Classic Computer Magazine Archive START VOL. 5 NO. 4 / DECEMBER 1990


Daisy Dot III, Diamond Paint, Express!, SuperFrogs FunSpeller and Track Stack

Letter-quality printing from your dot-matrix
Review by Chester Cox

You can easily spend thousands of dollars on printers and computers in an effort to get really professional-looking printouts. Or you can just send $25 for a copy of Daisy Dot III and produce similar results with a cheap dot-matrix printer and your faithful 8-bit Atari.

Daisy Dot's previous versions have already had their share of praise. In the June 1988 ANTIC, Charles Cherry enthusiastically called Daisy Dot II excellent, far better than he'd thought possible. Daisy Dot III is Roy Goldman's most extensive and user-friendly version yet.

Like its predecessors, Daisy Dot III creates letter-quality print in several varieties of fonts, even if your dot matrix printer doesn't normally support letter-quality fonts. Now Daisy Dot III adds new features making the program easier to use, including support for more printers. in addition to Epson compatibles, you can use Daisy Dot III with Star Gemini, Atari XMM801, C.Itoh/NEC and Mannesmann-Tally 9-pin printers. The font editor, already used by many to create new fonts, is better and easier to use.

Best of all, Daisy Dot III now lets you use files saved normally with almost any Atari word processor. With earlier versions of Daisy Dot you had to first create your document with a word processor, then save the file in ASCII format by "printing to disk". This determined the overall shape of your document. Daisy Dot III simplifies your job by reading any normally saved file and printing it out with the margins you specify in the configuration file. Daisy Dot III handles the word-wrap, character spacing, centering and other features for you, through commands you place in the text using your favorite word processor.

As before, Daisy Dot works best when you can go back and forth between it and your word processor. For real speed, a word processor that can be loaded from DOS, like TextPro, has a distinct advantage, since you don't need to reboot to go hack and forth. in fact, Roy Goldman will sell you the latest version of TextPro, with complete documentation on disk, for an additional $5.

Two versions of Daisy Dot come on disk, one for use with SpartaDOS and the other for Atari DOS 2.5. You must RUN a BASIC configuration program to set your printer drivers, margins, paper size and the drive you want to use. The fastest configuration I've seen combined Sparta-DOS and a large RAMdisk (128K), with TextPro and Daisy Dot HI loaded into the RAMdisk. However, Daisy Dot III worked fine on a venerable 800 with 48K, slowed only by disk access.

You can no longer print pictures with the program, however. Daisy Dot III bypasses any picture calls, going for straight text with lots of fonts instead.

The 50-page manual includes clear instructions on setting up your configuration file, and thorough instructions on how to embed commands in your text file, with plenty of printed examples. Actually printing your text is easy - run Daisy Dot III, select a font when requested, and type in the name of text file to be printed. You can print a straight text file (with no formatting commands) in the font of your choice without ever embedding a single code, but the manual tells you how to get such effects as block left, block right, centered text, hanging indents, tab settings, reset margins, headers, footers, underlines, hard spaces - and of course, how to mix multiple fonts on one page, or even on one line.

Daisy-Dot III is a copyrighted shareware program. The full, registered version is available from author Roy Goldman for $25, and includes the font editor with seven fonts on the main disk, plus a second disk containing another 44 near-letter-quality fonts, most of them using proportional spacing (for that typeset look). A freely distributable version of Daisy-Dot III with fewer features will be available on GEnie and CompuServe and may be distributed by some users groups.

For creating a polished, desktop publishing look on your Atari, Daisy Dot III is the best program available, and at a very low price. Note that author Roy Goldman is attending college and may not be able to respond quickly to specific questions. However, his family will still mail out packages promptly upon your order being received.

Roy Goldman, 2440 South Jasmine Street, Denver, CO 80222.
Requires at least 48K memory, DOS 2.5 or Sparta DOS.

Best drawing software for the 8-bit Atari?
Review by Chester Cox

Diamond Paint is a program for the Diamond graphic operating system (ANTIC, June/July 1990), that lets you use an ST mouse to create your 8-bit works of art. The $79.95 package includes the Diamond cartridge, which gives you an icon-and-menu based interface for your 8-bit Atari. If you're tired of the jagged edges you get when you draw with a joystick, Diamond Paint and an ST mouse may be exactly what you're looking for.

As a drawing program, Diamond Paint has all the features we've come to expect from programs like the old Micro-Illustrator and Blazing Paddles. In addition, it adds some very handy features. The ability to cut and paste is standard in the 16-bit world, but it's something new for your 8-bit. To my knowledge, Diamond Paint is the only paint program for the 8-bit Atari that allows users to cut out smaller portions of a screen and save them to disk as clip art. The documentation is unclear on this process, but a little experimentation showed me how to save clipped art to disk. Once you clip a portion of art, you need to click on the disk icon, ABORT back to the main menu bar, then SAVE the clip art to disk.

Diamond Paint's ability to
cut and paste is something
new for your 8-bit.

Diamond Paint will also compress picture files, saving valuable disk space. If you've upgraded your Atari, Diamond Paint can take advantage of that extra memory, keeping your workscreen in memory so you can load additional clip art into it. You can use different fonts for any text entry, making for some nice poster combinations.

The manual doesn't always cover features in sufficient detail, but Diamond's simple operation and useful menus make it relatively easy for users to explore and learn. The manual also includes a number of screen shots that help clarify some of the less-clear instructions.

Best of all, Diamond Paint's picture quality is unmatched. You can use any input device - there are drivers for joysticks, trackballs, and touch tablets - but you'll get very fine detail with an ST mouse. An included image of a Frazetta painting demonstates the tiny details possible with Diamond Paint,

Diamond Paint is a winner, it's worth the price of the entire Diamond set by itself.

Reeve Software, 29W 150 Old Farm Lane, Warenville, IL 60555. (312) 393-2317. Includes Diamond Cartridge and Programmer's Kit.

Cartridge Version 1.12 Ultimate telecommunications software for Atari 8-bit.
Review by Theodore DiVito

Soon after I purchased an Atari XEP80 card for my Atari computer, I started looking seriously for a telecommunications program that would take advantage of the XEP80's abilities to give me an 80-column terminal viewing mode. I read that Express 3.0, a well-known public domain terminal program by Keith Ledbetter, allows such a setup. I tried Express 3.0 for a while, but found it had limited compatibility with the XEP80's 80-column screen. It also lacked some file transfer protocols I wanted, in particular Y-modem, which I use frequently.

Fortunately, Keith Kedbetter has now put out an improved version of Express! on a ROM cartridge, instantly bootable. The package includes a 42-page manual. I popped the cartridge on top of my SpartaDOS X and R-time 8 cartridges. The Express! 1.12 cartridge allows piggy-backing another cartridge on top, so I added BASIC XE for good measure, making a total of four stacked cartridges.

I was more than pleased when I tried out my Express cartridge. Not only did it allow full telecommunications with my CTS Datacom 2400 bps modem, but it worked with my XEP80 as well. I linked up to some of my favorite boards and tested the program out. It worked great.

Among its notable features, Express! 1.12 allows transmission speeds up to 19,000 baud, use of a capture buffer with up to 512K (provided you have the extra memory and aren't using it for a RAMdisk), a built-in SpartaDOS-type shell, and complete configurations for any type of configurable modem. You can use subdirectories if your DOS allows them. Ten file-transfer protocols are allowed, including Y-modem, Y-modem batch, L-modem batch, Windowed Xmodem, SEAlink, Xmodem, Xmodem CRC-16, ASCII, and soon to come Z-modem as a file loaded from the DOS shell. Features such as expanded miscellaneous buffers, changeable screen colors, 50-entry dialing menus and autodialing are also supported.

This original version of Express! had a few minor bugs, including some screen glitches with the XEP80. I have one monitor linked to my XEP80 for 80-column viewing, and another monitor hooked to my computer. Express! allows you to turn off the 40-column screen for faster transfers at very high transmission rates, but this initial cartridge would drop characters when I shut the 40-column screen off.

Fortunately, these bugs were completely fixed in version 1.12. This version of Express! puts all environment information onto a 40-column screen, and leaves on terminal mode on an 80-column screen, if using an XEP80. If not, everything appears on your 40-column screen. I talked to Keith Ledbetter at the Washington DC Atarifest in October, 1989. He demonstrated that Express! works well with a hard disk. One item I'd like to see added to the Express! Cartridge 1.12 is a "print dialing list" option. This is the one useful item I've found that was available on Express! 3 and not on the Express! Cartridge 1.12.

The cartridge also has one quirk that can be avoided. You can accidentally lock up your system if you try to bypass the Express! cartridge by holding down the [OPTION] key while booting. Some, but not all, cartridges can be accessed this way. The only safe way to lock out the Express! cartridge is to run Express! first, then select "Run Piggy-Back Cart" from the menu bar. Express! will bring you back to DOS, where you should select the "Run Cartridge" option to get to your piggy-backed BASIC.

Express! 1.2 has just about all
the features I could want for
8-bit telecommunications.

Express! 1.12 has just about all the features I could want for m 8-bit telecommunications. Its biggest limit lies in the DOS you use, so get the best you can. I strongly recommend ICD's SpartaDOS X.

EXPRESS! 1.12 (Cartridge)    $69.95
Orion Micro Systems, 2211 Planters Row Drive, Midlothian, VA 23113. (804) 794-9437. See also Orion Micro Systems
SIG on GEnie, or their own BBS, (804) 379-4156.

(and SuperFrogs minus spelling too)
Review by Chester Cox

SuperFrogs invites you to play a frog with an occasional super power. The type of power depends on which of the seven different games you choose. In "Starl000," for instance, your frog has photon charges and the occasional shield. Your frog hops about the screen, avoiding those "nasty trees" and grass. Your objective is to either blast targets, eat things or avoid things, and sometimes you must do all three.

SuperFrogs is advertised as seven different games with "over 10,000 variations." Some of the variations include different playfields, handicaps, timing options, and a nice "autoplay" mode where your Atari plays the game and you can bet on a specific frog to win.

At first glance, the screen looks pretty dull and movement is jerky. Yes, SuperFrogs is written in good old Atari BASIC, and the Player-Missile frogs have that familiar stiffness in their movement. Even so, after awhile you'll really get into the game and find yourself enjoying it.

Still, it's hard to justify even a $10 price tag for a game which doesn't match the smoothness of many type-in BASIC games. It's also irritating to be unable to use a modified drive at full speed. If you don't slow down your high- speed drive, a buzzer sounds and the words "GIVE us A BREAK" appear onscreen. It seems odd that UltraBasic felt it necessary to copy-protect such an inexpensive BASIC program.

SuperFrogs FunSpeller
If SuperFrogs was something of a disappointment, SuperFrogs FunSpeller is a surprisingly successful program. It looks, feels and plays just as primitively as SuperFrogs, but its objectives are so entirely different that I can forgive these flaws.

Now your frog's objective is to grab letters to either spell words or to practice the alphabet. Word categories include states, capitols, sports, names, elements, and food. Each list holds 50 words, for an impressive total of 750 words. Nor are you limited to the 15 lists included. You can create up to 40 of your own lists, or "word-sets," with as many as 20 words each.

Depending on the level, players search mazes for the letters of the alphabet in order, or for the letters of words from a chosen list. Words to he found are flashed briefly on the screen. Other games, called "Tree Traps," offer a froggy variation on Hangman.

As with SuperFrogs, movement is klunky and the graphics are spartan, but FunSpeller does not aim at an audience of experienced gamers. My test subject, also known as one of my daughters, was scoring low Bs on her spelling tests. We had studied with her and drilled her on her lists of spelling words with no improvement. When FunSpeller came in, we installed each week's spelling words in the program. After six weeks of "playing" with FunSpeller, my daughter's grades have gone up to a consistent 98-100%.

That's really all the recommendation you need for SuperFrogs Fun-Speller. It does what it's supposed to do, and does it with minimal difficulty at a low price. Children - or anyone with spelling difficulties -can improve their spelling with SuperFrogs FunSpeller.

UltraBasic, Inc., 10 East 10th St., Bloomsburg, PA 17815. (717) 784-4545. 48K disk, requires Atari BASIC and joystick.

Easy-loading 15 machine language programs on one disk
Review by Chester Cox

There's already a number of utilities that let you load and run machine language programs from a disk, and SpartaDOS comes with a colorful menu selection program for this purpose. Track Stack provides an inexpensive utility that lets you "stack" a number of machine language programs on one disk. Depending on the size of your programs, up to 15 can he put on one disk. Track Stack only works with machine language programs that can be loaded from DOS. BASIC, ACTION! and AVUE programs will not be read properly. (Many ANTIC programs can be loaded from DOS, even though the instructions tell you to rename the file AUTORUN.SYS. This is one way to keep from having a lot of disks around with only one AUTORUN program on them. -ANTIC ED)

The extra, subtle features of Track Stack make it attractive enough to he worth its low price. These features include the menu with a bar across the bottom of your screen indicating the approximate time it will take to load and run a program. You can also name your "stacked" programs more fully. Instead of the eight-character limit of AtariDOS filenames, you can give your files any title, up to 20 characters each. This feature alone is valuable for anyone who feels frustrated by the eight-character limit.

The documentation could use some work. Nowhere in the manual does it indicate how to make a Track Stack disk, though it does tell you to add programs to the Track Stack disk. Trying a blank formatted disk didn't work. Only when I actually inserted the original master disk would it permit programs to be added. It seems you must duplicate the master disk every time you want to make a new "stacked disk."

With a properly written manual or a quicker way to make a Track Stack disk, I'd strongly recommend Track Stack to users group librarians or anyone who collects a lot of machine language programs that can he loaded from DOS. Still, it's a nice, low-priced utility which can save space and provide fully descriptive titles for your programs.

UltraBasic, Inc., 10 East 10th St., Bloomsburg, PA 17815. (717) 784-4545. Requires at least 48K memory, joystick and Atari BASIC.

Chester Cox is a U.S. Air Force 5ergeant who is an active 8-bit supporter

Theodore DiVito is studying Astrophysics at the University of Maryland.