How to install Dexter

There are two ways to download and install Dexter. The first, which we recommend, is to use Java Web Start. This is so easy that you can probably just follow the instructions on the download page, but see below for why we prefer this method. The second way is to download the Dexter zip archive file to your hard drive, extract it, and run Dexter from the .jar files.

Note that Dexter is a suite of tools that are run as separate programs. Currently, there are two tools: the Dexter Converter and the Dexter Coder. You will need both of these programs.

Java Web Start method (recommended)

Java Web Start is a technology developed by Sun Microsystems, makers of Java, that enables the simple deployment of Java applications (programs) over the Web. If you have Java installed on your computer (which you need to have to use Dexter), you probably already have Java Web Start installed. This method is really easy and really fast; it only takes a few seconds to install a program. The lengthy instructions here are mostly to make sure you understand what's going on. Here's how it works:

  1. You use your web browser to go to the page where the application is located (in our case, that's the download page).
  2. When you click on a special link (a link to a .jnlp file, if you must know), Java Web Start (JWS) starts up on your computer and downloads the program files. If your computer downloads the .jnlp file instead of running it, just wait a moment and see if the program starts. If it doesn't, find the .jnpl file you downloaded and double-click it. This should start the program. Once you've created a shortcut/alias/application, you can safely delete the .jnlp file.
  3. JWS is very smart. It knows how to check the files it downloads to make sure that none of them are missing or corrupted, using something called a digital signature. It also checks to see whether the digital certificate that accompanies the program has been validated by an official internet security agency like VeriSign or Thawte.

    In our case, Dexter has a digital signature that will ensure that the files are all safe. However, the certificate has not been validated by an official company, because that costs a lot of money and we don't have the money (remember that Dexter is free). It should tell you that the digital certificate was signed by Gregory Garretson (the creator of Dexter). It may warn you not to run the program, because it's generally unsafe to run a program if you don't trust the person who wrote it. To use the program, you will have to tell JWS that you want to run the program anyway. (Please note that this warning applies to every single program you have installed on your computer, but you usually aren't given the warning explicitly. You just need to use your judgment.)

    It is perfectly safe to run Dexter. It won't do anything dangerous or unusual to your computer. When you run it, you may, at your discretion, tell Java to always trust content from Gregory Garretson.

  4. JWS will check to make sure that you have a sufficiently recent version of the Java Runtime Environment (1.4.0 or newer) on your computer. You probably do, but if it turns out that you don't, JWS will install it for you automatically. It doesn't uninstall the version you currently have. The only potential problem with this is that it takes up a bit of space on your hard drive (around 60 MB per version). If that bothers you, why not install the newest version of Java, and then uninstall all older versions?
  5. The first or second time you run the program, JWS will ask you whether you would like to create a shortcut/alias to the program (it may say "create an application"). Just say yes, and it will create an icon on your desktop (or let you choose the location). If you're using Windows, it will also create a Dexter folder in the Start Menu under All Programs.

    If Java doesn't prompt you to create a shortcut, try closing the program and starting it again from the website. If you're still not prompted to create a shortcut, you can do so from the Java Application Cache Viewer (Application Manager). See the Java page for more information.

  6. After you successfully run the program this way, you can run it in the future by any of three methods:
    • By clicking on the shortcut (alias) on your desktop (on in the Start Menu, on Windows), once you have created one.
    • By going back to the download page and clicking on the link to the program.
    • By opening the Java Application Cache Viewer and choosing the application from the list. See the Java page for more information.
  7. Each time JWS runs the program, it will check to see whether you are online. If so, it will check to see whether there is a newer version of the program. If so, it will download it and run it—you don't have to do anything at all.

    By this method, if you use Dexter when you are online, you can be assured of having the current version of the program installed on your computer. You can use this version whether you are online or not.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • In case you're wondering where JWS puts the program, you can find out from the Java Control Panel.
  • If for some strange reason you have Java 1.4 installed but not Java Web Start, you can get it here.

If you don't want to use Java Web Start, you can use the manual method described below.

Manual installation method

The manual method is for anyone who doesn't want to or cannot use Java Web Start, or who wants to have more control over where on their hard drive all the application files are. It is also the only way to get versions of Dexter prior to the latest one.

Note that this method is not any more secure than the JWS method. Also, using this method, you will not automatically get updates to the programs, but will have to download them manually from the website, following the same procedure each time. Here's the procedure:

  1. The first time you download Dexter, you will need to download two files, a file with a name like and a file with a name like The support file doesn't change very often, but the Dexter file does, so in the future, to get the next version of Dexter, you will probably only need to download the Dexter file, which is much smaller. It will be clear when you need a new support file.
  2. On the Get it page, choose the version you want to download. Click on the corresponding link to download the Dexter zip file containing all the program files. Then click on the link to download the Dexter_support file. Save both files to your hard drive.
  3. Create a folder somewhere on your hard drive called "Dexter". Move both zip files into this folder.
  4. Open the zip files with an extractor program (such as StuffIt Expander, WinZip, or 7zip, or the built-in one on your operating system). They should contain a number of files with the extension .jar. Put them all in the folder called Dexter. You must not remove any of these files from the folder; otherwise, the programs won't work. (However, the folder itself may be placed anywhere you like on your hard drive.) Once you have extracted the files from the .zip archives, you can delete the .zip archives.
  5. The Dexter Converter and the Dexter Coder are contained in .jar files, or Java Archive files. These are files that Java executes. You should not try to unzip them. On many systems, they are executable just by double-clicking on them. (If that doesn't work, you may want to do "Open with..." and choose the Java binary, and then select the "always use this" option.) Probably the best thing to do is to make shortcuts (aliases) to the files DexterConverter.jar and DexterCoder.jar. These shortcuts may then be placed anywhere you like. Most operating systems will also let you rename the shortcuts.
  6. Clicking on one of the shortcut files you've created will start the corresponding program.
  7. When you want to upgrade to the next version of Dexter, just repeat this procedure, replacing the old .jar files with the new ones. If necessary, also download and unzip the new Dexter_support file. If they are in the same place, the shortcuts you previously created should continue to work.

Note that if you install Dexter by both methods, the manual method and Java Web Start, you will have two copies of Dexter on your computer. If you do this (not recommended), it's a good idea to keep track of which is which, since one will automatically update and the other won't.