"Letter Perfect" Wordprocessing On The Atari
This is the first COMPUTE! Overview. We feel that our readers deserve the most objective, comprehensive analysis of new products possible. We have established review panels, each consisting of three reviewers whose background qualifies them to analyze new items of software or hardware.
To better prepare you for your buying decisions, and to present fair reviews, we collect the three independent opinions of our panelists into one Overview. Lawyers will test legal packages in the environment of a legal office, doctors will test medical systems, and this issue's Overview panel is made up of professional writers. We believe that you will find COMPUTE! Overviews complete, informative, and balanced. — KEM
The "LETTER PERFECT" program by LJK Enterprises, Inc. is one of the first word processor programs for Atari. It requires 24K of memory and one disk drive and costs $149.
The program is very well documented, and easily followed, with 85 pages of instruction and indexing. This material is supplied in a handsome binder.
As the manual states, the control functions are relatively simple to remember (Control A for "go to beginning of a line," for example, or Control Z for "go to the end of a line," and control T for "go to the top of the page"). This doesn't mean you can remember all 42 functions after one sitting, of course, but the letters are not just utilized arbitrarily and it doesn't take long to catch on. (See Table 1).
In its present format, Letter Perfect is configured for the Atari 825 Printer and the Epson MX 80.
The Epson will not permit underlining, subscripts or superscripts, but the program does permit use of standard, condensed, and enhanced fonts. On the Atari 825, you may use standard, boldface or proportional fonts, although you will not get right hand justification when you use the proportional font.
It seems clear that anyone considering the purchase of a printer would do well to check on just what Word Processing systems are currently available that support the various printers, and what they do. In that context, Ken Leonhardi of LJK Enterprises, who puts out Letter Perfect, says that improvements are planned that include the capability of using Letter Perfect with just about any printer on the market.
It is very flexible in the format of the print and allows the user to set the format several times within the text. This could be used to single space for quotations in a double spaced letter or to indent a list of items within a manuscript.
Other printout features include auto page numbering, header and footer capability, auto line centering and all the standard features such as single/double line spacing and left margin adjust.
An Unusual Disk Capability
Letter Perfect also has its own disk operating system, which for some uses could be a disadvantage. Leonhardi says, however, a utility program will be released that will enable the program to be used with the Atari DOS.
Future disk versions of Letter Perfect will be available at a small additional cost for those who buy the current version.
One small warning: there are some early Atari disk drives on which Letter Perfect won't operate. This is apparently true for only a handful of the first Atari 810s that were released, but, if you've had one for some time, there could be a problem in running this program.
There are good and bad points to the unusual requirement that disks be specially formatted for Letter Perfect text storage. The manual describes "packing— removing unnecessary spaces (such as the spaces between the period which ends one paragraph and the start of the next paragraph). This permits more text on a given disk. WordPro, for the Commodore machines, for example, saves every space to the disk. On the other hand, few of us are novelists, nor would we care very much about saving great amounts of text to individual disks. If you were writing a book, you might find that such packing saved a little time, but normal word processing uses do not benefit much from any special disk storage efficiency. The manual also suggests that such storage prevents problems should Atari change its DOS in the future. The special Letter Perfect formatting takes about 1 minute per disk. However, you usually need to format only rarely in word processing application.
First, some mechanics.
When you first load the program you are given a menu of commands, such as Editor, Load, Save, Printer, Delete, Lock, Unlock, etc. You go to the Editor command to begin writing, and can return to the menu by hitting the escape key.
All of the Letter Perfect processing functions are done by using the Atari control key. This works out quite well, since most Atari users already are practiced at using the up, down, right and left arrows and the insert and delete functions, and they operate in Letter Perfect just as you would normally use them to write a program on your Atari. There are some things to watch out for, however.
One frequently uses the tab key to move to the middle of a line. If you use the tab key in Letter Perfect on a line that has text on it, the tab will erase as it goes along. This was seen as a serious weakness by two panel members.
There are 42 control key functions and they are listed on a handy card that Letter Perfect provides that fits neatly on top of your Atari. It also lists 13 commands for changing the default format (margin settings and the like) and the commands for subscripts and superscripts.
The functions include scrolling, saving paragraphs in memory, and inserting them afterward, replacing misspelled words automatically, tab setting, etc.
The program does not permit you to scroll upward. If you want to back up and read two paragraphs earlier in your text — you must return to the top of the text. Another time consuming feature is the fact that whenever you go from a main menu function (such as disk access) back to the text mode for writing, you must wait for the entire text to scroll down the screen in front of you. Such features quickly become tiresome when you are forced to wait for them.
The Atari screen permits only ½ page (a standard, typewritten 8½ × 11 sheet) to appear at one time. Though the panel felt that this was not fatal, it was seen as a constraint for many wordprocessing applications. In general, the more text available to you at a time, the easier it is to edit and review.
One of the primary differences between using a typewriter versus a wordprocessor is that, on the latter, you do not hit a carriage return until you reach the end of a paragraph. The computer will later break your text into individual lines when printing it on paper. Typing becomes more convenient and faster.
Related to this is a "parsing" feature whereby a word will not break at the rightmost side of the screen. If you type through the right side (your word flows onto the next line), Letter Perfect jumps the entire word down to the start of the next line. Some word processors parse, some do not. It is sometimes thought that parsing makes it easier to read a video text since no words are ever broken in half. The majority of our panelists felt, however, that the jumping action during typing is more distracting than the minor inconvenience created by randomly hyphenated words on screen. What is more, parsing wastes screen space.
After, or during, text entry a process called editing is used to correct errors, change wording, move paragraphs, etc. Editing using "LETTER PERFECT" is a simple process identical to editing BASIC programs. The cursor is moved using both the control key and a cursor direction key. Then characters are inserted/deleted using the control and insert/delete keys.
More sophisticated editing capabilities are also provided:
Search — Automatically searches for a specific text string. Allows easy location of certain area of text.
Search/Replace — Automatically searches for a specific string and replaces it with another string. Very useful for changing misspelled names, etc.
Scroll 1 Page — Automatically displays the next complete page of text. This is more convenient than line scrolling which is also available.
Go To End/Beginning Of Line — Moves the cursor to the end/beginning of the current line. This saves time in moving the cursor.
Also provided is the ability to edit blocks (paragraphs or as much as two pages) of information. This allows moving paragraphs within the text without retyping. This capability is useful.
The General Overview
•Panelist #1: "This is my first use of a word processor as a writer. What do I think of it? On that score, the only thing I can say is sensational.
After this first effort, I am fully prepared to kiss those old manual Underwoods and Royals goodbye.
But, remember, I am doing this review from the standpoint of a professional writer, not a businessman or an engineer. For the kind of final polishing I want to do, the editing functions of this program are everything I could ask for. Formatting is not particularly important to me, since most of the writing I do consists of fairly simple blocks of text.
For writing articles, papers, simple business letters, and the usual run of home uses, I find the Letter Perfect program to be quite adequate. It also happens to be fun to use, something which is a lot more important than it sounds.
Like many people who get paid for writing, I find one of the hardest things in the world to do, and one of the easiest things to avoid, is just plain sitting down and writing. Since I've had this program in my home, I've discovered that whenever a new idea comes to me, I can't wait to get at it."
•Panelist #2: "I feel that Letter Perfect (with exceptions such as parsing, no upscrolling, etc.) makes extensive and positive use of the computer as a writing tool. I would wonder, though, if the Atari, with its 1/2 printer-page screen limitation, would be the best computer to use for lengthy writing tasks. However for shorter, more common, word processing (essays, letters, mailings and the like), Letter Perfect on the Atari does an admirable job."
•Panelist #3: "Space does not permit a discussion of all the features of "LETTER PERFECT" or a complete description of the keystrokes necessary to accomplish the functions. However, let me say that "LETTER PERFECT" is a very powerful word processor which has been written with ease of operation in mind and should be considered by Atari owners with word processing applications."
LJK Enterprises, Inc.,
P.O. Box 10827
St. Louis, MO 63129
An Overview of Textwizard is currently being prepared. Watch for it in an upcoming issue of COMPUTE!.
Letter Perfect Atari Functions
|CTRL A||GOTO BEGINNING OF LINE|
|CTRL B||BOLDFACE TOGGLE|
|CTRL C||CENTER NEXT LINE|
|CTRL D||DELIMITING CHARACTER|
|CTRL E||(END) GO TO END OF TEXT|
|CTRL F||FORMAT LINE|
|CTRL I||IMPROVE TEXT|
|CTRL J||(JOIN) ADD TO BUFFER|
|CTRL K||(KILL) DELETE BUFFER|
|CTRL L||(LIFT) INSERT FROM BUFFER|
|CTRL M||MOVE TO BUFFER|
|CTRL N||(NEXT) DELETE NEXT BLOCK|
|CTRL O||(ON, ON, ON) CONTINUOUS SCROLL|
|CTRL P||FORCED END OF PAGE|
|CTRL Q||SCROLL ONE PAGE FORWARD|
|CTRL R||(REPLACE) SEARCH AND REPLACE|
|CTRL S||(SEARCH) SEARCH ONLY|
|CTRL T||(TOP) GO TOP OF SCREEN|
|CTRL U||UNDERLINE TOGGLE|
|CTRL V||SPECIAL PRINT CHARACTERS|
|CTRL W||DELETE ALL BEFORE CURSOR|
|CTRL X||DELETE ALL TEXT|
|CTRL Y||DELETE ALL AFTER CURSOR|
|CTRL Z||GO TO END OF LINE|
|CTRL ↑||MOVE CURSOR UP|
|CTRL ↓||MOVE CURSOR DOWN|
|CTRL ←||MOVE CURSOR TO LEFT|
|CTRL →||MOVE CURSOR TO RIGHT|
|(RETURN)||INSERT CARRIAGE RETURN|
|sft-DEL||DELETE NEXT LINE|
|sft-INS||INSERT LINE AT CURSOR|
|CTRL TAB||CLEAR TAB AT CURSOR|
|sft-TAB||SET TAB AT CURSOR|
|CTRL DEL||DELETE A CHARACTER|
|CTRL INS||INSERT A CHARACTER|
|sft-CLEAR||GO TO BEGINNING OF TEXT|
|DEL||DELETE LAST CHARACTER|
|TAB||TAB TO NEXT TAB STOP|
SPECIAL PRINT CHARACTERS
$n PRINT STRING n
#n PRINT NUMBER n
|FORMAT REPRESENTATIONS||DEFAULT VALUES|
|d||default values||d||(no number needed)|
|r||reset standard||r||(no number needed)|
|t||top margin||t||5 spaces|
|m||left margin||m||10 spaces|
|w||set line width||w||64 characters|
|l||line spacing||l||l (single spacing)|
|p||printed lines/page||p||56 lines|
|s||stop||s||0 (no stop)|
|f||set type font||f||0 (10cpi)|
|a||margin adjust||a||0 (no adjust)|
|b||bottom margin||b||5 spaces|
|n||set page number||n||0 (not printed)|
Editor's Note: The manufacturer provided the following updates, now included in the standard Letter Perfect 2.0. Our review panelists did not work with version 2.0.— RTM
Letter Perfect Version 2.0 differs from the earlier version in the following manner: