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Getting Started

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After installing Montage on your computer, you're ready to run the program and create your first montage.  Here's a quick summary basic steps involved:

Launching Montage

The simplest way to start Montage is to double-click on a shortcut (i.e. a Windows link) on the Windows desktop, as created by the standard installation procedure or created manually, or you can launch Montage from Windows' Start Menu.  Running the program, MONTAGE3.EXE, for the first time creates a new, empty, default montage named MONTAGE.MO3.  If this file already exists, Montage will open it and restore the previous view.

Once you've been using Montage for a while, you may want to have several separate montages, which can be stored wherever you like.  In that case, you would probably find it more useful to link to individual montages, rather than linking to the program, MONTAGE3.EXE.  You can put links to montages anywhere in the filing system, e.g. on the Windows desktop, or you can create a Montage Shortcut to one montage inside another.  In either case, double-clicking, pressing Enter, or right-clicking and choosing Open Target from the context menu on a Shortcut or a link to a montage opens that metafile in its own Montage Desktop window.  (When you first attempt to open a file having the .MO3 extension via Windows Explorer, it prompts you to point it to the associated program.)

Creating Montage Shortcuts

A new montage contains only an empty Montage Desktop window, with various default option settings.  Your first action typically would be to position and resize the Desktop window, possibly selecting a background image (wallpaper) if you are creating a graphical montage.  You can immediately begin to populate your montage with Shortcuts, by dragging and dropping files, folders, links, and hyperlinks from Explorer (e.g. the Windows desktop) into Montage.

Another way to create new Shortcuts is by using the New Shortcut command from the main menu.  This opens a Shortcut Properties dialog, where you can enter the parameters of the new Shortcut directly, with more options than dragging and dropping.  Use File, Properties (or right-click and select Properties from the Shortcut context menu) to open a Shortcut's Properties dialog at any point, in order to review and change its settings.

Icons appearing in a Montage Desktop window represent Shortcuts to applications and documents, or more precisely, to ways of launching and initializing applications or openings of those documents.  A montage does not physically contain the icons, application programs, or data that those programs act upon.  The amount of information actually residing in a Montage metafile is relatively small, even if it describes a complex view.

Launching applications through Montage

One of the main points of creating Montage Shortcuts is to give yourself a more convenient way of launching applications.  Once you've created a Shortcut, try double-clicking on its icon to open a document or run a familiar application.  The application should run exactly as it normally would, with the only immediate difference compared to launching through a Windows link being that the associated Montage Shortcut is highlighted while the application window it launched remains open.  If you close the application, its Shortcut reverts to the un-highlighted appearance.  The next time you open this Shortcut, however, you may notice another difference: the application window automatically will be restored to its previous sizing, placement, and zoom state, even if that is not its normal behavior when launched directly from Windows.

Open a few Shortcuts simultaneously, and arrange their target windows in some manner that suits your taste and the limitations of screen space.  Note that you can quickly activate an open target window by double-clicking on its highlighted Shortcut, as an alternative to finding and selecting the corresponding button on the Windows Task Bar.  It's no more difficult to launch an application through Montage than it is to launch it through a conventional link on the Windows desktop.  The main benefit of launching applications through Montage shows up later, when you close and reopen the Shortcut, or when you close and reopen the montage that contains it.

Monitoring and controlling applications via Shortcuts

A Shortcut not only can launch an application, but also it gives you a quick way to tell whether the target is currently open, based on the Shortcut's highlighting.  The current window zoom state is indicated by the color of the Shortcut's border (red = normal, green = minimized, blue = maximized).

An additional mode of highlighting, called auto-detection, displays a gray background around the Shortcut when its target has been already opened by something other than this Shortcut.  (A different, but functionally equivalent highlighting style is used for transparent Shortcuts.)  Auto-detection is especially useful when dealing with exclusive documents, for which there can be at most one opening, but where there may exist any number of Shortcuts to that document (e.g. a Word document or another montage).  When a Shortcut is auto-detected, you can instantly activate its open target window by double-clicking on the highlighted Shortcut.

Using the Shortcut context menu, you can open, close, activate, minimize, maximize, normalize, or put the associated application window behind all other windows.  By integrating these features into the Shortcut itself, Montage provides a convenient and versatile alternative to the Window Task Bar, with greater economy of screen space.

Saving and restoring the view

Through Montage's menus you can save the montage, restore the entire view, or just save and restore the configuration of an individual Shortcut, but you don't have to use menus to see Montage's automatic state-saving and restoration at work.  When you close and reopen an application through a Montage Shortcut, the target window automatically is restored to its previous size and position, even if Windows' normal behavior would have been to arrange it differently.  Sometimes Windows remembers the prior arrangement, but in general Windows is more limited and unreliable than Montage in this respect.  The Windows Calculator (CALC.EXE), for example, is of one of those pesky applications that never seems to stay where you put it.

More interesting than closing a single Shortcut is what happens when you close a montage containing one or more open Shortcuts: not only does the Montage Desktop window close, but also the external application windows associated with each of its open Shortcuts.  By default, closing an instance of Montage automatically captures and saves its final state in a Montage metafile.  Reopening a montage restores its previous state, including which Shortcuts were open and the sizing and placement of their respective target windows.

In addition to saving and restoring the configuration of the Montage Desktop window and the layouts of external application windows, Montage has a certain amount application intelligence, i.e. it knows about about some application-specific properties.  For example, Montage is able to save and restore the view mode and TreeView mode of an Explorer window, i.e. the choice of Large Icons, Small Icons, List, Details, or Thumbnails, and the optional directory tree navigation pane.  There is a separate page devoted to application-specific properties in the Shortcut Properties dialog.  (The extent of Montage's application intelligence is evolving, based on user feedback and technical considerations.)

Exiting from Montage

Normally when you exit from Montage, e.g. by clicking on the Montage Desktop window's close box, it automatically saves the view.  (This default behavior can be modified through the More, Auto-save options of the Desktop context menu.)  Also you always have the choice of Abandoning a view, meaning that you wish to exit leaving the previous montage intact.

Creating new montages

You can create any number of separate montages and have any number of them open at the same time (subject the the limits of your PC hardware, of course).  Montage supports some Windows command line options for ways of explicitly creating a new metafile, but the more common procedure is to create new montages from within a running instance of the program, e.g. via File, New Montage... or Save As....  It is also possible to integrate Montage into the Windows Shell, so you can right-click and use New, Montage from an Explorer window.

When Montage is launched without explicitly specifying the name of the montage to be opened, the program looks for a default montage named MONTAGE.MO3.  If no such montage exists, it is created.  This is the typical way that your first montage would come into existence, after performing a Montage program installation.

Tip: Create a template montage configured with your preferred default Montage Desktop options and window layout.  If you like, create an assortment of such templates, and keep links or Shortcuts to these template montages in a handy location.  The New Montage dialog allows you to specify a template path and file name, as well as providing an option to create a Shortcut to the new montage automatically.

You can also create a new montage from any existing montage by opening it and performing a Save As..., specifying the new montage's name and location.  It may advisable to close and reopen the new montage in this case, to avoid potential confusion as to the identity of the resulting montage.  Also note that this method does not automatically create a Shortcut to the new montage, so you may need to perform that additional step manually.  For these reasons, the New Montage command is usually the simplest approach.

Organizing and using your montages

The first thing to do is start small, for example with a main montage to open the applications you use most frequently.  See how you can save yourself a little time by launching individual applications through Montage, or even starting up a number of applications all at once, rather than the usual routine of opening them one at a time and manually putting each into its customary arrangement.  If you shy away from opening multiple applications concurrently, be bold, and see how you can do things more easily this way, provided that the windows are consistently and automatically rearranged into a precisely reproducible configuration.

Once your primary montage becomes too crowded, it's time to think about ways of breaking it up into logical sub-units.  For example, there may be clusters of Shortcuts that tend to be used together, primarily in connection with some particular project or activity.  Creating separate montages makes it easier to switch between disparate activities, reducing irrelevant, distracting screen clutter.  Because montages are files, you can use the full power and flexibility of Windows Explorer to store them in the filing system along with the documents to which they refer, accommodating a virtually boundless amount of information.

As the number of your montages grows, consider ways of organizing them into an informal hierarchy or logical network, bearing in mind that a montage may contain Shortcuts to other montages, which in turn can refer to others, and so on.  This organization of logically nested montages is quite different from a traditional filing system or database, because parent-child relationships between montages are not constrained as they are in a conventional hierarchical organization.  For example, multiple Shortcuts to a given document or montage may exist within any number of possible parent montages.  Two different montages each may contain a Shortcut to the other, but at any given time at most one can be the other's current parent.  A special mode of highlighting, called auto-detection, makes it easy to distinguish between these cases.  Circularities are avoided, because Montage is an exclusive document application: if a montage is already open, attempting to open it again simply activates it.

Exploring the samples

A collection of sample montages has been provided to illustrate the basics of Montage usage, as well as presenting a selection of advanced topics and diverse examples.  Use Help, Samples from the main menu or press the Samples button of the About Montage dialog to launch the main sample montage.  If samples are not yet on your machine, Montage will offer to download them for you.  Feel free to modify and experiment with your local copy - any changes you make will persist.  To obtain a fresh copy, simply delete or move your local samples, and Montage will automatically fetch them again, as needed.  Note that some of the samples are restricted to registered users; for access to these use Help, Register or the Register button of the About dialog to enter your username and password, as assigned to you upon purchasing Montage.


Review the Montage Knowledge Base (MKB) to become acquainted with known limitations, problems, and potential points of confusion in the current implementation.  If you are using a local copy of the Montage Help file, you should occasionally check the online MKB page for any updates to this information, and see the online Version History page for news about the latest available Montage program updates available for downloading.  (Note that some downloads are available only to registered Montage users.)

Montage command line options

Normally you'd start Montage simply by double-clicking through Windows Explorer on the program, MONTAGE3.EXE, or on a montage (.MO3 file), or on or a link to one of those.  Montage supports the following Windows command line syntax:

MONTAGE3.EXE [option] [metafile_name]


option: is one of the following

metafile_name: specifies the name of the Montage metafile to be created and/or opened.  The ".MO3" extension is supplied automatically if no filename extension was specified.  If metafile_name is omitted, the default name is "montage.mo3".  Invoking MONTAGE3.EXE without any arguments opens the default MONTAGE.MO3 in the Montage application data directory, created automatically if not found.

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Montage Help page, last edited: 12/31/10 16:20
Copyright SpaceTime Systems 2003-2011