A menu for your conference is entirely optional, and is likely to have less traffic than either topics or a conference web site. However, for some purposes it may be just the ticket. And it’s fairly simple to set up.

13.1 Moving & Copying Files Into the Info Directory

The Info Directory cannot be accessed by users of Engaged. However, if your conference is mostly visited by users of PicoSpan, you may find it useful for menus and archives.

There are a number of simple ways to arrange and manipulate the information you want to present in your conference’s menu. The tool you use to move your offerings in and out of the info directory is simply called “!infomenu”. By calling up this simple menu-making menu, you can copy your prepared files into the info directory from your home directory, move a file from one directory to the other, create subdirectories, edit the files, and list the contents of your conference’s main info directory or any of its subdirectories. You can access this special menu of tools at the OK prompt:

Type: !infomenu

After entering the conference name, you will see a menu of hostly tools that looks something like this:


              1 - List info directory contents (short)
              2 - List info directory contents (long)
              3 - View info file with pager
              4 - Copy file into info directory
              5 - Copy file from info directory
              6 - Remove info file
              7 - Edit info file
              8 - Move (rename) info file
              9 - Make info subdirectory
             10 - Remove info subdirectory
             11 - List info subdirectory contents (short)
             12 - List info subdirectory contents (long)
             13 - List contents of your working directory

q=Quit this menu                                   p=turn Pager OFF

Select one of the above items (1-13 or a letter) ==>

The first two menu options allow you to list the contents of your conference info directory in either short or long format. The short format gives you just a list of the name of the files and sub directories present. The longer format tells you how big each file is, whether it is a subdirectory or a file, when it was last modified, and other such information. Options 11 and 12 work the same way for any subdirectory in your info directory. Once you know the name of the file you want to work with, you can take a look at the file contents by selecting option 3 – View info file with pager.

Probably the most common option you’ll use is option 4 – Copy file into info directory. Suppose you have a file named “stuff” in your Home Directory (your working directory when you log on to The WELL) and you’d like to put a copy of it into your Mesozoic Life conference’s info directory. After typing !infomenu to access the info menu for your conference and choosing option 4, it will prompt you for the name of the file you want to copy in.

Type: stuff

The file “stuff” will now exist in both your home directory and in your conference’s info directory. You can remove or alter either of them without affecting the other copy. It will then ask you what you want to name the file in your info directory. You could just name it “stuff” again, or come up with something more creative or descriptive for your menu’s readers if you wish. Once you’ve finished this, you can go back to option 1 or 2 and check to see if the name of your new file is now listed.

You can use this same procedure to copy files into a subdirectory by including the subdirectory name in the name of the destination file. For example, if you wanted the “stuff” file to go in the “things” subdirectory, when it prompted you for the name of the file for the info directory, you would

    Type: things/stuff

You could also, if you wanted to, change the name of any file in your info directory or move it to a subdirectory with option 8 – Move (rename) info file. For instance, if you wanted the “stuff” file to be renamed as “fossils”, after filling in the name of the original “stuff” file, you could:

    Type: fossils

as the name of the new file, including a subdirectory if applicable.

13.2 Removing Files From the Info Directory

To remove a file or a subdirectory from your conference’s info directory, select option 6 – Remove info file, or option 10 – Remove info subdirectory. Remember to include the pathname of the file from the info directory onward, such as things/stuff, if needed. This will erase the file, so you might wish to Copy file from info directory (option 5) before nuking it permanently.

13.3 How Menus Work

Now that we’ve told you all this stuff about moving files in and out of the info directory, creating subdirectories, and editing these files, you’re probably saying to yourself “Well, that’s all well and nice, but why the heck do I want to do that?” The answer is menus.

Before we get into just how you create a conference menu, let’s take a look at a simple example of how one works after it’s already been installed.

You are gazing restfully upon the facade of a verdant, if somnolent, OK prompt. You’ve seen a message, perhaps in the login banner as you entered the conference, which said,

To be transported to Mesozoic’s Special Menu, type: menu

What could be in there, you wonder. So you type menu to find out, and you see this:



                             1 - Corals (12K)

                             2 - Montana Dinosaur Dig (4K)

                             3 - Fossils (13K)

 q=Quit                                               p=turn Pager OFF
 u=go Up one menu level v=reView what you've seen  r=Return to main menu

 What do you want to do?

You type: 1 …and the Corals article is presented to you, complete with pauses. When you’re finished with it, you are returned to the menu once again, where you can choose another selection or quit the menu and return to an OK prompt.

It’s very simple from the user’s point of view. To set it up is almost as simple.

13.4 Preparing Your Files

The first thing you’ll need for your conference menu is something to put into it — a number of files you wish to include. In the example above, there are three separate files which the menu will access, one for each selection number. We’ll assume that you’ve already created these files in your home directory, and that you are ready to place them in a subdirectory in your conference’s info directory under the following names: “Montana_Dinosaur_Dig”, “Corals”, and “Fossils”.

First type: cd

to make sure you are in your home directory. You can now move the files to the info directory through the info menu accessible by typing:


If you don’t have three files ready to put in a menu of your own yet, go ahead three test files up with a line or two of text, and try this out. A menu of one to ten files is simple indeed. However, you may want to separate items into categories and make lower levels for your menu (submenus) if you will have many files to display.

First, you will need to create a subdirectory for your lower menu level. Let’s call it “Fossil_Field_Trips.” From the !infomenu menu, select the option to create a subdirectory and to name it,

    type: Fossil_Field_Trips

You can now move the files to the menu subdirectory in your conference’s info directory with the Copy file into info directory option from the menu. For example, to move a file named “Africa” into your newborn subdirectory, you would

    type: Fossil_Field_Trips/Africa

As the new name of the file, once again including the relative pathname.

13.5 Amenu

What exactly is making this menu magic? If you display your URC file (or RC file in some of the older conferences), you may see that the curious term “amenu” is included in the expression there. This nifty, easy to use automatic menu program was written for The WELL in 1993 by Pete Hanson. More documentation is available by typing:

!man amenu

You may have noticed the three files in your new menu show up in alphabetical order. If you’d like to control that order, name the files so that they begin with numbers, which will not display, as in “010Fossils” or “020Montana_Dinosaur_Dig”. Later, you could add files beginning with numbers such as 011, 012, and so forth, into the sequence.

You’ll also notice that underscores or dashes do not normally display. Since UNIX file or directory names must not contain spaces, this is a crafty way to allow spaces in the amenu output, which explains the reason for naming that file “Montana_Dinosaur_Dig,” and the subdirectory “Field_Trips.”

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