Daisy. (evaluation) Grace M. Bowers.
As the owner of a small but growing word processing business built around a TRS-80 Model III and Daisy Wheel II printer, I quickly developed a love-hate relationship with Radio Shack's Scripsit. I will never understand why so many practical and necessary functions were left out of such a basically good word processing program. Scripsit will not do the following: underlining, boldface print, superscripts, subscripts, right-justified proportional spacing, and special characters other than those on the keyboard. Nor does it offer anyprovision for looking ot disk directories or killing files from within the program, checking where pages will end prior to printout, pausing printout to change printwheels of insert text, placing footnotes, or reserving print formats.
In attempting to find a satisfactory patch to fill in where Scripsit leaves off, I have been further frustrated. Nothing was happening to relieve my growing depression, until I discovered Daisy by Med Systems Software. This package works with the Radio Shack Daisy Wheel II printer to do most of the above, and much more.
When I saw the ad for the Daisy word processing package, my first thought was that this product seemed like more than just another patch to Scripsit. The list of capabilities for "professional/ scientific' word processing was impressive, and the ad read "It is the best. Period. We guarantee you will agree.' There was even a 14-day money-back guarantee. I couldn't resist.
Daisy for the TRS-80 Model I or III uses Model I Scripsit, because of the difficulties encountered when Radio Shack decided to market Model III Scripsit with only two backup copies. The program is compatible with TRSDOS 1.1 or 1.3 (not 1.2) and NEWDOS 80, although the documentation states that other disk operating systems should be compatible if suitable zaps are appiled.
The documentation was the first thing about this package that warmed my soul; it consists of about 120 loose leaf pages in an attractive binder, and is very well written. The manual is divided into logical sections, with a table of contents in front and a complete index in back. There is also a handy laminated reference card which lists useful information about control codes. I should point out, however, that Daisy is not the place to begin if you have never used Scripsit. Daisy picks up where Scripsit leaves off, and the documentation assumes that you already have a thorough knowledge of Scripsit.
I found the program very easy to get up and running. If you are using TRSDOS 1.3, an XFERSYS is necessary. With the Med Systems advertisement torn form the magazine and sitting before me, I deliberately went through the list of Daisy functions and tested every one. I was not disappointed, except in a few respects, which I will discuss later.
Daisy is a carefully written program that enhances Scripsit in many practical ways. As the manual states, ". . . Daisy is mainly aimed at the production of technical reports,' and this it does superbly. It comes complete with suitable formats built in for the three print pitches, which are referred to as Mono (10 pitch), Tiny (12 pitch), and Prop (proportional); or the user can enter his choice of format with regular Scripsit commands. When copy markers are used, your chosen format remains as the default, so laborious entering of format lines is no longer necessary.
There is also a nifty function which allows you to begin printing in the middle of a text that has headers and footers. By invoking this simple command, the program will use the correct page format and the proper header or footer, and will even remember to print the right page number. Anyone who has struggled with the tedious business of using copy markers in Scripsit will consider this a gift from heaven.
Daisy retains all of the text editing features of Scripsit; none of the original commands are changed. You can actually load Daisy and use only Scripsit commands without any problem. But while Scripsit alone will not, for example, allow you to pause printing in the middle of a page, Daisy does; and you can change print wheels, or even insert text to create personalized form letters. Daisy can also cease printing in the middle of a page--useful if you want to print only a portion of something or when experimenting.
Underlining, double underlining, superscripts, subscripts, and boldface all work beautifully in Daisy. Another useful feature allows for positioning of the printhead anywhere on a line--a vital capability if you want to arrange proportional print in neat columns.
Daisy offers an impressive array of over 100 special symbols, both "intrinsic' (actually located on the daisy wheel), and "extrinsic' (contrived), for mathematical, scientific, and foreign language applications. The extrinsic characters are very good representations, but are available only in Mono (10 pitch)
June 1983 Creative Computing print. Daisy has six basic control characters; two of them are devoted primarily to producing special symbols when combined with keyboard characters. In addition, the symbols can be positioned very precisely within the text so that such things as mathematical equations, scientific formulae, and foreign language text really look professional.
The control characters combine with one another and with keyboard characters, and although these many combinations seem confusing at first, you quickly begin to remember what the control characters look like on the screen. Control characters are produced by pressing the SHIFT key and another key (such as ENTER) simultaneously, in much the same way the control keys for Scripsit operate. The author was striving for simplicity amidst complexity, and I think he succeeded.
The documentation includes this example:
f(x) = X + Y + Z/log(e) (1+W)
which gives you an idea of the kind of technical text that Daisy does especially well. Remember, Scripsit alone is entirely incapable of producing such an equation.
Another very fine feature of Daisy is that it changes the order in which Scripsit goes about checking a document in preparation for printout. Ordinarily, when you ask for a printout in Scripsit the first thing the program does is check to see if the printer is turned on; it will not go on to format the text unless the printer is running. Daisy makes no such demand. It will allow you to format your text completely without a printer even being connected. After formatting, Scripsit offers no method for finding out where pages will end, which often leads to monumental frustrations and piles of wasted printout. Daisy, on the other hand, includes a page-end function; you can check to see that each page terminates at an appropriate point before beginning to print.
It is important to note that most of the control characters used in Daisy are completely ignored while Scripsit formats text and decides where to insert carriage returns. Therefore, you can have a large number of "invisible' control characters in a line without running into trouble. Experience with other Scripsit patches has familiarized me with the problems that can develop when the program does count these "invisibles.' In such a situation, you can have a line of text with 16 invisible control characters that appears to stretch clear across the video screen; but when it is printed, that line is 16 spaces short because Scripsit has counted all the invisible codes in deciding where to return the carriage. With Daisy, the line with 16 control codes will still appear on the video screen, but the carriage return will probably occur in the middle of the following line because Daisy skips over the invisible codes as it counts spaces. Obviously, this presents pboblems if you wish to hyphenate the text; you must be careful when attempting to hyphenate if there are more than just a few invisible codes present.
Daisy also allows you to manipulate spaces in Scripsit for a variety of effects. You can insert a "hard' space between two words, for example, to prevent them from being separated or to preserve the integrity of certain expressions when right justification is used. By inserting hard spaces, Daisy makes it possible to underline blanks, both between words and to create long underscores.
The placing of footnotes on a page, a troublesome task under the best of circumstances, is made much easier in Daisy. Daisy allows for the creation of one "footnote block' per page, which can contain up to ten lines of 10 pitch print, or correspondingly fewer lines of either 12 pitch or proportional. The limited space available in the footnote block may cause problems if you have to prepare pages of text that are rampant with footnotes, but should be adequate for most users.
The Folio feature allows you to print text in two or three columns per page--ideal for newsletters. Folio is easy to set up, and the results are pleasing. Standard headers, footers and bootnotes may be used, and you can choose from either Tiny or Prop pitches. Tiny can be right-justified in Folio; Prop cannot.
At this point I will voice my major disappointment with Daisy; it involves the use of proportional print. Upon reading the documentation, I found that "no claim is made to give right justification in the proportional pitch . . . if you were expecting right-justified texts in proportional pitch then ask for your money back, you have made a dreadful mistake.' (Daisy Manual, p. 5.)
The author does state that the program is designed for the production of technical reports, and the Folio feature has little to do with technical text, but it was in experimenting with Folio that I felt very acutely the lack of true proportional spacing with right justification in the Daisy package. For example, the Folio format for proportional print produces two nicely arranged columns of text. But the right margins appear very uneven. In addition, no mention is made in the documentation of any provision for hyphenating words in Folio mode. There is a demand for documents with true proportional spacing and right justification, and it is frustrating to have hardware capable of supplying that demand but software that is incapable of doing so. Thus, my feeling is that if Daisy were expanded to include this one feature, it would be a truly superlative product.
Another problem which I still cannot explain involves obtaining a disk directory from within Daisy. Using TRSDOS 1.1, I couldn't get a directory at all. With TRSDOS 1.3, the directory appeared along with an irritating little graphics block that wouldn't go away. A telephone call to the company revealed that they had never heard of such a problem, and they suggested that I send them my disk.
Overall, I was very impressed with the careful attention to detail that is obvious in Daisy. The author knew what he wanted to accomplish, and did it in a thorough way. In my experience, software and documentation are too often written without an intimate knowledge of what needs to be included to make a program really professional and useable. Details are too often overlooked and lead to big irritations.
Happily, Daisy seems to be amazingly free of such oversights. The many features of Daisy, combined with its ease of use and carefully presented documentation, make it well worth $74.95. If you have a need to prepare highly technical documents, or just long, nontechnical ones, Daisy supplies just about everything you could need. Its special features will also come in handy for many other sorts of work.
If you are looking for a program that will expand Scripsit into a professional word processor capable of producing highly technical texts with ease, and you don't care about right-justified proportional print, then buy Daisy.
Photo: Examples of the special functions available.
Products: Med Systems Software Daisy (editing equipment)