Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 5, NO. 3 / JULY 1986



Object-oriented ST drawing software

720 South 333rd Street, Suite 201
Federal Way, WA 98003
(206) 838-4677
(Requires TOS in ROM and Epson-compatible printer)

Easy Draw turns the Atari ST into a drawing workstation and produces printed output of first-rate quality. It is not as sophisticated as a true computer-aided drafting (CAD) program, but Easy Draw is excellent for simple drafting tasks such as mechanical drawings and floor plans.

The first "object oriented" drawing program for the Atari ST, Easy Draw uses objects-geometrical shapes such as circular arcs, polylines, and squares-as visual building blocks. You expand, shrink, stretch and stack these blocks to build a final drawing on the screen.

Easy Draw is very similar to the yet unreleased GEM Draw (a program similar to MacDraw on the Apple Macintosh). What sets Easy Draw apart from these other drawing programs is not the program itself, but the end result-a useful, high-quality final printout.

It's also the first program to take advantage of metafiles and G-DOS from Digital Research. These features make Easy Draw potentially capable of very high resolution graphic output to cameras, plotters and other devices

Excellent documentation,
ease of use and
utilization of GEM
combine to make Easy
Draw a significant new
program for the ST

once the necessary interfaces become available.

Easy Draw makes excellent use of the ST's GEM interface. You really never have to use the keyboard, which makes the program easier to learn and use. All major items are available from drop-down menus, and all drawing and selecting is done with the mouse.

Changing your drawing tool is simple. When you press the right mouse button, the tool menu appears on the screen wherever your mouse pointer is located. Point and click, and you are using a different drawing tool. The left mouse button also controls sizing. The right button selects between modes and pastes down figures you have drawn. You can have two windows open at once so that you are working on two drawings, which can be saved or printed separately. There is a clipboard for saving shapes temporarily, and a trashcan for discarding shapes you no longer need.

To start a picture, you choose how big the final picture will be, and the working area on the screen then becomes as large as the size of the paper. Under normal magnification, you can only view a portion of the total page on the screen at one time, but you can scroll around the page using the scroll bars and arrows, or zoom back to view the whole page as a reduction. Or, zoom in on a section of the screen for fine detail work.

Using the mouse, place various types of geometric shapes on the screen and form a picture or diagram. At any time you can re-size, move, or rotate the shapes to get the desired effects. You may also place text on the page, taking advantage of various sizes and options such as italics, underline, and boldface type. Different colors and fill patterns, including patterns you design yourself, are available. Although the manual doesn't say so, Easy Draw only works in the ST's high and medium resolution modes.

To help you in alignment, there is a ruler display, complete with selectable spacing, and you can turn on a grid. Both the ruler and the grid will reflect different spacing if you zoom in on a section of the drawing, thus keeping everything accurate.

When the drawing is complete you can save it and print it out. The quality of the print on a dot-matrix printer is superb, using the highest resolution my Star Micronics SG-l0 printer can handle.

The multitude of drawing tools includes lines, free hand sketch, polylines, circle and elipse, square, text and circle segments. Once you have chosen a shape, you adjust its size on the screen, place it where you want it, and paste it down. A sizing box appears around the shape so you can see exactly what you are doing. You can change the size at any time, stretch the object in any direction, change the color or swap for one of 32 different pattern fills.

From the Edit menu, you can Delete and Undelete, Copy, Rotate, and Shadow. Shadow gives a nice three-dimensional effect. Or go back and edit text already on the screen at any time, including changing the size, options, and colors.

With the Arrange menu, you can put objects in front of, or even behind other objects. One of the most important features in Easy Draw is the ability to group many objects into a larger object. Once the larger object is created, you can size, stretch, recolor, move and fill it as a single group.

You can disassemble the larger object back into its component parts, or temporarily associate many small objects and align them in a variety of ways. (As we will see later, this is sometimes the only way to get text and graphics to line up.)

Finally, a variety of line styles (thickness and texture) are available, and you may change the line style of any figure at any time.

Once you have created a picture, there are two file formats for saving it. One format will retrieve the file so you can work on it at a later date. The other is a special format for printing. But, if you are going to print a file and work on it, you must save it both ways. Fortunately, Easy Draw will save it both ways automatically if you tell it to.

You can print out in draft mode-fast, but alas, rough draft quality. Producing a final quality draft takes a long time, but the results are beautiful, and the dot-matrix dots are virtually invisible. First you must load a special output program that constructs a list of drawings to print (the list can be saved and reloaded later). If you are printing an 11x17 inch or 8.5x14 inch picture on 8.5 x 11 inch paper, the program will even print the picture on multiple sheets which can then be pasted together.

With Easy Draw, you can print the picture horizontally or vertically. Even print out oversize pictures on 8.5 x 11 inch paper without using multiple sheets-the program does the scaling. (Unfortunately Easy Draw currently only works with Epson FX-80 compatible printers. It is compatible with

What sets it apart from
other drawing programs
is not the program
itself, but the end
result-a high quality
final printout.

the Star Micronics SG-10 printer if set for the IBM mode. We advise contacting Migraph before purchasing this product to see if other printer drivers have become available. -ST RESOURCE.)

Easy Draw is the first ST program to take advantage of a powerful feature in GEM called "metafiles." Usually a printer prints exactly the same picture that appears on the screen. But metafiles allow the computer to take advantage of the highest resolution that the output device (such as a plotter or printer) is capable of. Thus, the printed resolution is essentially independent of the screen resolution.

   Currently, only the dot matrix printer option is operational, although other choices appear on the output menu. Migraph is waiting for the various device drivers for non-Epson printers, cameras, plotters, and laser printers to become available from Digital Research (the makers of GEM). Antic has ben assured by Migraph that if the device drivers do not become available soon, they will write the drivers themselves.

(For detailed information about Metafiles, read Tim Oren's article on Metafile structure in Volume 1, Number 1 of STart, the ST Quarterly. -ST RESOURCE)

It's a very powerful package, but Easy Draw does have limitations. Although it has some freehand drawing capabilites, it is not a paint program such as DEGAS or GEM Draw. There is no way to do pixel modifications, so all shapes must be built up from the geometric drawing tools. Constructing detailed pictures is difficult at best.

It is also not a professional-quality drafting package. It lacks such features as rotation by degrees and only supports rotation in 90 degree increments. You can rotate a figure, but you can't rotate the pattern fill and text. Thus, although the package claims that EasyDraw can be used for doing greeting cards, it really can't.

Easy Draw apparently uses the GEM fonts to draw text on the screen. When you zoom in on a section of the screen, the text will be enlarged to the nearest available size. As a result, the size of the text is not accurate in zoom mode, and attempting to line up graphics with a line of text is a frustrating experience. One of the examples in the manual, (setting up a telephone message form) requires that you try to line up the little boxes on the form with text. The way you accomplish this task is to group the line of text and the box into a single object, then choose Align Bottom from the menu. Snap moves objects to the nearest point on the grid. This will help when designing forms.

It is awkward to select a figure contained by another figure the size of the screen, because if you select the outside (screen-sized) figure by accident, there is nowhere to point and click to remove the outside object and try again. When using two-screen mode, you can't use full screen windows, because when you draw in one window, the other disappears behind it. You will then have to shrink the top window in order to point and click on the back window, bringing it to the front. The manual doesn't warn you of this, and the first time window 2 disappears when doing one of the early examples, it may take a while to figure out where it went!

The Output program also has a few problems. It can't be run unless you boot up with the Easy Draw master disk, but there is no warning in the manual. Also, following the manual's instructions for moving file names around the list of files to print will cause the computer to lock up. Still, this was the only bug I found in the whole package, and it can be worked around.

There is an option in the Output program which looks interesting, but does not appear to be functional yet: "Print in Backround", It could be very useful if it allows you to continue working while your picture prints. Perhaps in the next update?

Several example files of drafting and floor plans have been included in the package on a data disk. Neither of the disks included with the package is copy protected, and you are urged to make backups. However, only registered owners can obtain the promised updates.

Despite any shortcomings, Easy Draw's excellent documentation, ease of use via GEM and utilization of metafile structure combine to make this a significant new program for the ST. I recommend Easy Draw to anyone who has a need for its mechanical drawing capabilities.