ZTreeWin Review

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The Age - February 27 2001

By Charles Wright
On the web page at Zedtek Inc.  - an unintentional shrine to corporate wrong-headedness - the latest number is up.  "New world record," it says.  "4,498,178 logged files on a single drive!" It's the sort of information users of Zedtek's programs, ZTree Win and ZTree Bold - among them companies like IBM and Exxon, Boeing, Philips and Motorola, American Express and J.P.  Morgan, to say nothing of NASA - love to share.  A $US30 shareware program that has the look and feel of the $220 XTree Gold file manager - one of the DOS world's most loved programs - ZTree Win doesn't have customers.  It has paying fans.  In Arkansas, manufacturing tool designer Len Miller has a Web page devoted to "Things that Explorer can't do and ZTree Win can" at http://www2.arkansas.net/~millerlr/ztreevsexplorer.htm.  In Mexico City, Victor Garcia runs an independent fan page (http://www.serve.com/vico/about.html), and a public forum where ZTree users report bugs, suggest features and get a direct response from the program's author.  In an industry where the customer is, by deed if not definition, always wrong, Zedtek is a tiny oasis of satisfaction for its users.  It's a sizeable achievement for a boy from Boronia and his Dad, who are, essentially, Zedtek Inc.  Kim G.  Henkel doesn't have a computing degree.  His formal computer education consists of a six-month course in mainframe Cobol at the Melbourne office of Control Data - which he completed, typically, in three months.  He was just 15 when his father bought him a TRS-80 PC.  Within weeks he'd written a Sale of the Century type program in BASIC, which had a litlle man walk across the screen, and ask a quiz question.  Had he chosen to go down the gaming route, perhaps he would have ended up designing complex software, such as that which is used at sites like Poker.de. However, he did continue to develop his understanding of technological software.  Later he taught himself C, and the complexities of OS/2 and Windows.  But in writing what is undeniably the most powerful file-management programs available for Windows, Windows NT and OS/2 - a program that still fits, and will quite happily run from a single floppy disk - he did what two major software firms, Central Tools and Symantec comprehensively failed to do.  He's produced a program that preserves the blinding speed and simple command structure of XTree Gold, but handles Windows' Long File Names while overcoming the 640kB memory constraints of DOS.  In doing so, he's saved power users from Microsoft's Windows Explorer, the program which elevated the concept of the graphical user interface to its simplest - and for anyone who wants to do anything but the most trivial file operation - least useful form.  ZTree displays the contents of hard disks in an "inverted tree hierarchical structure".  You can find files individually or in groups in a directory, or with just one keystroke, globally on a hard disk, or several hard disks.  You can view them, tag them, copy them, compare them, search them for text strings, move them, delete them, rename them, archive them, change their attributes, perform batch operations, turn them into shortcuts etc.  - in short, manage them, individually or in bulk, with just a few taps on the keyboard.  The history of XTree Gold is a sadly typical saga of comprehensive mismanagement in the computer software industry.  Central Point Software had taken over the original XTree developers Executive Systems (later The XTree Company), and in turn they were swallowed by Symantec.  Faced with the 640kB memory constraints of DOS, which meant that XTree Gold couldn't log the rapidly expanding contents of hard drives, the executives of these companies "improved" it out of existence, virtually overnight, by releasing it in a Windows version.  Their mistake was to try to force users to embrace the Windows drag and drop interface, and abandon all those amazingly useful key combinations they'd learned after years of using the various incarnations of XTree Gold.  It might have been different.  Back in 1993, just before they sold out to Central Point, The XTree Company got an e-mail from a young man in Boronia.  Frustrated at not being able to use the 16-bit version of XTree Gold to log CD-ROMs under OS/2, Henkel suggested they bring out a multi-threaded, 32-bit version.  When they declined, claiming it would take far too many man-hours and resources, Henkel e-mailed a reply, offering to do the job for $25,000.  Possibly because Boronia doesn't figure highly in the computer world, XTree ignored the offer.  Ultimately, it proved to be a costly mistake.  Had they accepted, they'd have had a version that could have been ported quickly to the Win32 environment.  As it was, Henkel produced a prototype of an OS/2 version in two or three weeks, and began selling it as shareware as ZTree Bold.  When Symantec killed the product, he ported his 500 lines of C code to Windows.  Still ZTree Win might have been largely ignored had it not been for a highly positive article by US computer columnist John C.  Dvorak, an XTree fan, in 1998.  Dvorak also arranged for Symantec to agree to allow Henkel legal rights to use XTree's look and feel.  Downloads of ZTree quadrupled overnight, and although it's impossible to keep track of the number of copies out in the wild, every month, between 5000 and 8000 copies of ZTree are downloaded from just one site.  Kim Henkel now lives in Florida, managing Lotus Notes development for a travel wholesaler.  But he puts most of his spare time into improving ZTree Win.  A new version with extensive new features is due for release shortly.  The latest betas are available at http://www.zedtek.com/html/beta.htm.  Charles Wright will review the latest version of ZTree Win in his Bleeding Edge column in Thursday's Green Guide. 

copyright (c) 2011 Zedtek, Inc.

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