AmiDock: The Original 1-Click Application Dock for Amiga
Posted: Fri Feb 07, 2020 9:44 am
At some point between 1988 and 1991, a man named Gary Knight from St Louis, Missouri, saw a NeXT Computer.
The NeXT Computer was a very expensive UNIX-based workstation that had a black and white PostScript GUI desktop and die-cast magnesium “Cube” case. The NeXT is credited to have been the machine used by Tim Berners-Lee in the development of the first web server and web browser. It’s also what Doom and Quake were developed on by id Software.
In any case, one of the details that stuck with Mr. Knight was a customizable little row of icons on the desktop that could launch hand-picked programs with a single click. This row of icons would be come to be known as a Dock. Wanting that same functionality for his Amiga, Mr. Knight created a small but powerful application he named AmiDock. And it functions exactly as the NeXT version does. (Yes, I realize I just changed the verb tense there; I often must write in the past and present when it come to Amiga.) He made his software shareware, meaning it could be copied and distributed far and wide as long as no one charged others for it. However, if you sent Mr. Knight $25 he would mail you an official disk with a few more whistles and bells.
I happen to have one of those floppy disks. My disk is version 1.4.7 from December of 1991. The software can also be found on Aminet (but it is version 1.3 from July 1991). I should upload my version to Aminet… Download AmiDock v.1.4.7 Here
Folks - after using AmiDock with my machines I can’t imagine using a daily-driver Amiga without it anymore. It’s that great. If you have Deluxe Paint, you can easily customize it to meet your personal needs. For those that are interested, the following post is a quick “How-To” for installation, editing and customizing your own AmiDock to your own liking.
And the great thing? It’s not all about running on the latest and greatest Amiga with bonkers upgrades. At the time it was created in 1991, it could work on every Amiga: 1000, 500, 2000, 2500, 3000 with any amount of memory - and that includes stock machines with zero additions. It seems to have no impact on my machine’s performance and works beautifully on Workbench 1.2, 1.3 and 2.0. Take that!
Commodore should have bought/taken Mr. Knight’s work and made it a permanent part of 3.0 and beyond. They just should have. It could have come pre-installed with programs that worked out of the box, too, but still been editable to one’s heart’s content.
You will need to move a few files and folders from the disk to your Amiga’s hard drive (or Workbench disk if you’re running 1.2 sans HDD). I used DOpus for my installation and it made it a very simple process. If any of these steps seem strange or hard to understand, simply watch the embedded video above as I walk through the whole process.
The following steps are taken directly from the original 1991 Readme file written by Mr. Gary Knight.
1) You will need a copy of the arp.library in your LIBS: directory. This has been included on the disk. AmiDock uses the arp.library for it's file requester.
2) You will need to copy the AmiDock program to your C: directory.
3) Copy the Dock directory to your hard drive or your WorkBench Boot Floppy. The Dock directory contains the following files and directories:
<misc brush files>
<misc brush files>
4) Lastly assign DOCK: to the directory where the configuration file and the brushes are kept. This will be either the "Dock/Interlace/Maindock/" directory or the "Dock/Non-Interlace/Maindock/" directory depending on if you run your workbench in interlace mode or not. The only difference in the files are the size of the brushes. The interlace versions are larger than the non-interlace ones. Either one will work on any screen (interlaced or not).
AmiDock when run from the workbench uses the DOCK: assignment to find its config file and brushes. This assignment should be added to your startup-sequence (AmigaLove: or user-startup file). AmiDock will also use the DOCK: directory if run from the CLI with no argument given. The only argument AmiDock takes is the path to its config file.
Now, you can either launch the program from the CLI at this point, or you can have it automatically load every time you launch your Amiga. This is what I did, and to get this set up I modified my User-Startup file in S:
Again, I walk through how to set the Assign and auto-launch commands in the video above for those that want to do the same. (I love it.) It launches so quickly, it actually loads before the rest of my Workbench chrome.
Adding and Removing Applications from the AmiDock
If you click on the little upper-left corner of the AmiDock, this will activate it and gain you access to its Workbench menus by right-clicking on your screen.
When you first launch the program it will be loaded with some predefined programs and buttons. Some of them will work right out of the box: CLI & Calculator. None of the others will work, though, because (most likely) none of their directory paths will match your machine’s.
If you want to keep and use some of the pre-installed non-Workbench programs in your AmiDock, all you have to do is activate the dock then select “Edit” from the top menu. This will launch a pop-up where you can re-define the paths to the programs you want to fix and get them working and a corresponding brush (aka icon) to go with each. Thankfully, the program comes with several pre-made brush files you can browse through and choose from. In addition, on Aminet the earlier 1.3 version of AmiDock has far more brushes to use - and that includes several icons most will want to use at first just to get up and running. If you grab both 1.4.7 and 1.3, most should be well-covered in the early stages.
When you launch the Edit pop-up, you should click the “Load” button to find the relevant program(s) on your hard drive to repair the directory paths, as it will save a lot of time and headache.
At the bottom of the pop-up window you’ll see three radio buttons to select between Brush, Text & Icon. The default is Brush and frankly it’s the only option that works. Text and Icon are placeholders for future upgrades that don’t exist on my disk. Considering my version is newer than the one on Aminet, that version probably doesn’t support Text or Icons, either, but I never installed it to find out. While it would have been cool to use IconMaster to make icon files for AmiDock, you can use a program like Deluxe Paint. In fact, I believe this is what everyone did since AmiDock only supports Brush files, which is a hallmark of Deluxe Paint.
Brush files are really just another type of icon file and you create them quite easily.
The best way to get started is to load a pre-existing brush file from your MainDock folder. Once loaded, use the Deluxe Paint magnifier tool to zoom into the artwork and make whatever changes you like while keeping the original dimensions intact. Once you’re done, you use the Brush tool to click and drag a rectangle over your icon. Make sure you select it perfectly. Once you’re done, that icon will now be a brush and will move along the screen with your mouse cursor. You then go to the Brush menu in Deluxe Paint and ‘Save’ that brush file. Give it a new name and put it in your MainDock folder.
At that point you can load the brush file in AmiDock for whatever program you made it for. Voila!
On the disk there are also very image files with large numbers of icons baked into a single image. The idea here is to load them with Deluxe Paint and just grab the icons you want as new brush files in the same manner described above. For example, you might open an image in Deluxe Paint with 30 icons in a grid. You would click on the brush tool (what we call the Clone tool in Photoshop) and select one icon out of the 30. Once it is loaded, you go to the Brushes menu and Save it. Boom! Instant icon you didn’t have to draw yourself. It’s a nice, quick and dirty way to get your own AmiDock up and running if you don’t want to draw your own stuff.
If there’s any interest, I may release my own custom brushes (aka icons) in the future.
Download AmiDock v.1.4.7 Here
All of the icons on the disk I ran into were designed for 2.0 (gray color scheme). If you want to use them in 1.3 and “Old Blue,” you may feel the need to invert the colors so they play nice with 1.3 if that’s your preferred OS.
If you’re looking at a 2.0 icon and want to convert it to the 1.3 color scheme directly, this color guide might come in handy for you.
If Black in 2.0 —> change to White (to make it black in 1.3)
If White in 2.0 —> change to Black (to make it white in 1.3)
Gray background color in 2.0 = Blue background color in 1.3
Gray/Blue in 2.0 = Orange in 1.3
AmiDock was also made for more modern versions of Workbench, but it’s not clear to me if Gary Knight was involved. I know for a fact there was something called AmiDock made for OS 3.0 packed onto a cover disk in the UK. I think it was an Amiga Format magazine cover disk. I don’t know who the author might have been for it. Also, Amiga OS 3.9 and 4.0 had an exactly-named “AmiDock” as part of the OS, with many more colors and features. There are also some brush sets available on Aminet for both AmiDock and a competing program called ToolManager, which I believe was made for 2.1+ Oses. I believe ToolManager and 3.9/4.0 AmiDock were both created by the same developer, Stefan Becker, in Germany. If you use a more modern Workbench you should check those programs out as they sound very similar, quite cool and even offer some keyboard shortcuts and sound effects.