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The XPT differs from ordinary PC software in that it is a collection of tools, not utilities. These terms are normally used rather loosely, but the distinction implied here is that while a utility can be a general purpose do-it-all, a tool is a single-purpose program that does one thing and does it well.

Applications written by both amateur PC software developers and major commercial software houses have a marked propensity to suffer from what the Jargon Files calls 'featurism', i.e. 'Let's add this one last feature cos it is REALLY COOL!' What generally happens with software like this is that it bursts at the seams: The ability to adequately overview the code becomes close to impossible and bugs creep in; the original purpose of the application becomes clouded in confusion and perhaps lost; and the end user experiences all sorts of headaches, such as a maxed-out Registry, a messy trashed disk, frequent crashes et al.

Applications which are stringently designed - tools - have a tendency to avoid these mishaps. Their application domain is clearly staked out before any decision on development is made: 'We want a tool that will do this'. They know how to behave and do not encroach on other application domains or on domains justifiably reserved for the system proper. A command interpreter interprets commands and nothing else; it does not tell you the time, it does not percolate your coffee, it does not move copy or delete files; but in limiting its domain to its express purpose it gains power. Vis. the UNIX shells and compare them to the pathetically paraplegic Wintel shells. There is almost nothing you cannot do with a UNIX shell; there is almost nothing you can do with a Wintel shell...

The first step of business then with the XPT is to investigate what the tools actually do. The Gallery is of immense help here - and ultimately the old 'click and learn' will take you at least half the way. It's difficult to assimilate all knowledge about these more than one hundred programs in one and the same place; power users generally learn all they want to and need to by clicking around anyway. The XPT is written with rock-hard stability in mind - tools will always be more stable than utilities - so you should learn a lot and learn it safely too.

That being said, it is important to remember that these are primarily developers tools and they may often overreach the boundaries of ordinary 'end use'. Directly editing a disk, for example, is not something you want to do unless you really know what you are doing.

The Radsoft website is meant as a complement in this regard: As time permits, contributors will add to the 'knowledge base' to help get your 'PC proficiency' higher. Remember: Your Wintel PC is unfortunately not a household appliance - at least not yet; for it to run properly you need to know a whale of a lot!

Try making your XPT directory part of your command path. You do this from the 'Environment' tab in My Computer properties under XP; you do it by editing AUTOEXEC.BAT under 9x, eg:

SET PATH=C:\2002

The system will add its own directories to the PATH variable on startup. Now at least you can access the XPT from anywhere, at any time.

A second good tip is to run a modicum of tray tools on startup, either from a link on the Start menu or by putting an entry into your Registry Run key. Try making a Winbat file - you'll find information about how to accomplish this easy task in the Winbat gallery link.

What you immediately want is access to a command line: Both 007, 007+ and X-tool will give you this. You'd rather not use the Start menu's Run dialog because this sucker will accumulate Registry junk which you don't want hanging about (remember, Registry inflation is a disease).

Use the XPT flagship X-file suite as much as possible, and get used to seeing what the file system really looks like. If not using the Recycle Bin seems a bit dangerous for you yet, alter the X-file settings so deletes default there and do not completely delete.

Discover the power in running multiple instances of X-file (or any XPT app for that matter) and in being able to clean up with a single 'Close All'. Get used to 'cloning' in your work: You can always undo file changes if they don't work out.

Review the plethora of text and RTF editors and pick out two or three that really suit your fancy and then concentrate on using them. If you are running XP you will like Codepad+ and Winedit; if you are not you will probably want to rely on X-edit and X-pad instead. Study the characteristics of these editors so you know which one will serve you best on any one particular occasion.

Do use the dock: This is a particularly rugged application which will give you quick access to the tools you need. Remember: The tray is for tools which must provide persistent data, and the dock is for tools you will want to start up and exit over and over again.

When approaching any one particular task, do not think in terms of 'Now what new utility out there can do exactly this?' but in terms of 'Now how can I use this collection of tools to get the job done?' If there were a new utility for every particular user need, all the disks in the world would not hold them. Think inventive, think creative: You'll be far ahead of the game if you do.

Keep in mind that the XPT is an enhancement to your system: It provides tools that your operating system either has inferior versions of or lacks completely, but it does not attempt to replace what came on your box from the showroom. Yet by using the XPT wisely - and by thus avoiding the traps laid out for you by your OS vendor and others - you can have a happier, safer, healthier trip.

Ultimately, as they said about UNIX, it's more than a system: it's a way of thinking.

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