AtariWriter: an almost complete word processor. (evaluation) Arthur Leyenberger.
It seems that every time you turn around there is another word processor program for the Atari computer. the latest entry in the word processing sweepstakes, AtariWriter, comes from none other than Atari itself. This cartridge-based program is unique in that it allows text files to be saved on cassette tapes, opening up the world of word processing to the Atari user without a disk drive. This feature, together with its ease of use, makes AtariWriter a candidate for "Best Atari Product in a Long Time."
An easy to use program is one that may be used immediately after removing it from its package. AtariWriter is such a program as evidenced by my beginning to type this review only moments after opening the box. Turn on the computer (400, 800, or 1200), pop in the cartridge and select the Create option from the menu when it appears. You are now in the Create mode and may begin typing. Pressing the ESC key at any time brings back the main menu without losing any of your text contained in memory.
If AtariWriter is used with a disk drive, the Atari 810 Master Disk (or any disk containing DOS 2.0S files) must be inserted into the drive before powering up the computer. Otherwise, the Atari 410 Program Recorder should be connected prior to inserting the cartridge and applying power.
Unlike the Atari Word Processor (Atari's previous word processing program) the menu that appears at power up is the only menu used in the program. The activities that may be performed with the word processor are listed alphabetically. Menu selections are made by entering the first letter of the command (displayed in reverse video). The program then asks what you want to do next.
The Create File option is used to start writing a new text file. If a text file already exists in memory, AtariWriter asks if you want it erased. This type of fail safe message appears throughout the program whenever there is a possibility that you may inadvertently delete or erase some text. Editing
The Edit File option of the main menu allows revisions to be made to a text file already in memory. It is usually used after loading, saving, or printing a text file. The editing functions are available only in this mode and are particularly easy to use. The cursor (a blinking underline) is moved through the text one character at a time by means of the CTRL key plus one of the four arrow keys. The OPTION key plus the up or down arrow key moves up or down one screen at a time.
Most of the text manipulation and formatting commands are initiated by using the CTRL key or one of the Special Function keys in conjunction with another key. For example, to determine the amount of currently available memory in bytes, you would press OPTION-F. With 48K of memory and a disk drive, you start out with approximately 20K of memory availalbe for text. This translates into about 6 double-spaced pages. Slightly more text memory is available if only a tape recorder is used.
Other straightforward commands are: CTRL-A, move cursor to beginning of line; CTRL-Z, move cursor to end of line SELECT-T, move cursor to top of file; SELECT-B, move cursor to bottom of file; SELECT-S, search and replace; CTRL-P, begin new paragraph; and CTRL-C, center text.
Blocks of text can be manipulated easily by placing a CTRL-X at the beginning and at the end of the block. The block may then be deleted, copied, or moved to another location. Copying and moving text are very powerful features, allowing you to duplicate or shift parts of the text file around without having to retype the material.
Time and errors can also be minimized by using the Search and Replace functions. For example, if I consistently misspelled the word Atari in this text file I could use these functions to locate and to correct each mistake quickly. The porogram gives the choice of deciding whether to replace each occurrence individually or change all of them at once (globally).
Unfortunately, control characters may not be used with the Search and Replace functions. For example, whenever I use the word AtariWriter I use two printer control codes before and after the word to turn the italics font on and off on my printer. Control codes are inserted by preceding the decimal value of the printer code with a CTRL-O. With other word processors I have gotten into the habit of placing ## at the start of the word and a #$ at the end of the word to be italicized. When I am finished with the entire document I perform a global search and replace the ## and #$ with the corresponding printer codes.
When creating a new or editing an existing text file the bottom of the screen always displays the file name (if loaded from disk), the line and column position, and a message stating, Press ESC to Return to Menu. The default tab positions are indicate by arrows. The first line at the top of the text file is called the Print Formatting block and displays the values used for formatting and printing. These settings include left, right, top, and bottom margins; spacing, lines per page and justification information; and paragraph indent and skip values. These values have default settings which you may change and save with the text file.
Menu selections for disk interaction include: disk formatting, displaying or printing a disk file index, and loading, saving, and deleting files. The Save File command has several useful features. If the text in memory is to be saved under the same name as is displayed at the bottom tom of the screen only the RETURN key need be pressed in response to the Filename? prompt. If a file by that name already exists on the disk, the user is asked if the existing file should be replaced. When returning to the Edit Fiel mode, Atari Writer puts you back exactly where you left off. Printing
An interesting and useful function of AtariWriter is the ability to see on the screen what your printed document will eventually look like. This is the Print Preview optin that formats your text file, page by page, on the screen as it will print on paper. You then view your text one "page" at a time through a 36-character by 21-line window that may be scrolled vertically or horizontally through the page.
The final command on the menu is for printing. The first time a document is printed, you are asked to choose from the following list of printers: Atari 1025, Atari 825, Atary 820, and Atari 822. If you have a non-Atari printer, you must select the Atari 820.
For the remainder of the session, the program remembers the printer that you have selected.
If you have a non-Atari printer, you will be unable to use the built-in printer conrol codes like CTRL-U for underlining and SELECT-E for elongated (double-widht) printing. However, control codes may be inserted directly within the text by means of the CTRL-O command. In any case, the Print File command lets you start and finish at any page and get up to 99 copies of your document.
According to the manual, a printer driver will soon be available that will permit you to store a file on your data disk that will boot automatically when DOS is loaded. This file will contain the codes needed for underlining, super- and subscripting, and the printer fonts that your printer supports. This will allow you to use the features of your printer without inserting a series of complicated and lengthy control codes.
Originally, the Atari Program Exchange (APX) was to supply these printer drivers soon after AtariWriter was released. AS of this writing, Atari does not plan to supply the printer drivers as promised. Once again, Atari refuses to acknowledge the existence of (or support) non-Atari products. Summary
My overall impression of Atari Writer is positive. It has good error trapping, is very easy to use and understand, and can be used with the cassette recorder. Powerful features like file merging and chain printing are supported. The Print Preview function is a unique and useful method of overcoming the limitations of a 40-column screen.
Nevertheless, this word processor needs a printer driver. Without it, AtariWriter is only teh best Atari product to be released in a long time. With a printer driver, AtariWriter will be the best Atari word processor for the majority of Atari computer owners.
Products: AtariWriter (editing equipment)