ST Product News
FAST--THE COMPLETE DESKTOP ORGANIZER
720 S. 333rd Street
Federal Woy, WA 98003
Reviewed by David Plotkin
Fast is a collection of desktop accessories. They include a built-in DOS, Editor, Cardfile, Calendar, Clock, Calculator and ASCII Table. All these accessories are assembled under one entry in the Desk menu; clicking on that entry brings up a window from which you may select the tool you want by clicking on it with the mouse or pressing the appropriate function key. The chosen accessory then appears on the Screen.
ST-DOS is a resident disk operating system similar to MS-DOS. You type in commands that perform variows tasks, such as formatting a disk or copying a file. Once you learn the system, this can be more efficient than using the GEM desktop. For example, to copy all the files with an extender of "DOC" from drive A to drive B, you would simply type "COPY A: *.DOC B:". This is much faster than clicking on each file in a window and dragging it to the drive icon, especially if all the files you want can't be seen in the window at once. ST-DOS allows you to set time and date, get a directory, see the contents of a file, rename a file, delete a file, and set an alarm to go off either at a certain time or in a specified number of hours and minutes from the present time. You may also lock and unlock files, make a new directory (folder) and delete an empty directory. The formatting option supports four different formats, including two that can store more information than usual on a disk. ST-DOS also supports wildcards (characters that can substitute for a letter or a group of letters in a filename).
ST-EDIT is a full-screen editor for entering text. However, it is more like the MINCE editor than a word processor. It takes over the entire screen, so you can't enter notes while looking at other information on the screen. There is also no mouse support or menus. Instead, all commands are activated by pressing a sequence of keys. ST-EDIT supports search, replace, block moves, copies and deletes, letter transposing, and some limited macros for using in the editing sessions. The keys that activate various features seem pretty strange to me, although I'm told they are similar to the keys used in MINCE. Fortunately, all the commands are summarized on a card, and most of the time you can get by with just using the arrow keys, the Delete and Backspace keys, and the save file key ([Control][X]/[Control][S]). The editor does not word-wrap. Also, if you don't press [Return] at the end of every line, then the number of "physical" lines will be different from the number of "logical" lines. Some of the ST-EDIT commands use these numbers, so you need to keep track of them. You also need to keep an eye on your buffer size. If you run out of buffer for text, you must save the file, then reload it to obtain more space.
CARDFILE is an address book. It is set up in three levels. In the first level you choose the letter of the alphabet you want to work with. You may also print all the cards in the file, select one of two formats for all printing (list or label) and change the field names on the cards. Clicking on a letter of the alphabet brings you to level 2, which shows all the cards where the first field begins with the letter selected. You may edit a card, delete it, print selected cards, create a new card, or autodial one of the two phone numbers on the card. If you choose to create a new card or modify an existing one, this brings you to level 3, where you actually fill in the information on the card, save it or print it. You may also move to the next or previous card. The fields initially on the card are for names, addresses and phone numbers; you can further customize the cards by modifying a file called DEFAULT.DAT. This gives you the option of changing field length, text style (bold, underline, etc.), default buffer size, field position and various print options.
The other tools included in Fast are a digital clock, an ASCII table that shows the characters corresponding to each decimal and hex number, a four-function calculator with memory and percent that allows you to enter either by clicking on a button or pressing a key on the keyboard, and a calendar that displays one month at a time. To step through the months and years you use the arrow keys. The calendar doesn't remind you about what the key functions are, so I frequently found myself pressing the wrong arrow keys. You cannot access any date before 1980, and stepping through the years to 50 years in the future can take a while---one year at a time.
The documentation accompanying Fast has a number of inaccuracies and typos. In several places, the picture of a screen or dialog box doesn't match the description, text is missing on another page, and some paragraphs make absolutely no sense at all. The distinction between physical and logical lines in the editor is never made, and the ST-DOS section assumes you know quite a bit about MS-DOS. Mi- graph claims that most people never read the documentation for a program this simple. That may normally be true, but I'd like to see someone figure out ST-EDIT without a manual. At any rate, you can figure everything out--it just takes longer.
I have mixed feelings about Fast. As with other combination desk accessories, I find that I like some of the tools (like ST-DOS), and don't want to give up the memory for others (like ST-EDIT). Whether this package is right for you will depend on what you need.
Buzzword Game Company
5582 S. Zeno Court
Aurora, CO 80044
Reviewed by Sol Guber
Buzzword is a word-guessing game with a sophisticated strategy, suitable for both adults and children because of its multi-level play. Buzzword uses a subtle sense of humor to give clues for each set of words. The words are combined in categories and the package contains a set of cards with all the answers in the categories.
The game is quite simple to play. The upper right section of the screen contains the nine boxes that stand for the words you will be guessing. At the simplest level, each box will contain the first letter of the word and how many letters make up the word. At bottom of the screen is a list of all the letters used in the nine words, as well as their frequency of usage. Also at th bottom of the screen is a typewriter, where you type your answers. In the upper right corner is the score. As you guess each word correctly, the number of letters available is decreased.
Before we go any further, let me give some examples of both the type of words that need to be guessed and the variety of categories. Let's pick a category at random: "A MAN'S CASTLE." Now try to guess three words: a six-letter word starting with D, a six- letter word starting with S, and a six-letter word starting with W. If you figured out that the words are duplex, shanty, and wigwam, your word reasoning is excellent. Let's try another category calledl "NO NUTRITION" --things people put in their mouths. The words you need to guess each have four letters, and start with a "C," an "F," and a "P." If you guessed chaw, foot and pipe, then this is the game for you.
The object of the game is to guess the word and type it correctly. You are scored on the number of words you have previously guessed correctly, and the column and row of the word. If you make five mistakes, or determine all the words correctly, your turn is over. There are 200 different categories and between 30 and 50 members in each category, so it is very difficult to remember all of the answers in any one category.
It's evident much time and effort went into making this game. The contents of the sets of words are of various difficulty, with something for everyone. The categories included range from Old MacDonald's Farm to Opera, and from the Zodiac to Golf. There is only one screen in the game, but the colors are bright and the "typewriter" action is good. There is only a slight amount of animation, and few sounds (when you press the keys and when you identify the words correctly), but the game doesn't require more bells and whistles for enjoyable play.
You have numerous options available when you play Buzzword. You can play it by yourself, against another player, or with groups of people. Using the various options, some of this information will not be available for example the first letter of the word and its length can be hidden or displayed. Finally, you can set a timer to make the game a real challenge.
While not billing itself as an educational game, Buzzword is quite educational. It is also lots of fun to play in groups and is as sophisticated as some trivia games. The package comes with cards that contain all of the categories and the answers. The 24-page manual explains the variations well, and gives a list of the various subjects. This game is like no other, and it's a well-designed word game for the whole family.