ST Product Reviews
30 Mural Street
Richmond Hill, Ontario
Canada L4B 1B5
CIRCLE 209 ON READER SERVICE CARD
Reviewed by Steven DiMeo
Batteries Included programmer Mark Skapinker must know that the word "astonish" comes from the latin to-nare, which means "to thunder," because his spell-checking writers' aid Thunder! truly does astonish with its capabilities.
Thunder! fits a dictionary of 50,000 words into only 88K of memory-as the clear and concise documentation understates it, "no mean feat!" The program even includes most comparative and superlative adjectival (yes, even that word's in the dictionary) forms like "higher" and "highest."
In addition, the main dictionary can be increased another 2,000 words-though once the words are added to the main dictionary, they can never be erased. More flexibility is built into the "supplementary dictionary" where about 200 special words can be added or subtracted.
Furthermore, Thunder! features a "learn dictionary" in which the program "learns" that it should replace one particular word with another- up to 100 word pairs. This can be a word that the writer commonly misspells. For instance, Thunder! can be taught to replace "recieve" with "receive." Or a shorthand term or acronym can be fully spelled out in every instance in the final document. Thunder! can interpret BI, for example, as Batteries Included.
Another attractive feature is that Thunder! is compatible not only with other Batteries Included software such as the forthcoming PaperClip Elite, but also with GEM-based applications like HabaWriter, Regent Base, Flash and 1ST Word.
As we might expect from Batteries Included, this program is also quite user-friendly. All commands require only the clicking of the mouse on easily readable menus. Thunder! can be loaded as an accessory in the root directory with the booted operating system before beginning the document (THUNDER.ACC) or as a standalone program for correcting files already completed (THUNDER.PRG).
In either case, the user accesses a menu that can examine options with an hourglass-shaped cursor or begin checking the spelling. Under "Options," Thunder! can be ordered to check or skip words beginning with capital letters. In the spell-checking mode, then, it scrolls through the selected file for misspellings it can verify from its main dictionary (though the text in the window looks disconcertingly unusual as the program scans it). When it stops at such a word, it will offer alternative spellings. All the user needs to do is click the mouse on the correct choice-or type in another alternative in the blanks provided. When Thunder! finds a word not in its dictionaries, the user may order it to "Ignore Repeats," move on to the "Next"-or add the word to the main or supplementary dictionary with another click of the mouse.
Another added bonus to this program: It can automatically calculate the number of words in a document-and determine the clarity of the manuscript. Although PaperClip itself can count words, other word-processing programs haven't been able to do so, until now a tedious but necessary task for writers and editors alike.
And Thunder! even determines Gunning's Fog Index and Flesch's Readability Index, two methods based upon counting a document's words and syllables into formulas which suggest the approximate grade of schooling required to understand the article. Thanks to Thunder! I know that this review, according to both indexes, requires a 10th-grade or 11th-grade education.
This program, like any, however, does have a few drawbacks. For one thing, who would really like to turn on Thunder! as an accessory and have it beep at every typo? That might be acceptable for short documents like letters, but certainly not for long ones-even though the beep can be disengaged.
And in the spell-checking mode Thunder! can "Ignore Repeats" of no more than 20 words. Once again, that's acceptable in short documents, but if the writer is involved in a long and somewhat technical article that requires special jargon or proper names or terms that cannot be overlooked in proofing, it can be a nuisance when the spell checker eventually has to stop at every word too specialized to be placed in either of the program's dictionaries.
Another peculiarity is that Thunder! interprets even double dashes as hyphens-and therefore pauses at any word connected by dashes. So remember to place one space before and after the dashes.
More of a drawback is that the main dictionary doesn't include contractions. If the writer normally uses them a lot, he'll find that the 200-word supplementary dictionary ends up consisting almost entirely of contractions.
Users should also be aware that the new 1.06 version of 1st Word will not fit on a single-sided disk with Thunder! In this case, it can most easily be used as a standalone program on the same double-sided disk with the documents to be examined.
Finally, prospective buyers should realize that, even though this program's dictionary is larger than others, the spelling checker will catch only the most egregious errors, not all of them. It would be extremely difficult for any spelling checker program, for example; to pause at words misspelled in context. Thunder! thinks "to" looks correct, even if "too" was intended, and "studies" looks correct even if the writer meant "studied."
Like the computer itself, then, Thunder! is merely a tool-mostly for those who lack confidence in their spelling. It minimizes instances of misspellings but doesn't really diminish the need for proofreading. A more indispensible writing tool would be the thesaurus programs possible in the near future. But no computer program will ever substitute for plain old-fashioned human learning.
576 S. Telegraph
Pontiac, MI 48053
(313) 334-7500 -
CIRCLE 202 ON READER SERVICE CARD
Reviewed by Sol Guber
Cornerman ($49.95), a desktop utility a la Borland's SideKick, is readily usable by any ST owner. It does a littIe bit of everything and does it well. Cornerman's eight functions include a calculator, notepad, phonebook with auto-dialer, ASCII table, 15-square puzzle and real-time clock.
KISSED ($39.95), another new package from prolific MichTron,
is a highly specialized ST debugging tool-much like the IBM symbolic debugger-that
takes much effort to use properly.
of everything and does
Cornerman's 16-digit calculator works with the mouse and the 10-key pad of the ST, as well as with the top row of the keyboard. It uses binary, octal and hexadecimal arithmetic in addition to decimal. While in a base other than 10, the functions AND, OR and XOR (logical OR) are available; but in decimal, you only get square roots, reciprocals, squares and modulus arithmetic. There are three memory registers available. But the nicest touch is a toggle that can turn on the printer if you need a record of your calculations.
The notepad holds 32,767 messages, all stamped with the date and time. Each note is seven lines of 32 characters apiece, but can be continued on separate "note sheets." You can save, delete, replace or print the notes.
The phonebook has two functions to be used with a modem (which must be as Hayes-compatible as possible). There's an automatic dialer with 32,767 pages available for calling either a person or another computer. A phone log is then activated automatically to monitor the call, keep track of how much time you are spending online and let you leave yourself messages.
The analog clock on the screen updates time every ten seconds. The "fuller" command in the upper right-hand corner can be used to expand the clock to fill the screen. This lets the clock be used to lock out unauthorized users. During the setup phase of Cornerman, you can enter a password for removing the full clock from the screen.
To do all this, Comerman is over 100K long. It needs six additional disk files to store the information. The disk is not copy-protected and is very easy to transfer to a hard disk. There is a complete manual that explains all the functions in detail.
KISSED is a self-relocatable 12K debugger that lets you load an assembly language program and watch what's happening to all of the registers. You can change memory blocks or change values in memory.
To aid debugging, KISSED allows flipping back and forth between the KISSED screen and the target program's screens. There is a small disassembler, and breakpoints can be put into programs to make them stop and display the registers.
You can store old register values so you can see what happens when you modify them, and the printer toggle lets you see what you have done in KISSED. However, its mini-assembler only allows for temporary patches since there is no way to write the program back to the disk.
KISSED is a fine precision tool that takes long practice to use to your advantage. It assumes that you know everything about 68000 registers and debugging an assembly language program. It also assumes you have the patience to go through large amounts of assembly code step-by-step. But it does provide a controlled testing environment so that you can monitor the execution of a program to be debugged. You can do quick repair work on a problem and then continue testing without reassembly of the total code.
KISSED's 44-page manual lists and describes the 38 available functions, but does not explain the principles of debugging. KISSED seems to work well and is difficult to crash. It's not for everyone. But if you already know how to use a debugger, this is a good, solid program.
2350 Bayshore Frontage Road
Mountain View, CA 94039
CIRCLE 203 ON READER SERVICE CARD
Reviewed by Gregg Pearlman
It's another lonely night, with just your ST for company, so why not log onto Actisource, the International Computer Hotline? Trouble is, you're not a member, so you have a guess at the logon code and, wonder of wonders, you're on. All seems well until midway through the main menu, when the CIA interrupts the transmission. Obviously you didn't just grab any old password-you logged on as someone with a special security clearance, and now you could easily hold the balance of world power in your hand.
That's the premise of Hacker II, sequel to Activision's sucessful original Hacker game. The person you've been mistaken for is the world's leading authority on computer security systems. A top Russian scientist plots to overthrow the United States. His plans, the "Doomsday Papers," are locked in a vault in a military complex in Siberia. Pieces of the vault's combination are in four file cabinets. You've probably seen plots like this on TV shows such as "Mission Impossible."
You control, one at a time, three Mobile Remote Units (MRUs), four-foot-high robot information gatherers that scurry from room to room and must be kept out of sight. This is done from the Multi-Function Switching Matrix (MFSM), which houses four small video screens and several control buttons. You can select a screen, switch to one of 38 live cameras, activate a videotape recorder (to bypass a live camera with a synchronized tape of the previous day's events) or activate the Telemetry Guidance System (TGS), with which you can see the MRU's location relative to the rest of the complex.
Hacker II has incredible graphics. Its four MFSM screens can run independently-as if they were real video screens-and the tapes can be paused, rewound or fast-forwarded without the videorecorders being turned off. The picture speeds up accordingly and is accompanied by an interference bar. Each screen has a real-time clock, and if you don't synchronize the video tapes exactly, the MRU will be sniffed out and destroyed.
With the MFSM, you can bypass security cameras in the rooms or hallways where you plan to send the MRU. One of your screens can show the synchronized videotape, and another can show the live view of the same area. You'll constantly need to switch between live and video for each camera. And to successfully travel past several cameras in succession, you may sometimes need fake video on at least three of them. Remember, you can only see the MRU on a camera or the TGS-you can't see out of the MRU's scanners.
In addition to juggling all those screens and cameras, you must not
let the MRU be seen by the security monitor which constantly switches from
camera to camera, the guards that regularly patrol the building, or the
live cameras themselves (unless you've bypassed them). If you're caught,
an "annihilator" is summoned-a mobile machine that hunts down the MRU and
smashes it flat.
world power could be
in your hand
Once you've reached a file cabinet without being seen, you must type in an access command. The four cabinets must be accessed in the right order, though, or you'll get nowhere. You're told early in the game what one of the access codes is, but you're not told which cabinet it opens.
After you take the Doomsday Papers from the vault, should you get that far, you must leave through the exit at the opposite side of the building. If you are successful all the way through, you've saved the United States.
Hacker II is no day at the beach. It's easy enough to get into those rooms with file cabinets on the west side of the building, but if you reach the wrong cabinet first, you won't be able to open it. And if you're not careful, you may never reach that first cabinet.
The game is fascinating to look at and fun to play-and not just a little frustrating. It may take hundreds of hours to master it. Where in the original Hacker, half the battle is just to log on, this game gets right down to brass tacks. You'll reach the actual game screen soon enough, but don't count on solving Hacker II right away.
510 Rhode Island Avenue
Cherry Hill, NJ 08002
CIRCLE 210 ON READER SERVICE CARD
Reviewed by Sol Guber
Disk Library from Classic Image is an organizer for the directories on your floppy disks. It is used to make a listing of all the files and folders, and allows you to add comments to any file. You can store these listings in a file or print them out.
The Disk Library program does more than just read and save the directories. It lets you update and modify your old directory file as well. Once you read a directory into the computer, it will be in a GEM window. You can then move through the window using slider bars to examine the files.
One writing style is used for the file, one for the folders and one for the disk name. The information read includes the file size, the date it was stored and the extenders of the file. You can click onto a file and add a comment to it. Then you can put another disk into your drive, press the appropriate keys, and its directory will be read into the system. You are allowed 2,120 entries in memory
Once you've put information into the computer, the listing can be saved. The pull-down menus have other options to manipulate the listing; you can look at only the file names, folder names, or disk names; you can arrange the information either by size, by date, or by extender, much the same way GEM does. Or you can delete disk information.
You can also search through your files, displaying in a GEM window those meeting the search criteria. And you can print out the listings that have been generated.
The program works well and easily. I had no problems running it, and since it uses a GEM system for all the options, it was easy to learn.
69 Clementina Street
San Francisco, CA 94107
CIRCLE 208 ON READER SERVICE CARD
Reviewed by Harvey Bernstein
Gateway is not only an exciting and challenging text/graphics adventure game, it also plays the way an ST adventure should.
Your Uncle Bertrand has passed on to his final reward and it is up to
you, as his sole heir, to get his estate in order. While examining some
of his papers, you find that he writes of a "gateway" to other worlds and
dimensions. While others may have thought him insane, it is your familial
duty to prove otherwise-in other words, find the gateway, enter it and
solve the mysteries that lie within. Sounds easier than it really is!
plenty of challenging
surprises at every turn
Gateway is that new hybrid known as a text adventure with graphics. Simply put, this means that it plays as a text adventure, but at key locations, a click on the "pict" icon will load the appropriate graphic scene. Two unique routines are used here. First, when the picture is on the screen, pointing to or clicking on part of it will provide a description-sort of a mouse-driven "examine" command. More importantly, upon loading, Gateway sets up a 170K RAMdisk and loads all the pictures into it. This means no wait for disk access when calling for a picture.
I mentioned earlier that Gateway takes advantage of the GEM interface. Like Forbidden Quest, the previous release by author Bill Pryor, moving in any direction is just a mouse-click away. Pull-down windows show inventory, allow for saving or loading games, and offer online hints (at a cost, naturally). If the online hints prove too obtuse, a character called K'rnth-sort of a mutant offspring of the Cheshire Cat-will pop up occasionally to offer advice.
I spent many an enjoyable (and frustrating) hour with Gateway and its puzzles. Fortunately, they all have logical solutions, too rare in a lot of games being released these days. Gateway does do what a good adventure does best-provides plenty of challenging surprises at every turn.