PART 18: ORDER OUT OF CHAOS
A,B,D,C and so on
NeoDesk can show the contents of a root directory or folder in five different orders, sorting by name, date, size, type, and, in effect, none of the above. It is this last sort option that matters most, because it shows you the actual physical order of each file and folder in the disk directory. This is important because the Atari operating system loads and runs programs in the AUTO folder in the order that they are found in the directory. It also loads desk accessories in the order they are found in the boot disk's root directory. It does not use alphabetical order, as many users assume.
Among the mysteries of the way directory entries are ordered is a genuine oddity. Normally, directory entries are written anew each time a file is created in the folder or moved into it, with the latest additions taking up a directory slot at the end of the list. But this does not hold true if a file is deleted and another file is copied into the folder; the operating system sometimes will place the latest file's directory entry into the slot just vacated, and sometimes will put the new entry at the end.
The only way to know for sure what order the files are in is to view the list with the "No Sort" option turned on, under the "Sort" drop-down menu. This would hold only academic interest except for the "Reorder Items" option in the "Sort" menu, which lets you arrange the contents of a folder or a root directory in any way you like. When you click on "Reorder Items" a second time, NeoDesk rewrites the directory listing to match the exact order of files in the top desktop window.
Reordering files in the AUTO folder is a common activity among Atari users, and NeoDesk makes it easy. But NeoDesk 4 can also be used to reorder the desk accessories in the root directory of the boot disk, too, because of a second quirk in the way the ST, TT and Falcon operate. Desk accessories are not necessarily loaded in the order in which they appear in the "Desk" menu, even though the order that they load can be very important. MultiDesk Deluxe, for example, should always be loaded last. To make sure it loads last, place it at the bottom of the list of desk accessories using the "Reorder items" facility.
Finally, reordering a root directory or folder in any location has a further benefit. When NeoDesk 4 rewrites the directory, all the slots still occupied by deleted files and folders are cleared out. This makes directory searches appreciably faster; the difference in a directory with hundreds of files in it (and perhaps just as many deleted file entries) can be measured as a speedup of five times or even more.
However, keep in mind that this kind of directory cleanup eliminates most chances of restoring files that have been deleted. The rough-and-ready method of file restoration used by many utilities depends on the presence of a valid directory entry for every file that has been deleted -- which NeoDesk 4's reorder function eliminates.