PowerText. (evaluation) Joseph Devlin.
Most word processors are made up of two central components--a text editor and a print formatter. The text editor is the part of the package that allows the writer to change, move, insert, delete, and otherwise play with the text of a document that appears on his screen. The print formatter is the part of the package that prepares the document for printing.
In some word processors, the print formatter and the text editor are closely integrated so that what you see on the screen resembles what the printer will print. In packages which do not integrate text editing and print formatting, you can type free form (you do not have to worry about indenting paragraphs, for example), confident that the print formatter will reprocess your text for the printer in the format you intend.
However, what you give up is the ability to see your text on the screen in the format the printer will be using unless you run a separate print-formatting program. When a programmer decides whether or not to integrate text editing and print formatting in his word processor, he determines the appropriateness of his word processor for certain applications. In general, word processors which do not integrate text editing and print formatting are better suited for an office environment. This is true because experienced typists can save time by using free format imput, especially if they are accustomed to creating certain standard types of forms.
Power Text is a word processing package that is particularly well tailored for an office environment. In part, this is because it is a combination word processor and style manual. In addition, the care which has gone into enforcing formatting conventions and in designing the menu structure will aid the office employee in using Power Text effectively.
The basic premise of Power Text is that all the documents issued from a given office should have a standard appearance. One company memo should look like all other company memos. One report should look like all other reports. This saves secretaries and their bosses from wasting time worrying about where to place commas and choosing between "Very truly yours' and "Yours truly.'
Power Text allows you to store definitions of letters, memos, reports, shipping orders, and other standard forms. Once the format for a particular type of corre-spondence has been defined, you need not worry about it again. Margins, tabs, page length, headers, footers, closings, and cover pages are automatically formatted according to preset definitions.
Preparation of a Mask
Let's look at the way Power Text creates a letter. The first step is the preparation of a letter format mask. When you design the mask, you decide that the date will be positioned at the top right, the address will be three to four lines long on the left, and the closing will be at the bottom right. Once the mask is prepared describing where all the elements of the letter will appear, you can begin typing the letter.
Power Text identifies and locates the elements of the text you type in by responding to the commands you embed in the text. Type/par and the program knows to begin a new paragraph and indent at this point. Type/date and the following line will be placed on the top right of the page. The end result is that Power Text is very good for production of documents in strict, established formats.
The advantage of this is that you can rapidly enter text without having to worry about placement of standard paragraph indentations, salutations , and the like. (You may also set non-routine imdents within the document itself.)
Power Text is not so good if the writing you do does not follow standard formats, since the creation of a format is a fairly time-consuming procedure, and that time is wasted if the format is to be used only once.
The Power Text editor makes use of nested menus to reach the various commands. Functions are usually invoked through single keystrokes once they have been located on the proper menu. On each level, only certain functions can be performed. This means, for example, that you must exit the Insert mode to perform most other functions such as saving text or moving to the top of the file.
Thus, although nested menus are helpful for inexperienced users, they do entail a good deal of overhead. They make performing most of the major editing functions easy, but it can take a while to get to the proper menu for the function you wish to perform.
In each mode in the editor, a prompt line tells you what your most likely options are. You choose each of your actions by depressing a single key. For example, you press I for insert or D for delete. Unfortunately, certain of the more obscure commands are invisible; they are available from certain menus, but are not displayed. Obviously, these commands must be memorized if you plan to employ them regularly.
Another problem is that the same nmemonics have different meanings depending upon which menu you are in. Usually this is a mild annoyance. For example, Q for Quit usually means "go to the primary menu,' but in the Edit mode, Quit puts you into a special Edit menu that provides you with other options.
One instance of these multiple-use mnemonics, the use of the escape key, is particularly annoying. Throughout most of the menu system, hitting escape will recall the previous menu. In the Insert mode however, the escape key deletes all text currently being inserted, then exits ot the previous menu.
The Power Text editor provides the standard screen editing commands along with some rather nice amenities. All of the common word processor editing and printing features such as subscripting and superscripting, bold and wide printing, underlining, block moves, and search and replace are supported. Footnote numbers can be automatically incremented and subscripted.
Other useful features include buffers that allow you to undelete recently deleted text and allow for complex cut and paste operations. The fact that the program automatically creates a differently named backup file will save you much frustration when you accidentally delete major parts of your current opus. A phrase dictionary allows the definition of up to 26 words or phrases.
Power Text formats disks with ten sectors rather than eight, providing additional storage space on the disk. Thus, the standard single sided disk can store 200K rather than 160K per disk and double sided drives can store 400K rather than 320K.
The formatter adds flexibility as well. Form letters can be easily produced, and Power Text provides a newspaper style column facility that automatically divides the page into two equal columns. The outline feature will number and indent outline material up to nine levels deep.
It may take a whili to create a standard form, but the use of the format results in speedily and correctly printed documents. However, if the standard format is altered, results are less predictable.
You can imbed formatting commands, such as/ind 20I, which indents 20 columns more than the previous indent, free form while in the text editor. However, there is no menu to indicate what format commands are available, and the effect of an imbedded format command can be seen only by quitting the editor, saving the document, then entering the print formatter and calling up the display program. It may take five minutes just to be able to see that an indentation is five spaces too long. If this kind of mistake occurs, the document must be re-edited, then reformatted and examined again.
Power Text comes with a thorough, well written manual that would have been much improved if it were better formatted and included an index. The lack of an index is a particular annoyance when trying to remember the commands that do not appear on the menus. Fortunately, Beaman Porter offers a telephone help line manned by friendly experts who can bail you out if you get into trouble.
Power Text has been on the market for the Apple II and III since September of 1981. The version reviewed here is new. It runs on an IBM PC with 64K bytes of memory and two single sided drives. A larger memory and dual sided drives are suggested, however, unless you relish constant disk swapping and like to read out-of-memory messages.
A version of Power Text is available for $199 to users who already own the UCSD P-System. This version comes without the UCSD runtime module, editor and file utility that are included in the full package.
A 90-minute audio tape for training in the use of Power Text is available for $29.95. Beaman Porter promises to make periodical software updates available for a nominal fee. Users who wish to add spelling checking to the word processor can purchase Beaman Porter's PowerSpell for $125.
Power Text is a comprehensive, full featured word processor that is particularly useful and valuable in offices and other situations in which documents are produced in uniform formats.
Products: Beaman Porter PowerText (editing equipment)