Powerful Mid-Level DTP Program from Soft-Logik
BY FRANK KLIEWER
Would Soft-Logik's troubles never end? In the November 1988 issue of START, I sounded a disapproving note concerning its October release of a second-generation desktop-publishing program called Publishing Partner Professional. This was the long-awaited sequel to Publishing Partner, a real workhorse and the first DTP program for the ST.
|An example of text runaraund, shown in 200 percent-sized text. Like
all other high-level desktop publishing programs, PageStream lets
you set your screen display to suit your needs and wishes.
Well, Publishing Partner Professional was dead on arrival, and Soft-Logik even admits the release was a marketing error prompted by a clamoring from loyal users for something to be shipped even if it didn't work. However, shortly after Publishing Partner Professional shipped, Soft-Logik was informed that its premier product's name was already being used by Media Cybernetics, and so were forced to change it. Finally, much to their relief, Soft-Logik shipped PageStream just before Christmas 1988.
Since that time there has been a steady stream of new fonts, import modules and bug fixes that have resulted in a powerful, versatile program that my wife and I use on a daily basis for everything from personal letters to presentation layouts for our work and a monthly users-group newsletter. Going through the delivery pains with SoftLogik on this baby was tough, but I'm glad we held in there--PageStream version 1.51 fills a needed gap in the DTP arena for the ST. Granted, there are less expensive packages available, but they're also less powerful, and the high-end/high-priced programs usually require a Mega to run them properly. And to top it all off, PageStream is PostScript compatible!
There are Strengths
If features are what you're looking for, PageStream's got plenty of them. One of its most useful is the ability to import object-oriented (.GEM) pictures, such as those created in Migraph's Easy Draw. While PageStream doesn't fully implement all of Easy Draw's features, it will allow you to group and ungroup, as well as edit the object's shape. The output quality and fineness of detail that remains even after the object is greatly reduced is a vast improvement over the DEGAS and NEOchrome pixel-oriented formats to which you were limited in Publishing Partner. The redrawing time is a little slow. To speed things up a bit, turn off the Show Picture function in the View menu, then execute the screen redraw. (Editor's Note: Version 1.52 of PageStream, which is shipping at press time, reportedly speeds up both the import and redraw speeds by as much as 10 times.)
Text Runaround is a long sought-after feature that is well implemented in PageStream. This option allows you to place an object, like a picture, within a text column and have the text automatically wrap around it. You can define the exact size of the border you wish to have around the object and on which sides you want the text. In the case of an object-oriented picture you can get the text to hug tightly to an irregularly shaped object by running the text around all four sides and then ungrouping it.
Object rotation is another impressive feature in PageStream. This option lets you rotate, slant or twist an object any way you wish. My wife was pleased to discover that this includes text columns as well, since she does a lot of greeting cards. (In the past she had to run pages through twice to get part of the card upside down).
The new Alignment feature lets you line up objects horizontally or vertically in relation to each other as well as to the page itself. And it's now a snap to center objects on a page. Objects can be grouped and ungrouped so you can format your page quickly by dragging groups around together.
GEM is implemented in the document window area, so it's now possible to have multiple windows of text and graphics open at the same time. PageStream lets you move the toolbox around to more convenient screen locations and even cover it up by expanding your document size to cover the full screen.
I was thrilled to see that my WordPerfect files converted to PageStream with all text-formatting intact (with Publishing Partner you had to import text in ASCII which resulted in a lot of extra work to reformat). Several import modules, which are small additional files, can be used to transfer other popular word-processing formats into PageStream in addition to those accessible in the old Publishing Partner. The new formats include DEGAS compressed, IMG, Word Writer, First Word and scanned IFF files. Also you can now export your work from PageStream to other word-processing programs as well.
And There are Weaknesses
The manual is undoubtedly the weakest part of the PageStream package. I found some glaring errors and omissions.
For example, PageStream has a very handy feature that lets you take a polygon drawn with any number of sides, and then reshape it to fit your later requirements exactly. Now, according to the manual, on page 2.3-3 of Tutorial 2 you're directed to pull down the OBJECT menu and select RESHAPE in order to carry out this function. Don't bother, it's not there. You'll find it in the toolbox. It's the icon in the upper right-hand corner that shows a box with diagonal lines in the shape of an X.
Running a close second to the manual in the "PageStream Weaknesses" category is the Spell Checker. Until this feature is reworked, don't consider it a valuable part of the program--it's extremely slow, limited in the number of words it contains and prone to crash. You'll really need to do your spellchecking before you import text into PageStream.
There's one other shortcoming that I hope will be addressed in future PageStream enhancements. To scale grouped objects proportionally you must either eyeball the resizing or use the improved rulers as guides to make the change. It would be nice if you could use proportional sizing as you can with bit-mapped and single objects.
An undocumented feature I should mention: I found that you're not limited to the standard fill patterns shown on the screen. Hit the Escape key to erase the current fill-type number and then type in a number with a percent (%) sign after it. Now you can define exactly what percent of fill you want. This is how to generate a relatively smooth blend of fill shading from one object to another. You can also create a custom pattern. Drag your text icon over a block of text just as if you're going to change its attributes, and then select one of the fill patterns.
Wrap-up and Recommendations
PageStream has many more features to mention than space allows, such as a much improved variable zoom, some handy disk utilities and better printer drivers. Though the program will run on a 520ST with a color monitor, I wouldn't try anything too serious on less than a one-megabyte monochrome system.
As the desktop-publishing world evolves, support from software publishers is vital. This is one of the reasons why I feel good about PageStream. While there are a few remaining bugs in the program and some revisions needed to be made to the manual, Softlogik's track record indicates that they can overcome adversity and are dedicated to the Atari market. Their recent diversification of PageStream into other computer formats, as well as their inroads into the European market, has already helped Soft-Logik financially. Their future looks much brighter than it did at the beginning of this year.
Don't forget to mail in your registration cards. Soft-Logik is hinting at some pleasant surprises for PageStream owners in the months ahead, including a newsletter with helpful tips, updates and corrections to the manual.
With his wife Jennie, Frank Kliewer has been the assistant editor for the San Leandro (California) Computer Club Journal for over two years. His review of Publishing Partner Professional appeared in the November 1988 issue of START.
PageStream, $199.95. Soft-Logik, 1131F S. Towne Square, St. Louis MO 63123, (314) 894-8608.