Apple graphics software. (evaluation) Steve Arrants.
I have a confession to make. I didn't buy my Apple to do graphics.
I was always more interested in word processing, telecommunications, and text adventures. The joys of HLIN and VLIN always eluded me. Plotting and drawing on an Apple were never very interesting. I couldn't seem to put together an error-free shape table. Then again, the Apple was not designed as the best graphics machine available. The right software can do amazing things, however. That said, let's look at some new graphics packages for the Apple and see what they can do. Flying Colors
Flying Colors is an interactive software package that lets you create high-resolution drawings with a minimum of effort and time. A joystick, paddles, graphics tablet, or KoalaPad is needed.
After booting up the disk, you choose the F option for Flying Colors or the P option for the Slide Projector. In a few seconds, the screen clears, and you are ready to draw, paint, or doodle. At the right of the screen is a menu for selecting which type of shape you wish to draw, such as a box or circle. You can clear the screen, access the disk, place keyboard characters on the screen, draw lines, or select a brush type. Choosing the latter brings you to another menu where color is selected, along with the width and size of brush.
You select these options with the input device. Just move the cursor over your selection and press button O. Button O also functions as the brush tip. When it is pressed, drawing action occurs. Think of it as controlling the flow of paint or ink to a brush. Button 1 displays the menus. It also aborts a drawing function in progress.
You can choose from 20 colors, two whites, and two blacks. If you use colors from different sides of the chart, artifacting will result. Artifacting occurs when certain colors are placed next to each other on a graphics page. For example, if a green circle is placed on a blue background, the boundary between them may have other colors. This is annoying, but easy to fix. Just use a broad brush or the Fill option to color over the artifacting.
If you use a non-solid color, such as stripes, it is difficult to cover over or erase them. The Apple sees only one of the colors at a time, and therefore covers only one of them. If you want to cover a patterned background, select a broad brush and just draw over the area. It is much quicker, and easier to control.
The Alpha option lets you place keyboard characters anywhere on your picture. Select this option, and move the cursor to the place where you want the text to start. Type from the keyboard as usual, and end by selecting another menu option.
A Micro option allows for accurate freehand drawing. In this mode, cursor movement is confined to a very small area in the drawing field. The cursor only moves within this area while drawing.
Pictures can be save or retrieved from disk. You can also retrieve pictures drawn or created with other graphics packages.
Included with Flying Colors is a slide projector program. Reboot the program disk and select the P option. Insert your picture disk when prompted.
Press S to select slides. Another menu appears, showing a catalog of pictures on the disk. Enter the slide into the tray in any order. Up to 16 slides can be placed in one tray, but you can link disks together to get an unlimited number of slides. Press ESC to return to the main menu.
Back at the main menu, you can select the time each slide appears on screen, from 1 to 99 seconds. You can choose whether to change slides manually--by button or keypress--and determine how a slide appears on a screen--by blending it into a previous slide or clearing the screen before the next slide appears.
The documentation consists of two disk size booklets. They are easy to understand, but I don't think you will need the Flying Colors book to get going. Experimenting with the Flying Colors program can teach you as much as the documentation can. Use it as a reference instead of road map. Flying Colors is copy-protected, and comes with a 90-day warranty.
I like Flying Colors, though I admit it won't help me become a computer artist--the talent just isn't there. But it is easy and fun to use. Flying Colors is good if you want to go beyond normal Apple graphics. I tested it on some neighborhood children, and they had no problems with it. It is a great choice for the schoolroom at any level. Pixit
Pixit is described as a graphics processor. It consists of three linked programs--a Picture Editor, Create-a-Shape, and a Shape Table Editor. Pixit is menu driven; to go to the next level in a program, you are prompted for the next action. For example, when using the Picture Editor, you are prompted to select a shape table, character set, and create a picture, in that order. Selecting the Load Shape Table function brings you a catalog of all shape tables on a disk. Arrow keys select which table to load. After loading a shape table, you load a character set in the same way. Now that both of these are loaded, select Create Picture and you are shown the editing screen.
The flashing cross at the center of the screen is the cursor. Near the bottom are two lines of information showing the current status of the screen. X and Y tell cursor location, and if you know any Applesoft Basic, you should recognize XDRAW, HCOLOR, ROT, etc. The values shown are identical to those used in Applesoft high-resolution graphics commands. Hitting? calls up a Help screen.
Two sets of keys move the cursor or shape across the screen. W, A, S, and Z move the cursor ten pixels, while I, J, K, and M move it one pixel. The spacebar selects the first shape in the table and places it on the screen. Use the cursor keys to put it in place.
When you are satisfied with placement, the P key and RETURN lock it into place.
Adding text is just as easy. Press T to enter the Text mode. The cursor is replace with a flashing > >. Type text from the keyboard.
This is fine if you all want to do is use the predesigned shapes included with Pixit, but what about designing our own shapes and pictures?
The Apple II high-resolution graphics page is made up of 192 horizontal lines, each containing 280 dots or pixels. The pixels are numberd 0 to 279 across each line. An image is formed by lighting up certain pixels in certain patterns. Think of an electronic billboard made up of a grid of lights. By turning on different lights at different intensities an image is created. To create an image on a high-resolution page, you could do a series of HPLOTS. To draw a complex image might require hundreds of HPLOTS, since there are more than 53,000 pixels on a high-resolution page. Who wants to spend the next two months HPLOTTING?
An easier way is to create a shape table. A shape table consists of all the information the Apple needs to plot a shape or image on the screen. Once defined in a shape table, all that is needed is a simple DRAW command from Basic. A shape may be placed anywhere on the screen, rotated, scaled, or drawn in different colors. A shape table can contain one or many shapes. The information in a shape table is a series of directions or vector plots. Each vector determines whether or not to turn on the current pixel and which direction to move.
Still, as easy as it sounds, creating a shape table is tedious and time consuming. A much better choice is a program that lets you plot out each step on screen, edit it, and then save to disk as a shape table. Pixit does this and does it very well. By having Pixit do the leg-work, you are free to concentrate on the creative aspect.
Create-a-Shape prompts you for the drawing scale, 1 to 4 times actual size; grid or no grid options; and the starting location of the shape. The same movement keys used in the Picture Editor are used here. I, J, K, and M plot one pixel and then move over one pixel. The A, W, S, and Z keys move the cursor one pixel without plotting. The regular Apple cursor control keys are used in editing. The right arrow steps the cursor ahead in file memory, while the left arrow steps backward. CONTROL-B moves the cursor to the beginning of the file, CONTROL-E traces forward all the way to the (you guessed it) end of the file. CONTROL-X lets you change the drawing scale, grid option, or starting location at any time without distributing the file in memory, CONTROL-F marks the current cursor position as the last move without disturbing the file in memory. This allows you to delete all unwanted moves from the end of the file in memory. When you are finished plotting your shape, you may compile it into a standard Applesoft shape table.
The final program is the Shape Table Editor. This is used to build shape tables of up to 128 shapes. These shapes can be from the Pixit Create-a-Shape program, from a standard Applesoft shape table, or from another graphics package. Available shapes are shown on the right, and the new shape table on the left of the screen. Load a previous shape or shape table, and you are ready to begin building a new shape table. Select Add to place a shape in the new table. Scan through the available shapes to pick another one for your table, or load in another table to select other shapes. At any time you may add, delete, or insert shapes anywhere within the new table.
The documentation is good, taking you through each part of Pixit with a minimum of fuss. Pixit is not copy-protected, and is listable, so you can modify the programs to suit your own needs. Because Pixit uses a non-standard boot program, the usual disk copy programs will not work. Instructions for backing it up are included. Pixit is an excellent choice for the beginner. It is easy to work with and forgiving of errors, and the instructions and accompanying tutorials are clear and concise. The Graphics Magician
The Graphics Magician is a set of editors and routines that helps you create graphics and animation for use in your own programs. This package combines the best of programs such as Pixit and Flying Colors, though it is much easier to use.
The Graphics Magician consists of two main modules, the Animation system and the Picture system. The Animation system, in turn, is made up of a shape editor, a path editor, and an animation editor. Also included is a documentation utility which prints all the information and addresses for a finished animation file.
First, create a shape. After answering a few set-up questions, such as width and height, the screen clears and shows seven identical sections each bordered by four dots and topped by an orange line. Each of the seven sections makes up one animated figure. For example, rotating the second, fourth, fifth, and seventh sections gives you a rolling figure when animated. At the bottom is a list of commands. Plotting of the shape is controlled by the keyboard. After creating a shape, you may animate it to see how it looks as it moves.
The next step is to create a path for the object. Again, all movement and plotting are cursor controlled. Plot the path across the screen, editing it as you go along. When finished, save it and go on to the Animation editor. Here, you are prompted as to which shape and path to load. You may begin anywhere along the path. When you are satisfied, save the file and exit The Graphics Magician. At this point, all you have is a binary file on your disk. All you have to do is write a simple, three-line Basic program to run your animation.
The Picture System is almost as easy
to use. This system lets you create screen pictures that take the minimum of storage
space--about 8K. Instead of remembering the screen as a whole, The Graphics Magician remembers the movements used to create the screen. Since the sequence is remembered instead of the whole picture, size is kept to a minimum, and the time to BLOAD is shortened.
You design pictures with a joystick, paddle, trackball, or graphics tablet. When you select the Picture editor, you select the input device. Drawing a picture or scene with The Graphics Magician is similar to using the drawing program of Flying Colors. You select the brush size and color with the input device and toggle back and forth between the selection screen and the page upon which you are drawing. One nice feature of The Graphics Magician is that a mistake in drawing can be deleted with a single keystroke. You don't have to throw out the picture and restart or draw over the error. Pictures can also be combined with animation files.
Included in this revision of The Graphics Magician is a Hi-Res Text Generator for placing text on the Graphics screen. A binary transfer utility prints the starting address and length of a binary file and can transfer it to another disk. Other utilities include Shape Capture, which converts any part of a high-resolution graphics screen into a shape; and Shape Screen Start, which lets you edit shapes created with another graphics utility.
This isn't just a package for hobbyists. The Graphics Magician is used to create graphics in dozens of commercial games and software packages. Since The Graphics Magician is available for several different machines, most of the work done on one machine can be easily transferred to another.
The Graphics Magician is unprotected and listable, allowing you to modify it as necessary. The documentation is extensive and includes one of the most readable explanations of Apple graphics I have seen. This is understandable, given the author of The Graphics Magician. Mark Pelczarski is one of the best known names in Apple graphics. Picture Writer
When I saw this in my office mailbox, I thought, "Oh no! Not another bad educational package. Maybe Betsy won't remember she assigned it to me ..."
Unfortunately, some of the educational software available today is terrible. The tell-tale signs are: block lettering, "artsy" covers, specially designed packaging, and a tutorial featuring more music and enthusiasm than Schiller's "Ode to Joy!" Well, Picture Writer has all of these, but it is not swill. In fact, Picture Writer is an excellent choice when you want to free your seven-year-old from Pacmania. This package delivers more than it promises. Scarborough Systems describes Picture Writer as software for drawing pictures, playing with pictures, and learning by drawing. It succeeds on all counts.
The Picture Writer work area consists of a clean page with a strip of icons and colors at the left. Although the icons are supposed to be recognizable, they can be confusing. Zap (erase) looks like a lightning bolt, but it can be confused with the icon for Redraw, a squiggly arrow.
Selection is via the keyboard. For example, suppose you wish to color an area blue and orange. Press C for color and the two appropriate color numbers. For one solid color, enter the corresponding number twice. The area where the cursor tip rests is immediately colored in.
The cursor is an interesting feature. Two crosses represent the cursor. One is the cursor tip; the other is the cursor base. The distance between the two can be adjusted with the < and > keys. At first, this feature was an annoyance. As I used Picture Writer, however, I began to realize how useful this type of cursor can be when doing fine detail. An editing feature permits the retracing of each drawing step to see where you have been and to redraw if necessary.
A music code provides a note for each step in the drawing. This can be toggled on and off. It isn't necessity, but it can be used to prompt a child for input. Each type of movement and color has its own sound. Though not a full-fledged music generator, this mode can be fun to experiment with.
Picture Writer is packaged in a clear plastic box that doubles as an easel for the manual or command card. The command card is well-written and printed in large type. Finally, Picture Writer is unprotected. Any copy program will back it up. If you have ever had apple juice spilled on a disk, you know how helpful this can be. Scarborough Systems recommends Picture Writer for ages 5 through 15. I think 15-year-olds may find it a bit too elementary. The 5- to 7-year-olds who tested Picture Writer for us had a great deal of fun creating their own pictures and modifying those included on the disk.
Most educational software relies on the "drill and practice" method of teaching. I guess that is fine for some types of learning. Picture Writer is different; it doesn't talk down to children. It treats them as equal partners in the learning process. And because of this and the way it is written, I don't think a child will grow bored with it. If you are tired of buying "twitch" games that are discarded after a few weeks or "educational" packages that put your child to sleep, try Picture Writer. Doublestuff
First off, Doublestuff is not a graphics package. It won't create shape tables, animate shapes, or quickly create high resolution pictures. Doublestuff is an extension to Applesoft Basic that allows the cretion of double low and high resolution graphics. It allows you to run all Applesoft Basic programs with double-resolution graphics.
Doublestuff loads into the same memory area as Integer Basic, yet is fully compatible with every Applesoft Basic command. Moving between Applesoft and Doublestuff is as easy as moving beteween Integer and Applesoft. Just type DFP at the prompt to enter Doublestuff.
To use the new graphics features, you must have an Apple IIe and an 80-column extended memory card. Pins 50 and 55 on the card must be connected. Apple usually packages the card with the pins connected. If they are not, take the small blue connector packaged with the card and follow the directions that come with the card.
Double low-resolution graphics works the same way as normal low-resolution except that it operates next to the 80-column text portions of memory. What you get is an 80 x 48 matrix with 16 colors available.
Double high-resolution graphics are different, since they take place in a separate portion of memory. Normal high-resolution graphics consist of 280 x 192 pixels.
Each pixel is made up of 8 bits (1 byte). Only seven pixels show on the screen for any pixel. The last bit is called the high bit and shifts the pixel to alter the color. With double high-resolution graphics, the screen is 560 x 192 pixels. Again, each pixel is 8 bits. The difference is that the high bit does not control the color or the shift. This gives a more precise control over colors. There are four prime colors in the double high-resolution mode. By combining them, it is possible to get 16 colors.
No special commands must be memorized to use Doublestuff. All Applesoft commands are valid. The only differences are the X values when entering a graphics command. For example, when using normal low-resolution graphics. PLOT 39, 47 represents the highest values available. With Doublestuff PLOT 79, 47 is valid. The only drawback with these new graphics is that the X-axis is doubled with the Y-axis remains the same. That isn't a fault of Doublestuff, but a limitation of the 80-column card. Still, as the examples show, the graphics are striking.
Doublestuff comes with a short manual and a reference card which explains the difference between normal and double graphics. The disk is not copy-protected. The sample programs are listable for examination and modification. You don't need Doublestuff to do double low- and high-resolution graphics. The instructions for doing it have been published elsewhere. Doublestuff just makes the process easier by taking the instructions and appending them to Applesoft. So, instead of loading a program to call these special graphics, Doublestuff keeps them in memory for you. All you have to do is toggle between the two modes.
These are just some of the graphics packages available for the Apple. I think they represent some of the best of what is available. Each has unique features that others don't have. Which one you should buy depends on what type of graphics you plan to do. One thing they all have in common is that they make Apple graphics a much easier task.
Products: Computer Colorworks Flying Colors (computer program)
Baudville Pixit (computer program)
Penguin Software The Graphics Magician (computer program)
Scarborough Systems Picture Writer (computer program)
Doublestuff Software Development Doublestuff (computer program)