PC-Write Word Processor
For PC & PCjr
Requirements: IBM PC with at least
64K RAM, any DOS, and a disk drive (128K RAM and DOS 2.0 or higher
recommended); or an Enhanced Model PCjr with DOS 2.1.
Although an IBM PC (and even a PCjr) cannot be considered an
inexpensive computer, sometimes the cost of the machine seems to be no
more than a down payment after you buy the software needed to operate
it. Word processing, for example, is one of the most popular
applications for personal computers. But many of the most popular
commercial word processing programs for IBM computers cost $400 or
more. That's why it's so refreshing to find a program like PC-Write-a professionally designed,
fullfeatured word processor that is practically free for the asking.
not commercial software in the usual sense. It is distributed via the shareware concept. You're allowed
to copy and share the PC-Write
disk, which contains both the programs and documentation. Indeed, such
copying is encouraged, because it's the primary means of distributing
If you don't know anyone who can share PC-Write with you, it is available
from many user groups, bulletin board systems, and from the publisher,
Quicksoft. Quicksoft charges a minimal $10 fee to cover the cost of the
disk, postage, and handling. That's a price that is hard to beat.
However, shareware-or user-supported software, as it
is also known-is not just an exercise in altruism. Rather, it is a
marketing approach that some software authors developed as an
alternative to the more traditional channels of commercial software
distribution. Its proponents like to compare it with public television.
Under the shareware concept, quality software is made freely available
to the public without obligation. You can make as many backup copies as
you want and try out the program at your leisure. If, after using the
program for a while, you decide that it's suitable, you're encouraged
to support the efforts of the software developer by making a voluntary
contribution. Though a specific amount is usually suggested, any
contribution is appreciated.
PC-Write gives the shareware
concept a special twist. If you're satisfied with PC-Write, you're asked to register
your copy of the program by sending $75 to Quicksoft. This $75 fee is
rather modest compared to the price of comparable word processors, and
it buys you more benefits than you usually get with commercial
software. You receive not only a copy of PC-Write personalized with your
registration number and a bound manual, but also a telephone number you
can call with questions about the software, a copy of the Pascal and
machine language source code, and the next major update of the program.
The personal registration number is the key to the
most unusual benefit. Whenever you share your personalized copy of PC-Write with someone, their copy
will bear your registration number. If that person subsequently
registers PC-Write, Quicksoft
mails you a $25 commission. There's no limit to the number of
commissions you can earn. Therefore, an aggressive registrant can
actually make money by distributing the program to friends and
associates, like the software equivalent of a (legal) chain letter.
As attractive as this innovative marketing concept
sounds, it is bound to generate some skepticism about the quality and
commercial value of the program. You get what you pay for, right? Well,
was programmed by a pro. Designer Bob Wallace has been writing text
editors since 1969. He has a master's degree in computer science and
worked for Microsoft for a number of years, where he wrote much of the
MS-Pascal compiler and runtime package. (PC-Write and many other commercial
programs are written in MS-Pascal.)
Second, a careful examination of PC-Write bears out Wallace's
observation that in order to make money from voluntary contributions, a
program must be very good indeed.
Separate Editor And
Like all word processing programs, PC-Write
lets you enter, edit, and format text to print it exactly the way you
want it. Unlike most word processors, however, PC-Write splits these functions
between two separate programs to save memory. This requires you to save
your file, exit the editor program, and then load the printer driver
program before you can print your document. Fortunately, if you have
more than 128K of memory and are using DOS 2.0 or higher, you can keep
the editor and your text in memory while running the printer program.
The editor program does most of the real work. It
lets you enter text and format the appearance of each line on the
screen. All the usual capabilities are supported, such as adjustable
margins, centering, and right-margin justification. The PC-Write printer driver is used
only to divide these lines of text into pages and to properly place
headers and footers. Except for special features such as boldfacing,
underlining, and subscripts, your text is printed exactly as it looks
on the screen. Any line length can be specified, but only 80 columns
will appear on the screen at once. To see widths greater than 80
characters, you must scroll the text window right or left.
The editor portion of PCWrite is responsive and very
powerful, boasting a wide range of features. You can enter text in
either insert mode (new characters make room by pushing old characters
to the right), or overstrike mode (new characters replace old
characters). You toggle between the two modes with the Scroll Lock key
on the PC or the Function-S combination on the PCjr.
The wide range of cursor control commands is very
logically assigned to the special keys on the IBM keyboard or to
double-key combinations. For example, the left and right arrow keys by
themselves move the cursor left or right one character; when pressed
with a Shift key, they move the cursor to the left or right of the
screen; and when pressed with Shift and Control, they move the cursor
left or right one word. Other combinations let you move the cursor to
the top or bottom of the screen, the beginning or end of the document,
forward or backward one paragraph, and allow you to scroll the whole
screen up or down one line or page at time. You can even mark the
current cursor position so you can return there later by pressing
another double-key combination. In addition, the program internally
numbers each line of text. You can see the current line number by
pressing Shift-F9 and jump directly to another line by entering its
For all of the editing commands, PC-Write makes special provisions
for the PCjr keyboard so multiple keystrokes aren't required to emulate
the full PC keyboard.
On-Line Help Screen
Since so many cursor commands may be a little hard to keep track of,
pressing the F1 key brings up a help screen that details all of the
special key assignments. You can customize the program, too-permanently
assigning any command sequence to one of the Control key combinations.
That way, if you are already used to another word processor, you can
set up PC-Write to emulate it
(the default assignments correspond to those used by WordStar).
also lets you move the cursor to a specific word or series of words
using the Search command. You merely designate a search string by
pressing F9 and typing in the word or phrase. From then on, a single
keypress moves the cursor either forward or backward to the next
occurrence of that string in the document. You can even use certain
wild card characters in your search string. An F5 character will match
any letter or digit, an F6 will match any character except a letter or
number, an F7 will match any one character, and an F5 will match an
end-of-line character. For example, the search string "comput[F5]"
could be used to find both "computer" and "computing"
You can also designate a replacement string. Hitting
the F10 key replaces the next occurrence of the search string with the
replacement string, and Shift-F10 replaces all occurrences of the
search string within the text. There is even an unreplace feature so you can
switch them back in case you made a mistake!
makes it easy to delete, move, and duplicate text. There are single-key
commands for deleting a character, a word, or a line. For deleting or
moving larger blocks of text, the F6 key lets you start defining
sections of your document (this text appears in inverse video). You can
use all of the program's powerful cursor movement keys to extend the
defined area. For example, a whole paragraph can be marked by pressing
F6 and Control-PgDn (next paragraph). When you've defined the
paragraph, you can delete it by pressing a single key.
Whenever you delete more than one character at a
time, the erased text is moved to a holding area so it can be inserted
somewhere else. This feature can also be used to retrieve text that was
removed by mistake. Defined blocks can be saved on disk or printed out,
and text can be merged into a document from a disk file. You can also
duplicate a defined block of text elsewhere in the document.
In addition to its clean implementation of standard editing features, PC-Write contains many nice extras
which are usually found, if at all, in only the most comprehensive (and
expensive) word processors. There is a single keystroke combination
which transposes two letters, rather than making you delete one letter,
move the cursor, and type it in again. Likewise, the F8 key switches
lowercase letters to uppercase and vice versa.
When loading a file, the program lets you choose
whether you want an automatic backup file created. A keyboard macro
feature lets you define any key or combination of keys as any series of
characters. This means you can insert commonly used phrases, such as
your name, with a single keystroke. It also means you can customize the
program's command sequences to make them easier to remember, and
frequently used combinations of these commands can be available by
pressing one key. The keyboard macros can even be made a permanent part
of the PC-Write editor by
saving them in a disk file.
The level of customization possible with PC-Write is truly staggering. You
can create special characters which will send any sequence of command
codes to the printer, allowing you to create overstrike characters or
even dot-matrix graphics characters. You can designate how special
characters will appear on the screen, so that underlined text, for
example, can be displayed in boldface, inverse, or blinking characters.
If you're using a color monitor, you can set the foreground and
background colors for regular text, marked text, text which appears
between printer control characters, and the status line.
If you're a programmer, the possibilities are
endless. Because you can obtain the source code for PC-Write by registering your copy,
virtually any modification can be made.
The author's commitment of support is as important as the program's
many fine features. One of the advantages of the shareware system is
that it opens up dialogue between the software author and users. You
can report bugs and suggest improvements, and the unconventional method
of distribution frees the author to make changes as often as he wishes.
PC-Write has undergone a
number of revisions within a short period of time. Some of the more
recent enhancements include the keyboard macros and the special font
characters for turning on boldfacing and underlining.
Inevitably, there are still some features of PC-Write that aren't perfect. Even
if your computer has enough RAM (at least 128K) to hold both the editor
program and printer driver in memory at once, you still can't switch
back and forth. It's also inconvenient to have to exit the editor to
DOS whenever you need to see a disk directory. And it would be nice if
microspace justification were added to the printer driver.
These problems are less important, however, when
viewed in context of the program's overall excellence. Moreover,
because of the ongoing support of PC-Write,
there is a pretty fair chance that even these flaws will be cleaned up
in a future revision.
Quicksoft 219 First Avenue North, #224
Seattle, WA 98109
$10 (program disk)
$75 (registered copy)