PART 1: GENEVA'S PARTNER
Why half a loaf may not be better than noneNeoDesk 4 was born to mate with Geneva. Gribnif Software created Geneva, its multitasking environment, when NeoDesk was still at version 3. This version was quickly updated to support Geneva's multitasking -- allowing NeoDesk 3.04 to run multiple applications when Geneva was running -- but it was clear that NeoDesk 3.04 was an aging and inflexible companion for the lean and powerful Geneva. The need for a modern multitasking desktop was fulfilled in NeoDesk 4, which takes advantage of Geneva in dozens of ways.
To put it plainly, running NeoDesk 4 without Geneva is like eating the frosting without the cake. Although NeoDesk 4 is able to multitask its own desktop file-and-disk operations without Geneva, it cannot do them at all while another application is running unless Geneva is present. NeoDesk 4 can, for example, format a floppy disk while it copies files from one folder to another whether or not Geneva is running, but limiting multitasking to that kind of operation turns the NeoDesk desktop into little more than a multitasking file manager and single-tasking program launcher.
Geneva is much more than a multitasking environment, of course. Technically, it is a replacement for the Atari's Application Environment Services, which provides the "look and feel" of the computer's operating system, among other things. Geneva's enhancements include the ability to put any program or desk accessory to sleep (freeing up the display and the processor's resources), a new set of program flags to control how each application is run, the ability to tear off GEM menus so they can be floated on the desktop, flexible control over system fonts and type sizes, assignable hotkeys to bring any running application to the foreground (or to open any desk accessory), complete keyboard manipulation of all menus, an advanced file selector that offers copy and delete functions in addition to unparalleled search operations, a 3D look for all GEM dialog boxes, single-keypress actuation of dialog and alert choices and much more -- all in addition to its built-in multitasking.
This is not to say that NeoDesk 4 cannot be successfully employed without Geneva. On Ataris that do not have even the moderate amount of extra memory (much less than 200 kilobytes) that Geneva requires, or on Ataris that are dedicated to a single task (running a BBS, for example), a Geneva-less NeoDesk may make sense. And everyone who owns Geneva and NeoDesk and uses a boot manager (software that lets you choose which programs and accessories are run at bootup) probably will have one or two configurations in which Geneva is bypassed in order to play older games or run odd software that won't behave on a modern system.
But my message should be made as clearly as possible: If you own NeoDesk 4 and have not yet added Geneva to your Atari, you are missing out on the single most significant advance in Atari computing since the introduction of the ST itself. And you are also likely to be disappointed in many of the sections of this guide to NeoDesk 4, because it generally addresses NeoDesk 4 as the indispensable partner of Geneva.