Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 6, NO. 3 / JULY 1987

Secrets of AtariWriter Plus

Get more power from this word processor


After you succeed at getting AtantWriter Plus fully configured to the specific needs of your own hardware system, using this fine word processor becomes a red joy. Everything works exactly as it should, characters are never dropped, and search-and-replace is so vastly improved over the original AtariWriter that it alone is almost reason enough to purchase the new software. Maximum file size is limited if you're not using the 130XE computer, but the chaining feature works very well and pretty much makes up for this.

Here are the most important things I needed to learn about AtariWriter Plus through my own personal experimentation. (Please note that Antic doesn't have the hardware in-house to test all these specialized tips prior to publication. Let us know if you find any fixes necessary.--ANTIC ED)


I wasn't so excited about AtariWriter Plus when I first tried it. I was disappointed to find it was on a copy-protected disk with Atari DOS 2.5. Since I have double-sided/double density drives, I naturally like to use them to their fullest advantage. What a drag to have all my text files in single-density only. (My drives don't work in enhanced density.) Worse yet, none of my old files in double or quadruple density could be accessed from the new program.

Then I loaded TOPDOS (configured to be density-wise), put AtariWriter Plus back into drive 1, and binary-loaded (option L) the AUTORUN.SYS file. Voila--the program came up as usual and could now read all my disks. I liked it a lot better already. But this method became a nuisance and took a long time to get running.

Eventually I was brave enough to write a new DOS file to my program disk. (This, of course, voids your Atari warranty, so be warned.) I'm a little suspicious about the DUP.SYS file on the disk, so I didn't replace it but instead wrote DOS.SYS only. In TOPDOS you must also rename AUTORUN.SYS to AUTORUN.AUT. Now everything works as intended, with one exception--I must make certain that my 850 interface is turned off before booting AtariWriter Plus. Apparently the built-in code included in the AUTORUN.SYS file to boot the RS-232 handler is incompatible with other disk operating systems--no big deal after you realize it.


I have heard complaints about a bug that makes AtariWriter Plus print a zero in the upper left corner of each page. This isn't really a bug. If you have an Epson-compatible printer that does not have a proportional print option (or uses a different escape code for it) and you use the FX-80 printer driver from the program disk, your printer will receive the code to cancel proportional print for each font except Font 3. The FX-80 code is [ESC]-[p] [0]. Your printer may discard the first two characters as a meaningless escape code and then print the 0 as instructed. If you choose Font 3, you might get a 1 at the top of each page.

The solution is to create and use a custom printer driver tailored especially for your printer. My driver for the Epson FX-85 defines all nine fonts and lets me write superscripts and subscripts with [SELECTI[UP-ARROW] or [SELECT][DOWN-ARROW] as well as with Fonts 4 and 5. In addition, two-column printing is now accomplished by printing one column and then backrolling the paper for the second one. This does away with certain limitations imposed when both columns are printed together--as is necessary with many printers.


The left and right margin numbers on the Global Format screen assume that the first printer column is 0 and the last one (in picas) is 79. For reasons known only to Atari, the Print Preview feature numbers these columns beginning with 1. If you choose 80 as your right margin, your printout won't be what you expect. The rule is: Your right margin setting must not exceed one less than the maximum number of columns available with a particular font.

If your printer offers elite spacing (12 characters per inch), choose that font and set margins L6, R45, M50, and N89 for an ideal two-column printout.


The AtariWriter Plus manual doesn't mention an error that pops up every so often: STRING TOO LONG. This aborts your printing or Print Preview with no other explanation. What's happening is that a string of characters somewhere in your file is too long to fit on the line you have defined with your margin settings.

The program considers this string to be a very long "word" and is reluctant to break it up. The string often turns out to be a series of dashes or underlines used in a form of some kind. The solution is to break the string at the end of the lines with a space or a [RETURN]. You can use the Print Preview to check that you did it right.

Incidentally, if you need a continuous blank underline in a form, press the inverse key [ ] before and after typing the underline. Then your printer will not produce individual underline characters.

And don't forget that you can extend the default of 38 screen columns in the edit mode up to 249 columns with [OPTION] [C]. This lets you set real TAB stops for a chart, for instance, and scroll across the screen while you enter or edit text and make sure that your columns are lined up properly. This sort of editing is almost impossible with a fixed 38-column screen, such as the original AtariWriter had. However, the scrolling makes for a rather jerky screen, so I use extended columns only when needed. Otherwise I use 40 columns--and always when proofreading.


The manual suggests that instead of entering escape codes with [CONTROL][O] [27], you can hold down the [SHIFT] key and press [ESC] twice. However, the resulting code is not the escape symbol, but rather the same symbol produced by [OPTION] [INSERT]. When I try to print or Print Preview the file, the program asks me to "MAKE ENTRY, PRESS RETURN." Therefore I stick to [CONTROL]-[O] [27] when entering escape codes for my printer.

If you need curly brackets, use [CONTROL] [;] for the left one and [CONTROL] [CLEAR] for the right. (This won't clear your screen.) These keystrokes produce graphic characters on your screen, but the curly brackets will appear correctly on your paper. And have you wondered where to find a lefthand single quotation mark? The [CONTROL] [.] will print this character if you should happen to need it.


When printing multiple-file text, if you attempt to "chain" to files that were prepared on another word processor instead of AtariWriter Plus, you'll probably lose some of your text from the beginning of each file after the first. Apparently, the program thinks it is stripping off the Global Format commands which, of course, are not present in non-AtariWriter text files. The solution: Load each file into AtariWriter Plus and RE-save it. If it was created with the AtariWriter cartridge, be sure to remove the old formatting line from the top of each file before the re-save.

For some reason, I have not found a way to successfully chain files together using SmartDOS.


If your printer prints superscript or subscript font and can produce 1/2-line spacing, change the S command on the Global Format screen to 1 (or use [CONTROL] [S] for an in-text change). You'll get the obligatory fine print for that contract. Or you can use it to get a lot of printing in a small space--on a disk label, for example.


If you have an Atari 825 or a Centronics parallel printer and use the built-in 825 driver, you can't get 1 1/2-line spacing by setting S on the Global Format screen to 3, as instructed in the manual. And when you use headers or footers, each page after the first will often begin two lines higher than the previous one.

Here we do have a real bug in AtariWriter Plus. There is a code in the printer driver for a 1/2-line feed and carriage return. In the 825 driver the code mistakenly calls for a reverse 1/2-line feed. This error causes both problems above. I have successfully fixed it by changing byte $37 in sector 276 from $1E to $1C. (In the 130XE version, the byte to change is $72 in sector 111.) Or you can make a corrected printer driver for your 825.

If you use the XMM801 and meet similar problems, try changing bytes $OA and $63 in sector 495 (byte $45 in sector 115 and byte $22 in sector 116 in the 130XE version). Each change is from $1E to $1C.

Note that the two versions of AtariWriter Plus require corrections in different locations!


The manual discusses this procedure in detail, but it still doesn't cover everything you need to know to create the perfect driver for your printer.

Use ATASCII code 155 for "LINE FEED AND CARRIAGE RETURN," even if your printer manual tells you something different.

Should "BOLD" be emphasized or double-strike? I chose double-strike so that it works with elite and condensed, as well as with pica (but not with near letter-quality).

If your printer cannot do reverse line feeds, be sure to leave the "UP 1/2 LINE" code blank. Entering even a zero here will make it impossible to print double columns correctly. While an entry can be changed, you can't delete it entirely--you must start all over again by rebooting the program.

The trickiest code to define is the "DOWN 1/2 LINE AND CARRIAGE RETURN." The manual says you must define this one only if you intend to use 1/2-line spacing with the super-script or subscript fonts. Actually, AtariWriter Plus uses this code when printing headers or footers, as well as when printing 1 1/2-line spacing. It may require a trial-and-error process before you get this one right.

You'd think that you should merely add a 155 to whatever you used for the previous "DOWN 1/2 LINE." With some printers--the Atari 825, for instance--this is what works. With other printers (including the Epsons), this code produces a 1/2-line feed followed by a full linefeed, and it may print headers and/or footers two lines lower on each successive page. And 1 1/2-line spacing becomes 2 1/2-line spacing.

Therefore you must define the code for setting 1/2-line spacing (1/12 inch), followed by code 155, followed by the code for setting full-line spacing (1/6 inch).

The "RETURN WITH NO LINE FEED" or S=0 isn't needed very often, but I have used it on occasion. Enter the code for 0-line spacing if your printer allows this, followed by code 155, followed by the code for full-line spacing (1/6 inch).

Now for defining your fonts. You must remember that many of the commands are cumulative, so you must cancel the ones you don't want while enabling the one you do want. Many Epsons have a Master Select code that does this to some extent, but I don't recommend using these codes here. They are generally sent to your printer at the beginning of each page and, therefore, will cancel any additional codes for emphasized, etc., that you've entered in your text or enabled through the SelecType push-button feature on your printer.

Figure 1 is my Epson FX-85 printer driver.

On the Epson, italics are not available with near letter-quality (NLQ), so [CONTROL]-[G] [8] produces draft italics. They will look better with NLQ if you also type [SELECT] [.] before and after the italicized words to match the blackness of the NLQ. [CONTROL]-[G] [9] turns italics off, but if you're using NLQ, you must also type [CONTROL]-[G] [7] to re-enable near letter quality.

If you use [CONTROL]-[G] [4] to enter a footnote number (instead of [SELECT] [UP-ARROW]), you must use a [CONTROL] [O] code for your number. For instance if you wanted to enter a reference to footnote 1 and typed [CONTROL][G] [4], followed by a [1], the program will think you have asked for [CONTROL][G] [41], and will give you an INVALID TYPE FONT error. Instead, type [CONTROL][G] [4] [CONTROL]-[O] [49] [CONTROL][G] [x] (where [x] is whatever font you've been using). This gives you a raised "1" where you want it. The codes for digits 0-9 are 48-57, inclusive.

Carolyn Hoglin of Orlando, Florida is a homemaker and former secretary. She was given an Atari 8-bit computer in 1982 and has been programming ever since. This is her first publication in Antic.

UNDERLINE OFF -- 27 - 45 - 0
UNDERLINE ON -- 27 - 45 - 1
BOLD OFF -- 27 - 72
BOLD ON -- 27 - 71
UP 1/2 LINE -- 27 - 106 - 18
DOWN 1/2 LINE -- 27 - 74 - 18
DOWN 1/2 LINE & CR -- 27 - 65 - 6 - 155 - 27 - 65 - 12
CR WITH NO LF -- 27 - 65 - 0 - 155 - 27 - 65 - 12

Font #1 PICA -- 27 - 112 - 48 - 27 - 84 - 27 - 80 - 18
Font #2 CONDENSED -- 27 - 112 - 48 - 27 - 84 - 27 - 80 - 15
Font #3 PROPORTIONAL -- 27 - 112 - 49 - 27 - 84 - 27 - 80 - 18
Font #4 SUPERSCRIPT -- 27 - 112 - 48 - 27 - 80 - 15 - 27 - 83 - 48
Font #5 SUBSCRIPT -- 27 - 112 - 48 - 27 - 80 - 15 - 27 - 83 - 49
Font #6 ELITE -- 27 - 112 - 48 - 27 - 84 - 18 - 27 - 77
Font #7 NLQ -- 27 - 120 - 49 - 27 - 84
Font #8 ITALICS ON -- 27 - 120 - 48 - 27 - 52
Font #9 ITALICS OFF -- 27 - 53