Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 21 / FEBRUARY 1982 / PAGE 96

COMPUTE! Overview:

Textwizard consists of a copy- and write-protected disk containing the program, an instruction manual, and a reference card which summarizes all commands. All of this is in a luxuriously padded binder.

Original purchasers may request a back-up disk when the warranty card is returned with a $5.00 check. After that, clobbered discs can be exchanged at the factory for a $30.00 fee.

Forewarned, we treated the disk with great respect. What we found was a carefully human-engineered word processing system for a personal computer. It will not turn your Atari into a $15,000 professional word processor, but many of the important differences between Textwizard and a professional system are a function of the 40-character display. Thus, it is not reasonable to consider constructing large organizational charts, flow charts, or even moderately complex graphs. Tables of data which span more than 40 columns are tortuous to create. Other features usually seen in professional systems, including automatic hyphenation, positioning of footnotes at the bottom of a page, tabular sorts, arithmetic functions and representation of mathematical symbols are not available on Textwizard.

The Manual

First impressions of the program come from the well made and finished looseleaf text which accompanies the program. Filled with 56 pages of instructions, including an index, the manual gives the feeling that the producers of this program care about quality.

The Instruction Guide is, however, for one panelist, the weakest element in the package. It was not carefully proofread nor carefully tested with naive users. There are simply too many instances where the user who methodically follows the step-by-step instructions is left hanging with a feeling of "What do I do now?"

In contrast to the above, one panelist was pleased with the manual: "The user's manual is a very good example of what in some educational circles is known as the "KISS" of knowledge (Keep It Short and Simple). The manual walks the user through each function in logical, explicit language, and is itself an excellent example of programmed learning."

Ease Of Use

The program uses the Atari DOS system and diskettes must be formatted before you can store data on them. Data saved to disk appears to be compacted prior to saving, thus increasing the amount of data which can be stored on each disk.

The program is written completely in machine language and is loaded without the left cartridge in place. This increases the amount of available memory for storage of the text. With 48K of memory installed in the computer, there is just over 30K left for text. Eighteen K Bytes of program seems somewhat large, considering the stated capabilities of the program; however, this size would certainly seem to take it out of the "kid's toy" category.

The program boots quickly and, unless the amount of text being held is substantial, no loss of speed is noticed. There is one quirk which appears when the amount of memory in use begins to exceed 5K. There is a delay in the text's appearance on the screen when the inserting command is being used. This can be somewhat disconcerting if the operator is a touch typist and is watching the screen. The nice part is that the letters are all picked up and, if the typing is done accurately, it will all eventually show up.

When first used, however, the program appears to lack features found in other word processors. The program is not menu driven. Consequently, a number of functions such as loading, saving, disk formatting, and drive # setting, require that the operator remember specific keyboard sequences. Some of these are quite lengthy and would be more easily used if they were contained on a menu. The Atari full cursor movement feature is well used; however, there are no provisions for fast single stroke movement from the center of a line to either end of the line. These are not essential, but would speed editing. There is no scrolling ability which tends to limit the speed with which text can be edited. Offsetting this, to some degree, is the ability to move through the text in either direction using a combination of the OPTION key and the cursor arrow keys. The system is friendly. It may be conceptualized as two major programs: one is for creating and editing text, and one is for printing documents. With very few exceptions, commands to the editing component involve only two keystrokes.

Text formatting and printing functions utilize Atari's special keyboard controls (i.e., OPTION, SELECT, START) in conjunction with other keyboard characters which, when possible, relate to the particular function or mode required. For example, CTRL + T sends the cursor to the top of the page, CTRL + B sends the cursor to the bottom of the page; CTRL + M is used to Move text, CTRL + D to Duplicate text, CTRL + S for Search, etc. The use of characters such as BACKSP, INSERT and editing ARROWS will be familiar to Atari users and greatly facilitate operation — especially for the word processing beginner.

One particular feature proved extremely versatile. Margin control is set, not in inches or character widths, but in dot widths. Although this necessitates some computation by the user (150 dots = approx. 1 in.), it allows "fine tuning" when formatting a document; some very creative copy can be produced with such a tool. It would be a nice touch, perhaps, if Datasoft supplied a margin guage or ruler which translated dots into inches and/or character widths as a useful addition to the Command Reference Card — which, in itself, is very clear and precise.

One severe problem occurs with the buffer operation. There is no protection for information stored in the buffer. Thus, inadvertent loss of text can and does happen unless the operator takes careful note of buffer use. It seems best not to store text in the buffer for any length of time, but rather to use the buffer for simple movement operations only. The lack of a screen display for print formatting requires that the printer be used each time the operator wishes to see the actual formatting of the text. This can account for a significant loss of time and reams of paper being generated, when the actual formatting on the page must be seen. One panelist felt that this, combined with an inability to print single pages of a long text file, proved to be the most serious deficiency of the program.

Search, Merge, Disk Functions

The search feature does not work reliably, particularly when the string involves as few as three characters. For example, on two Model 800 systems a search for "he" (the string, h + e + space) not only correctly identified all occurrences of "he," but also incorrectly located embedded instances of "he" (as in "wherever") and, worse yet, totally inappropriate strings (e.g., "Ruth."). Search/replace operations were similarly plagued. Even when it behaves properly, global replacement is only semi-automatic: each "old phrase" must first be located; replacement with "new phrase" must then be manually verified.

Tab stops are preset to five spaces, and cannot be altered. This makes the construction of even 4- or 5-column tables of numbers overly cumbersome.

Generally Good Fatal Error Protection

It is generally very difficult for a user to make fatal errors. The exception to this rule is, however, important. File deletion is accomplished by simultaneously pressing OPTION D, followed by a file name. Even though the contents of the file still exist on the disk, they are thereafter forever inaccessible to the user. For an operation with such important consequences, it is reasonable to expect the system to help prevent the user from making devastating mistakes. Atari DOS requires an affirmative acknowledge prior to a file deletion. This feature probably should have been included.

Text requiring no special formatting features (pagination; underlining; centering; use of superscripts, subscripts, page numbers, boldface, etc.) may be printed to an Atari 825, Epson MX80, or Centronics 737 printers by issuing the command sequence OPTION P, followed by the filename. The print routine incorporates defaults for left, right, top, and bottom margins, proportional spacing, and right margin justification.

Overriding any of these defaults, or incorporating any of the many special features, requires the user to embed a command string within the text file. Features common to the entire file (e.g., placement of page numbers) are indicated on the first line in the text. Other commands (e.g., for centering) are embedded as they are needed. Unlike some other word processors, Textwizard does not permit underlining on the Epson MX-80. An approximation to boldface type may be made on the Epson, but not other printers; this restriction, too, is odd since Letter Perfect can produce boldface on all three printers. Generation of superscripts and subscripts is easy, but the instructions fail to mention that it cannot be accomplished on the Epson.

Pagination Is Especially Flexible

Arabic numerals may be placed automatically anywhere on the top or bottom lines of a manuscript. Since pagination may begin with any value, sections or chapters of a manuscript may be independently prepared.

A nice feature is the option to print text in double columns. It is a little tricky to set up because the columns will not align evenly unless care is taken when placing carriage returns. It was not bothersome, however, and, after some experimenting, the text printed very nicely, each column having margin requirements pre-selected by the user.

On page 43 the automatic page numbering function is presented as CTRL + @. This combination does not work. It took a few minutes to locate the correct sequence for page numbering; it is SHIFT + @.

Its few disadvantages considered, Textwizard has a number of features which do set it apart from a simple text editor and turn it into a functional word processor.

One reviewer argued that the best single feature of the program is the Insert Text function. Because of the ease with which this works, there is little need for a lot of text moving. During this mode of operation, the operator is able to make insertions anywhere in the text without concern for erasure of previously written text. In addition, the screen border changes color during this operation, providing a constant reminder of the mode of operation. Wrap-around is maintained during the insert phase and this is a definite asset during text editing. Indeed, the ability to wrap-around text, thus keeping the text on the screen readable, is one of the really fine, and well-executed, features of Textwizard.

The use of changed screen colors and borders is a feature of Textwizard, which truly takes advantage of the versatility of the Atari, and helps to bring to this product an overall feeling of polish, while giving the user a very clear indication of the current mode of operation.

Print commands and formatting ability with this program are superb, if the Atari 825 or Centronics 737 printer is used in conjunction with the program. The ability to do multiple column printing is a great asset and it is here that Textwizard demonstrates a clear superiority over other word processors for the Atari. This feature alone would make the program worthwhile for anyone who publishes a newsletter.

Printing copy on cut (vs. continuous) paper is facilitated by the page eject and wait commands. The former performs a form feed, seeking the top of the next page. The latter causes printing to be suspended until a new sheet of paper is loaded.

The chaining feature is a powerful means to overcome the limitations imposed on the size of text files by the amount of available memory. With a 32K system, no text file may be greater than the equivalent of about 6.5 single-spaced pages. Sooner or later, most users will confront this ceiling, and will despair unless they see one implication of CHAIN: manuscript components (ranging from single characters to the largest amount of text permitted by memory) may be strung together with a command string in the first text file, resulting in the sequential printing of the whole.

The Final Overview

• Panelist #1:

"Overall, Textwizard is a very clean, useful word processor, delivering all that Datasoft says it will. It is easy to use and requires very little effort on the user's part to get excellent performance. It is also fast. The editing and searching functions are extremely swift and accurate. The chain command works well and facilitates printing and editing large blocks of text efficiently. The only two enhancements it could use (but doesn't need) are graphic display of the formatted page, and perfect spelling."

• Panelist #2:

"In short, Textwizard is a generally well-conceived word processing system for the Atari. Sometime between conception and delivery to the user, however, various gnomes intruded and left indelible marks on the product. Textwizard is well-suited for preparing term papers, inter-office memos, and informal personal correspondence. It may even be appropriate for the Great American Novelist. Professional technical writers and business executives will be happier and more productive with the much more powerful — and costly — word processing products that are targeted to their more complex needs."

• Panelist #3:

"With over fifty commands available to aid in editing, formatting, storing and printing text, Textwizard certainly provides the user with serious word processing capabilities. The program is well thought out; the formatting commands are simple and easy to use. Although a touch typist will probably have some small difficulty learning to use the extra keys with finesse, this is certainly not a drawback of the program. While certain portions of the program are weak...lack of menu and scrolling, and a very time consuming search and replace function, these are more than offset by the speed and ease of use which other areas of the program deliver to the user. All things considered, Textwizard, at a list price of $99.95, is a good buy and one which could be recommended to all Atari 800 owners."

Textwizard, Datasoft Inc., 19519 Business Center Drive, Northridge, CA 91324. $99.95. 32K and one or more disk drives and compatible with Atari 825, Centronics 737, and Epson MX-80.