Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 4, NO. 11 / MARCH 1986


ST reviews

Hippopotamus Software
985 University Avenue
Los Gatos, CA 95030
(408) 395-3190

Reviewed by Patrick Bass

Sharing a million characters between computer and disk can be really nice-until you go looking for one five-letter word somewhere in all that. If you don't know where the word is stored, you may wind up feeling like Stanley looking for Livingston through deepest, darkest RAM/ROM, or deeper, darker DISK.
   If you ever found yourself in a situation like the one described above, then you owe it to yourself to get the Hippo Disk Utility for the Atari 520ST.
   Retailing for only $49.95, this software could save you hundreds of dollars in lost programming time. In fact, we use it at Antic on our own 52OSTs.
   Hippo Disk Utility for the ST (DUST) allows the user to search for any string of characters or numbers anywhere information is stored in the ST system-on disk, in specific disk files, or most importantly... inside memory itself! It also allows direct editing of information found in RAM or on disk.
   No matter where you ask it to search, DUST presents a full "page" of information (256 bytes or 1/2 sector) on the screen at one time, in both hexadecimal and ASCII formats, so you can easily scan through words. If you prefer the computer to do the searching, DUST allows the user to enter a search string, consisting of as many as 16 bytes of either words or numbers, and it will find all occurrences of that string wherever you tell it to look.
   An even more powerful feature of DUST allows direct editing of the information you call up on the screen. Just move the mouse pointer until it points at the word, or number, or memory address you need to change. Then single-click and, when a block cursor appears, type in your correction. DUST will verify whether you really want to change the string.
   If you accidentally delete a file, don't worry. DUST will take care of it. It also allows you to copy print, rename, delete, or wipe a file completely and irretrievably from the disk. You may also interrogate the disk as to its title, type, and amount of space currently in use.
   Up to 16 disk drives are supported, from disk A: to disk P:. DUST can change the "attributes" of a disk file, which would allow the user to render a file invisible to a directory search. Or DUST can change a file from "read/write" to "read only." You may also create or delete directories and sub-directories.
   Hippo Software uses the GEM interface fully. All Hippo software reviewed by Antic so far has made full use of the drop-down menus, mouse pointer, and Alert/Dialog boxes. In turn, this makes learning to use any of the Hippo products easy and fast.
   But I do wish the program was better trapped for errors. If you try to look at areas of memory that are not there, the utility crashes right to the Desktop. C'mon fellas! who needs this?

Hippopotamus Software
985 University Avenue, Suite 12
Los Gatos, CA 95030
(408) 395-3190
Reviewed By Gil Merciez

Ever since the arrival of home computers, database and filing programs for personal use have been a solution in search of a problem. The effort required to master this type of program, enter the data, and maintain the database has seldom proven productive for the average home user who doesn't have massive amounts of information to organize. The whole operation quickly turns into a large chore. Index cards usually win out.
   HippoSimple, from Hippopotamus Software, is the first general purpose database to hit the shelves for the ST Geared to the home market, HippoSimple promises ease of use, flexibility, and power in organizing those smaller mountains of paper that clutter your desk. It nearly succeeds.
   Extensive use of the mouse, drop-down menus and dialog boxes make navigating through the program a breeze. Mastering HippoSimple is quite easy, as soon as you grasp the concept of the four templates used for inputting and outputting the records in your database.
   These templates control which records are involved in many of the available commands such as viewing, sorting, printing, and deleting. Templates can be saved separately for use with a variety of database files.
   As an example, I started a database of software that was available for the ST or would soon be. One input template was set so that only records with the "available" field equal to "yes" would be passed through it. The other template only passed those records where the "available" field equalled no.
   The entire database is RAM resident, so the available memory of the ST is the limiting factor in how much information you can work with.
   HippoSimple does not require that you first define a fixed field length. Data compression techniques reduce dead space to a minimum. You can add a field to a record whenever you wish. Not all records have to contain the same fields. A field is defined when an equal sign [=] appears directly after its name.
   An online help manual is available from the drop-down menu and is organized into logical topics. Screen editing and file commands are accessed either through the drop-down menu or the function keys.
   Unfortunately, version 1.0 seems to have been rushed to market a little too quickly.
   First shipments of HippoSimple were sent without a printed manual. Hippopotamus said that the 63-page manual would be sent to all owners who returned their registration cards.
   While most of the printed manual is contained in the online help files, the book also includes a short, but valuable, tutorial as well as an index and a command summary.
   Trying to learn HippoSimple from the help files was extremely frustrating, particularly when you have to constantly refer back to them while trying to set up a file.
   The documentation also suffers from some omissions. Nowhere is it explicitly stated that the capacity for a record is 16 screen lines.
   One nice feature, a vertical scroll bar which can quickly move through many records, is not mentioned.
   There is no warning of any limitation on field lengths, but the output template will not handle a field longer than 80 characters. This can cause some messy output when printed or viewed.
   A dialog box shows the capacities and current usage for the database in memory but doesn't explain what the four criteria mean. Some dialog boxes confuse you with a YES/NO choice when an "OK" would suffice.
   A rewrite of the documentation would go a long way in making HippoSimple truly simple for its intended audience.

Haba Systems
6711 Valjean Avenue
Van Nuys, CA 94106
(800) HOT-HABA (USA)
(800) FOR-HABA (Calif.)

Reviewed by Ian Chadwick

Probably the most indicative thing to say about Haba's word processor for the 520ST is that I'm not using it to write this review. It's not very reassuring when you don't feel you can write a review of a word processor using the program itself!
   HabaWrlter is one of those programs that seems to have been rammed through production and testing in order to gain market presence before anyone else.
   I am a professional writer and have used several word processors on a half-dozen microcomputers-including the Macintosh-to ply my trade. HabaWriter is essentially patterned after MacWrite, Apple's popular Macintosh word processor. HabaWriter makes good use of the GEM interface-windows, drop-down menus, scroll bars, multiple documents through windows, graphic fonts and dialog boxes.
   HabaWriter documentation omits several important items and its explanations of covered topics are terse, to say the least. Many features are buried or explained ambiguously. An "errata" sheet accompanies the slim manual to try and cover problems discovered after printing. But these problems should have been caught during alpha and beta testing.
   One of the HabaWriter problems not dealt with in the manual is double spacing. The program doesn't handle anything except single spacing. Also, when loading a document from another word processor- STWriter for example-you get strange results such as blank lines, unexpected spaces, ignored carriage returns and the like.
   Haba's own letters from their Business Letters Solutions disk won't format properly with HabaWriter! You get one large block of text if you attempt to format one of the business letters. All carriage returns and formatted paragraphs are gone.
   At other times, HabaWriter crashes randomly or produces strange and unpleasant results such as duplicating lines of text when switching to or from ASCII mode. Some files seem to generate unwanted characters when loaded into HW. A C source file from CompuServe added small triangles.
   In the same document, very long lines seemed to confuse the hyphenation routine which continually asked for hyphenation of groups of blank spaces and wouldn't quit asking me to hyphenate the same spot over and over again. Holding down the [RETURN] key during this process produced several thick black lines running down the screen. [ESCAPE] cancels the hyphenation mode, leaving your document partially formatted at the point you escaped.
   I also had my share of difficulties making the text on the screen accept my commands. I couldn't get paragraphs to align individually left, center or right, or to obey all my margin changes every time. Also, although the document is supposed to format only from the cursor down, it sometimes formatted from the beginning.
   HabaWriter can open as many as seven documents in different windows and cut and paste between them. You can also selectively print a document, choosing only those pages you prefer (and not merely a sequential group). Only an Epson printer driver is provided, and there's no explanation of how to create one for another printer. Text is supposed to be aligned by any character, not just tabs and decimal tabs-useful for creating tables and charts. However, tabs did not work as described and didn't align properly
   Unfortunately, any good features in HabaWriter are hidden by its flaws and bugs. I have had it crash on me too often, returning me precipitously to the desktop. I have lost documents I was working on by selecting a format or ASCII mode which either destroyed or permanently altered my text in an unwanted manner. The cursor would vanish at random for several moments at a time, leaving me with no control over the screen. Blocks that I selected would de-select all or part of themselves unasked.
   Despite all this bad news, HabaWriter shows promise. But it needs a major overhaul before it can be considered even minimally competent. This software demands proper, correct and more detailed documentation; and adequate testing and development. Haba should examine the Mac products seriously before upgrading this program to discover what they are also missing.

Hippopotamus Software
985 University Avenue, Suite 12
Los Gatos, CA 95030
(408) 395-3190
Reviewed by Brad Kershaw

Is your speling poor? Are you constantly luking up words in the diktionery? Well, never fear, HippoSpell is hear..
   HippoSpell is a spelling checker that enables you to correct spelling errors with any word processor currently available for the Atari 520ST -ST Writer, Express, HabaWriter and Regent Word 1.
   After you use the drop-down menus on the opening screen to choose a file, HippoSpell immediately starts checking your spelling. The software finds the first word it thinks is misspelled and asks you "Is this a correctly spelled word? Yes or No? I don't know about you, but if I knew whether the word was correct or not, I wouldn't need the program.
   If you answer "Yes," the program continues checking. If you answer "No," it looks up words that may be similar in spelling. The program is very fast because all the words seem to be in RAM. A list of possible replacement words is shown. You can choose one of these words by simply pressing a numbered function key or you can type it in. Once you have gone through the entire file, Hippo-Spell will make the corrections for you and rewrite the finished product to your disk.
   You can build an auxiliary dictionary that saves correctly spelled words which the program didn't find in its main dictionary. This auxiliary dictionary is accessed via the Use New Words menu option. Also, corrections can be saved and reloaded for automatic use if you tend to repeat the same mistake, such as typing "Bard" instead of "Brad."
   The only thing I thought could be improved is that HippoSpell's screen just displays a single word it thinks is misspelled. You cannot see the suspect word in the context of its sentence.
   I found HippoSpell easy to use and a helpful composition tool. It should be part of any writer's ST software library, especialy mine.

Pryority Software
25570 Chiquito Place
Carmel, CA 93923
(408) 625-0125

Reviewed by Harvey Bernstein

As all true Atarians probably know, the wait is over, the flood gates have been opened, and a battery of new products are being shipped for the 5205T Unfortunately for us adventure-game players, that category has been among the slowest to develop. Infocom, of course, came on the scene early using their own easy-to-convert Adventure Development Language. Now they have been joined by Pryority Software, which brings us Forbidden Quest, a somewhat original text adventure.
   Actually, the game is not all that new, having originally been released for the Apple II and Macintosh. But since it is all text, it was a simple matter for the program to be ported over. Several elements make Forbidden Quest distinctive, but unfortunately the storyline is not one of them. Once again, you are a space jockey seeking a mysterious race whose superior knowledge can save mankind from a rising barbarism brought about by some future galactic civil war.
   Along the way you encounter the usual collection of puzzles, mazes, and mysterious artifacts. What lifts EQ. above the mundane is a technique the developers call 'Artext". Simply put, Artex is a series of five drawings that convey information not provided in the text. At certain junctures, you match the name of the room to the appropriate drawing in order to gain information that will help you succeed.
   A problem with this method is the game's somewhat limited vocabulary. For instance, is that bank of controls in drawing #2 to be referred to as a machine, a control panel, or a doohickey? As you'd imagine, this can be quite frustrating. The drawings are nicely done in "Amazing Stories" pulp-magazine style. (One is even by the famed EC comicbook artist Wallace Wood.) But I suspect they were mainly added as a marketing gimmick that also provided some sugar-coated copy protection.

Forbidden Quest

   Forbidden Quest is the first game I've seen that really takes advantage of the GEM interface. After the game boots, a series of drop-down windows are in place. One is for inventory, and replaces the standard typed-in "Inv" command. A checkmark next to any item listed in the box indicates it is being worn, and you can examine an inventory item by pointing and clicking with the mouse. You can also use the mouse to move from room to room by pointing and clicking on a compass at the lower right of the screen. However, I found that typing in standard N,S,E,W direction commands was less cumbersome.
   Other drop-down windows are used for saving and loading games, issuing oft-used commands such as look, wait, etc. Hints are also available, but you lose points whenever you take a clue from any of the three levels of online help. Even the ST desk accessories are available so you can, for example, pull up the Control Panel and change your colors if you wish.
   Forbidden Quest is a well-done standard text adventure. The puzzles are logical and help is just a click away. Its standard storyline suffers only from the inclusion of some unfortunate bathroom humor. And the Ar-text prints are an interesting idea, if not always successful. All in all, a good addition to your ST library.

New Products

The Crimson Crown
   Penguin Software just sent Antic two new graphics adventures for the ST Their classic, Transylvania, and the fantasy follow-up, The Crimson Crown ($34.95 each). The Crimson Crown is the first in a series of "illustrated interactive novels"

Penguin Software, P.O. Box 311, Geneva, IL 60134. (312) 232-1984. FINAL.

   Progressive Computer Applications is building a major business-graphics system based-interestingly-on a Computer Aided Design (CAD) core. The Graphic Artist ($495) will automatically integrate created images into spreadsheet data. Word processing will also be part of the package. An optional language interpreter ($245) may be purchased to customize the system.

Progressive Computer Applications, 2002 McAuliffe Drive, Rockville, MD 20851. (301) 340-8398. DEMO.

   For those UNIX practitioners allergic to mice and windows, David Beckemeyer Development Tools offers Micro C-Shell ($49.95), a command shell based on BSD UNIX C. This comes complete with history mechanism, I/O redirection, pipes, environment variables, and a complete assortment of UNIX-style utilities.

David Beckemeyer Development Tools, 592 Jean Street #304, Oakland, CA 94610. (415) 658-5318. FINAL,

   While scouting the elusive ST floppy drive connectors and monitor plugs, Antic came upon Alpha Products, Inc. which carries a whole slew of odd connectors, LEDs, and assorted electronics- including the rare ST plugs. So, if you're looking for this stuff, give Alpha Products a call... and tell them Antic sent you.

Alpha Products, Inc., 5740 Corsa Avenue #104, Westlake village, CA 91362, (818) 889-9304.

   Solution Technologies announces a "powerful and easy to use" relational database for the ST, called STbase ($39.95). ST base will be fully in GEM, with drop-down menus, windows and mouse control.

Solution Technologies, 11145 Rotherick Drive, Alpharetta, GA 30201. (404) 662-9611. PRESS.

   XLEnt Software was showing Typesetter ST ($34.95) at COMDEX. This will probably be the first graphics/printer program for the ST- similar to XLEnt's fine 8-bit printer products (reviewed in Antic last month). Typesetter ST will come in two versions, one for RGB monitors and a monochrome monitor package for super high-resolution printouts.

XLEnt Software, P.O. Box 5228, Springfield, VA 22150. (703) 644-8881. DEMO.

   Also at COMDEX was a demonstration of Flight Simulator (no price at press time) for the ST With this version, you can choose to fly a prop plane, Lear jet, or WWI biplane. You can also open multiple view windows and simultaneously watch yourself from the cockpit, tower, and a spotter plane!

Sublogic Corporation, 713 Edgebrook Drive, Champaign, IL 61820. (217) 359-8482. BETA.

   As an example of vertical product marketing, Word of God Communication is working with Atari to establish their Com-WORD II in Christian schools throughout the country. This powerful educational software is a huge, 9.5 megabyte database holding the complete KingJames Bible, Strong's Concordance, plus Greek and Hebrew dictionaries for intensive cross-data referencing. Aimed primarily for institutional use, ComWORD II requires a hard disk. The company hopes later to place their software on CD ROM.

Word of God Communication, 88 Long Court, Thousand Oaks, CA 91360. (805) 495-4441 BETA.

   Word for Word (39.95), a computerized blend of crossword puzzles and Scrabble, just landed on our desk. One to four players may participate at various skill levels and the program has a dictionary of over 20,000 words.

Bay View Software, 177 Webster Street, Suite A-295, Monterey, CA 93940. (408) 373-4011. FINAL,

   If your ST feels a little cluttered, with all those cables and power supplies kicking around the back of the desk, you might want to organize things with the Micro Mate 520 Station ($95). This shielded, custom-designed cabinet stores all power supplies and cables in a tidy, streamlined chassis that doubles as monitor stand, and contains space underneath to slide your ST and mouse neatly out of sight.

Micro Mate, Inc., Pioneer Building, 600 First Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104, (206) 643-9697. FINAL.

   Softronics was demonstrating what appeared to be the Rolls Royce of ST terminal software at the COMDEX show. Com Pak ($49.95) will emulate practically any existing terminal and includes hooks to configure, compile and create your own customized terminal modules.

Softronics, 10820 E. 45 Street, Suite 206, Tulsa, OK 74145. (918) 664-0955. BETA.

New ST product notices are compiled from information provided by the products' manufacturers. Antic assumes no responsibility for the accuracy of these notices or the performance of the product. Each mention Is followed by a code word indicating that, at press time, Antic had seen a FINAL marketable version, near-final BETA, earlier ALPHA, incomplete DEMO, or PRESS release.