Most computers these days have some form of "front end" on their operating systems and QLs are no exception.

There have been various attempts at some forms of front ends from the very early days of the QL. Rumours abounded from day 1 that Sinclair Research Ltd had sought co-operation with the company which produced the GEM desktop (known from the ATARI ST/TT/Falcon range of computers and from the PC) to put a version on a QL, although this project never reached fruition.

Early attempts included software such as ICE (standing for Icon Controlled Environment) from Eidersoft, QATS (QL Application Traffic Supervisor) and EASE. Some of these systems used a mouse, although they were usually proprietary devices.

In around 1987, QJUMP launched the pointer environment, consisting of three files, PTR_GEN (a device driver for handling an on-screen cursor using either the cursor keys or a mouse), WMAN (a window manager which allows jobs to be brought to the front and stop jobs whose windows are hidden in the backgroun) and HOT_REXT (an ALTKEY hot key system where tasks and commands can be assigned to key combinations).

This quickly became the accepted standard, particularly in conjunction with either the QIMI (QL Internal Mouse System), which could be added separately, or was built into some versions of the SuperQBoard, or even a serial mouse.

The following Front Ends support the pointer interface mouse control: QRAM, QPAC2, QTop, Qascade, CueShell, QDT and Launchpad.

These days, the main front end systems are QDT by Jim Hunkins, and Launchpad by Dilwyn Jones, with several people also using Qascade by Jonathan Hudson, all relying on the QJUMP pointer environment.

It is also worth checking out the collection of front end programs available from the Sinclair QL Homepage as many former commercial titles have been released as freeware by the copyright owners.

There are a number of simpler program launchers, such as Qascade by Jonathan Hudson, which is a sort of start menu program which lives in the QPAC2 button frame. Other useful little utilities include Oliver Fink's Launcher (which finds all executable programs in a given directory and lets you choose one to start by listing them in a menu), Q-Starter (fairly similar to Launcher) and DEV Manager, a pointer driven launcher which lets you create lists of programs and settings so that you can have a single menu listing your favourite programs for quick and easy execution.

QL Today magazine carried a useful little review of these programs, in Volume 10 Issue 1 (June 2005) pages 48 to 52. These and other older QL front ends are widely available from PD software libraries and QL-related websites.

If you are a pointer environment user, it makes sense to use some form of front end to save having to remember old fashioned command lines to start programs. Why type repetitively when a couple of mouse clicks can do the same thing in less time and typing!

More information

  • EASE - based on GEM - also known as GigaDesk.
  • ICE - Icon Controlled Environment
  • JAM - Job Application Manager
  • Launchpad - Desktop system for use with or without the Pointer Environment
  • MDesk - Early application by Medic
  • QasCade - QL equivalent of Microsoft's START button
  • QATS - QL Application Traffic Supervisor
  • QDT - Front end for use under SMSQ/e
  • QTop - The definitive user front end for all QDOS compatible computers
  • qlwiki/ql_front_ends.txt
  • Last modified: 2018/01/31 16:02
  • by rwap