Exploring RISC OS on the Raspberry Pi

Drag & Drop

RISC OS makes extensive use of the drag & drop method for tasks like saving, loading, and moving files. As a rule, the system also makes it possible to drag files to the active application in the icon bar and open them. As an alternative, it is usually sufficient to double-click with the Select button.

A file selection dialog like those in Windows, Linux, or Mac OS X is not known to RISC OS. Likewise, RISC OS does not decorate filenames with an extension. Instead, RISC saves file type information as metadata, along with the time stamp or specific filesystem attributes.

You can also copy files from one folder to another with drag & drop. When copying is carried out with the right mouse button Adjust, the source window will close once the task is complete. Press on the shift key to move the file instead of copying it.

The RISC OS Menu

The RISC OS menu is hidden behind the raspberry icon at the far right of the icon bar. Among the entries found in the task manager menu, Task Manager, you will find entries to shut down the system, start the configuration application, or open the Task window.

Using Select on the task window icon opens the Task Manager (Figure 6). The manager displays the currently running applications and modules, as well as the resource consumption.

Figure 6: The Task Manager provides an overview of resource consumption and the programs currently running on the system.

You can reach some of the functions on the RISC OS menu by using various shortcut keys. For example, Cmd+F12 opens a new task window. Using Shift+Cmd+F12 shuts down the system.

A Summary of RISC OS Special Features

In spite of its similarities in appearance with popular operating systems like Linux, Mac OS X, or Windows, the paradigms and the operation of RISC OS are actually quite different from the other systems.

  • The left mouse button in RISC OS is called Select; the right button is called Adjust. As a rule, one click with Adjust triggers a variation of the primary action that you can reach with one click on Select. The middle mouse button is called Menu, because a click of this button opens a context-sensitive menu.
  • A click on a window gives it the input focus, which you can recognize by the yellow colored title bar. However, giving a window the input focus does not automatically put the window in the foreground.
  • If you move a window with the Adjust button, the window will remain in its current level. If you use the Select button, the window will come to the foreground.
  • Just as with windows, menus are moved by dragging the title bar.
  • RISC OS uses drag & drop extensively, in particular when saving files.
  • The system saves file types as metadata in the filesystem instead of as an extension of the filename.
  • RISC OS uses a period to separate directories instead of the forward slash used in Linux or the backward slash used in Windows.
  • RISC OS has special directories for its applications, and the name of a directory starts with an exclamation mark, or in RISC OS parlance, a pling.

For the user just beginning with RISC OS, it will take some time to get used to these differences, in particular, the way in which RISC OS handles window and filesystem operations.

Online sources

Castle Technology authorized the RISC OS Open Ltd [6] to maintain the source code for RISC OS. You will find updated information on the system in the RISC OS history [7].

Look online for archives of RISC World, the former CD magazine for RISC OS. The Acorn User Magazine was published in Great Britain but no longer exists, but you can download many of its back issues in PDF format.

The Author

Volkert Barr bought an Acorn A5000 when he was studying computer science. Not long afterwards, he bought a RISC PC. From the beginning, he was fascinated by the efficient ARM architecture and the extremely fast RISC OS. After a 15-year break he has returned to RISC OS. Now a father of two small daughters, he works as an IT architect and lives with his family near the High Rhine river area in Germany.

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