This “Beginner's Corner” article about the CIS personal file area appeared in the April 1985 issue of Online Today, CompuServe's magazine for CIS subscribers.
by Alex Krislov
If you’re anything like me, you have plenty of files. File cabinets filled to the brim, disks overflowing with data, paper stacked from the desktop to the ceiling — files, files and more files!
Using those files online can run into a lot of money. When you upload (send) a file to the network, or download (retrieve) a file from the network, your charges mount up, minute by minute. The answer, naturally, is to maintain some of those files right on the network, where you can get at them without incurring higher bills each time you want to use them.
All CompuServe subscribers have a private filing area, known as their “personal workspace.” Many, however, never learn just what to do with it. The filing area is not like other programs. It isn’t self-driven. Unless you deliberately use it, it remains empty.
So, then, what kinds of files would you store in the workspace? To begin with, mail files. If you‘ve used the electronic mailing system on CompuServe (now known as “EasyPlex”), you’ll have noticed that you can store mail in your “filespace,” or retrieve a file from your filespace and send it via EasyPlex.
If you can compose your electronic mail offline, on your own word processor, you should, to save time and money. But if you have one letter to send to a number of people, you’ll save more money by sending it from your workspace any number of times after loading it into the mailing system just once (via the USE command, or through the EasyPlex menu).
You can also use your filespace to convert files from one computer language to another. For example, I have two different telecommunications packages. One produces files in Integer BASIC, while the other sticks exclusively to p-system Pascal textfiles. Alas, these two languages are not compatible! I can’t convert a Pascal file into Integer without a go-between.
When a Pascal file needs translation, therefore, I send it to my filespace from the p-system software. Then I logoff the network, log back on using my Integer BASIC software and retrieve the file. The “new” file is Integer BASIC. Naturally, this process works with as many different computer protocols as you can find telecommunications software for.
These are not limitations on your workspace, though. They’re just a few of many possibilities. The filespace might hold longer files than your home software can handle, having a 128K limit. Or you might want to make more than one copy of a file and edit each copy slightly differently. The filespace will hold anything you want to load into it. It’s your filespace; its use is limited only by your imagination.
[Ed. note: 128K was the total limit for your personal file area, not a per-file limit, although you got 192,000 characters if you had the Executive Option. Those numbers corresponded to 200 and 300 blocks, respectively.]
Your personal filing area can run in two modes: menu-driven and command mode. The latter has the ease of speed, but requires knowledge. To gain that knowledge, you must start from the “File Management” menu on page CIS-174.
Let’s look over the menu, item by item. First, the “brief catalog of files” (item one) is exactly that. It will list each of your files by name, with no other information. The result looks something like this:
PLAIN VANILL.A PROG.TXT
Item two, “Detailed directory of files” yields far more useful information. A typical line looks like this:
PLAIN 18 01:54 17-FEB-85 20-FEB-85 (4)
“PLAIN” is the name of the file, which you’ll need before you work with it. The “18” tells you the size; remember that your workspace stores blocks of information, not bytes. That “18” denotes a relatively large file, not a mere 18 characters! The time and date reveal when you created the file, either directly or by storing a piece of mail. The second date notes when you last accessed the file, either by reading, downloading, typing or editing it. Finally, the “(4)” shows how well protected from intrusion the file is. You can raise or lower the protection for your own purposes.
The third item on the menu, “Create and edit files via Edit,” allows you to open a new file, or enter an old one. Edit allows you to work without line numbers or other encumberances; you just type the information right into the workspace, or send it right from your home computer software. Edit has the advantage of working in plain English (or whatever other language you speak). No special computer processes are required.
The next three items are simple. Number four, “Type a file’s contents,” simply types out the file. Number five, “Delete a file,” removes older, unused deadwood from your filespace. Number six, “Rename a file,” will change your filename, if you so desire.
Seventh on the menu, “Copy a file,” allows you to make duplicates of your file for further manipulation. Suppose you’ve created a program online. Changes occur to you — but you fear they might not work as you hope. Just make a copy of your program file, and, invoking menu item three, use Edit to enter the changes into the copy! Your original file remains inviolate, and your new file gives you room to experiment.
Number eight will upgrade or downgrade your “protection.” Lowering protection can open a file to others, allowing your friends to copy the file at your behest. Raising it not only protects it from copying, but also decreases the chances of your fiddling with it by accident. In general, though, a protection level of “(4)” will suit your purposes.
If you have the right software, you can invoke menu item nine, “Upload or download a file.” Uploading and downloading allows you to use common computer protocols to send or retrieve a file at high speed, while your computer watches for errors in transmission. On CompuServe, the DEC standard, XMODEM transfers and Vidtex are all supported. If you lack these protocols, just type your file out with menu item four.
Printing a file (item 10) tells CompuServe to make a printed copy of your file, which you’ll receive in the mail. Remember, this will cost you extra cash! That dollar sign next to menu item 10 is your tip-off to charges above and beyond CompuServe’s basic rates.
Finally, item 11 sends you to “command mode.” Once you’ve mastered the rest of the menu, invoke this command. Until you’re comfortable with filespace commands, the menu will allow you all the versatility you need. When you’re ready, item 11 is your graduation to true mastery of the system.
Alex Krislov is a free-lance writer from Cleveland. His CompuServe User ID number is 70007,2130.