Skip to main content


Part F: Program Manager

This section starts with an introduction, and continues with the following sub-sections, (which follow on from each other in this page, as well as being individual links within this page).

Introduction

The application Program Manager is the heart of the Windows environment. It always starts after you start Windows, (by default, but users can change their windows initialisation files to go straight into a particular Windows application, and bypass Program Manager). Program Manager remains in control until you exit the program. Program Manager does just what its name implies - it allows you to manage your programs. It allows you to group various programs into logical groups on the screen, so that for example, you could have a group called Word Processors, which could contain icons for a simple editor, eg Notepad, and perhaps a more complex one, eg Write, and a much more powerful one, eg Word for Windows.

F1: Program-Item Icons

Each program is given an icon, which can be double clicked with the mouse to launch it (or press Return when it is highlighted / selected). These icons usually look like the program they represent - so the icon for the simple word processor Write, which is shipped with Windows, looks like a fountain pen. These icons are called program-item icons, because they each represent a program you can start from Windows. Each icon is labeled underneath for easy identification.

These program-item icons can be grouped together in any order, that is, groups are not fixed and can be based on your own subjective preferences for software layout. Groups need not, therefore, only contain programs, and may, for example comprise of programs and dedicated programs with particular documents associated with them. You can even put the same program in more than one program group for convenience!

To put a new program-item into a group, make sure the system focus is in the group you want to put it, then from the menu bar of Program Manager choose File, then New. You will get a dialogue box asking you whether you want a new program item, or a new program group. Choose program-item and OK, and you will then get a dialogue box asking you what you wish to call the icon, the path of the executable file, the working directory of the program, and you can also make a short-cut key, and give it an icon if you wish.

F1a: Program-Item Properties

These groupings of programs are irrespective of the organisation of your hard disk. Each program-item icon in the group has its own Properties (such as pathname of the executable file, and working directory) which you have immediate access to. To find out these properties, make sure the icon you are interested in is selected (highlighted) see Section F 5, then choose File from the menu bar, then Properties, and you will get a dialogue box telling you all these details for that program-item icon.

If you move the program-item icon into another group, its properties do not change, it just belongs to a different group. However, if you change the organisation of your hard disk, so that programs are now stored in other places, you will also need to change the Properties of their program-item icons to reflect this reorganisation, to enable Windows to find them. If you forget to do this, when you try to open a program from Program Manager you will get an error box telling you that Windows cannot find parts of the Program you have chosen to run, and asking you to check its pathnames etc.

F2: Program Manager Windows - Program Groups

These groups of programs are displayed in separate windows, within the Program Manager application window. These smaller windows within an application window are known as document windows, (an application can have more than two document windows open at the same time see Section D 6). This is perhaps misleading in this case, since each group window does not contain a document, only icons representing applications that you can start from Windows, the program-item icons. It might be more appropriate to refer to them as Group Windows, which most Windows users will understand more readily than calling them document windows!

Inside each program group window, the program-item icons are, by default, laid out in rows and columns, for a neat appearance. Users are free to move these icons into any position within the group window.

The application Program Manager, like all applications, has a menu bar, with items File, Options, Window, Help, and a control menu. The application has a large window, and the smaller group windows are spread out inside the application window. These program group windows do not have menu bars, but they do have control menus, accessed with Alt+Hyphen, which allow you to move, resize, and close them (exactly like all document windows). These program group windows contain the program-item icons. Group windows can be minimised / iconised to take up less space in the application window. The group then appears as an icon representing the group at the bottom of the application window, and the name of the group which was displayed on its title bar is now shown underneath the icon. (Imagine taking an open book on your desk, and simply closing it, so that you can still see the title, but not any detail, and it takes much less room on your desk. Removing the program group altogether would be like putting the book back on the shelf.)

It is important to remember that layout of the groups and programs in Program Manager is totally configurable by the user, and users can reduce or increase the number of groups, rename them, add or remove program-item icons from the groups, or move them to new groups.

To make a new program group, choose from the menu bar File, then New, and a dialogue box will ask whether you want a new program item, or a new program group. Choose program group and OK, and another dialogue box will ask you what you wish to call the group.

F3: Common Program Groups

There are a few groups that are set up in Windows by default, specified in the Windows initialisation file, and these groups are likely to still exist on most systems, even after individual tailoring. These will be described below.

F3a: Main Group

The group Main contains important Windows programs which allow you great control over your computer. File Manager allows you to browse, sort, rearrange, create and delete, files, directories, drives and allows you to see multiple drives, and/or directories at the same time. Print Manager allows you control over your printing from any application, and will monitor printing while running minimised in the background. The Control Panel provides you with a way of changing the configuration of your system while you are working in Windows. The PIF editor is used to customise the way DOS programs are run while you are in Windows. There is an MS-DOS Shell prompt in this group too, which swaps you to DOS with a single keystroke. Once in the DOS shell, you can toggle between using it full screen, (just like working in normal DOS), and working in DOS in its own window within Windows, with Alt+Enter. To swap between the DOS shell and Windows, or other applications, use Alt+Tab. To leave the DOS shell and return to Windows, type exit at the DOS prompt. There are other applications in here which you will find useful at some time or another.

You cannot exit from Windows until all programs have been closed, so if you did not exit from the DOS-Shell, merely left it minimised, you will be asked to close it before Windows can close itself.

F3b: Accessories, Games and Applications Program Groups

Other groups which Windows creates in Program Manager (according to the Windows initialisation file) include the group Accessories, containing such things as a Notepad, a Recorder, a Media Player, a Calculator and Calendar, and others. A group called Games is usually found fairly quickly by most Windows users, and a group called Work Applications, for example, could be set up to include a users' favourite word processor, spreadsheet, and database.

F4: System Focus in Program Manager

The focus of the system is in the program group Main by default on opening Windows, (according to the Windows initialisation file), and as always, only one window can be active at a time. This means that only one of the group windows can be active at a time, shown on the screen by the blue title bar, and the others are white. In addition, once inside the group, only one program-item icon can be in focus (selected) at one time, shown with a highlight, and this may not always be the first icon in the group. The first program-item icon in the group Main might be the icon for the File Manager application.

F5: Looking at Icons Within One Program Group Window

To move the focus between icons within one particular Program group, you can use the direction cursor keys, or use the initial letter of the icon. Once the icon you require is highlighted (selected), you can start the program by pressing the return key.

F6: Moving the System Focus to Another Program Group Window

To change groups, for example, to look at icons in another group, you need to move the system focus from one group to another, thus making each one active in turn. You do this by pressing Ctrl+Tab, which moves the focus progressively through all the groups, both open and minimised. To go backwards, use Shift+Ctrl+Tab. Alternatively, use the Window item on the Program Manager menu bar to get a window listing, of all groups, open and minimised, and then select the group you want to go to from the pull-down menu. (You can specify the order you move through the groups using Ctrl+Tab in the Windows initialisation file.)

F7: Changing the Size and Shape of Program Group Windows

Particular groups might be open on your screen all the time, so that you can see program-item icons in these groups. But should you want to keep the group on the screen, but not have it taking up so much space, you can iconise the group window - also called minimising. Imagine taking an open book on your desk, and simply closing it, so that you can still see the title, but not any detail, and it takes much less room on your desk. (Removing the group altogether would be like putting the book back on the shelf.)

To minimise / iconise a group window, you must choose Minimise from the group's control menu (Alt+Hyphen, then N for minimise). The group window then becomes an icon near the bottom of the Program Manager window, with the name of the group, (previously shown on the title bar of the group) now underneath the icon. This iconised group can be restored or maximised using the control menu again.

In addition you can enlarge or reduce the size of the group window using the control menu. Choose Size (Alt+Hyphen, then S for size), then use one of the direction cursor keys first to select one edge of the frame, and then the direction cursor keys to move that edge to a new location. Press Return to drop the edge, and the group window will have changed shape.

If you wanted to enlarge the size of the program group window, to fill the whole Program Manager application window, (which may or may not already fill the whole screen), choose Maximise from the control menu of that group (Alt+Hyphen, then X for maximise).

F8: Saving Changes in Program Manager

If you make changes to the layout and/or organisation of Program Manager during a Windows session, you have the choice of saving them on exit, or using the last saved organisation the next time you start Windows. On the menu bar, under Options, the item from the pull-down menu "Save Settings On Exit" can be selected, by moving the highlight to this item, and then pressing Return. This will save the layout of Program Manager when you exit Windows. If you have chosen this item, a tick will appear in front of the text "Save Settings On Exit" on the pull-down menu. If you turn off this function, by choosing it again, the tick will disappear, and any changes you make to Program Manager will not be saved, and the organisation (from the last time you Saved Settings on Exit) will be presented when you next start Windows.

Alternatively, the Windows initialisation file specifies what groups are open when Windows starts, and in which order they can be accessed, and this file is configurable by the user.

Next section: What are dialogue boxes?

Previous section: Menus in more detail