Less is more; two inexpensive word processors for the Apple. (evaluation) Steve Arrants.
Less Is More
Two Inexpensive Processors for the Apple
Minimalism is in these days. In art, science, and exonomics, less is more, and the less you have, the better. It may be a score by Philip Glass, performance art by Laurie Anderson, economy cars, or Reaganomics. What does this have to do with computers? In the past few months we have seen a new breed of software on the market. Inexpensive, accessible to every user, and increasingly potent in terms of sales and market share, such software exploits the potential of the microcomputer.
In word processing, for example, there is a trend away from the "more is everything' package toward software tailored to specific, well-defined applications. Why use WordStar for a letter to Mom?
The two packages reviewed below belong to this new group of word processors. The Write Stuff comes from Harpet & Row, a firm noted for its trade and technical publishing. Cut and Paste is the newest offering from Electronic Arts, one of the most innovative software publishers in the industry. Can they duplicate the success they have had with games in the area of home software? Read on to find out how well these well known companies are doing with less is more.
The Write Stuff
The Write Stuff is a pleasant surprise in a field on near misses. It does what is expected of it without complicated commands or formatting codes, making it one of the easiest to use of the low cost word processors. This is a well thought out product that achieves the ideal of user-friendliness without foregetting to include useful features.
The Write Stuff is packaged in a plastic box resembling a trade paperback. Two disks are included, a master and a backup. The documentation is in the form of a booklet, which includes a five-lesson tutorial that covers all the commands contained in the program and uses numerous examples to show you how each feature of the program works.
Each chapter is well-organized into definite topics that gradually accustom you to using The Write Stuff. The authors assume no prior knowledge on your part. Every command and topic is painstakingly detailed with illustrations and examples.
Text entry is as simple as using a typewriter. The Write Stuff performs operations such as scrolling, insert and delete, cursor movement, and search and replace. To perform these operations you must leave the entry mode by pressing ESC to get to the EDIT mode.
Most of the commands are more or less mnemonic--CTRL-D for delete left, CTRL-R for delete right, CRTL-W for delete word. Scrolling is via the cursor keys, and the spacebar allows insertion before a word. Place the cursor on the first letter of the word where insertion is to begin. Tap the spacebar and begin typing text. Press the right arrow key to tell the computer that you have finished inserting text.
Underlining and boldface are achieved by using CTRL-Y for underlining and CTRL-B for boldface. To end boldface or underlining you enter a CTRL-N.
The Options Menu contains commands that you need when correcting or editing large blocks of text. ERASE, for example, lets you mark blocks of text for deletion. Place the cursor at the beginning of the text to be erased, use the right arrow key to mark the text, and press RETURN to finish. What if you have deleted too much or the wrong text? UNDO reverses the last command processes.
REPLACE is used to substitute characters, words, or phrases for any segment of your file. For example, if you discover that you have spelled a word incorrectly more than once or have used the wrong phrase throughout your file, the REPLACE command can be used to fix that word or phrase more than once. Use CTRL-A to put the cursor at the beginning of the file and press R to activate REPLACE. Position the cursor on the first occurrence of the mistake.
Use the right arrow to paint the text and hit RETURN. Then enter the replacement text and a RETURN. You can replace some or all of the text at your discretion.
The VIEW command lets you see how your files will look when they are printed out. Enter a V while in the Options mode or a CTRL-V in the Text Entry mode to see line spacing, margin size, underlined, and bold text.
Help is available at any time by pressing CTRL-K on the II+ or Closed-Apple on the IIe. This displays the commands that are valid for the mode in use at that time. No complicated explanations are offered, so keep the user's manual by your side for the first few sessions. After a few hours of use, however, you should be familiar with all commands.
Printing a file involves two actions. First, you must set up a specific format for the text. The FORMAT command in the Options mode lets you control the way the page will look. The Write Stuff offers all the standard options, including margin settings, right justification, print spooling, page length, line numbering, pause between pages, and page heading.
As you write, you find that different sections might look better formatted in a particular manner. For example, tables should be indented and centered, headings should be centered and underlined, and you might want to use italics for certain phrases. The Write Stuff gives you the option of designing the appearance of special sections without having to insert control codes. If you press ESC to get to the Options mode and F for Format, you are prompted for a format number. Format 0 is the printing format for an entire document. Formats 1 to 9 allow you to vary design features within the same file. These special formats let you use specific ASCII codes that your printer recognizes. After setting your formats, return to Options and hit P to print.
The major function of the Utility section is to tell The Write Stuff about the requirements of your computer system. That is, you must tell The Write Stuff how many disk drives are connected, where the printer card is located, and if an 80-column card is present.
The Screen option lets you alter the way files will appear on the monitor. You can suppress the carriage return symbol, turn off key click, change the cursor, and change the display from normal to inverse.
Translate is very useful if you use another Apple word processor or a communications program. The Write Stuff saves files in a non-standard format. To use the binary or text files created by another word processor with The Write Stuff, you must convert them to Write Stuff files.
Cleanup is another useful utility. Whenever you delete a file and then save another one, DOS places it in the previously deleted filespace. For example, if you delete a 50-sector file and then save a 12-sector file, DOS reserves the entire 50 sectors for that file. Cleanup maximizes the number of files you can store on a disk by rearranging the files for efficient storage.
The Write Stuff is not for every application. It isn't very good with large files requiring complex print formatting, footnoting, or super/subscripts. If you need that ability you should consider a word processor such as Screen Writer II, Apple-Writer, or WordStar. For personal letters, school papers, and short documents, however, The Write Stuff is an excellent word processor. The documentation is well-written, and the program is reliable and very easy to use.
Cut and Paste
Electronic Arts has earned a reputation as the Wunderkind of software publishing. It is famous for excellent games such as M.U.L.E., Axis Assassin, and Hard Hat Mac. Cut and Paste is their first entry into the area of personal productivity software. With so many successes, a failure is bound to occur sooner or later. After all, even the New York Islanders lose a few games. Electronic Arts, however, is on a winning streak. Cut and Paste lives up to the high standards we have come to expect from these software wizards.
The user's manual is an incredible fourteen pages short. Within those pages you will learn all you will ever need to know about Cut and Paste. Instructions for editing, printing, formatting text, filing, and recovery from errors are contained in a concise little booklet. A command summary card is included, and frankly, that is about all you need to use this superb product.
Cut and Paste works like a typewriter. The TAB key generates a tab, SHIFT shifts, and DELETE actually deletes. If you are used to a so-called "full-feature' word processor, such key usage may seem unusual.
After booting the program disk, you use ESC and the cursor keys to select a command at the bottom of the screen. You may select a document from the catalog or BLANK to begin a new document.
To edit text, you use ESC and the cursor keys to select the type of editing you wish to perform. CTRL-A followed by the rightarrow key paints the text for changing. CTRL-C "cuts' it into the buffer and CTRL-P "pastes' down a marked copy of the buffer contents.
The other editing commands make just as much sense. CTRL-S moves the cursor to the start of a document, while CTRL-E places you at the end. Text insertion is type-over, rather than push-ahead.
Tabs are pre-set for every five spaces. CTRL-N indents the margin five spaces to the right. To restore the margin you enter a CTRL-R.
All of these commands are also available through the menu at the bottom of the screen--you don't have to use a control sequence if you don't want to.
Most low cost word processors lose points when it comes to printing. You must specify the number of lines per page and the number of characters per line. Cut and Paste bypasses this complicated procedure. Since people measure pages in inches, 8-1/2' by 11', for example, so does Cut and Paste. After all, Cut and Paste is for people who want to write, not program a computer.
The print function is intelligent enough to remove widows (single lines which belong to a paragraph printed on another page). For example, if the first line of a paragraph falls at the bottom of a page while the rest of the paragraph continues on the next, Cut and Paste moves the dangling line to the next page. The same thing occurs when the last line of a paragraph sits alone at the top of a new page; Cut and Paste moves it to the previous page. Not even Apple Writer can do that!
Cut and Paste will also let you start printing on a new page no matter what the print setting calls for. Just put a series of hyphens on a line by itself and the new line will be printed at the top of a new page.
Electronic Arts supplies two disk utilities. Copy-Disk copies a document disk for back up. Format-Disk lets you create new document disks. Only disks formatted with this utility can be used by Cut and Paste. Cut and Paste is a protected program and cannot be backed-up.
If you need a word processor for long documents and extensive writing, look elsewhere. Cut and Paste offers no search and replace, underlining, boldface, or other extras. Text files are not compatible with Apple DOS text files. But remember for whom Cut and Paste was designed. This program is intended for the home user, the person who needs to write short letters, lists, thank you notes, and perhaps a speech for civics class. If you now use a typewriter for these jobs, Cut and Paste is powerful enough for you. Electronic Arts has proven that they can produce "serious' software every bit as powerful and enjoyable as their games.
Table: Comparison Chart
Products: The Write Stuff (computer program)
Cut and Paste (Word processing software)