First Steps Using MorphOS

From MorphOS Library

Booting MorphOS for the first time

After installation, power on your computer to boot into your new installation of MorphOS.

Once the boot process has completed, you will see a screen similar to that pictured below (it may look slightly different depending upon your monitor's resolution).

[Picture: MorphOS desktop - fresh installation]

Interacting with your system

Keyboard and Mouse

In MorphOS, in common with most desktop operating systems, the mouse and keyboard are the primary means of user interaction with the system.

Two mouse buttons are used by default:

  • The left mouse button (LMB) is used to select or activate;
  • The right mouse button (RMB) is used for accessing menus.

Scrolling and unidirectional mouse wheels are also supported out-of-the-box.

Interaction when using an Apple laptop or single-buttoned mouse

All supported Apple laptops offer only a single mouse-button, which is used by MorphOS as the LMB. As accessing menus is an integral part of using MorphOS and compatible software, the missing RMB must therefore be made available.

In order to follow this guide it is recommended that, if using an Apple laptop, you have a USB two-button mouse connected.

To find out more about emulating the RMB on Apple laptops see a tip here.

Conventions used to describe mouse actions in this guide

  • Where the term 'double-click' is used, this refers to clicking the left mouse button twice in quick succession and releasing;
  • Where the term 'drag' is used this refers to keeping the left mouse button depressed whilst moving the mouse pointer;
  • Where the term 'lasso' is used this refers to drawing a box around one or more items by dragging on an empty area of screen/window;
  • Activation and navigation through menus is expressed as: RMB > [Menu heading] > [menu entry].

The Screen

The current screen contains Ambient, MorphOS default desktop environment which launches upon booting.

The strip along the top of the screen containing text and small icons is called the screen titlebar, or shorter the screenbar.

The Screenbar

The Screenbar displays the currently selected application name on the left (currently Ambient).

The right-hand most icon is the 'screen-depth' gadget, which is used to navigate between screens when multiple screens are open.

Between these two are a clock and some small, colourful and surprisingly tasty icons. These icons are called screenbar modules, and are generally used to display useful information (such as battery state, date and time, memory usage, etc) or provide quick access to useful functions (such as ejecting the optical drive, or adjusting audio output volume).

Notes: From a fresh installation, MorphOS boots with one screen open, however supports as many screens as can be created in graphics memory. Each connected monitor can display one screen at any one time, with the user able to select which screen is displayed on the monitor using the screen depth gadget.

System Menus

System menus appear on the screenbar when the RMB is held.

  • Menus and submenus can be expanded by hovering the mouse pointer over the heading;
  • Individual menu items are activated by hovering over them and releasing the RMB;
  • Multiple menu items can be selected by left-clicking on items whilst continuing to hold the RMB:
    • Selected entries are activated by releasing the RMB whilst hovering over an entry;
  • Menus are closed by releasing the RMB whilst not hovering over an entry.

An alternative method for accessing menus (which is the default method for Apple laptops which have only a single mouse-button) is quickly clicking the RMB to activate the menus (which remain open on a short click), then clicking with the LMB to activate an entry.

User action:

  • Open My MorphOS (RMB on desktop > Ambient > My MorphOS)

Context menus

Context menus appear under the mouse pointer when the RMB is clicked on an icon or other object for which context menus are supported.

Context menus give convenient access to a range of common actions which are supported for that object type.

Introducing Ambient

Ambient is MorphOS default desktop environment incorporating file browsing, Mime-based filetype handling, graphical desktop supporting shortcuts, panels, and providing GUI access to a range of utilities such as disk formatting, CLI, system monitor, system preferences, and many more.

[It is important to note that Ambient is not MorphOS, but is an application running on MorphOS

Applications may be started from Ambient (eg by double-clicking an icon), but do not run on or within Ambient, even though they may open windows or display output on the same screen.

Don't worry if the distinction of what Ambient is & is not appears a little blurry, it isn't crystal clear to me either. :) ] - is this useful or relevant at this stage of the guide? Move elsewhere!

The Ambient Desktop

From a fresh installation, the screen contents show a picture of a blue wave effect, with several icons also visible. This is Ambient's desktop.

Desktop Icons

The icons currently visible on the desktop represent the volumes on your hard drive(s), as well as any detected volumes on any other devices such as a CD, DVD or USB stick. On a standard installation you will see 'MorphOS' and 'Work' volumes showing on your desktop.

There are also two other icon on the desktop: 'My MorphOS' and 'Ram Disk' which are a little different:

  • 'My MorphOS' gives access to the top level of the filesystem (analogous to 'My Computer' in Windows, or 'Computer' in OSX), and shows all your volumes;
  • 'Ram disk' is a volume created and automatically resized dynamically in system memory which is used for fast access to system environment variables during runtime, for the system clipboard, and various other things. It is often useful to the user as a temporary storage area which flushes upon reboot, or as a fast 'swap,' 'cache' or 'temp' area for applications which make use of such features.

Icons on the Ambient desktop can be opened by double-clicking.

Icons can be dragged and placed anywhere on the desktop.

Multiple icons can be selected by clicking on the desktop and dragging to 'lasso' multiple icons. The selected icons can then be dragged, or have actions performed upon them (eg cut, copy, paste), as one object. The object group is unselected by clicking on the desktop or by selecting a different - unselected - object.

Snapshotting desktop icons

Icons will appear ordered on the desktop starting from the left hand corner of the desktop, but can be moved anywhere on the desktop during a session.

Upon a reboot icons will return to their default position unless we 'snapshot' them in place, and unless a user has enabled the "Automatic snapshot" option in the Ambient settings.

User action:

  • Click-drag your 'Work' volume icon and place it to the right side of the desktop. Now right-click on the 'Work' icon, and select 'snapshot' from the context menu.
  • Now click-drag your 'MorphOS' volume icon and place it to the right side of the desktop. Don't snapshot this in place.
  • Now reboot. After a reboot, the MorphOS icon has returned to its previous position, but the 'Work' icon has stayed where we snapshotted it.

This is a very useful concept, since it means we can make a complete mess of the desktop during a session sure in the knowledge that, as long as we don't snapshot the icons in place, they will return to their saved positions upon a reboot.

Notes: 'Unsnapshotting' simply deletes this saved information and will return the icon to the default position in the top left of the desktop upon a reboot. It does not return it to a previously snapshotted position.


(Section needs re-doing, since MyMorphOS icon can't be dragged onto Panels. Grrrr...)

Another way to keep icons ordered on the desktop is by using Ambient's panels.

Let's create a panel!

User action:

  • RMB on desktop > Settings > Ambient
  • In the Ambient preferences:
    • Select 'Panels' in the list on the left hand side;
    • Click the 'New Panel' button to create a panel;
    • Click 'Save' to close Ambient preferences and save the new panel.

Currently the panel contains no icons, just an arrow in a box. This is the drag gadget which, as the name suggests, is used to drag the panel into a desired position.

User action:

  • Drag your 'My MorphOS' icon from the desktop onto the drag gadget of your new panel.

A copy of the 'My MorphOS' icon now appears on the panel.

User action:

  • Click on the 'My MorphOS' icon on the panel - it opens the location with a single click.

Ambient's panels provide a single-click method of opening locations, applications, files, etc (as well as other more advanced features not covered here).


As we don't want to have to navigate to every file from the top level of the drive each time, another type of icon which the desktop supports is shortcuts to a location or file.

A commonly used application is Odyssey (MorphOS' default Web Browser), which is located in the applications drawer on the 'System' volume. Let's create a shortcut on the desktop to launch OWB.

User action:

  • Click on the 'My MorphOS' icon in the panel.
  • Double-click on the System volume
  • Double-click on the 'Applications' drawer, then double click again on the OWB drawer.
  • Drag the 'OWB' application icon onto the desktop.

However really this is what panels are useful for. Let's keep the desktop tidy and put OWB into the panel also, that way it launches with a single-click instead of a double-click - doubling your productivity!1

User action:

  • Drag the 'OWB' application icon onto the drag gadget of the panel. Make sure to drag it onto the drag gadget, and not onto the 'My MorphOS' icon placed there in the previous section.

Now we are left with a redundant Odyssey icon on the desktop which needs to be 'put away.' Again, this can be done from the context menu.

User action:

  • RMB on Odyssey desktop shortcut > put away.

File browsing

In the section above, we touched upon file browsing - we opened a volume, navigated into a drawer, and then into another drawer to access a file.

In order to navigate effectively, we need to recognise some landmarks, so at this point there are a few basic concepts which need to be introduced and defined.

There's no delicate way around this, just grab yourself a cup of tea/coffee/vodka and try to stay awake. It's all important stuff that will help you down the line.

MorphOS Filesystem

'My MorphOS' is the top level of the filesystem, and is the point at which all volumes (eg 'System' and 'Work') are mounted.

MorphOS retains full compatibility with AmigaDOS, in which volume names are followed by a colon (eg 'System:' and 'Work:'), and directories are separated by a forward slash '/'.

The path to the web browser 'OWB' is thus expressed as:

  • System:Applications/OWB/OWB

In addition to volumes, MorphOS retains the concept of assigns. In the simplest sense, an assign is pseudonyms for a volume or directory path.

As with volumes, assigns are suffixed by a colon, and are also mounted at the top level of the filesystem.

An example of an assign is 'SYS' - which is a pseudonym for the 'System' volume.

The above path can therefore be expressed as:

  • System:Applications/OWB/OWB


  • SYS:Applications/OWB/OWB

Another example of an assign is 'ENVARC' - which is a pseudonym for the directory 'Prefs/Env-Archive' on the 'System' volume.

This directory path can therefore be expressed either as:

  • System:Prefs/Env-Archive
  • SYS:Prefs/Env-Archive

or simply


Assigns can also refer to multiple locations. The 'C' assign is an example of this. The primary location is 'System:C', however it is also a pseudonym for the location 'System:MorphOS/C'.

Assigns addressing multiple locations are prioritised in the order they are created. In this case 'System:C' is created first, then 'System:MorphOS/C' added.

Consequently the command:

  • C:foobar

will first search the location System:C for the file 'foobar'. If the file is not found, the location System:MorphOS/C will then be searched.

Ambient File Browser

When viewing files in an Ambient browser window files are not visible by default unless they have an associated icon.

Icons (.info files)

Icons are separate files which have the same name, but are appended with the extension .info (for example the icon for the file 'sys:foo/bar' would be named 'sys:foo/' ).

MorphOS native Icon files are actually PNG image files, which also store any snapshot information, tooltypes etc in the file header (binary information which is part of the file, but does not contain the image).

Notes: MorphOS icons can be edited using Sketch which can be found within the Applications drawer.

MorphOS also supports legacy Amiga icons (including GlowIcons) however does not provide editing tools as part of OS for these legacy icon types, although 3rd party tools are available if required. (move to later section - not needed here!)


--- Show all

--- Lister Mode

-- Basic file management

---What goes where: c, devs, l, libs, etc (not /etc)

-- Bookmarks

-- Inbuilt viewers

--- Opening files with external applications

-- Utilities

--- Exchange

--- Sound player

--- System Monitor

--- System Log

--- Format

--- Find

--- Hotkeys

--- Ambient Settings

-- Screenbar module Settings

-- My MorphOS & Filesystem root & removable media

-- Window icons

-- Window depth concept

-- Window Gadgets & handling: Dragging, resizing, iconify, hiding, scrolling, closing

-- Moving an application onto its own screen

--- Screen depth gadget