Appendix G: How and where to look for help documentation

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Appendix G: How and where to look for help documentation

There have been many places in this book where I have drawn attention to the help available, but the following is a summary. Even where the help files are crystal clear, they tell you how to invoke the facilities, but not why you should (or should not). Crystal clarity is not only a matter of what was written: it is also a matter of what the reader understands at any point in time, and something that was crystal clear to the writer who understands everything may not be so transparent to a programmer using ClearWin+ for the first time.

Immediately accessible help for FTN95 and ClearWin+ is available if you are using Plato. There is also an online version of everything on the Silverfrost website. I prefer to use the FTN95.CHM compiled hypertext help file which for convenience I have copied onto my desktop along with the two enhancement files FTN95.ENH and CWPLUS.ENH, both of which can be read with the Notepad application or any other text editor.

The places that I look most frequently in the compiled hypertext help file are under the tab for ClearWin+, particularly the next tab Format code reference when I know the format code but need reminding of its particularities. The same goes for the Library reference, and both of these sections listings in alphabetical order. The rest of the tabs are useful if you don’t know what you’re looking for and are worth a read.

In years gone by, the documentation for the compiler was supplied into small format manuals. Digital versions of those old manuals can be downloaded from the Silverfrost website by finding and clicking on the Documentation link. The FTN95 user guide is a very substantial document so beware if you are thinking of printing it. There is also a FTN77 user’s guide and a FTN77 library reference (basically the original two-volume documentation) and a downloadable copy of the ClearWin+ Fortran Edition handbook. While the earlier documentation is sometimes very useful, you have to ignore all the references to DBOS and the BRIEF editor which was in vogue in the past. DBOS was the DOS extender facility that had to be used to access memory when the operating system MS-DOS and even Windows were based on 16-bit technology.

The WINDOWS.INS file basically calls three other include files. The files themselves are somewhat dense and relatively impenetrable but they do list all of the Windows functions and their interfaces so that they can be invoked in your Fortran program. ClearWin+ is of course a simpler interface, but when it does not provide a function that you know must exist in Windows your best chance of finding it is by looking in the include files for something that looks from its name as if it might fit the bill, and then go on to research what that function actually does by searching for it online in the MSDN website. (MSDN stands for MicroSoft Developer Network).

The enhancement files are always a useful place to look for ideas.

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