Fun Graphics Machine. (graphics software) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Esther Olson
Fun Graphics Machine is a great way to create and manipulate graphics and hi-res screens on a 64. My introduction to the program was a free demo that's available on QuantumLink. I was amazed at the ways that I could work with the designs on the screen: flip, flop, reverse, stretch, shrink, crop, rotate, fasten, copy, and print the results. The demo won't allow you to save and print features, but the asking price for the registered version makes it a real must-have bargain. The reference manual is the first good feature.
The spiral-bound manual lies flat, so you can really use it. Some of the instructions are duplicated, but that stops the page flipping when you need to refer back to some detail that has slipped your memory.
The manual itself was produced with FGM. It even shows step-by-step instructions of how various pages were composed. This is not a drawing program. It doesn't have lines, circles, or squares, and there are no colors--just a white screen (or rather, three white screens) to work with.
The program uses color in a useful way. The cursor and borders change color to let you know what mode you're in. Blue cursor is text, gray is grab, purple is adjust, and so on.
You work on a 40-column screen, and the screens can be linked both across and down. By combining two screens across, you have your 80-column format for printing a full page. You can use a third screen as a workplace. Link the screens down for as many as you need. Print a banner of any length.
Save your work with a simple method of coding, and then use one instruction to print all of your work.
FGM is really a collection of programs, not just one. With the program disk in one drive, it'll recognize the presence of any other two drives. Create lets you do your own thing. Demo runs demos that are available on the program disk or replays those that you create and save. Clip-Art uses artwork found in other programs like The Print Shop, The Newsroom, and Doodle. Printer sends your work to your printer.
You can print your work to disk in files that others can view without having to run FGM. You can design and send greeting cards or draw screens to be used as titles on your VCR.
FGM has its own department on Q-Link. Download a file with 50 different fonts, and you can type in just about any style that you like. FGM contains a customizer, which will design or modify a font. Updates are always being added. If you have a question, someone online will have the answer, and samples of what users have done are always interesting to study.
If you're using a 128 and have the reset switch, you'll discover something remarkable. Suppose you're running a program in 64 mode and see a graphic on the screen that you'd like to save. Hit the reset switch. The program will be gone, but then load and run FGM. On most occasions the graphic will be available on one of FGM's screens. Now you can save it, grab part of it, and paste it on another screen. Have fun; that's what the program is all about--having fun with graphics.
Since you can edit at the pixel level, you can do some finely detailed work, and a smoothing technique takes away some of the rough spots on captured pictures. With the overlay method of grabbing and pasting, you can design and save different templates and then use them for various projects. A simple template with a musical symbol font and score lines is useful for writing musical scores. A grid pattern can be overlaid with needlework designs.
Playing with FGM can become addictive. Searching for different graphics to manipulate, adding new eyes to a face from a Print Shop cartoon, using part of a picture as the cover for a greeting card, and designing your own letterhead are just some of the fun you can have working with graphics.
In text mode you can link two screens across, use word-wrap, select a font, set the margins, and type your document. The size of the cursor can be changed with a single keypress. And with that size change, the size of your font changes, all the way to a full screen.
Great graphic work on the screen can be work wasted if you can't send it to a printer. FGM supports most printers, and it gives you the option of telling your printer to perform various effects. You can select dots-per-inch density; single or double height; single, double, or triple width; various margins; and so on.
Try printing the same screen with different options, and you'll be surprised by the results. Not only does FGM let you design and work with your own graphics, but you have the ability to load files from other programs. The possibilities are endless. You have complete control over every pixel on the screen. Artwork can be stretched, shrunk, slanted, rotated, overlaid with shadows, and more. By using two screens and flipping between them, you can create simple automation for your demos.
Learning to use the program can take time, but you don't have to learn it all at once. If you go too far, a couple of keystrokes will always take you back to where you started. There's no need to remember filenames.
Selections are made from a screen menu, and a disk directory is always available. You can use up to three drives with FGM, and the program will ask you which one you want to access. You can customize your program disk so that it will default to your particular printer.
If you'd like the cursor and borders to be different colors, you can change them. Copy the program disk and then customize the copy with your most used fonts, character sets, and graphics for a program default to suit your own needs.
FGM is always being updated on Q-Link. The author, whose Q-Link handle is RonH8, is often online in the Starving Artists' Cafe. He is always offering new hints and suggestions.
Q-Link members can download an FGM demo and try it before buying. But once you try FGM, you'll be hooked on graphics--and spoiled. No more having a graphic that won't fit in the space you need on your document. With FGM you can copy it, shrink it, expand it, paste it, and then smile at the results.
Discover that your 64 is a real fun machine. Then surprise your friends with your newly discovered artistic talent. You won't go wrong with Fun Graphics Machine.