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RISC OS 6 in pictures

By Paul Stewart. Published: 18th Apr 2009, 21:09:16 | Permalink | Printable

Drobe writer Paul Stewart presents an illustrated round-up of his favourite features new to the RISC OS 6 desktop.

RISCOS Ltd gets fired at from all sides, it seems. There are those who have RISC OS 5 and are fed up with RISCOS Ltd saying: "Yes, we want to do RISC OS Select on Iyonix, but..." Then there are those who have subscribed to ROL's Select scheme, but the features they want have not been implemented or they are frustrated by a lack of progress. It is fair to say ROL has made a large number of improvements to the OS over the years and many of these are 'under the hood' that are not always immediately obvious to users. There have been a few obvious user-facing improvements since the release of RISC OS 6, as part of Select 5, so let’s take a look at these.

Improved Filer thumbnails
The Filer thumbnail view been available since RISC OS Adjust (aka 4.39) and has provided the Filer with the ability to display thumbnails of image files without the need to use third-party applications.

A Filer window with thumbnails of image files.

The Filer thumbnails feature was improved upon with the introduction of RISC OS 6 to allow the user to configure whether or not all images should be displayed and cached by default or just the ones visible to the user - which is very useful for a directory with many hundreds of images. One of the more recent updates to the thumbnails system is the option to allow the Filer to automatically decide whether it should display thumbnails or not. This is called 'automatic layout' and is present in RISC OS 6.14.

The Configure menu option to control Filer's thumbnail system.

Filer layout saving
Something that has been missing from RISC OS for years has been implemented, finally - the ability to save the view settings of Filer windows. Not only can the Filer save the sort-by and display settings for individual Filer windows, it can also allow sub-directories to inherit their parents' layout. This feature was recently introduced with Select 5i1 (RISC OS 6.14) and can be activated via Configure.

Keyboard shortcuts
In my opinion, these are long overdue. With RISC OS 6 came the ability to use the keyboard for many Filer operations. For example you can now delete files, create new folders, switch between open Filer windows and toggle the Filer window view, all at a press of a couple of buttons. No mouse interaction is required. Don’t forget to enable this from within the Filer applet in Configure. Staying with the keyboard, holding Alt and clicking on a file or folder name allows you to rename it, or you can use the shift-F3 shortcut. This is much easier than navigating Filer menus and it soon becomes second nature.

Paint and Draw
Over the past few years both Paint and Draw have been updated here and there. One noticeable update is that both can launch their own configuration panels from their respective iconbar icons. You can now easily set a large undo buffer in Draw and tweak many other options in both applications. The industry-standard Ctrl-C, Ctrl-X and Ctrl-V keyboard shortcuts to copy, cut and paste have been enabled. Thanks to the Image Filer Renderer system, both can import each other's formats as well as many others, a feature added to Select a few years ago.

Paint and Draw's new windows: from left, Paint's new toolbar along the top of the spritefile viewer, the supported formats menu list and the colour picker with the new CIELab model support, as used by Paint and Draw.

The spritefile viewer window in Paint now sports a seven-icon toolbar, which allow the user to save the spritefile, export a sprite, create a new sprite, delete a sprite, copy and paste a sprite and toggle the viewer layout. The colour picker has also been updated with the ability to choose from five different colour models: RGB, CMYK, HSV, CIELab or a user custom palette.

System configuration
Gone is the old way of double-clicking on the Boot application to configure the system. These days the Pinboard choices applet can be opened by hitting the middle mouse button anywhere on the Pinboard. The Filer configuration applet can be opened from any Filer window too. The Configure application is now accessible via the Switcher menu and double-clicking on Boot will open the Boot configuration tool.

From left: the Pinboard menu, the Switcher menu and the Filer menu showing the new Configure shortcut menu items.

Note the keyboard shortcuts on the menus. Once memorised, you can use the mouse for fewer common tasks.


Since the early days of RISC OS Select, the ability to adjust the appearance of filer and application windows has been present for users to play with - such as changing the borders of windows.

RISC OS 6 also offers 64,000-colour screen modes, which use the same amount of video memory as the 32K modes by being clever with the way the system stores colours for each pixel in the VRAM. Sprites can also be created with 64K colours per pixel.

A raft of updated and new configuration applets - such as the display output control panel in case a machine has graphics hardware other than the built-in VIDC20 chipset fitted, such as a Viewfinder or a Vpod (if it turns out to be a graphics card).

More updated control panels in Configure, showing the configuration for the sliding menus and other settings. Menus can be made to slide to the left if they are open too close to the right-hand side of the desktop where there isn't enough space for them.

When keyboard shortcuts are activate in a Filer window, files can be selected using the cursor keys, as this Filer window shows.

Slowly but surely, the RISCOS Ltd branch of the OS is being improved, both front and back of house. With cash from RISC OS Select subscribers and those of you purchasing the RISC OS 6 upgrade CD - not to mention all you guys going virtual with emulators - it will continue to be developed. I don’t expect lots of amazing new front-of-house features in every release - I appreciate small programming teams take time to get things done. Sometimes they have to build the boring stuff behind the scenes before they can produce that new user facing feature that relies on it.

If I've missed anything out, post a comment below and share with Drobe your favourite new features.


RISC OS 6 website Thanks to Andy Poole for additional screenshots.

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A great article! Thanks for doing this. Most of the new features I'd already become aware of, but there are some in there that I didn't know about. And it's nice to see some positive comment about ROL!

There's just one caveat for me... Though I'm a Select subscriber, I'm also an a9home owner. In other words, I would love to use these features on my machine, but can't. Very frustrating!

More and more I'm pinning my hopes on the emergence of an ARM-powered netbook and the success of the Cortex port currently underway over at ROOL. That would probably steer me away from my a9 for good.

 is a RISC OS Userwpb on 19/4/09 5:08AM
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Great article thanks!

This is the sort of thing ROL should have on their website as it helps end users and potential customers to understand the improvements.

I agree with the comment about the A9home by wpd. I'm sure many people would love to have these improvements on the A9home and I am also sure it would help select a few machines too.

 is a RISC OS Userstevek on 19/4/09 7:31AM
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The odd question arises...

1. Why did ROL never manage to supply such an information outlining the end-user features to try to convince more 3.7-users to upgrade to Select?

2. Is this article outlining the new features of the most current Select compared to the previous version or of RO6 compared to RO4?

 is a RISC OS Userhzn on 19/4/09 8:56AM
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In reply to hzn,

The article is looking at a few features that ROL have built into their branch of RISC OS both from the early days of Select right upto the current 5i1 release. It is not intended as a comparison to previous releases or an indepth feature list of 5i1.

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 19/4/09 9:05AM
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Well, I do think ROL has a feature list on their website for each update. However most of the ROL website is a huge mess and needs updating instantly for example the bulk load of info still dates to 1999 of the original RO4 update. " RISC OS 4 is 99.9% Millennium compliant when run on any existing ARM based Acorn machines." Hooray that was ten years ago! It also states that they will make the software 32 bit in 12 months.

 is a RISC OS Userhighlandcattle on 19/4/09 10:27AM
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Nice job Paul, thanks.

Perhaps ROL can get permission to publish (some aspects of) this article on their website, purely for informational purposes. I just hope the riscosboss doesn't object to this article, as being associated with 'RISC OS bashers' or whatever.

One major reason RISC OS 6 / Six (Select 5i1 / Adjust 32 / etc.) doesn't get the attention it deserves, is because ROL are too lame to renew their website. The decade old design and dated and scattered content is so off-putting, that people just don't make the effort to look further. This is so unbelievably stupid, that it defies belief!

And how is it possible that RISC OS 6 is still not available for the latest machine, namely the A9home? Somehow I can persuade myself to come to terms that it's beyond ROL to bring it to the best we have, the Iyonix, but why not the (code-compatible) A9?!

 is a RISC OS UserhEgelia on 19/4/09 3:19PM
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"Alt and clicking on a file or folder name allows you to rename it,"

Hasn't this been around since RO4?

 is a RISC OS UserIvanDobski on 20/4/09 10:58AM
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Good article. These look like very useful features, and it's good to see ongoing development.

In common with other posters, though, I'm worried about ROL's own presentation of its products. The website hardly inspires confidence (compare with, e.g., ROOL or MW Software). The other thing ROOL has going for it is an active and highly visible project to port to newer hardware.

It's a real shame we have to choose. RO6 looks very polished and nice, whereas RO5 has a clearer and more visible development plan (IMO).

 is a RISC OS Userlym on 20/4/09 11:50AM
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ROL lost a lot of hardware on their way - the various ARM7500 machines (Mico, RiscStation) as well as the Omega and various ViewFinder RiscPC variants. Kinetic users also had many problems. And now also the A9. It's a shame. I understand the complexity of handling different hardware variants, but does it really help our market if RISC OS Six only runs on most Risc PCs and emulator solutions?

 is a RISC OS Userhubersn on 20/4/09 1:03PM
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Compared to the various major new features in Select 1 (DHCP, Joliet in CDFS, Multi User Boot), Select 2 (mouse wheel support, CMYK sprites, Image File Renderer) and Select 3 (global text Cut&Paste, filer keyboard control, alpha sprites, filter thumbnailing with the IFR, ZeroConf networking, trashcan), progress seems to be very slow. HALing and 32bitting the OS was certainly a lot of work, but why the many RiscPC and emulator RISC OS owning people had to pay for it, I don't know. Having read through all the available material regarding RISC OS Six, I am still not sure which major feature was added between Select 3/Adjust and the latest 6.12 (Select 5) apart from upping the version number. ROLs website is really a bad joke.

 is a RISC OS Userhubersn on 20/4/09 3:48PM
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Yes that list is there and you can even see when in which source code member references to Acorn were removed or when it was changed to work with a differenc assemler - that really helps making the change count high....

But it is not end-user friendly! I know of some 3.7 users who stuck to 3.7 to some extent due to lack of being convinced and the changes lists from ROL were no help. Some of them upgraded after I told them what they'd get - focussing on what they get as "just" end-users, i.e. they just use RISC OS and thus don't care about programming features etc.

 is a RISC OS Userhzn on 20/4/09 6:11PM
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I couldn't have put it better!

 is a RISC OS Userhzn on 20/4/09 6:24PM
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Triggered by the discussion and just for fun I went to ROL's homepage... and followed the link to Select. What you get is a page about "Select 4" from 2007. Well that does kind of match the hardware they support :-) But if you start reading since you're into history you do find a discreet link to RISC OS Six. Tricky one...

OK so I followed that link and looked for the end-user features (opposed to the programmer's features) on ROSix site.

First End user feature mentioned is 32/26 bit - followed by a block labelled technical features (things about the kernel ...) and a long module list. As an end-user I'd stop reading just now assuming that if that are the top key end-user features I couldn't care less!

And I assume that quite a few users having a well working RISC OS something (be it 3.x or 4.x) seeing these main ROSix end-user features put their money elswhere - there are quite a few interesting offering for RO available.

But you can even better this since the list (I'm still in the end-user features list) continues with technical stuff mainly .. and when I thought, wow, here comes really something for an end-user all I get is the info like "There is a separate user document covering !Paint in the RISCOS6.Documents directory." That helps.

OK, if the user did not give up yet, the next thing to check is if it will run on his or her system. So off to the FAQ.

The first question, what is RO6, you see a list of computers and the note "Complete support for some of these computers may require additional software development which has not yet been undertaken." That helps since they prefer to not even tell you which ones are completely supported!

Then in the next block about the comptuers RO6 will be available for you can read "The full Select 4 Issue 4 release is a softload suitable for Risc PC, A7000 and Virtual Acorn products".

Yes, they tell you about comptuers running Select 4 and further down that RO6 is something different...

Only for one piece of hardware you get a definitive information: IYONIX pc! It does not run on that one. And for a few like Omega, Mico and R7500 you can read that they will not be officially supported.

So for Risc PC, A7000, VirtualPRC, A9home, to name the main ones, you can just hope/guess/assume :-)

IMHO, if ROL really wants to sell ROSix they should think about trying to convince the users of older RO versions and assume that quite a few of those are just users - not programmers or users not knowing where to put their money!

Lucky me with an IYONIX pc since when friends ask me about what RO is I can always point them to ROOL's site...

 is a RISC OS Userhzn on 20/4/09 6:51PM
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Threadjack! Has RO5.14 already been released? BTW THe Castle website is not much better, it looks like they are still selling the Iyonix

 is a RISC OS Userhighlandcattle on 20/4/09 10:30PM
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As Castle now seem to have limited interest in the RO market it's not such a problem.

 is a RISC OS UserIvanDobski on 21/4/09 1:36PM
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Yes, the site simply is a mess, but in all fairness I don't think RISCOS Ltd is taking our comments seriously. Criticism on the design of their website date back for years, but it has only become worse. ROL just doesn't seem to listen to comments here, however constructive they may be. After all, this is a 'RISC OS basher' website.

I completely understand your comment - their site is a relic, a labyrinth of incomplete, dated, unclear and misleading information. I don't think many RISC OS users visit often or are happy with it. Like you said, when asked about RISC OS, I refer to either the ROOL site or Wikipedia. It's just a great shame RISCOS Ltd occupy the riscos.com domain with such a mess. They seem to live in their own little world, without any concept on the importance of a decent website - especially in a tiny market with users scattered all around the world. As we both pointed out in the past, not everyone can easily make it to the various trade shows.

 is a RISC OS UserhEgelia on 21/4/09 5:20PM
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It's tempting to say that if it's a choice between an all bangs and whistles website and getting on with developing the code that is RISC OS, I'd support developing the code. <BR> ...BUT... <BR> ...it is time to replace the existing site with a small, straight forward effort that just focuses on a few key aspects, like this excellent article does. That need only be a one-week job for someone who knew what they were doing... <BR> I suggest ROL get it on their "to do" list...

 is a RISC OS Usermartin on 22/4/09 9:58AM
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Its not really a choice because both are important. A decent website is likely to provide more in resources as it might improve sales, or at least convince existing subscribers to persevere.

Your website is your public face and main way to communicate. Paul's articles are brilliant its a shame that sort of material is not on the riscos.com site.

 is a RISC OS Usermarkee174 on 23/4/09 7:49AM
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I definitely agree that both are very important. A decent website will provide necessary resources, but will also encourage more users to (re)subscribe. I'm sure of that. Being the riscos.com domain, it will also be a first stop for the curious looking what RISC OS is all about. At the moment, it does more to turn these people away than to welcome them.

Nowadays a regularly updated, coherent and stylish website is crucial for your business. The easier and clearer to navigate towards points of interest, the better. It should be informative, whilst keeping the level of detail neat, clean and moderate. At the same time it should project an image of professionalism and competency. ROL's current website fails to accomplish this, therefore it fails to address the needs of (potential) customers. This inevitably leads to lost mindshare and sales. A superb way of doing it right is Apple's introductory page for Mac OS X - [link]

Paul's articles do an excellent job in communicating the various developments of RISC OS Select to the public, while keeping the technical level at a minimum. This makes it all much clearer and easier to understand what RISCOS Ltd has actually achieved. I wouldn't be surprised in the least if ROL receives new applications for Select by people who've read this article. So, yes, stuff like this needs to be on the riscos.com site.

 is a RISC OS UserhEgelia on 23/4/09 2:22PM
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I guess the major new features of RISC OS 6 are the Keyboard shortcuts, 64K colour mode, sliding menus, ability to save/inherit filer layouts and CIELab colour model.

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 23/7/09 10:29PM
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