Classic Computer Magazine Archive CREATIVE COMPUTING VOL. 10, NO. 7 / JULY 1984 / PAGE 18

Mac Microsoft Basic. (evaluation) Abigail Reifsnyder.

Those of us who have had our Macs for a while have been champing at the bit for more software--one can only do so much with Macs Paint and Write. So it was with much excitement that I opened my copy of Microsoft Basic for the Mac. I soon discovered that Microsoft Basic for the Macintosh is just that: Microsoft Basic--a strict translation whose two best features are that it is Microsoft Basic and that it is out, but whose most remarkable feature is that it does practically nothing to take advantage of the special capabilities of the Macintosh. Sure, it has windows; sure, it uses the mouse; and, yes, it does include commands to let you access the Macintosh ROM routines. But there is more to the Mac than windows and mice.

When you first call up MS Basic, you see the familiar menu bar at the top of the screen, an empty "untitled" window, and a small command window at the bottom. The command window is where you type in commands while the output window displays everything you type in exactly as you type it along with the results of your program as it runs.

The menu bar includes the standard Apple menu with the desk accessories and three MS Basic menus: File, Edit, and Control. The File menu includes six (not three, as indicated in the manual) commands that act on program files: New, Open..., Close, Save, Save as..., and Quit. All of these commands operate in much the same way as they do with MacWrite and MacPaint, warning you in "dialog boxes" if you are trying to do something that will cause you to lose the current file. The one exception to this is the Open...command which expects you to remember the name of the file (or the name of another disk) you want to open. (In both MacWrite and MacPaint, all the files on the disk are listed alphabetically in the dialog box.) The Edit menu allows you to Cut, Paste, and Copy--but only one line at a time. (There is no full-screen editing, but more on that later.) Finally, the Control menu has seven commands that control program execution and output: Stop, Continue, Suspend, List, Run, Trace on, and Trace off. These functions can be invoked from the command window or through keystroke commands as well as from the menu.

You may also call onto the screen up to three List windows where your code is displayed; you can scroll through using the scroll bar at the side of the window. The advantage to having three of them is, presumably, to facilitate comparisons and cutting and pasting among different parts of a program. The usefulness of this feature is limited since you can edit only one line of code at a time; if you want to move a block of code, you are better off just reentering it. Perhaps, if you were able to run two or more programs simultaneously, this feature would be more useful for comparisons. As it is, it seems to be merely a bell or a whistle, take your pick.

This version of MS Basic does have some special features such as LINE and BOX statements, mouse functions, and double precision variables. GET and PUT statements are especially powerful in this version of Basic, since they allow you to store a screen graphic into an array that can be put anywhere else on the screen. This facilitates such things as dragging a picture around the screen and creating the effect of animating an object. The mouse functions make it easy to write programs that respond to mouse inputs (mouse position, single click, double click and drag).

Unfortunately, these new features do not compensate for the slap-dash feel of this implementation of Basic on the Macintosh. It could be much more than this. Not having a full-screen editor to edit source code undermines the advantages of both the windows and the mouse. In fact, the program works in such a way that the mouse is more annoying than helpful. Another particularly glaring gap in the capabilities of this Basic is the lack of any commands to address the four sound channels of the Mac. (Someone forgot that computers can make noise!)

The Print function is less than obvious. For example, if you pick Print from the main menu, it merely opens the file you chose. That's it. I don't understand why Print is even on the menu. (To print the file, you have three options once you open the file. You can use the Save as...command and save it as LPT1 choosing the ASCII option. Or you can enter list in the command window. Finally, list, "1pt1:" will print your file.)

Also, while you can print the entire screen, everything in the List window, and anything sent directly to the printer by the running program, you cannot print the output window. As a result, a program which displayed the textfaces available via routines in ROM in the output window was unable to print them. Printing the entire screen gave only the textfaces currently on the screen, and sending the list output directly to the printer resulted in a complete list, none of which was in the appropriate face.

On the other hand, a convenient feature is that you may save a file three ways: as ASCII, Binary, or Protected. Once you save a file with the protected option, you cannot modify it in any way.

One final complaint: the manual. It is adequate to get you started, but much too much space is devoted to explaining such things as how to comfortably view two List windows simultaneously. Meanwhile, the "Macintosh Toolbox Support" appendix consists merely of a listing of commands with no indication as to what they will do for you. This is typical of this package as a whole: there's nothing really wrong, but there's nothing particularly right either. For $150, I think it's fair to expect a little more to be right.

Products: Microsoft Macintosh Basic (computer program)