Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 54 / NOVEMBER 1984 / PAGE 127

OmniWriter & OmniSpell

Joseph R. Sutton

Requirements: Commodore 64, a disk drive, and a printer on either the serial bus or user port (parallel only). See text for the printers supported:

OmniWriter is a page-oriented word processor for the Commodore 64 which includes OmniSpell, a 30,000-word spelling checker. The package is best suited for page-oriented writing applications, such as letters.

A bit of explanation: Word processors are either page-oriented, line-oriented, or character-oriented. For the sake of convenience, most word processors these days are character-oriented; you can move a cursor anywhere in the document, and all the writing and editing is done on the same screen. In other words, a character-oriented word processor does not treat a document traditionally as a group of pages during the writing and editing phases. Instead, the document is written and edited as if it were one very long page. Only when the document is printed (or print-previewed, if the word processor has such a feature) is the text broken up into separate pages.

Page-oriented word processors work quite differently. Usually they treat a document as separate pages onscreen. Often there are separate screens for various functions. For instance, OmniWriter has a work page, header page, footer page, and text pages. The work page can be used for such things as comments and rearranging text. The header and footer pages, obviously, hold the header and footer information. The text pages hold your document. In addition, the first text page has a format line where you can specify right and left margins, tab settings, and other formatting options.

Any number of format lines are allowed on any of the pages. Lines can be up to 240 characters long, scrolling horizontally across the 40-column screen. Each tile can hold up to 34,000 characters, and files can be linked together for printing out larger documents.

OmniWriter constantly displays useful information at the top of the screen: the title OmniWriter, your filename for the document in memory, the page number, number of pages, line number, and column number. Activating the page-width command highlights the W in the title OmniWriter. Prompts for other commands are just below the filename of the document. To use any command, you press the Commodore logo key and the appropriate letter. You can embed formatting commands in the text by pressing the CONTROL key, lighting up a small white box in the lower-left corner of the screen. Then you select the appropriate letter. This inserts a symbol in the document and performs the proper function, such as line centering, tabbing, and so on.

To help you remember all the commands, OmniWriter comes with a quick reference card and a function key overlay.

Merging And Printing

Like most word processors, OmniWriter lets you merge other documents or files into your text from disk or tape. It allows two types of merges: pasting text into the document with an editing command, and mail merging. The merged document can be created with OmniWriter, HESwriter, EasyScript, Wordcraft, WordPro, Superscript, MicroScript, or Busicalc—that is, it can be any standard Commodore sequential file. You can also merge disk directories. Mail merge takes place at the time of printing and is activated by the embedded merge command. The merged text (such as an address from a mailing list) is taken from either the work page or a disk file. This feature can be used for producing form letters.

The print command brings up a screen of options to make OmniWriter compatible with a number of different printers. It supports VIC, Epson, Que/Diablo, New Spinwriter, Triumph Adler TRD170S, Ricoh Flowriter, and ASCII printers. Unfortunately, OmniWriter does not support RS-232 serial printers.

As a page-oriented word processor, OmniWriter presents some advantages and disadvantages when printing out documents. Among the advantages: You can specify the starting and ending pages of the document to be printed. This can save you lots of paper, trouble, and time when you have to reprint only a portion of a document—after making a minor last-minute change, for example. Also, the screen shows formatted text at all times, except for multiple-line spacing. This too can save paper and labor.

But there are also some dis­advantages. For one thing, page endings are not automatic. If you don't specify the page breaks, you'll have one long page. If you decide later that you want double-spacing, you have to do some arithmetic to rearrange the page breaks again. (Practically all character-oriented word processors calcu­late page breaks automatically.)

Headers and footers cannot be turned on and off from within the text, so if you want a header on all pages except the first, you must print the first page separately with the header turned off. Footers cannot be turned off at all. To remove a footer you must delete all infor­mation from the footer page.

A minor problem is that if you separate sentences by typ­ing two spaces after periods, and if a sentence ends at the end of a line, OmniWriter prints the second space at the beginning of the next line. The solution is to type only one space after periods, although this runs counter to some typists' training.

Fast Spell-Checking

OmniSpell is included with OmniWriter to check for spelling errors. I was pleasantly surprised with its speed of operation. After it's loaded, it arranges all the unique words in the text in alphabetical order, then presents a menu:

Fl—Spell-Check Document
F3—Alphabetical Word List
F5—High-Usage Word List
F7—Dictionary Search
F8—Return toOmniWriter

When you check the spelling, the words in the ordered list are displayed on the screen in two columns. The words are checked against a dictionary on the disk which has a file for each letter of the alphabet, and a user dictionary for your own new words. As each word is checked, it is highlighted. When no match is found, the word remains highlighted.

The alphabetical and highusage word lists, as well as various statistics about your document compiled beneath the menu, are useful when studying your writing style.

The dictionary search option is used to look up words. If you're not exactly sure how to spell a word—after all, that's why you're looking it up, right?—you can type just a portion of the word with some wild card symbols (*,?). The wild cards are similar to those used when specifying filenames with some Disk Operating Systems.

To correct spelling errors, you return to OmniWriter and use the verify command. Verify scans the text and highlights the unrecognized word. Then you have four choices:

EDIT—Change text.
SKIP—Continue scanning without taking any action.
ACCEPT—Treat the word as if it is recognized.
LEARN—Add the word to a list to update the user dictionary.

All the commands, except EDIT, return to verify mode when done.

One note: It's best to switch the screen into the 40-column mode when using verify; otherwise, some highlighted words may be partially off the screen, and there's no way to scroll them into view except to exit the verify mode.

When you're finished correcting errors, you should return to OmniSpell if you've used the LEARN command. Then you can add all new words to the user dictionary.

OmniSpell comes on a single disk with all the programs and files. Unlike OmniWriter, it may be copied for backup purposes. Duplicate copies of the entire disk are available from HES (for a nominal fee) if something happens to the original.

The OmniSpell disk also contains several utility programs: dictionary maintenance, interface software so you can convert the user port into a parallel printer port with BASIC, a backup program, and a program that makes the software work with the MSD IEEE-488 bus adapter (a parallel disk drive interface for faster disk access). There are also some useful example files.

The manual is clear and easy to understand. Overall, the software does a good job and is easy to use. However, when using OmniWriter to write this review, I found the lack of automatic page breaks to be a very real problem (especially with double-spacing). Rearranging text from one page to another is simple, but then you have to figure out the page breaks all over again. A better application for OmniWriter, perhaps, would be short letters and form letters.

OmniWriter & OmniSpell
Human Engineered Software
150 North Hill Drive
Brisbane, CA 94005 $59.95