8-BIT POWER TOOLS '89
Laserteller, Ultra Speed Plus, TurboWord 80.
Reviewed by Charles Cherry
Laserteller is a fancy-looking checkbook balancing program. Spectacular screen designs give the impression that you're working with some futuristic monster machine. The look makes Laserteller different and fun to use. If you have need for a simple checkbook balancer, Laserteller can do the job, and it will knock the eyes out of your friends with other computers.
Laserteller is not a true home accounting package. You can only review your last eight transactions and there is no record of to whom the payments were made, only the amount of the payment. But it's a quick and easy way to keep your balances up to date.
In practice, Laserteller supports only one checking account and one savings account. But since Laserteller is not copy protected, you could set up different disks for different accounts.
Laserteller also has a handy notepad, a small address book, and an ordering system. It can put these together and print an order for anything you like. I don't order much by mail, but this would be convenient for those who do.
The things I didn't like about Laserteller are minor. The screen designs make the menu selections a bit hard to read, but once you learn them, they're easy. It's nice to be able to print Laserteller orders with Laserteller, but it's a little strange not to be able to print the checks. The Laserteller uses Automatic Teller vocabulary, i.e, an expenditure is called a withdrawal instead of a check.
$17.45, 48K disk. JVB Software, 6538 Hazeltine Ave. Van Nuys,Calif. 91401.
ULTRA SPEED PLUS
A couple of years ago I wrote a review for Ultra Speed, an alternative operating system by CSS for the XL/XE computers. I had used Ultra Speed for less than a month and I wrote a generally favorable review. However, not until Ultra Speed had been in my computer for a little longer did I begin to fully appreciate it. I couldn't live without it. I often regretted not having been more enthusiastic in my review.
Now Ultra Speed Plus has arrived from CSS and I can restate my approval more strongly. Quite simply, if you don't have Ultra Speed Plus, you're using a crippled Atari.
The name Ultra Speed comes from its support for US Doubler and Happy drives. When you're using Ultra Speed with these drives, all transfers take place in the high speed mode.
The "Plus" part of the name comes from some really incredible RAMdisk support. Ultra Speed Plus sets up a RAMdisk in extended memory and lets you renumber it any way you like, even as drive one. The is also a sector copier for quick copies to and from the RAMdisk. You can even boot the computer (instantly) from the RAMdisk.
Exact methods will vary with different DOSes and programs, but since Ultra Speed uses the normal SIO routines, your program should never know it's using a RAMdisk. For instance, I'm writing this review with PaperClip. I can save and load files instantly to the RAMdisk. Since the RAMdisk is drive one, I don't even have to fool with drive numbers in the filename.
When I'm through, I copy the RAMdisk to my US Doubler drive at ultraspeed. All with just a couple of keystrokes. It really brings PaperClip to life, especially when I'm editing together a document from multiple files.
There are other great features in Ultra Speed Plus which make it a necessity even if you don't have extended memory or fast drives. From the keyboard you can: toggle BASIC in or out, turn the screen off (increases computer speed 30%), lock the keyboard, use the arrow keys without [CONTROL], toggle the left margin to 0 or 2, toggle keyboard click and disk I/O sound, and display a higher contrast, easier to read, text screen. Ultra Speed Plus also speeds up the keyboard, my favorite feature.
Although my review copy does not have it, the latest versions of Ultra Speed Plus include the Fast Chip floating point package. The arithmetic routines in the Atari are notoriously slow and inaccurate. The Fast Chip, which has been around for years, is an excellent replacement. It is a superb math package both fast and accurate. It makes the Ultra Speed Plus truly complete. I can't think of anything else I would want in my Atari. But there is more. Ultra Speed Plus actually has three complete operating systems: Ultra Speed Plus, the normal XL/XE OS and a 400/800 OS. You flip between them with a three-position switch. Every program ever written for any Atari should run on one of these systems. Your compatibility problems are over forever.
Even more, Ultra Speed Plus also has a much improved self-test routine, one that really tells you something useful. Of course that leaves the selftest pin on the PIA free to bank-switch some more memory. So, as soon as RAM chip prices come down...
Installation is not too difficult if your OS chip is in a socket. There are just a couple of wires to solder and a hole to drill for the switch. If your OS chip is soldered in, I suggest that you get some knowledgable help. Of course, CSS can install everything for you.
I cannot imagine an Atari XL or XE owner who would not love having the Ultra Speed Plus in his or her computer.
$69.95, XL/XE, Computer Software Services (CSS), P. O. Box 17660, Rochester NY 14617. (716) 467-9326.
At last! An 80-column word processor for the XEP 80-column adaptor. Ever since Atari announced the XEP80 adaptor, we've waited in vain for AtanWriter 80. Finally someone has moved to fill the gap. Micromiser Software, publisher of the superb TurboBase and TurboBase 80 database/business software, has added TurboWord to its line.
The workings of turboWord will seem a little strange to people used to normal Atari word processors, but not to TurboBase users or those with experience in the MS-DOS world. To get the most out of your system, you need to spend a little time setting things up.
TurboWord is very modular and runs best with a RAMdisk. Like many top-of-the-line programs, it performs best with SpartaDOS (not included), ICD's SpartaDOS lets you use extra memory, directories, and even hard disks. With it you can build your own custom environment. TurboWord also runs under DOS XL and MYDOS, as well as DOS 2.5. I tested it with SuperDOS, but the XEP driver did not work (perhaps a memory conflict).
Of course TurboWord does all the normal word processing tasks (with the curious exception of search and replace). It also has macros, spell checking, and nice routines for letter-heads and addressing envelopes. The program relies on your alertness; it's disconcertingly easy to overwrite a file on the disk. But, if you take the time to understand it, TurboWord is a powerful tool.
The XEP-80 puts out text which is readable on my color monitor, but you'll want a monochrome monitor to do any serious work. TurboWord makes the 8-bit Atari a serious choice for the professional writer.
Micromiser has a long history of excellent customer support and continuing improvements. They added a form feed command for laser printers when I requested it. If TurboWord does not fill your needs, they'll probably fix the software for you. I cannot recommend TurboWord for occasional users, but people willing to invest some effort in learning a high-powered word processor will find a great deal to like.
$49.95, 48K disk. Micromiser Software, 1635-A Holden Ave, Orlando FL 32809. (407) 857-6014.