BLINK Utilities v3.0
Blink, Palette Switcher, BlinkSet, BlinkMgr
Copyright (c)1990 by Bill Aycock
The Blink Utilities give you quick, easy control over the palettes used in
your ST. Rather than using the Control Panel accessory and setting your screen
colors one by one, Blink and Palette Switcher let you install an entire custom
palette with the click of a mouse. What's more, each uses less than half the
memory taken up by the Control Panel. Both Blink and Palette Switcher come
with a set of palettes already installed, but in case you want to create your
own custom palettes, the BlinkSet accessory and BlinkMgr will let you do so.
Blink, BlinkSet, and Palette Switcher will run as either programs or desk
accessories by simply renaming the files. They will work in any resolution on
any ST. The BlinkMgr Librarian runs as a program in either medium or high
BLINK is a small desk accessory that performs many of the functions of
Atari's Control Panel, yet uses less than half the memory. It allows you to
install one of eight predefined custom color palettes, and set the key repeat
rate and delay, the cursor blink rate, and the double-click speed. If you
wish, Blink can set any of these values automatically when you boot your ST,
and it can install a different custom palette depending on your ST's current
For most folks, the eight palettes Blink lets you choose are plenty. More
than enough, in fact. However, there are those who actually need (or want)
even more! Palette Switcher was designed for these chosen few. PS allows you
to choose between 32 custom palettes with the click of a mouse. As with Blink,
PS can install a specific palette at boot time depending on your ST's current
BlinkSet, used in conjunction with the Control Panel desk accessory, allows
you to set up groups of eight custom palettes. These groups are saved in a
separate palette file, and can be installed in Blink or Palette Switcher with
the use of BlinkMgr.
Install your custom palettes into Blink or Palette Switcher with BlinkMgr,
the Palette Librarian. You can specify a default palette for each resolution,
and values for the mouse, keyboard response, and cursor blink that will be
installed automatically when you boot up your ST. Using BlinkMgr you can
extract or install palettes and boot information into Blink or PS, and manage
your palettes in small 8-palette .PAL files or large 32-palette libraries.
BlinkMgr can also read BLINK.DAT palette files created by versions of BlinkSet
prior to v1.2.
Either select Blink from the Desk menu or double-click its icon to run it as
a program. If you've specified any values to be installed automatically, they
are set at this time (more on that later). If for some reason you don't want
these values installed, hold down the Control key as Blink loads; this will
override the defaults. (To do this if you have Blink installed as a desk
accessory, hold down the Control key as soon as you see the ST's desktop
appear (or a little before); when disk activity ends, you can release the key.
If you run Blink as a program, just hold down Control when you double-click on
the file and release it when you see the dialog box.)
When the dialog box appears, Blink is ready for use.
NOTE: Due to the way the ST initializes accessories, you will not be able to
load a new palette at boot time if you install the Atari Control Panel along
with Blink; the Control Panel settings take precedence over Blink's. Also, on
some systems you won't be able to install a new double click speed at boot
time. Both of these settings will still work fine from the Blink dialog.
Setting Mouse, Keyboard, and Cursor Parameters
The left side of the Blink dialog contains four pairs of small boxes which
allow you to set the mouse's double-click speed, the key repeat rate, the
repeat delay, and the speed at which the text cursor blinks. For each of
these, the box on the left shows the current value of the setting and the
default value when your ST is booted. The box on the right lets you enter a
new setting, and shows what values are acceptable. Enter a new value in the
space provided, or leave the field blank and the current setting won't be
The first pair of boxes controls the mouse's double-click speed. The value
here can range from zero to four. Normally three, you can set this to a lower
number if you'd like your ST to allow more time for a double click.
The next two pairs of boxes let you adjust your keyboard's auto-repeat
response. Whenever you press a key there's a small delay, then the key starts
repeating. You can adjust the "key repeat RATE" value to change the speed at
which a keypress is repeated. The default value of two produces a rate most
people find comfortable; if you change this to one, each keypress will repeat
twice as fast (great for moving around the screen quickly). Higher values make
the keys repeat proportionally slower. (Settings between one and 21 are
possible, but I can't believe anyone would care to suffer through a value
greater than three!) The "key repeat DELAY" value indicates the amount of time
you wait before a key starts to repeat. Normally this is set to 15, for a
delay of a quarter second. If you'd prefer a longer delay, specify a larger
value here; for the key repeat to start sooner, use a smaller number.
The lowest pair of boxes controls the cursor blink rate. The value shown
represents the number of 'ticks' before the cursor turns on or off, each tick
being roughly 1/60th of a second. The smaller the value, the faster the blink.
The normal rate is 30, meaning the cursor toggles on or off every half-second
or so; with a rate of 10, the cursor blinks three times as fast. If you prefer
a steady cursor that doesn't flash at all, enter the value 999 as the new
rate. (NOTE: When you enter 999 in this field, the cursor will stop flashing
but the blink rate will not be changed; it is simply ignored. The "is now"
value will display the current blink rate setting _even if blinking is
disabled_. To enable a flashing cursor after it has been disabled, simply
enter the desired blink rate.)
Selecting a Color Palette
The large box on the right of the screen lets you install a new color
palette on your ST. Atari's Control Panel lets you adjust every color on your
screen, but it can take awhile to set up all 16 colors (even if you can
remember the right numbers for each color!). Rather than go through all this
every time you want to change colors, use BlinkSet to save an entire palette -
you'll be able to install all 16 colors with a click of the mouse!
This Color Box contains ten radio buttons. The top two buttons are special:
the first, marked "DO NOT CHANGE", tells Blink you do not want to change the
current color selection. Underneath that is a button labelled "RESET TO STD",
which tells Blink to install the standard red/green palette for your ST's
current screen resolution. (The "DO NOT CHANGE" button is automatically
selected when you enter Blink.)
An alternate color palette can be loaded by selecting one of the other eight
buttons in this box. Each button has a short descriptive label, usually
listing either the program the palette was designed for or the major
background and foreground colors in the palette. The default set of palettes
includes one marked "Reverse Hi-Rez", which sets up a monochrome screen for
white letters on a black background.
NOTE: All of the default palettes are readable in any resolution, but be
careful with any custom palettes you create. If you save the standard low-rez
palette and install it when you're in medium rez, you'll end up with bright
yellow letters on a white background - very hard to read! The same thing will
happen if you install the default medium-rez palette while in low rez. If you
just want to restore your palette to normal, use the "reset" button.
Hiding or Showing the Text Cursor
Under the Color Box is a box labeled "text cursor". This box contains three
radio buttons: "as is", "show", and "hide". If a poorly-behaved program leaves
an errant text cursor on your desktop or in other applications, select the
Hide button to turn the cursor back off. Or, if you need the cursor but it
isn't showing up, select the Show button to turn it on. In most other cases
you should leave the as-is button selected.
Installing Your New Settings
After you've selected the options you want, either click on the "do it!"
button or hit Return and your changes will take effect. (If you prefer, you
can also double-click on a palette; this has the same effect.) You can click
on the Cancel button at any time to exit Blink without changing your current
If you aren't sure the palette you choose is the one you really want, hold
down the Alternate key when you exit the program. Instead of leaving, you'll
return to the Blink dialog box, ready to try out another palette.
NOTE: Some programs maintain their own cursors and key functions in software
rather than using the ST's built-in functions. Likewise, some programs install
their own color settings when they start up. Changes you make with Blink may
not "take" with these programs. Also, some programs which change the screen
colors may not restore the palette properly when you exit - in this case, just
run Blink right after you leave the program.
USING PALETTE SWITCHER...
Palette Switcher is essentially a 32-palette version of Blink. You can run
PS as a program by double-clicking its icon, or as a desk accessory by
selecting "PaletteSwitcher" from the Desk menu. In either case, if you've
defined a default palette for the current resolution, PS installs the palette
as soon as it loads. To override this default, hold down the Control key as PS
is loading. (This will be when you boot up if you have PS installed as an
accessory; when running PS as a program, hold down Control when you click the
program's icon.) When the Palette Switcher dialog box appears, you're ready to
Most of the dialog box is taken up with three columns of palette buttons.
The top button in the first column is labelled "DO NOT CHANGE"; this button is
selected when you enter Palette Switcher. The other 32 buttons show the names
of your custom palettes. To install one of your custom palettes, simply
double-click the button bearing its name. (If you defined less than 32
palettes in the library file you installed into PS, the unused buttons will be
marked out with dashed lines and will be unavailable.)
The three larger buttons at the bottom of the Palette Switcher dialog
control some extra features. The first button, labelled RESET, will install
the ST's standard palette (the normal green-and-red palette) for your current
resolution. The one marked "do it!" will install the palette you selected
above, just as if you had double-clicked on its name. The Cancel button lets
you exit PS without making any changes.
If you'd like to browse through your palettes and try out a number of them,
hold down the Alternate key when you double-click a palette button; this will
install your palette right away and return you to the Palette Switcher dialog.
This makes it easy to sample a number of palettes quickly.
BlinkSet is the utility that allows you to save your own custom palettes for
use in Blink or Palette Switcher. Boot your computer with the BlinkSet
accessory and the Control Panel (CONTROL.ACC) in the root directory of your
disk, and you'll be ready to start.
The first step is to use the Control Panel to set your ST's colors for the
desired palette. Select "Control Panel" from the Desk menu, then use the mouse
to select one of the color boxes across the bottom. Move the red, green, and
blue sliders up and down until you get the color you want. Then do the same
for each of the other color boxes. When the entire palette is to your liking,
exit the Control Panel and select BlinkSet from the Desk menu.
When you enter BlinkSet, you can decide to modify an existing palette file,
or create a new group of palettes from scratch. If you want to modify an
existing group, click the "load .PAL file" button. Use the file selector to
locate your palette file, then click OK to load it in. (If the file you
selected isn't really a Blink palette file, you'll see an alert and then
return to the main BlinkSet box.)
The next step is to decide which entry you'll use to store your new palette.
On the left side of the BlinkSet dialog is a large box containing eight
buttons. If you've read in an existing Blink file, these buttons will be
labeled with the names of your palettes; otherwise they'll contain the names
of the pre-loaded default palettes. Click on one of these buttons.
Next, enter a name for your new palette in the space provided under the
buttons. If you've set up your palette for use with a specific program you may
want to enter the program name here, but you can enter any label you want.
Most of the default palettes are marked with the names of the colors that
replace red and green in the normal palette.
To set up your new entry with the palette you just created, click on the
button marked "store palette", or simply press Return. Your palette will be
stored, and the button you selected will contain the name you entered. (Note
that you must enter a non-blank name before storing a palette; if you don't,
you'll see an error message and return to the dialog.)
After you've stored the palette you've just made, click on the Exit button
to return to the desktop. Enter the Control Panel again to create another
palette, which you'll store in one of the other seven entries.
When you have the entire set of eight palettes set up the way you want, save
the information in a new palette file. Then you'll be ready to use BlinkMgr
and install your custom palettes into Blink or Palette Switcher.
The BlinkMgr Palette Librarian lets you manage your collection of palettes,
install a selection of palettes in Blink or Palette Switcher, and retrieve the
palettes stored in Blink or PS. It also lets you specify values for Blink to
install when you boot your ST. BlinkMgr has been completely rewritten to be
more powerful and easier to use than previous versions. It will run (as a
program only) in high or medium resolution on any ST.
The BlinkMgr Desktop...
The BlinkMgr desktop is divided into three main areas. The Palette Section
at the top of the screen contains a large 32-palette Library on the left and a
smaller 8-palette Subset on the right. Directly under the Palette Subset are
buttons for the three Standard Palettes - these buttons let you use the
palettes normally installed in your ST in the three resolutions.
Below the Palette section is a long Message Box. This is used to display
warnings or error messages, information on how many palettes are present in
the Library and the Subset, and file specifications.
The File Section across the bottom of the screen shows you the names of the
files you're currently working with. BlinkMgr remembers the most recent
palette library and subset files you've accessed and the last copies of Blink
and Palette Switcher you've handled, and displays their names here.
Using The Desktop...
Using the BlinkMgr desktop is simple. When you have read a file into the
Library or the Subset, the names of the palettes appear in the buttons. To
copy a palette from one place to another, simply click on the palette, hold
down the mouse button, drag the palette to a new location, and release the
You can copy palettes between the Library and the Subset, or you can shuffle
around the palettes in either one. Also, if you want to have one of the ST's
standard palettes available in Blink or PS, you can click one of the Standard
Palette buttons and drag it where you want.
When you're preparing a group of palettes to be installed in Palette
Switcher, remember that the _last three_ palettes in the Library are special -
one of these palettes will be installed in your ST at boot time, depending on
the current resolution. The bottom three slots in the Library are marked
"Default Low-Rez", Default Medium", and "Default Hi-Rez" to remind you of
this. Simply drag the desired palettes into these three locations, or leave
the slot empty if you don't want a palette automatically installed for that
rez. Then use the "Install into Switcher" item to store your palettes into PS.
(Remember, you can override the defaults by holding down the Control key when
PS loads; see the Palette Switcher section above.)
As an added feature, you can click on one of the filenames in the File
Section at the bottom of the screen. When you do this, the Message Box will
display that file's full drive, path, and filename. (If you store your
palettes in a folder five or six levels deep, the complete filespec may not
fit in the Message Box - if this happens, only the first part of the filespec
will show up.)
The BlinkMgr Menus...
BlinkMgr's menus control the loading and saving of files, special editing
features, and whether or not you receive warnings for some actions. Most of
these features have command-key equivalents as well, which are listed in the
menu. These functions are fairly straightforward.
The Desk menu gives you access to the desk accessories installed in your
system. There is also an About BlinkMgr selection; choosing this will display
a dialog box showing you the program's version number and some other important
The File menu allows you to read and write files and exit the program.
There are four different ways to store palette information; you can have
library files of up to 32 palettes each or smaller .PAL files containing eight
palettes, or you can install a set of palettes into Blink or Palette Switcher.
There are separate menu entries for reading and writing each of these forms,
and command-key equivalents for each.
Note that Blink palettes are read into and written from the Subset, and
Palette Switcher palettes are read into and written from the Library. Also,
the Blink and PS palettes are stored _in the program files themselves_. The
palette information is only read _once_, when the programs load. This means
that after you install a new set of palettes into Blink or PS, they won't be
available until you reboot!
The Edit menu has choices for editing a selected palette or editing the
Blink boot parameters.
When editing a palette, you have the option of changing the palette's name,
deleting it from the Library or Subset, or installing it in your ST
immediately. (In case you install a palette and end up with a screen you
can't read, hold down the Alternate key and press Return; that will install
the standard red/green palette so you can go on with your work.) You can also
access the edit-palette dialog by shift-clicking on one of the palette
If you choose to edit the Blink boot parameters, you'll see a special dialog
box. The top section lists the names of the palettes in the Palette Subset,
and has a column of radio buttons for each resolution. For each resolution,
select the button next to the palette you want installed at boot time; if you
don't want a palette installed for that rez, select the bottom button marked
"do not install palette".
The bottom section of the dialog allows you to specify other values for
Blink to install at boot time. You can set the mouse double-click speed, key
repeat rate, key repeat delay, and text cursor blink rate. The dialog tells
you the normal setting for this parameter and the range of values which are
acceptable. In each case, enter a value in the space provided; leave the space
empty and Blink will not alter the setting at boot time.
Note: these values, along with the Palette Subset, are saved in the Blink
file itself. In order to have these values take effect, you must choose the
"Install into Blink" option from the File menu to save the information, then
reboot your ST to have the new values installed automatically. If you only
want to change these temporarily, you can do so from the Blink accessory.
Also, if you want to override these defaults, hold down the Control key when
Blink loads. See the section on Using Blink above for more information.
The Options menu controls the warnings you receive for potentially
This menu has two entries: Verify Deletes and Verify Overwrites. If Verify
Deletes is checked, whenever you try to delete a palette you'll see an alert
asking if you're sure. Click Yes to go ahead and delete the palette, or No! if
you want to keep the palette. Once a palette is deleted, it is _gone_ - be
careful if you decide not to receive these warnings.
If Verify Overwrites is checked, you will be asked to make sure each time
one of these actions occurs: you try to save a file, and the file you specify
already exists; you try to load a library file or extract from Palette
Switcher, and the Library has not been saved; you try to load a .PAL file or
extract from Blink, and the Subset has not been changed; you try to copy one
palette on top of another that already exists. In each case, click Yes to go
ahead or No! to cancel the operation.
All the Blink Utilities were written in 100% assembly language using the
HiSoft DevpacST assembler. The resource files were constructed using WERCS.
Both of these products are available from MichTron. Many thanks to Charles
Johnson, Robert Birmingham, and Carl Barron for programming tips, and to Rob
Rasmussen for inspiration.
Versions 3.0a of Blink and PS (Palette Switcher) are operationally identical
to earlier versions; some initialization was rearranged because the Desk menu
entries did not show up on some users' systems. No other changes were made.
The latest versions of these programs are always available in CompuServe's
If you use these programs, how about letting me know? Send a postcard to me
at the address below. Questions, comments, suggestions, or problem reports are
also welcome. Of course, if you'd like to send a donation too, it will be
2310 North Elm Street
Greensboro, NC 27408
Compuserve ID: 76703,4061