Springboard Software, Inc.
7808 Creedridge Circle
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55435
Reviewed by Clayton Walnum
The Newsroom is, I believe, Springboard Software's first entry into the Atari 8-bit software market (at least, there's nothing else listed for the 8-bits in their catalog, and I don't recall seeing anything in the past), and if this product is typical of the rest of their software, I have only one request for all of you: Support this company! This program is a top-notch effort, from the software right through to the manual, and it would be terrific to see more Atari-compatible products from these people.
What is The Newsroom? Basically, it's a stripped-down desktop publishing system that allows you to create newsletters, brochures, forms and other simple publications. It doesn't have anywhere near the power of such desktop publishing programs as Publishing Partner for the ST, but that's not to its detriment. In fact, its simplicity is actually a good part of its charm. This program is almost as easy to use as Broderbund's famous Print Shop. You'll find yourself printing out your first newsletter after only a couple of hours with The Newsroom (and most of that time will be spent designing the newsletter rather than anxiously scrambling through the manual).
During the creation of your publication you'll visit each of The Newsroom's five ''departments": Banner, Photo Lab, Copy Desk, Layout and Press. Access to these departments is attained through the use of a graphic menu where you use either the joystick or the keyboard to choose which department to visit. (All sections of the program can be driven from both the joystick or the keyboard.) In this way dividing the different functions necessary to create your publication makes the entire process about as transparent to the user as possible.
One reason The Newsroom is so easy to use is that the structure of each page is required to fit into one of two categories: one made up of a "banner" and six "panels," or one made up of just eight panels. (On 14-inch paper you can get an extra two panels into each of the layouts.) A banner is your newsletter's masthead or header, and the panels are the partitions into which each page is separated. If you took a sheet of paper, drew a line lengthwise down the middle, then drew three horizontal lines to divide the paper into six equal-sized rectangles, you'd see the way The Newsroom lays out its panels.
The first step in putting together your publication is a visit to the Banner department. The banner can be created using clip art (over 600 individual graphics are included with the package; also extra clip art packages may be purchased, allowing The Newsroom user to add 2,000 more graphics to his library), text (with a choice of several fonts and sizes) and a ''Graphics Tool" section that allows you to do everything from drawing simple lines to laying down circles and squares and filling shapes with one of the ten available fill patterns. Though the banner is restricted to a preset size, you have all the tools necessary to create just about any graphics you want.
Once the banner is complete, you'll want to start putting together each of your panels. A panel is usually made up of a "photo" and some text, so you'll probably want to visit both the Photo Lab (if you want a graphic) and the Copy Desk for each of the panels of your page.
The Photo Lab allows you to put together a photo (the name The Newsroom uses for a rectangle containing a graphic and some text, the text usually used as a caption). A photo is actually very similar to a banner-only the size and shape are different. As a matter of fact, the Photo Lab offers the same functions-clip art, graphics' tools and text-as the banner department, and the process for creating a photo is virtually identical, the only real difference being the addition of a "camera" function that allows you to define the area of the screen that will become your photo. Photos can be any size equal to or smaller than the size of a panel.
When your photo is complete, it's time to move to the Copy Desk, where you will place the photo in the panel and enter the panel's text. The text editor supplied is actually a simple word processor that even allows some block functions, such as deleting or moving blocks of text. You may enter your text in two different character sizes and choose from three different fonts. The fonts included are the same as used in the Banner department: serif, sans serif and old English. Using the large character size lets you enter headlines, while the smaller text sizes are used for the body of the text.
As you enter your text, it automatically "flows" around the photo, relieving you of the agonizing chore of formatting the text to fit the remaining space. Amazingly enough, you can actually move the photo after the text has been entered, and the text will refit itself around the photo's new position.
To finish your newsletter, you'll need to create at least six panels as described above (eight if you've not used a banner) and get them all saved to disk. Then you need to pop into the Layout department to tell The Newsroom in what positions you want the panels placed.
Finally, it's off to the Press to print out your creation. The only thing you really need to do here is make sure the program is set for your printer. Since over 50 printers are supported, the chances are good that something on this list will work for you.
One word of warning: The Newsroom doesn't seem to be compatible with the Atari 850 interface, although from talking to Springboard Software's representatives, I get the impression that they're planning to correct this oversight. So make sure that The Newsroom is compatible with your printer and interface before you buy. This is doubly important, since nowhere on the box or in the documentation does it tell you what printers are actually supported.
And speaking of the documentation, I have to say that The Newsroom's manual is one of the best I've ever read. It's laid out in a logical and readable manner and is well written. It includes not only a complete instruction and reference section, but a full tutorial that'll lead you through the designing of a newsletter: from the creation of the banner to the actual printing. It's a rare treat indeed to come across a truly professional piece of documentation these days.
Though $49.95 is a fairly high price for a piece of 8-bit software, I think that those who take the plunge will be gratified by their purchase. The Newsroom is a real class act and will be a welcome addition to most anyone's software library. Though it's not appropriate for serious desktop publishing, it's a program that the entire family will enjoy and come back to again and again. I sincerely hope that we'll be seeing more of Springboard Software in the future.
The author would like to thank 20th Century Video in South Windsor, Connecticut, for supplying some of the hardware needed to evaluate this product.