ST desktop sets beats "Sidekick"
By HEIDI BRUMBAUGH, Antic Programs Editor
THE ATARI ST DESKTOP, with its file folder and trash can icons, is a good metaphor for a real desktop. Timeworks' Partner ST takes that metaphor even farther by giving your desktop an electronic rolodex, memopad, calculator, alarm clock and appointment calendar--in short, just about every office tool you'd keep within reach except paperclips.
Partner ST is a desk accessory--which means that it loads into memory when you turn on your ST and pops onto the screen anytime you click Partner ST on the Desk menu. It can be run either from the desktop or from inside any GEM-based program. It has an intuitive interface. Experienced computer users probably won't even need documentation to get Partner ST up and running. Even computing novices won't need too much time learning to use these utilities.
Partner has seven different features, which adds up to a lot of memory--so much, in fact, that some larger programs will not run on a 520ST with Partner ST installed. In addition, at least 7K of extra memory must be reserved if you want to use the memopad. Fortunately, you can deactivate some of Partner's features and free the extra memory. If you really want to save memory, there is a mini-version of Partner ST which has four features permanently deactivated.
Partner ST comes on two disks and includes Escape, a desk accessory similar to the arcade game Breakout, and a 60,000-word thesaurus, which is so easy to use that the manual devotes more space to the game.
The calculator itself has enough features to be a solid standalone desk accessory. You can either click on the number keys with the mouse or use the ST's numeric keypad. It offers Reverse Polish notation, trigonometric functions and 10 memory locations, and it allows data entry in radians or degrees. You can perform mathematical and logical operations on hexadecimal or binary numbers. A "tape button" sends output to the printer, turning your ST into a convenient adding machine.
My favorite Partner ST feature is the Memopad, a text editor with powerful features such as insert and typeover modes, wordwrap, a bare-bones search function and cut-and-paste buttons that work on a line of text. You can use the mouse to change cursor position--a nice feature if you're used a GEM-based word processor already.
Users of Timeworks' Word Writer ST should recognize the Memopad Setup adjustments of page size and top, bottom, left and right margins. You can print memo files, and there's also a typewriter mode that lets you send text directly to the printer, a line at a time. Memopad files can be saved to disk, but the current text also remains in computer memory so each time you activate Partner the same memo is restored.
The editor formats text as you type, which is not neccssarily good--if you make several corrections, the screen blinks constantly as it is redrawn. My only serious problem with the memopad was that it is fairly slow-and gets slower as the file size increases. Fortunately, it has a good-sized type-ahead buffer.
The package includes some vital statistics that load into the Memopad. These files contain information such as area codes, automobile mileage between cities, weights and measures and a metric conversion list, as well as a list of toll-free numbers for airlines, rental car agencies, hotels, etc.
The Partner ST Calendar/Planner displays a calendar for the current month. Click on an individual day to enter appointments, key tasks or a to-do list. You can also enter a one-line memo for that day, which will be displayed on the monthly calendar. You can print information for individual days or the entire month, or you can move through the calendar by month and year.
The Calendar/Planner includes a project planner that keeps track of time spent on special projects. You can then print time totals for the specified period.
There's also an Alarm Clock, Address File and Expense Manager which share the same kind of interface and are easy to master. You can set an alarm to repeat daily, weekly, monthly or yearly. The address file works like a simple database. You can sort records by last name, index entries by category (such as family and business) and search a record on any field. A predefined function lets you create mailing labels, and you can print mailing label information to disk. If you have a modem, Partner ST will automatically dial a phone number.
Each record in Partner's Expense Manager contains the date, item and amount of the expense. Expenses can be indexed on a main category or two sub-categories. Partner ST prints reports to disk or paper and includes totals for a given time period.
The real convenience of these programs is the way they work together and with other GEM programs. Calendar/Planner information can be used automatically by the Alarm Clock or Expense Manager. Addresses can be printed to disk for your own word processor or database, or even Partner's own Memopad. And Memopad files can he used with other word processors.
Partner ST also gives you access to operating systems commands. Clicking the Disk Commands function button presents a menu that lets you copy rename, move, delete, show, print and examine information on files.
You can also send printer commands directly to the printer, format disks and create or remove folders. These commands can be indispensable while you're inside another program. For example, you may need to delete files to create disk space--some tasks are performed more easily this way than by dragging things around the desktop.
However, you can perform only one operation at a time. For example, you must select the COPY option for each file, rather than copying several at once.
The manual is excellent--good for beginners and experienced users alike. It has a short start-up sectionl as well as detailed chapters for each accessory. It has lots of screen shots, so it's easy to follow. But though Partner ST is so easy to pick up, l'd still recommend reading the manual thoroughly. Otherwise, you might miss out on some vital little features.
444 Lake Cook Road
Deerfield, IL 60015
$69.95, color and monochrome