News Station Page-Designer
All the power you need...right now!
by STEVE FISHBEIN
An editorial in the June, 1987 issue of Antic urged readers to write to Springboard Software requesting release of the Newsroom page designer for Atari 8-bit computers. I have used Newsroom (on a well-known 8-bit computer that's inferior to the Atari) and I can tell you that Atarians have better software than Newsroom available right now!
Reeve Software is a small Atari software company in Illinois. Alan Reeve's News Station ($29.95, 48K disk) is more versatile and easier to use than any current version of Newsroom ($49.95, Apple, IBM, C-64). News Station was programmed specifically for the 8-bit Atari, so it takes good advantage of the Atari's powerful graphics tools.
And now, the brand-new News Station Companion ($29.95, 48K disk) brings in four new features that give the base software considerably more power. The Companion creates headlines that go across the top of the entire page, matching Newsroom's "banner" mode. It compresses eight 52-sector News Station plate files into a single page file that requires much less disk space. Long, multi-page text files can be accepted now, as well as unconverted KoalaPad graphics.
The $60 total cost of News Station and News Station Companion is $10 more than Newsroom. But News Station is a better value because the only way to get additional graphics into Newsroom is to buy clip-art disks at $30 to $40 each. In money-saving contrast, News Station can import graphics from all the most common Atari formats.
Here are some of the ways in which Reeve's News Station leaves Springboard's Newsroom eating dust.
NEWS STATION NEWSROOM TEXT: Any Atari font 5 font sizes 64 font sizes 2 font sizes GRAPHICS: No preparation 3 steps needed COMPATIBILITY: Print Shop icons Clip-art disks (3 sizes) ($30-$40 each) Micro-Painter Micro Illustrator Direct drawings
Also from Reeve Software is Publishing Pro ($39.95, 48K disk), an "advanced version" of News Station that can produce a full page of text and graphics without using plates. But to accomplish this, it sacrifices some versatility and ease of use. Text fonts and sizes cannot be changed within a page, and you must figure the X,Y coordinates to position each element of the page.
News Station was given a short write-up in the July, 1987 Antic feature review of printer software (page 17). I felt that the reviewer missed much of the versatility of this program, even though he called News Station "an ideal tool for putting text into a picture" and admitted that the program "works fine for two-column printouts."
Simple page-design software like News Station and Newsroom get around the memory limits of a 48K or 64K computer by dividing a full page into eight equal "plates." Each plate uses a single computer screen which is saved as a separate file. Figure 1 shows how the eight plates are linked together to print a full page. (I drew boxes around the plates to demonstrate how they line up.)
This method may not be "true desktop publishing" like Pagemaker, Ventura Publisher and Ready, Set, Go, or the Atari ST's Publishing Partner and Fleet Street Publisher. But it doesn't carry the hefty price tags ($120 all the way up to $900) of these laser-oriented programs either.
Eight-plate page-design software uses standard, inexpensive dot-matrix printers and is terrific at producing informal newsletters, flyers, signs and brochures--that most people really need for their personal desktop publishing.
News Station and Newsroom both come with five built-in fonts. But News Station also lets you use any nine-sector Atari font--in eight heights and eight widths.
A height-to-width ratio of 2 to 1 seems to provide the best-looking characters, but there are times when variations might make a font more readable.
The standard Atari font remains in memory along with one selected user font, which can be changed at any time. Once placed on the screen, characters remain in the chosen font.
An article might have a large headline, a slightly smaller subhead an normal-sized copy. Subheads can be used throughout an article to emphasize sections of the copy.
Text can be entered onto the plate from an ASCII file on disk or by typing it in. News Station does not have word wrap, but because the program remains in type-over mode, changes can be made easily.
News Station text files must be broken down into plate size before being transferred. However, News Station Companion eliminates this restriction and lets you set pages in as many as four columns.
News Station accepts three types of graphics: Print Shop icons, Micro- Painter files and direct drawings, using a joystick, KoalaPad or Suncom's Animation Station as input devices.
Any number of Print Shop icons can be entered directly onto the plate and enlarged to double-size or triple-size.
The ability to use Micro-Painter files opens the door to use of virtually any graphic by using The Rapid Graphic Converter (Antic, November 1985) to adapt other graphic files. A utility in News Station Companion also makes it possible to use Micro-Illustrator graphics directly.
There are few commands in News Station and most are mnemonic. [CONTROL] [G]raphics toggles with [CONTROL] [T]ext. [CONTKOL] [A]tari and [CONTROL] [U]ser toggle the font in use, selected with [CONTROL] [F]ont.
Putting a graphic onscreen requires typing [CONTROL] [G] to put the program in graphics mode, typing [CONTROL] [D] to get a directon of graphics, putting the cursor at the upper left-hand corner of the location you want the picture and then selecting the picture from the directory which scrolls the bottom of the Screen.
If you don't own News Station Companion, you need to use indirect methods to print a banner headline across the top of the page. To obtain that effect in Figure 2, I counted characters. For plate 1, I counted back from the center, placed the letters in two different sizes and fonts, and then saved that plate.
The next step was to do the right half, working outward from the center, but instead of clearing the first screen I matched characters so they would line up correctly, and I used the type-over mode to clear unwanted copy. X and Y coordinates are available, but I find it easier to match using a previous screen.
Also in Figure 2 the 130XE filled plate 3. The headline and subhead on plate 5 were separated by a drawn line, and the copy was then begun on the lower part of the plate, continuing on plate 7. A line divides the two articles.
A News Station customized calendar for my users group newsletter is shown in Figure 3.
NEWS STATION COMPANION
News Station Companion is a collection of four utilities that make the original News Station even more powerful and versatile.
The Companion's Plate Manipulator utility makes it a lot simpler to create banner headlines across the top of the page. The banner can be created on a single plate, which can then be enlarged to cover the full top of the page. Or it can be centered, as is, on top of the page.
The Plate Manipulator takes the single plate and converts it into plates 1 and 2. If the centering option is selected additional material could be added to fill the extra white space.
The manipulator can also he used to expand two plates vertically which permits placement of an extra-large graphic.
Another important Companion utility permits use of longer text files. The text file is loaded into the Companion utility and a page, broken down into eight News Station plates, is created, a routine that does take about 20 minutes.
The page can include 1, 2 or 3 columns of type--80, 33 or 26 characters wide. If the 26 or 39 column option is taken, I recommend loading the plates back into News Station and adding a vertical line to separate the columns.
If the file is longer than a page the program allows conversion of pages by page number.
The basic News Station program accepts KoalaPad Files that have been transformed into Micro-Painter format. But only the top five-sixths of the picture can be used. But now a Companion utility allows direct entry of graphics from a KoalaPad (or Suncom Animation Station) file and also permits using either the top five-sixths or the bottom five-sixths, or even just a center section.
The fourth utility in the Companion is the Library. A News Station plate requires 52 sectors of disk storage and an entire page (eight plates) takes up 416 sectors (52 x 8). The Companion compresses eight plates into a single file, which makes it possible to save two pages on one side of a disk.
Publishing Pro Is an advanced version of News Station which lacks much of the versatility News Station offers. That sounds strange, but Publishing Pro can produce a full page of text and graphics without using plates. However, fonts and sizes cannot be changed within an article.
Publishing Pro material must be entered using X,Y coordinates. Banners and headlines are entered first, and then areas for copy and graphics are blocked out for direct entry or disk files.
Publishing Pro provides an onscreen outline of where the headlines, articles and graphics will appear on the page.
Figure 4 is a partial Publishing Pro page. I entered the headline in the largest type and the two sub-heads in the smallest type. I then set the first copy block at 39 columns wide and 42 lines long.
PaperClip seems to be the best word processor to use with Publishling Pro. Matching PaperClip column margins with Publishing Pro margins provides an exact count of lines needed for the column.
Once completed, a Publishing Pro page may be saved to disk as a News Station page of eight plates, or it can be printed. Saving the page in plate form permits some final editing.
Preparing a page with Publishing Pro requires extensive planning to properly locate the headlines, text and graphics at the correct coordinates. I might use Publishing Pro to create a page with one headline and text across the full page--or if I'm really pressed for time. News Station, though, is my first choice, especially with the enhancements of News Station Companion.
News Station advertises that "what you see on screen is what you get on paper." And in working on page layout, that's the most important feature for me.
NEWS STATION COMPANION
PUBLISHING PRO ($39.95)
29W150 Old Farm Lane
Warrenville, IL 60555
$29.95, 48K disk
CIRCLE 162 ON READER SERVICE CARD
Steve Fishbein of Newport News, Virginia wrote to Antic about how he uses News Station. His letter was so detailed and informative that we assigned him to review the entire line of Reeve page design software.