by June 16, 2001 0 comments

Last month, we discussed the origin of BeOS. This time we will find out how to use its common features. 

Installing BeOS

BeOS can be downloaded from the BeOS website ( You have a choice between two versions–the free Personal Edition or the Professional Edition. The Personal Edition is a fully functional version of the BeOS (this article was written entirely in it), with the only limitation being its file system’s size. You can only have a 500 MB file system. This version works out of Windows, and installing it is a snap. Double-click the Beo5.exe file in Windows and an installation wizard installs it with the minimum of prompts. BeOS installs easily into a Windows partition. After the installation finishes, you’ll find icons to start BeOS on your desktop as well as in the Start menu. 

Understanding and configuring the GUI

The BeOS GUI has some similarities with Windows. It has a BeOS button and a panel similar to the start button and taskbar in Windows. BeOS by default does not arrange these as Windows, but it can be done easily. For this, right-click on the ridged corner (near the time display) and holding the mouse button down, drag it to where you want it on the screen.

Clicking the BeOS button brings up a menu similar to the Programs menu with neatly arranged sections. Editing this menu is simply a matter of choosing the Configure Menu option after which a Menu Editor comes to your help. The menu features a Recent Documents section which tracks recently opened files, and more significantly, it has a Recent Programs section which tracks recently opened programs. 

The windows in BeOS have a little title bar containing two buttons. The left one closes the window, while the one on the right maximizes or restores it. You can customize the look and configuration of the title bar through ‘Be Themes’. You can minimize a window by double-clicking the title bar. All minimized applications end up in the panel at the bottom. A nice feature in BeOS is that you can move a window around by grabbing any part of its border. 

Navigating the file system and installing software

The BeOS has a file system interface called Tracker, which is similar to Mac OS Finder and even Windows Explorer. It neatly displays all folder icons and a choice of views. A neat feature here is the way it handles other file systems. You can simply right-click on the desktop and mount a remarkably vast array of systems from your computer, starting from your CD-ROM drive to your DOS and Linux partition to even your Linux swap partition. Once mounted, you can open it like any other folder and perform read and write operations. You can also configure it to mount certain partitions at boot time. 

It’s easy to install software in BeOS with its default applications. There is the ‘Expand-O-Matic’ to extract zipped software. Be’s equivalent to file associations in Windows is called Identification. If you want to open a certain type of file with a particular application, right-click on it and choose Identify. 

Changing the look

Be gives you a wide variety of options to customize the desktop. You can set a desktop wallpaper by right-clicking it. You can download exciting icon packs for your desktop and even certain applications from The real fun though is in ‘Themes’, which really give you fantastic control over the appearance and feel of the OS. To use Themes, you first need to download Be Theme available from
. To use a ‘Theme’ simply copy the extracted theme to the Themes directory of Be Theme. One particularly nifty option is the ability to modify the title bar to that of Mac OS, Windows, or Linux style. If you get a message about possible problems with the app server when installing a theme, don’t panic. Usually, this doesn’t create any problems, and the changes only come into effect after a restart.

Troublesome crashes

What happens when a buggy application decides to crash and freeze your system? Well BeOS does not let one little application bring it down. All you have to do is press the standard Ctrl-Alt-Del sequence and from the ‘Team Monitor’ task list that comes up select the task you would like ended. 


BeOS ships with a capable little browser called NetPositive. You could always try Opera for the BeOS, available from www.bebits. com. NetPositive however is suitable for browsing most websites. Plug-ins like Flash are also available for

E-Mail and newsgroups

BeOS ships with an e-mail client, called Be Mail, which is a simple barebones piece of software. Better alternatives are easily available, like iScribe
( or Scooby
( There is no default newsgroup reader for BeOS. For this, you can download Be Informed from app/1410

IRC and instant messaging 

For traditional IRC, you can get your hands on Baxter–an excellent chat client for BeOS–from With support for themes and skins, and an interface that essentially resembles mIRC you will soon be able to IRC with confidence. Moving to instant messaging, for ICQ there is a functional client called ICMB ICQ available from ICMB ICQ is the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile ICQ client (talk about excessive creativity). Besides, a few basic ICQ features it also claims to be the first and only legally exportable Intercontinental Ballistic Missile from the US.

As for AOL Instant Messenger, BeAIM is an excellent client that unlike the ICQ one above is a thorough clone of the original Windows application. BeAIM has an interface very similar to the Windows version and supports all major features. To make the deal sweeter, its interface contains many refinements over the Windows version and is far more elegant. You can get it from

A server called Poor Man

Be ships with a personal Web server called ‘Poor Man’, which is easy to configure. To launch it, click on the BeOS button and choose Applications. You can configure a host of options like the maximum number of clients allowed and location of your HTML documents.

Shiv Chaddha

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