Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 50 / JULY 1984 / PAGE 69


John Heilborn

A few years ago, Atari introduced a program called Atari Word Processor. It was a fairly expensive word processor that had an enormous number of functions and features. It was versatile and almost totally menu-driven. In other words, while you were using it, the computer displayed a menu of program functions at the top of the screen.

Unfortunately, if you decided you wanted to do something that was on another, undisplayed, menu you would have to know how to find the menu (the menus were nested and could be accessed by pressing different options) and would have to go through all of the other menus to get there.

The old word processor was very versatile, but was also rather cumbersome.

A New Generation

Today there is a new Atari word processor called AtariWriter. It's obviously a descendant of the original Atari Word Processor, but all of the "fat" has been trimmed. AtariWriter is easy to use (no menus to wallow through), easy to understand (all of the commands are logically accessed), and very responsive (when you press a key, the computer responds quickly).

One additional feature that makes this program far better than the old one is that it is in a cartridge, not on disk, and it will work with as little as 16K memory. You can use it with any of the existing Atari computers and you don't need to have a disk drive or a tape drive. Of course, if you run the word processor without a device to store your text, you will lose it after writing it. However, for people just using the system as an enhanced typewriter, this is enough.

Functions And Features

Although I am used to writing on an expensive professional word processing system, Atari-Writer has all of the features that I would normally use on the larger system. I wrote this article on AtariWriter and found, in fact, that AtariWriter has some very nice extra features not usually found on other systems, such as a single toggle function which allows you to switch displayed characters from upper-to lowercase automatically. The program has more features than I can cover in a review, so I'll just give you the highlights.

When you turn AtariWriter on, it displays the Atari logo for a few moments and then switches to a menu of functions. The functions are:

  • [C]REATE File is used to begin writing a new file. If you have some text in memory left over from another file and you select this option, the computer responds by asking you if you wish to delete the file in memory. This way you will not accidentally erase a file that you want to SAVE. If there is no file in memory, the computer simply goes to the editing page.
  • [D]ELETE File erases a file from the disk drive. When you select this option, the computer asks for the name of the file you wish to delete. Once you have selected the file to delete, it checks with you one more time by asking, "ARE YOU SURE?" This makes it almost impossible to erase a file by accident.
  • [E]DIT File is similar to [C]REATE File, but is used to continue working on an existing file.
  • [F]ORMAT Disk erases all of the information a disk contains, so the program asks you, "ARE YOU SURE?" before executing this command too.
  • [I]NDEX of Disk Files displays the names of all the programs and text files on your disk. After the files have been displayed, the computer asks if you want to print the index. If you press Y or enter YES (and have a printer connected), the index will be printed.
  • [L]OAD File transfers any file you have on disk (or cassette) into the computer's memory.
  • [P]RINT File prints the file that is currently in memory. This routine will not print a file directly from disk (or cassette). The file must first be transferred to memory.
  • [S]AVE File transfers any file you have in memory onto the disk (or cassette).


In the editing mode, AtariWriter displays a blank screen with a series of letters and numbers across the top. Below the blank screen is a black area with arrows indicating the tab positions and two indicators (L and C) which are used to keep track of the line and column of the cursor location.

Print Formatting Controls

The letters and numbers across the top of the screen are print controls and can be changed at any time during your editing session. This means that you can have text that varies in width, spacing, or any other parameter that can be set with these controls. The print functions that you can control are bottom margin, paragraph spacing, print style, paragraph indention, right justification, left margin position, right margin position, line spacing, top margin, and page length.

Block Functions

Block functions are controls that allow you to move or delete entire blocks of text. To move a block of text, you would simply mark the beginning and end of the block you wish to move (or delete); AtariWriter will do the rest for you automatically.

Search and Replace

With search and replace you can specify a word (or several words) that you want the computer to find. AtariWriter will then look through the entire document and locate each occurrence of the word (or words) you specify. Once each word has been found, you can continue editing from that point, replace that word or delete it.

AtariWriter is a very good, low-cost word processing system that can provide you with virtually every feature you could want from a word processor.

Atari, Inc.
1265 Borregas Ave.
Box 427
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
(408) 745-2000