Classic Computer Magazine Archive START VOL. 4 NO. 1 / AUGUST 1989

Mac and PC
On The ST

The Latest Gadget and Desktop Presentations


As I write this in late March, Gadgets by Small has just released Spectre 128 Version 1.9. If you haven't upgraded to Spectre 128 yet, you should definitely consider it- the list of software which runs on Spectre 128 but not on Magic Sac grows longer with each new revision. Version 1.9 is the first release with active sound, although author Dave Small warns that the sound isn't "bulletproof" yet-he's just putting it out there for people to try. If you aren't feeling experimental, you can just leave it disabled.

Also Dave has fixed some other minor bugs, although I've never seen most of them. Further, he's beginning to talk about the newest product from Gadgets by Small, Spectre GCR. It plugs into the cartridge port, replacing the current Spectre, and lets your ST read and write Mac disks at virtually full speed. It's going through final testing now.

As many of you are aware, Data Pacific's Translator One, which also lets you read and write Mac disks, is painfully slow, primarily because it uses the ST's MIDI ports. While these ports are plenty fast enough for their intended purpose, music codes, their speed isn't close to that of the cartridge port. I have high hopes for Spectre GCR.

One of the ways that Apple has been successful in marketing the Macintosh is in "niche markets," focusing on those specialized tasks that the Mac is perceived to do well. Good examples are Desktop Publishing and CADD (Computer-Aided Design and Drafting). A fairly new niche market is known as "desktop presentations." Essentially, this refers to producing slides and overhead projector transparencies designed to accompany and illustrate a live presentation. This sort of software can be a godsend, especially for professionals who do a lot of presentations. We can put together the materials we need in just a few hours, without resorting to outside help-which always seems to be too busy to produce what we need when we need it.

Microsoft's Powerpoint is a bit pricey for the ST world at $295,
but if you need an easy way to create desktop presentations,
then this may be your solution. You can create absolutely stunning
slides like this one, using Spectre 128, Powerpoint and an outside
translation service, like Genigraphics.

Desktop presentation packages tend to be expensive-they're created for the business market, after all-but about the most reasonable is Microsoft's Powerpoint. This powerful package can be used quite well on an ST with Spectre 128 and, since it adheres to the standard Mac interface, it can be learned very quickly.

The Mechanics of Powerpoint
Powerpoint is very straightforward, and creating a slide is easy Along the left side of the screen there are various tools, including shapes (circles, boxes, lines), a text tool and a text box. The text tool lets you lay down text anywhere on the screen, while the text box lets you draw a box first, then place the text in the box. The advantage of the text box is that it automatically word-wraps when your typing reaches the right side of the box, thus providing you with a mini-word processor.

From the menu at the top of the screen, the various shapes can be filled, shadowed, brought to the front or sent to the back, fill pattern selected, and their colors set. The colors of the outline, fill, and shadow can all be set independently. Of course, on a black-and-white Mac (or an ST running Spectre 128), you can't actually see the colors (which look absolutely stunning on a fully-configured Mac II, sigh . . . .). But those colors can be reproduced when creating the final slide/overhead (more on this in a moment). If you don't like how the objects look, you can select them and resize them or drag them to a new location.

You can set text size, color, font and effects (bold, italics, etc.) from the menu. Since you can use the text cursor to highlight portions of the text, you can change any of these properties for any part of the text. You can also move text around if it doesn't look quite right where you put it. You can also define a new text style (combination of font, size and effect) which can be added to the menus. This can be handy if you use a particular style of text a lot. Powerpoint even includes a spell checker, which will highlight any words not found in its extensive dictionary-and you can add your own special words to it also.

Color shading can give quite a bit of impact to your slides, although, once again, you can't see the effect on your screen. Powerpoint supports shading in any of its primary colors, and you can select the variation in shading (from dark to light) from sliders. Further, you can select how you want the shading done-horizontally, vertically diagonally, corner-to-comer etc.

Checking Out Your Work
Each slide has a title which identifies that slide. Once you have constructed several slides, you can move through them in several ways. The first way is a screen which shows a reduced-size version of each slide. If all the slides won't fit on one screen, then the window can be scrolled. To look at a particular slide, you merely double-click on its reduced version and the slide will appear on the screen. You can also rearrange the order of slides from this screen by clicking on the slide and dragging it to a new location. The second way to view all of your slides is by a titles list. Again, you can double-click on a selection or click and drag a title to rearrange the order of the slides. Finally, there is an elevator on the left side of the screen; click and drag on the elevator to move through your slides.

Of course, Powerpoint comes with an onscreen slideshow program, which can be set either to wait a specified time between slides or for a keypress.

Powerpoint supports a slide "master" on which you can set up items you want to appear on each slide. It also lets you output a Notes page containing a reduced version of your slide with space for notes at the bottom of the page. A Handout page, consisting of reduced versions of all of your slides, is of limited usefulness, however.

Making Slides
Once you have created your slide or transparency series and saved it to disk, it needs to be translated into a media that can be presented to an audience easily. Dragging a computer along to a presentation and showing the illustrations on a big-screen TV is impractical. Moreover, if you are working with Spectre 128 (as we are), you can't show any colors, since Spectre emulates a monochrome Macintosh.

Fortunately, you do have options. Many copy centers have the equipment to turn a Powerpoint disk file into absolutely beautiful slides, but the disk must be in Mac format, which means you need Translator One or the upcoming Spectre GCR. The other option is to use Genigraphics, a nationwide service organization which specializes in making slides. Powerpoint directly supports sending a file by modem to Genigraphics. In fact, if you do use their services, a special package of effects from their standard library can be incorporated in the slides. The turnaround time for Genigraphics is much longer, however, than a local copy center.

Overall, Powerpoint is a remarkably powerful and easy-to-use package that fulfills a need which is currently unmet in the ST world. I have used it and highly recommend it for those of you who need its special strengths.

David Plotkin is a chemical engineer for Chevron U.S.A. and a Contributing Editor for START


Magic Sac+, $149.95; Translator One, $299.95. Data Pacific, Inc., 609 West Speer Blvd., Denver, CO 80203, (303) 733-8158.

Spectre 128, $179.95. Gadgets by Small, Inc., 40 West Littleton Blvd., #201-211, Littleton, CO 80120, (303) 791-6098.

Powerpoint, $295. Microsoft Corp., 16011 N.E. 36th Way, Redmond, WA 98073, (206) 454-2030.