518
Fax: (201) 342-0370
Support: (201) 342-2462
Web Site: http://www.miclog.com

Copyright 1997 Rick Smith All rights reserved.

   
Overview of this Article
Product Overview
Installation
Features
Problems
Conclusion
Pros
Cons
Company Information
 

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