MaxThink and OrgMode make good partners when set up properly. The hardest part of the setup is getting the information from MaxThink to OrgMode. The first time I tried I wrote a perl script that accepted the MaxThink file and spit out an OrgMode compatible file. The script was rough around the edges and I never finished it because I discovered a much simpler solution.

MaxThink has an Options choice from the main menu that takes you to a series of screens where you can customize Max to your liking. Today’s tutorial will show you how I set up Max to suit the way I work and most important, to output files in OrgMode format.

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Access Options using the Options choice from the main menu. The screenshot above shows Screen 1 of 6. Navigate between the different screens using PageUP or PageDN and use the arrow keys within each screen. IMPORTANT! The first thing you must do when creating a new set of options is  give the Description (first item on screen 1) a new name. This ensures that you don’t accidentally change an existing setup.

The rest of the entries on this screen allow you to set preferences. I recommend you read the manual for an explanation of each screen. You can safely ignore the Date Stamp option, Max doesn’t do dates after the year 2000. I never use dates with Max. No reason when you are brainstorming.

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Screen 2 controls the screen settings. I’ve never changed the defaults. Again, look through the manual for explantions of the settings.

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I’ve probably played with this screen more than any of the others. Here’s where you can change the colors. The screenshot above shows how I set up mine. It’s easy to experiment because you can always change what you don’t like. Hint: make a quick note of the number sequence you like so you can return to it.

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Here’s the screen where you set up Max for printing. I don’t use print but you could if you are running Max inside dosemu. I changed the Page Formats to the maximums and the minimums because when you WRITE a file (the way I move the info from Max to Org) you don’t want the output formatted for a printer. Be sure to set print headers and footers to ‘n’ for each.

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This screen, specifically the Numbering Scheme on the first line is how you tell Max to WRITE the file with asterisks instead of numbers, etc. This is because OrgMode uses asterisks to identify outline headings with one asterisk as the top level, two one level down, three two levels down and so on. My setup gives me six levels if needed.

I also changed the next two items to y to align left and n to attach prefix.

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Screen 6 finishes the setup for Writing to an OrgMode compatible file. Use my settings. Change the indent between levels to 0, make sure spacing formats are set to their respective minimums and enter the control codes that will work with OrgMode. I deleted the topic end sequence and changed the Line End Sequence to 10\ to be Linux compatible, i.e. single line feed.

I haven’t run into any situations yet where my orgmode setup didn’t work (so far). When you want to transfer an outline from MaxThink to OrgMode all you need to do is choose WRITE from the main menu, enter a file name and hit the enter key. Bingo, switch to OrgMode and use the file insert command to insert the contents of the file you just created. I’ll explain more about this phase next time.

As always, if you have any questions please leave a comment or feel free to send me an email.

John_irishA happy St. Patrick’s Day from a 185 lb., 6 ft – 1 in leprechaun aka John. I saw the silly hat I’m wearing in the dollar store and had to have one. Gives me a one up on the wearin’ of the green.

But this post is about installing and running the old DOS version of MaxThink. You can try the Windows version for 30 days and buy it for $29 from Neil Larson, the author of the program. Neil tried to incorporate the best features of the DOS versions of MaxThink but the DOS version works better.

I started using Max back in the DOS days of the 1980s and 1990s. I upgraded several times but put MaxThink aside for a number of years when I switched to Windows.

I prefer Linux over Windows for a number of reasons even though I have several computers, one running Linux Mint 16, the other Windows 7 professional. I’m writing this post on my Linux machine using Org-mode.

I tried several times to get MaxThink up and running in the past with mixed results. DOSBOX is a program that emulates DOS. It’s a good solution for playing old DOS games and Max runs fine except for the fonts. DOSBOX emulates the old VGA text fonts which are rough, hard to read and ugly, but it works. One advantage of DOSBOX is that it’s available for many different operating systems including Linux and Windows.

Dosemu is another way to run old DOS software. Dosemu is a Linux only program that emulates DOS on a virtual machine. Unlike DOSbox, Dosemu requires DOS and comes with FREEDOS already installed. “DOSEMU is a PC Emulator application that allows Linux to run a DOS operating system in a virtual x86 machine. This allows you to run many DOS applications…” from the Dosemu documentation.

The first time I tried Dosemu I could not get it to work. The reason was because the Linux distro I was using at the time had a poorly compiled version of Dosemu in the repository. The program would only run as root, a real no no in my view.

I thought I’d give dosemu another try and I’m glad I did because it works well and has better text fonts. If you use Dosemu in graphic mode, the fonts are decent and scale OK to a full screen. But there’s a better way. Run Dosemu in terminal mode. Have a look at the screenshot below — nice!

Screenshot from 2014-03-17 15:57:24

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I like making a launcher for programs that I use frequently. It’s simpler than digging through menus or opening a terminal session. The screenshot above shows how this simple launcher can do all the work for you. And here’s how to do it:

Fill out the three fields in the launcher properties window and be sure to check off Launch in Terminal? Where to find the command? Dosemu installed in the main menu under Administrative on my machine. I simply went into the menu editor and copied the /usr/bin/dosemu command and added the -t so the program would run inside a terminal.

Once I had the program running in the terminal I created a new terminal profile with a new, larger font. Running Dosemu in a terminal is a no brainer because MaxThink is text only, you can use your favorite font and you can size the terminal window to suit your preferences.

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Click to enlarge

All this assumes you have a copy of DOS MaxThink. I still have my copy from years ago. If you don’t have a copy and want to know what all the fuss is about, feel free to download and read Neil Larson’s wonderful Max94 manual. “…in MaxThink, the real gold mine is the manual. Not because I wrote it, but because MaxThink is a new concept — computers to expand your high-level thinking skills.” Neil Larson from the Max94 manual, p. 1-2

If you’re interested in the DOS version of MaxThink, contact Neil Larson and ask him if he’ll sell you a copy or if you’re an old time customer who lost their copy, Neil is the guy who can help you out.

So then, the screenshot above is the autoexec.bat file that lives on the Dosemu virtual C: drive. Here’s what I added to the file:

  1. added the path of my max directory to the path (on line 3)
  2. d: (switch to the d: drive on line 21)
  3. set MAX=d:\max\MyMax (on line 22)
  4. cd MAX (switch to the MAX directory on line 23)
  5. cls (clears the screen on line 24)
  6. max (runs MaxThink on line 25)

Why the d: drive? Because the d: drive is a virtual drive that points to your home folder. I put the MAX.exe file in d:\max and all the other files including the long list of help files in a subdirectory d:\max\MyMax so the max directory (where Max saves all your files) stays clutter free. The set command tells Max where to look for the files. cd (dos command for change directory to change to the max directory). cls (clears the screen — I did this to solve an issue with FREEDOS info cluttering the Max Screen). Finally, max runs max. I put that last command in the autoexec file because I only use Dosemu to run max. So, when I want to run MaxThink, I simply click on the panel launcher and I’m on my way.

I have a lot more to say and show you about MaxThink and how well it integrates into a modern workflow, especially when used in partnership with OrgMode. But this is enough for this time. Please feel free to ask questions, point out flaws in my reasoning, or to just say hello. Until next time.

PS — I just tested another feature of Dosemu. I was able to copy a list of items from OrgMode, switch to Max and paste the list into Max by pressing the mouse wheel. This is a DOSEMU feature because Max has no idea what a mouse is. This is another good reason to use DOSEMU instead of DOSBOX because the latter cannot paste from Linux to DOS.

Screenshot from 2014-03-08 13:18:59

I have an original, 221 page printed Max94 manual that I’ve kept preserved for 20 years. After I scanned the entire manual and made a pdf file yesterday I contacted Neil Larson, the brain behind MaxThink and received his permission to upload the pdf file so anyone interested may download the manual for their own use.

Left click here: MaxThink to view the MaxThink manual or

Right click here: MaxThink and choose Save Link As to download.

As promised, I’m working on the tutorials. Making the manual available was a priority. Enjoy, please leave feedback and please respect Neil’s copyright.

And please be patient. The manual file is 8.5 Mb and takes a few seconds to view or download (depending on download speed).

It’s late and I don’t have the time for an in depth article but here’s a taste.
Screenshot from 2014-03-05 22:20:56

You’re looking at a screen-shot of an Org-mode outline on the left and a terminal window running MaxThink on the right. I’ve been trying to get these two to work together for a few years and I finally got it right. So far so good. I generated a small outline with 85 songs, songs I’m picking out of my fake books so I can learn them on my harmonica.

I will put together a comprehensive tutorial of my entire process once I have my thoughts organized. Meanwhile, it’s been too long since I posted anything on The Aware Writer.

I’m stalling I know, changing my pen for the third time, but now I’m ready to tell my tale. I’m still not sure how the stranger and I met up that day in the park — no, that’s not true, he called me over to the bench where he sat. It was as though I had no choice, that my body had given over control to the stranger.

Name him? I think not. Even though I know his name (or think I do) I dare not say it aloud lest he “notice” me again.

That first meeting in the park changed my life forever (or so long as I live which might be a very long time). The stranger seemed like a normal person. He sat on a park bench, dressed well with a newspaper folded on his lap.

It was as though I had crossed a threshold and entered a new world. I had been standing in my room, door closed wondering what I should do. I was afraid to go out because I had suckered one of my neighbors out of 100 bucks for a famous book with the author’s autograph. The book was a cheap reproduction and the autograph fake. I thought my customer might have found out about the fake. He’s a lot bigger and meaner.

But allow me to get back to the point I’ve been avoiding. I knew I was in for an interesting afternoon when I opened the door to my rented room during a January snowstorm and stepped directly into a park on a sunny spring afternoon. I turned around — no door. it was gone. I saw the stranger when I turned again. He beckoned to me. I walked over to the bench where he sat. He nodded to the bench next to him. I swear I heard him say “Please sit down,” but his lips never moved. I obeyed.

He reached under the newspaper he had folded on his lap and removed a package wrapped neatly in brown paper. He smiled and handed the package to me. I knew. It was the book. I was sure.

“I just gave you the real thing Robert. This is an original copy made centuries before you were born. This book is the only real copy left in the world and you my boy, are about to embark on the adventure of your life.”

I just stared at him, unable to speak, afraid to move. I sat waiting.

“Selling that fake wasn’t nice Robert, especially to an old friend of mine. It’s your job to make this right. All you have to do is get the author to authenticate this copy with his signature.”

“But the author is dead. How will I…?”

“I know Robert, I know.”


Yay! this is post number 500!


Here’s the first post from the photos I took over the Christmas Holiday.

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From left to right: Carmel Jones – my mother-in-law, Daughters Sue and Erin, Twin Granddaughters Maddy in front, Livvy behind.

I took five shots and this one turned out best. I do like it. I used my new FujiFilm X10. I like that camera. It takes good quality photos and it’s not a point and shoot with no control. Can’t wait to get out in the woods (when I’m feeling better and the weather is warmer).

Green Lion Underpants

How about a wimpy guy who likes to pretend that he’s a lion in front of his bathroom mirror? He never does this outside the bathroom, door closed and locked, private space. He doesn’t want to share his elation and he won’t submit to the ridicule of pretend lions wearing bright green underpants.

Then there was the kid who always wore plain white underpants decorated with wimpy green lions. He cried about it but tears couldn’t change his mother’s mind. So he was forced to pretend that his lions were green so they could hide in the tall green grass. He liked his new lion friends — they seemed like normal lions but when the little boy finally understood the lion language well enough, he discovered that the lions hated green.

They didn’t want to remain a prisoner of the underpants either. The boy wished and promised and begged and cried until one day he heard a voice and looked up to see an old bedraggled wizard standing in the middle of his bedroom.

“What do you want kid? I can’t stand the nagging.”

The kid showed the wizard his green lion underpants and before he got a word out, the wizard began laughing.

The wizard mumbled something, pointed his wand at the green lions and there was a brief flash of light.

The wizard looked at the kid with a serious expression on his face (the wizard’s face) and told the kid: “Be careful. The next person who touches your underpants after you take them off will exchange places with the green lions.”

The wizard laughed and disappeared with a loud pop. The poor kid stood there in the middle of his bedroom wondering if he was imagining things when the door opened and his mother burst into the room.

“I’m doing the wash this morning so get that dirty underwear off and put into the hamper.”

It was hard to hear over the noise of the washer but the little boy thought he heard a lion roar. How was he to explain his new underpants?


Couldn’t help myself. I wrote this little story one morning while writing my morning pages. It just spilled out.


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