PNGconv

After tinkering with the Minis-QL and flash memory cards all week (hope I can remember how to put the Minis-QL computer all back together now!), it’s back to working on my Q-Dock docking station for QDOSMSQ systems.

Q-Dock is largely working now apart from a setup utility. I’ve been using Marcel Kilgus‘s PNGconv program for Windows to convert loads of public domain icons for use with Q-Dock. This takes PNG format graphics and converts them to GD2 sprites for use on SMSQ/E systems. Since many of the icons were in windows .ico format originally, I used a Windows program called IrfanView to convert them to .png format, then used Marcel’s PNGconv to do the final stage of conversion from PNG files to DG2 sprites for use on my QL systems.

Screen dump of PNGconv program for Windows

PNGconv is essentially a batch converter, but with a great little front end window which makes the job of selecting files and conversion options so easy. It can convert the icons into mode 16 (256 colour) sprites, or into 16-bit colour mode 32 files. You can highlight as many or as few files as you want just by clicking on filenames, using CTRL and/or SHIFT to highlight more than one, and a small preview icon is shown of the last one you clicked on. It can also do mode 64 (32 bit RGB colour, but AFAIK there are no native QL hardwares that use this mode directly at the moment. The GD2 systems do a bit of mode conversion anyway, so if you display a mode 16 sprites on a mode 32 window, it will display but only in the original 256 colours.

PNGconv can output the converted files as binary sprites (i.e. ready to use) or as assembler source for inclusion in your assembler code. It handles either small or quite large PNG files and can even output quite large graphics – the ‘dock’ graphics for Q-Dock are 512 pixels wide, for example.

For me, a huge plus is that PNGconv can convert alpha-blending transparency graphics. On GD2 systems which can handle this, it’s great because it produces ‘see-through’ graphics which blend with the background, as you’ll see in the sample screen dump below. Here, I’ve used a transparent ‘dock’ base through which you can see the QPAC1 calculator behind it.

Screen dump of Q-Dock and Q-Bar

So far I’ve created and converted dozens of dock graphics and just over 4,000 icons for use with the program – the graphics conversions and creating custom QL icons have taken most of the long time I’ve spent writing this program.

It comes with a tiled sprite viewer program and a taskbar program called Q-Bar which gives you a modern autohide taskbar and start menu (where you see the little QL windows logo in the left corner) for a QL – ‘autohide’ just means you move the pointer out of a program’s window to make it go away, then move the pointer to the edge of the screen to make the program come to life again.Without PNGconv to convert the graphics so quickly and effortlessly I’d never have been able to make all the icons and dock graphics I’m sure.

PNGconv is free to download and use from Marcel’s website at http://www.kilgus.net/smsqe/sprtconv.html

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