Getting Started


This document uses the following formatting conventions:

ℹ️ NOTE: Information that is useful but incidental to the text appears like this.

⚠️ WARNING: Important warnings appear like this.

Keyboard shortcuts will be called out using these symbols:

△ = Open Apple (labeled on some keyboards)

▲ = Solid Apple (labeled Option on some keyboards)


Apple II DeskTop requires an Apple II, compatible, or emulator with at least 128k of RAM and Double-HiRes graphics support. This includes the following models:

  • Apple IIe (except the rare Revision A motherboards)

  • Enhanced Apple IIe

  • Apple IIc

  • Apple IIc Plus

  • Apple IIgs

  • Apple IIe Option Card for Macintosh

  • Laser 128, 128EX, and 128EX/2

  • Franklin ACE 500, 2000, 2100 and 2200

  • Emulators such as Virtual ][, AppleWin, or MAME.

A mouse is strongly recommended, although most functions are available via the keyboard.

ℹ️ NOTE: The M0100 mouse is known to have compatibility issues with the IIc and IIc+ where the mouse may not be detected, or one axis may stop being measured. This is due to a hardware problem affecting only some mice with that model number. Mice with model numbers starting with A2 should function correctly. This problem is not specific to Apple II DeskTop. More details and a fix.

DeskTop uses the double-hires display mode. On systems with built-in or optional RGB adapters (e.g. Apple IIgs, Le Chat Mauve, Video 7, AppleColor RGB card) and a compatible monitor, DeskTop will automatically switch the display to monochrome mode. On systems with a color composite monitor, the display may appear in color and text may be blurry. To make the text more readable, manually switch the monitor or computer to monochrome mode if possible while running DeskTop. The AppleColor Composite Monitor IIe has a toggle button in the control panel. The Laser 128 line of computers has a MONO/COLOR switch above the keyboard. Emulators usually have a color/monochrome option as well.

DeskTop is a ProDOS 8 application, and works best on a mass storage device or at least an 800k floppy. Running from a 140k floppy is possible (without desk accessories) but is not recommended.

ℹ️ NOTE: Certain features are known to fail with versions of ProDOS before 1.1. Booting with a newer version is recommended.

⚠️ WARNING: DeskTop is not compatible with the experimental ProDOS 2.5. Booting with an earlier version (e.g. ProDOS 2.4.2) is required. Files already on disks with mixed-case names created with ProDOS 2.5 will be displayed correctly.


Apple II DeskTop is distributed in two ways:

  • A2DeskTop.2mg (or .hdv) is an 800k disk image containing the full application and all accessories. You can transfer it to an 3.5" floppy using ADTPro.

  • A2DeskTop.1.po and A2DeskTop.2.po are 140k disk images containing different parts of the application. You can transfer the images to 5.25" floppies using ADTPro.

An Apple II DeskTop installation has the following structure on a mass storage device:

  • 📁 A2.DESKTOP (application directory) You can name this anything and it can be in any subdirectory

    • 📄 DESKTOP.SYSTEM (system file) You run this to launch DeskTop.

    • 📄 DESKTOP2 (application file)

    • 📁 DESK.ACC (subdirectory) Contains Desk Accessories (DAs) that appear in the Apple menu

    • 📁 PREVIEW (subdirectory) Contains file preview accessories

    • 📁 OPTIONAL (subdirectory) Contains optional components

      • 📄 SELECTOR (application file) If moved to the parent directory, DESKTOP.SYSTEM will launch it instead.

At runtime, DeskTop will create other files within the application directory:

    • 📄 QUIT.TMP Holds the original ProDOS quit routine.

    • 📄 SELECTOR.LIST Holds the Shortcuts menu entries, which allow for quick launching of other applications.

    • 📄 DESKTOP.CONFIG Holds settings, if changed in the Control Panel DA. Delete this file to reset settings.

    • 📄 DESKTOP.FILE Holds desktop state between runs, such as open windows. Delete this file to reset DeskTop.


The DeskTop

Using the DeskTop


The DeskTop is a program for managing the contents of disks, running programs, and previewing text and graphics files. It provides a graphical user interface like the macOS Finder or the Windows Explorer shell. It requires the ProDOS operating system for the Apple II. It works best with a mouse, although most functions are available via keyboard as well.

ℹ️ NOTE: It is assumed that the reader is familiar with modern desktop operating systems and using the mouse to control windows, icons and menus. Only features specific to DeskTop will be called out.

Starting DeskTop

Execute the DESKTOP.SYSTEM file from a ProDOS selector (such as BITSY BYE) to launch DeskTop. The ProDOS /RAM volume will be disconnected while DeskTop is running, and any contents will be lost.

ℹ️ NOTE: If a RAM expansion card such as an Apple II Memory Expansion Card or RAMWorks card and a RAM disk is present, then DeskTop will copy itself the RAM disk. This allows DeskTop to restart faster. Hold down the △ or ▲ key while starting to prevent this.

Once DeskTop has started, a menu bar will appear at the top of the screen. If your system has a real-time clock and appropriate ProDOS driver, a clock showing the day of the week and current time will appear in the upper right. Icons for ProDOS volumes will appear along the right side of the screen (and bottom if necessary). A Trash can icon will appear in the lower right of the screen. If you have run DeskTop before and exited with windows open, those windows will reopen as well.

Working With Disks

Icons represent the type of volume:

  • 5.25" floppy icon for 140k disks in Disk II drives

  • 3.5" floppy icon for 800k disks

  • RAM card icon for RAM disks

  • File share icon for AppleTalk and other network drives

  • ProFile external hard disk icon for all other disk types.

DeskTop Icons

DeskTop Icons

If a drive supports ejecting disks, drag the volume icon to the Trash to eject it, or use the Special > Eject Disk command or the △-E shortcut.

On some systems and some drive types, DeskTop can detect if a disk is manually ejected or replaced. On others, it is necessary to use commands. Special > Check All Drives will close all windows and check all drives for disks. Use Special > Check Drive to check only the drive holding the selected disk.

ProDOS disks can be formatted or erased using Special > Format a Disk... or Special > Erase a Disk... respectively.

ProDOS, DOS 3.3, and Pascal formatted disks can be copied using the Special > Disk Copy... command (see below).

ℹ️ NOTE: Disk Copy is a launched as a separate program. You may restart DeskTop after running this command by selecting File > Quit.

Working With Files

Double-click a volume icon to show a window containing icons for each file in the volume. Double-click a folder icon to show a window containing the contents of the folder. If a mouse is not available, use the File > Open command or △-O shortcut.

ℹ️ NOTE: To automatically close the parent window, hold down ▲ while double-clicking or selecting File > Open, or use △-▲-O.

Icons represent different ProDOS file types:

  • Directory DIR

  • Text TXT

  • Graphics FOT/$08, or certain BIN files:

    • BIN files with aux type $2000 or $4000 taking up 17 blocks (Hires) or 33 blocks (Double-Hires)

    • BIN files with aux type $5800 taking up 3 blocks (Minipix/Print Shop)

  • Binary and Relocatable files BIN, REL

  • BASIC programs BAS

  • DeskTop Accessory programs -$F1, auxtype $641 or $8641

  • System files (like ProDOS) SYS

  • Application files (like BASIC.SYSTEM) -SYS with ".SYSTEM" suffix, or S16

  • AppleWorks word processing files, spreadsheets, and databases AWP, ASP, ADB

  • ProDOS command files CMD

  • Apple IIgs-specific files $5x, $Ax, $Bx, $Cx

  • Electric Duet music files $D5, auxtype $D0E7

  • Generic (any other type)

ℹ️ NOTE: DeskTop is limited to displaying up to 127 icons at once. If there are not enough icons available to display a directory's files, DeskTop will ask you to close a window and try again.

File Type Icons

Moving, Copying, and Deleting Files

Drag a volume icon onto a folder or volume icon to copy the contents of the source volume into the destination.

Select more than one icon by dragging a rectangle around the icons, or by holding △ (or Shift on the IIgs) while clicking each icon.

Drag files to a window, volume icon, or folder icon from the same volume to move files. To copy files on the same volume instead, start the drag then hold down △ or ▲ while dropping.

Drag files to a volume icon or a window from a different volume to copy files. To move files to a different volume instead, start the drag then hold down △ or ▲ while dropping.

Drag file icons to the Trash to delete them, or use the △-Delete shortcut.

⚠️ WARNING: Deleted files can not be recovered from the Trash, unlike in modern operating systems.

You can use the File > Copy a File... and File > Delete a File... commands instead of selecting icons. The commands will show a dialog allowing selection of the files to operate on by volume, directory and name.

View Options

The View menu allows changing how the contents of a window appear: as icons, or as a textual list sorted by name, date, size or type.

ℹ️ NOTE: Unlike modern operating systems, you can only select the contents of the window when viewed as icons. When shown as a list, you can only scroll the window contents.

Running Programs

You can run System files and Application files by double-clicking or using the File > Open command. If these support quitting back to ProDOS, DeskTop will restart.

You can run BASIC programs by double-clicking or using the File > Open command, if BASIC.SYSTEM is present on the same volume. At the BASIC prompt, type BYE to return to DeskTop.

You can run DeskTop Accessory files (shown with the Apple icon) by double-clicking or using the File > Open command.

ℹ️ NOTE: Not all Binary files are programs; trying to run a Binary file that is not a program will cause the system to crash, requiring a reboot. To help prevent this, you can't run a Binary file by just double-clicking it. If you know that a Binary file is a program, you can run it by holding down the ▲ key while double-clicking it, or by selecting it and then using the File > Open command or the -O shortcut.

Previewing Files

You can preview Text, Graphics, Music and Font files without leaving DeskTop. Either double-click the file, or select the file use the File > Open command. Use the Esc key to exit preview.

  • Text files: click the Proportional button in the top right to toggle to Fixed mode, or vice versa.

  • Graphics files: tap the spacebar to switch between color and monochrome mode. This is only supported on systems with RGB adapters (e.g. Apple IIgs, Le Chat Mauve, Video 7, AppleColor RGB card).

  • Music files: press any key to stop playback.

ℹ️ NOTE: Previews are handled by desk accessories present in the PREVIEW directory.

Text File Preview

Text File Preview

Image File Preview

Image File Preview

Font File Preview

Font File Preview

Music File Preview


ProDOS 2.4's Bitsy Bye introduces the notion of BASIS.SYSTEM as a fallback interpreter. DeskTop will try to use this when you open a file other than the types listed above (SYS, S16, BIN, BAS, TXT, FOT, FNT). DeskTop will look for BASIS.SYSTEM in the same directory or a parent directory and use it to open the file.

ℹ️ NOTE: ProDOS 2.4 disks can use custom files named BASIS.SYSTEM to support different file types. For example, a disk with video demos will name the player application BASIS.SYSTEM. Selecting video files from Bitsy Bye will launch it automatically. Bitsy Bye only looks in the root directory of the drive, unlike DeskTop.

Startup Menu

The Startup menu shows options for restarting the computer from any slot with a disk drive. For example, Startup > Slot 6 is the same as typing PR#6 from BASIC.

Shortcuts Menu

The Shortcuts menu allows you to edit a list of applications that appear in the menu itself. You can add up to 8 shortcuts to the menu, and you can run them from the menu or using the △-1 through △-8 keyboard shortcuts.

The shortcuts also appear in the separate Selector application (see below). You can add 16 more shortcuts which only appear in the Shortcuts > Run a Shortcut... dialog or the Selector application.

When you add or edit an shortcut, you can configure DeskTop to copy it to a RAM disk, either when DeskTop starts or when the entry is first used. DeskTop will copy the entire application directory including subdirectories to the RAM disk.

ℹ️ NOTE: Any type of file can be specified as shortcut, but SYS, S16, BAS, and BIN files make the most sense.

Desk Accessories

The Apple menu contains accessories, which are small applications that can be run without leaving DeskTop. Some accessories operate on the current selection. Some are useful utilities, while others are purely for entertainment.

ℹ️ NOTE: The Apple IIgs supported different types of desk accessories (CDAs and NDAs). These are not compatible with DeskTop.

Some items in the Apple menu open DeskTop windows which contain more Desk Accessories. Run them by double-clicking the icons.


Shows a simple four-function calculator (add, subtract, multiply, divide). You can click buttons or press a key to enter values or perform operations. Click the e button to enter an exponent or the c button to clear.



Shows a resizable window with eyes that track the movement of the mouse.


Key Caps

Shows a keyboard map, and indicates the keys you press. The "standard" layout will be shown for the Apple IIe or IIc. The "extended" layout will be shown for the IIc Plus or Apple IIgs. You can close the window using the keyboard by typing △-Q.


Shows a simple puzzle with 15 moving tiles. Click once to scramble the puzzle, and click the pieces to try and restore the puzzle to a solved state.


Run Basic Here

Runs BASIC.SYSTEM with the PREFIX set to the path of the current window. Type BYE to return to DeskTop.

ℹ️ NOTE: BASIC.SYSTEM must be present on the same volume as DeskTop.


Screen Dump

Dumps a screenshot to an ImageWriter II attached to a Super Serial Card in Slot 1.

Sort Directory

This accessory will reorder the files in the current window (volume or directory).

    • If any files are selected, these are moved to the start of the directory listing, in selection order; other files appear after, order unchanged.

    • If no files are selected, all files are sorted by type (DIR, TXT, SYS, then others), and further sorted alphabetically by filename

ℹ️ NOTE: The Sort Directory accessory will only work with local disks. It will not work with network file shares.

This Apple

Shows details about the system. This includes the model of Apple, the version of ProDOS, the amount of any expanded memory, the CPU type, the contents of slots, and connected SmartPort devices.

Find Files

Searches the open window and all child folders for files by name. You can use wildcards to search in names. The ? wildcard matches one character, and the * wildcard matches zero or more characters.

ℹ️ NOTE: The display will not update and the cursor will not move while the search is happening. You can press the Esc key to cancel a search in progress.

Control Panels

Control Panels let you change or inspect properties of DeskTop, ProDOS, or your computer.

Control Panels > Control Panel

The Control Panel lets you configure DeskTop. The options include:

  • Desktop Pattern. Use the arrows to select from preset patterns, or edit the pattern by clicking in the big grid. Click the mini desktop to apply the pattern. Most patterns are optimized for monochrome displays, but some striped patterns are included that will appear as solid colors on color displays.

    • If you have an RGB monitor, DeskTop normally displays in monochrome mode automatically. Check the RGB Color box to force color mode.

  • Mouse Tracking. This adjusts how quickly the pointer moves on the DeskTop when you move your mouse.

  • Double-Click Speed. This adjusts the time that DeskTop waits to detect a double-click. On faster machines (with accelerators or on emulated machines) increase the time DeskTop waits by choosing an option on the left.

  • Rate of Insertion Point Blinking. This adjusts how fast the insertion point blinks in text input fields.

  • Clock. Click to select 12-hour or 24-hour time display.

ℹ️ NOTE: When this control panel closes, the updated settings are written to a DESKTOP.CONFIG file.

Control Panels > Date and Time

Shows the current date and time. If your system does not have a real-time clock, the ProDOS date and time can be set. This will apply to file operations until ProDOS restarts. If you reboot and launch DeskTop, it will set the ProDOS date and time again automatically.

Control Panels > System Speed

Shows Normal and Fast buttons. On systems with built-in accelerators (IIgs, IIc+, Laser 128EX) or some add-on accelerators (FASTChip, ZipChip, Transwarp, Ultrawarp), this selects between the standard 1MHz speed and the accelerator's fastest speed.

Control Panels > Startup

Shows options to control DESKTOP.SYSTEM. Uncheck Copy to RAMCard to never copy DeskTop to the RAMCard. Uncheck Run Selector if you don't want it to run even if you place SELECTOR file in the same directory as DESKTOP.SYSTEM.

ℹ️ NOTE: When this control panel closes, the updated settings are written to a DESKTOP.CONFIG file.

Control Panels > Joystick

Lets you calibrate your joystick or paddle inputs. Shows the current joystick position (PDL0 and PDL1) and the three button input states.

Screen Savers

Screen Savers provide full-screen visual entertainment. They must be run manually.

Screen Savers > Flying Toasters

Clears the screen and shows a somewhat entertaining distraction. An homage to the classic After Dark screensaver by Jack Eastman. Press Esc or click the mouse to return to the DeskTop.

Flying Toasters

Screen Savers > Melt

Melts the screen down until only darkness remains. Press Esc or click the mouse to return to the DeskTop.


Screen Savers > Invert

Inverts the colors of the screen. Press Esc or click the mouse to return to the DeskTop.

Screen Savers > Matrix

The digital rainfall effect from The Matrix films. Press any key to return to the DeskTop.

Implementation inspired by

Keyboard Control

It is possible to execute most functions of Apple II DeskTop with the keyboard. Menus will display shortcuts for many actions. These shortcuts can also be used:


  • Esc — enter menu mode; Arrow keys to navigate, Return to select.


  • △-` or △-Tab Cycle through open windows. △-Shift-` (or △-Shift-Tab on the IIgs) cycles in reverse order

  • △-G Resize window; Arrow keys to resize, Return to finish.

  • △-M Move window; Arrow keys to move, Return to finish.

  • △-X Scroll contents; Arrow keys to scroll, Esc or Return when done.

  • △-Up Open the parent of the current window.


  • Arrow keys cycle through selectable icons.

  • △-Delete Delete selected icons, or eject selected volumes.

  • △-Down Open (or preview) the selected icon.

Menu Shortcuts

  • File Menu

    • △-N New Folder

    • △-O Open

    • △-W Close

    • -▲-W — Close All

    • △-A Select All

    • △-I Get Info

    • △-Q Quit

  • Special

    • △-E Eject Disk

  • Shortcuts

    • △-0 Run a Shortcut (dialog)

    • △-1 ... △-8 Run a specific shortcut

ℹ️ NOTE: The ▲ key can be used instead of △ for most keyboard shortcuts.

File Dialogs

  • Up Arrow and Down Arrow keys move through files.

  • Tab Change Drive; hold down △ or ▲ (or Shift on the IIgs) to reverse the order.

  • Control-O Open selected folder.

  • Control-C Close (go to the parent directory).

Mouse Keys

  • To enter Mouse Keys mode, hold down △ and ▲ then press Space. A confirmation sound will play.

  • Navigate the cursor with the Arrow keys, and click using ▲.

  • To exit Mouse Keys mode, press Space. A confirmation sound will play.

⚠️ WARNING: Some keyboard controls behave unpredictably on the Apple IIe if a mouse card is present but no mouse is attached.

Disk Copy

Using Disk Copy

From DeskTop, selecting Special > Disk Copy... will launch the Disk Copy application. Disk Copy allows you to copy ProDOS, DOS 3.3, and Pascal formatted disks.

Disk Copy supports two modes:

  • Quick Copy (the default) for ProDOS disks, only disk blocks that are in use are copied. For other formats, all disk blocks are copied.

  • Disk Copy all disk blocks are copied.

Use the Options menu to switch modes.

You may restart DeskTop after running this command by selecting File > Quit.


The Selector

Using the Selector

If the SELECTOR file is placed in the same directory as DESKTOP.SYSTEM, it will be launched instead of DeskTop.

The Selector allows quickly launching programs via shortcuts without starting the whole DeskTop. A list of up to 24 shortcuts are shown. To run a shortcut, either double-click it, click it and then click OK, or use the arrow keys or type a number key (1 through 8) then press Return.

To launch the DeskTop, click the DeskTop button or press Q.

The menus offer additional commands:

Use File > Run a Program... (or press △-R) to show a file selection dialog. You can browse disks and directories to find a program to run.

ℹ️ NOTE: You can run SYS, S16, BAS, and BIN files.

The Startup menu shows options for restarting the computer from any slot known to contain a disk drive. For example, Startup > Slot 6 is equivalent to typing PR#6 from BASIC. With the keyboard, use △-1 ... △-7 to boot from a slot.

To configure the options shown in the Selector, launch DeskTop and use the options in the Shortcuts menu to add, edit, or remove shortcuts. When adding or editing a shortcut, it can be set to be copied to a RAM disk either when DeskTop is started or when the shortcut is first used, for faster startup. If so specified, the entire directory containing the application along with any subdirectories will be copied to the RAM disk at the appropriate time.

Keyboard Shortcuts

While Selector is starting, you can use keyboard shortcuts to skip showing the Selector:

  • Hold down △ or ▲ and a number key 1 through 7 to boot that slot immediately.

  • Hold down Q to run DeskTop

  • Hold down a number key 1 through 8 to run that shortcut.

Tips and Tricks

Customizing the Apple menu entries

You can use the Sort Directory DA to order the files in the DESK.ACC folder, which controls the menu order:

  • Open the A2.DESKTOP/DESK.ACC folder

  • Hold △ and click on each file in the desired order.

  • Select Apple > Sort Directory, and verify the order.

  • Select File > Quit, and relaunch DeskTop.

You can create folders inside the DESK.ACC folder and move files inside them to organize the menu. When a folder is selected in the Apple menu, a window for the folder will be opened, showing the accessories. You can run them by double-clicking the icons.

To remove items from the Apple menu, you can do either of the following.

  • Move the DA file out of the DESK.ACC folder. You can run it later by double-clicking if needed.

  • Use a utility to change the aux type from $641 to $8641.

You can copy the SHOW.TEXT.FILE, SHOW.IMAGE.FILE and SHOW.DUET.FILE accessories from the PREVIEW directory to the DESK.ACC directory to make them appear on the Apple menu. You can then use them to preview files that do not have the correct ProDOS file types. After restarting, select a file to preview, then select the accessory from the Apple menu.

Executable files (SYS, BAS, BIN, etc) and previewable files (TXT, FOT, FNT, etc) can also be placed in the DESK.ACC folder for quick access.

Secrets and Mysteries

  • The Calculator desk accessory has a tiny monogram resembling "JB" drawn in the title bar — possibly the "J. Bernard" thanked in the credits?

  • In the This Apple desk accessory, type E to see what other Apple models look like.