Desktop Publishing With Your 8-bit Atari
Unlocking XE/XL/800 page-designing powerBy David Plotkin
Learn about the software that will turn your Atari into a publishing powerhouse. At this writing, all the products surveyed here are still available - either direct from the makers or from the mail-order companies that advertise in Antic.
Desktop publishing programs for 8-bit Atari computers come in several categories. Some software allows you to print cards, signs, awards, and other types of forms, with semi-custom results. These publisher programs tend to be very easy to use, but are limited in their flexibility.
The page-layout software category lets you put text and clip-art on the page using custom fonts and pictures. Such programs offer more flexibility, but tend to be more difficult to use and somewhat unwieldy.
The "full" publishing program category can include text and graphics in various formats. These are not quite as flexible as the page-layout programs, but are easier to use overall. There are also a whole host of utility programs that convert graphics from one format to another. Print Shop
One of the best-selling programs of all time is Broderbund's Print Shop. It was successful not only because it addressed a market that had not been dealt with before, but provided a product that everyone needed and could use. The user interface was so simple that the excellent manual really wasn't necessary.
Print Shop starts out with a main menu, from which you can choose to print a card, sign, banner or letterhead. Once you make your selection, the program leads you step-by-step through the creation process, adding borders, graphics and text to whatever you are creating. Each item (border, graphic, or text style) is selected from a menu, and samples of what you will be getting are shown right on the screen.
The 60 graphic icons are available in three sizes, and eight different fonts are included. These fonts can be further customized by using three modifiers (solid, outline or 3-D drop shadows). There are also nine border designs. The graphics can be added to a page only in certain positions, and only a single graphic design may be used on a page. The text is added to your work on a line-by-line basis, and each line can have a different size of text, although all lines must be in the same font.
There is also a crude editor for editing and saving graphics. You cannot edit the fonts or borders, nor can you
save the final design. A Kaleidoscope function lets you freeze a design that you like, then add text to it to
make a sign.
Print Shop Companion
Also from Broderbund, Print Shop Companion comes with 50 additional border styles, 20 new graphics and 12 new fonts, but it features a much improved Graphics editor containing most of the features of classic drawing programs. You can draw shapes, scroll your creation, Undo, and fill. Also included are mirror moves, and inserting or deleting columns. The border editor includes most of the same functions as the graphic editor, allowing you to rnake your own borders.
The calendar maker can generate a calandar from 1753 to 9999 on a full sheet of paper. You can choose
from weekly or monthly calendars. Each day can contain up to a six line message, and graphics can be added to the
calendars as well. There is even a "creature maker" which can be used to combine feet, body and heads from various
creatures to form some truly bizarre results. Childish, perhaps, but fun. The Print Shop Companion provides much
needed capabilities missing from the original Print Shop.
Print Shop Extras
The popularity of Print Shop has spawned quite a few disks of Print Shop graphics, available from several different suppliers (including Broderbund itself) and in the public domain.
Shepherd Software has two utilities that work with Print Shop icons. Icon Printer prints 49 icons
per page, and can dump your entire disk of icons to the printer automatically, complete with names. The icons can be
printed in disk order or alphabetically. You can also rename the icons. The second program is called Video Jukebox.
Among a whole variety of music-oriented functions, it can convert Micro-Painter or Micro-Illustrator graphics format
screens to the "Screen Magic" (kaleidoscope) format and back. This a]lows you to put the kaleidoscope patterns into
your favorite paint program - or, more importantly, to import your paint program pictures into Print Shop and add
text to them there.
Another product along the same lines as Print Shop is Hi-Tech Creation's Print Power, which comes on two disks in "enhanced density" format - you need an Atari 1050 disk drive or equivalent. Print Power has seven fonts, 60 graphics and 20 borders, and can be used to create cards, signs, stationary and banners. Except for the banners, all of these can be turned 90 degrees when printed.
Banners can be an incredible 42 pages long and can include multipIe lines of text. The graphics can be printed in five sizes, but, as with Print Shop, only one graphic icon can be put on a page. However these icons can be freely positioned on the page, unlike Print Shop's fixed positioning. There is no graphic editor, so you cannot customize an icon or create your own.
Banners can use up to 11 different text sizes, other items can use three. Special text effects include bold, italics, outline, shadow, 3-D and shadow italics. These special effects can be varied by line of text, and up to four different fonts can be used on a page. You can even arrange it so that text shows through background graphics if you like. When designing the card, the screen display is less clear and detailed that Print Shop's. Further, you must make all your choices from text on the screen, referring to a separate reference card to see what each graphic or border actually looks like. But then, Print Power only costs $14.95!
Also from Hi-Tech comes the Sesame Street Print Kit, which works much like Print Power but includes the Sesame Street characters to use in making storybook pages. In addition, the Kit can use all the borders, graphics and fonts that come with Print Power.
Awardware lets you choose from 20 different borders, five different fonts and 25 different
graphics to build award printouts. The last template you created is always easily available, or you can load one of
the many templates included with the product. These are shown only in the accompanying documentation, and there are
nearly 100 unique types of award templates, so keep the manual handy.
The Converter from No Frills Software is a remarkable utility that adds considerable functionality to Print Power, Sesame Street Print Kit, Awardware and even has some tricks to enhance Newsroom (reviewed later). The Converter lets you convert graphics from one format to another. It can load Print Shop icons, Awardware graphics and seals, Print Power graphics and Sesame Street Print Kit graphics. It can save AwardWare graphics, Awardware seals, Print Power graphics and Newsroom clip art.
Note that one thing The Converter does not do is save icons in the Print Shop format. You can load any of the readily available Print Shop icons, however, and save them as Print Power graphics or Newsroom clip art.
Once a graphic is loaded, another powerful feature comes into play, The Converter's graphic editor. This editor can modify any graphic it can load. As a result, you can use The Converter to edit your Print Power graphics, filling in for the missing Print Power graphic editor. You can create new graphics and seals for Awardware, which also lacks an editor. The Converter is "smart" enough to determine the format of a disk it's reading, and adjust to match, even with the unusual Print Shop format. The Converter can even format disks in any format it can save in.
Xlent Software produces two 8- bit products designed to lay out pages suitable for signs and newsletters. Page Designer splits a page into top and bottom halves. Each half fills an entire screen, so that you must switch between two screens to lay out an entire page. This display method increases the resolution of the page, letting you do some pretty fine detail work.
Page Designer lets you load a Graphics 7.5 or Graphics 8 picture to either the top or bottom of the page. Compacted KoalaPad pictures won't work directly, but there is an option from the main menu to uncompact such pictures, so you do have access to them. A very simple graphic editor, the Sketchpad, lets you generate designs, draw shapes, plot points, or modify pictures loaded from disk. You select your drawing tools and draw with a joystick.
Page Designer also lets you add text to the page, in either 40 or 80 column mode. Text must be
laid on top of any graphic, since loading the graphic wipes out any text underneath. Page Designer is unable to
load text from disk, instead you must type it in directly. The printouts are very high quality and the results can
be saved to disk.
Typesetter is Xlent's more advanced package. It also starts with the concept of the blank page, to which you can add graphics and text. Typesetter allows very high resolution (704x624 on a 48K machine, 768x640 on a 130XE), taking full advantage of the extra memory in 13OXEs. Typesetter lets you edit a page with much higher resolution than the Atari screen by turning the screen into a scrolling window of a much larger page. The main screen is kept resident in memory at all times.
You can add text directly to this screen. Typesetter supports 32 sizes of text, and can use any standard 8-sector font. You can vary not only the height but the width of a character as well. You can rotate characters in 90 degree increments and type in any direction (useful when using rotated characters). Special "sliced" characters and italics are also possible in the text editor.
You add text simply by typing it in. Again, you cannot load text from disk. Editing your text can be very tedious, especially if you have to add a new line in the middle of the page. There's no way to insert a new line, so you end up retyping anything below the new line you wanted to add. (This is also true of Page Designer.)
Typesetter contains a graphic editor. To keep as much memory available as possible for the high-resolution page, you have to load this editor separately, making it a somewhat tedious process to switch between the main text screen and the graphic editor.
You can design your own icons in the graphic editor, save the icon to disk or "stamp" it onto the main screen. The editor has tools for drawing shapes, doing six pattern fills, plotting points and lines, and inverting the screen. As with Page Designer, the editor is joystick-controlled and very easy to use. In the l3OXE version, you can use a KoalaPad or Atari Touch Tablet to control the graphic editor as well. You can load standard 62-sector graphics (such as those created with MicroPainter) directly to the screen. You have the choice of loading the picture to the middle 40 columns of the page or expanding it to fill the whole width of the page.
Typesetter can load Page Designer pages, save its own pages and load them and, of course, print
out the results. There are three different options for printing - vertical full height (normal), vertical half height,
and horizontal full sideways.
Xlent also produces a utility to make it easier to work with their products, called Rubber Stamp. It lets you create and save your own icons, typically for use with Typesetter. It can also convert Print Shop icons to Typesetter icons, print labels, and edit 16x16 high resolution fonts for use with Typesetter. The Rubber Stamp graphic editor is quite versatile. It lets you edit four icons at once, and move, expand, shrink, mirror, duplicate, reverse and invert any icon. You can use a joystick or touch tablet, and it has the capabilities to do circles, spheres, ellipses and boxes. Again, the manual is weak, but the package is relatively simple to use.
The final tool in the Xlent toolbox is Print Shop Interface. With this program, you can
create Print Shop icons and fonts from 62-sector picture files, change a picture file into the Screen Magic format,
and capture part of a picture file as a Print Shop icon. You can also convert a Typesetter icon to a letter in a
Print Shop font, so you can have multiple graphics on a Print Shop page. PS Interface can also convert Print Shop
fonts into Typesetter.
Springboard's The Newsroom puts five different "departments" at your disposal to publish your newspaper - the Press, Copy Desk, Banners, Layout and Photo Lab. These are selected from a main menu screen using the joystick.
You need to understand how a simple newsletter front-page is laid out. Across the top of the page is the banner, where your headline goes. The rest of the page is broken up into six equal panels - two columns with three panels each. You can also choose to dispense with the banner and have a page consisting of eight equal panels.
Printed results from The Newsroom are excellent and certainly worthy of being used in a newsletter, provided you can live with the panel-restricted layout. Another Important Note: The Newsroom has difficulty working with anything but the Atari 1050 disk drive and Atari 850 printer interface.
The Newsroom includes over 600 pieces of clip-art, and other disks are available. You can also create your own clip-art using The Converter, as explaiped above. Text can he in one of several fonts and sizes. You can also use the Graphics Tool section to add lines, circles, plot points and pattern fills. There are 10 pen shapes and fill patterns, and the Graphic tool even includes a magnify function for drawing pixel-by-pixel. The banner is limited to a pre-set size, but within that limitation, you have everything you need to make a fancy headline. There is even an Undo function (called "Oops") which is available in several other departments as well.
Once you complete a banner, you can start putting together your other panels. These usually consist of graphics (visit the Photo Lab) and some text (visit the Copy Desk). The Photo Lab offers the same tools as the banner, although here you can cut out part of your creation for use as the actual photo.
At the Copy Desk, you add text by typing it into a simple word processor. This tool even includes some block functions. Three different fonts and two sizes are available, with the larger font being more appropriate for a headline, while the smaller font is used for the body of the article. One large and one normal size font can be mixed in a panel, though not on the same line. The text automatically flows around a photo, and you can even move the photo and the text will reflow around it.
To complete a newsletter, you must finish all six or eight panels and save them to disk. Then you
use the Layout department to specify the position of the panels on the page and use the Press department to print
them out. Note that it's up to you to make sure that text in panels flows smoothly from one to another. There is no
way to load word processor text from disk and place it in a panel.
News Station from Reeve Software is similar to The Newsroom in its layout concept. Eight panels (called "plates") make up the page. News Station itself doesn't support a banner, but by adding News Station Companion, you can use banners. As with The Newsroom each panel is saved separately to disk, but News Station Companion lets you combine all eight files into one (much smaller) file for printing.
News Station toggles between graphics and text modes using keystrokes. In graphics mode, you can import 62-sector picture files directly, add multiple Print Shop icons in three sizes, or create your own pictures using the graphics editor. You can also import and compress picture files using a utility included in News Station Companion. The graphics editor includes all the standard functions, and can be controlled with a joystick or touch tablet.
In text mode you enter your text, either typed in directly from the keyboard or loaded from an ASCII file on disk. This is the only package with this capability. Unfortunately, News Station does not support word wrap.
News Station comes with five built-in fonts, but can use any standard font - in eight widths and heights. This variation in width and height lends considerable flexibility in constructing headlines, sub-heads and the body of the text. Multiple fonts can be used in a panel, even mixing them on a line. However, News Station does not automatically flow text around graphics. When importing ASCII text, the text must be short enough to fit in one panel.
Fortunately, News Station Companion adds still another capability It can load a large text file and automatically break it down into the eight panels for you. This page can have one, two or three columns as well. If the file is longer than a page, the text can be continued on other pages, another feature unique to the News Station with its Companion.
The Converter $19.95
No Frills Software, 800 East 23rd Street,
Kearney, NB 68847. (303)234-6250.
Sesame Street Print Kit $12.95
Print Power $14.95
Hi-Tech Expressions, 1700 N.W. 65th
Avenue, Suite 9, Plantation, FL 33313.
Icon Printer $10
Video Jukebox $10
Shepherd Software, 1215 West Jackson,
Spearfish, SD 57783.
Print Shop $49.95
Print Shop Companion $34.95
Broderbund Software, 17 Paul Drive
San Rafael, CA 94903. (415)492-3200.
News Station $29.95
News Station Companion $29.95
Reeve Software, 29W150 Old Farm
Lane, Warrenville, IL 60555
The Newsroom $49.95
Clip-art Volumes 1-3 $29.95 each
Springboard Software, 7808 Creekridge
Circle, Minneapolis, MN 55435.
Page Designer $29.95
Rubber Stamp $29.95
PS Interface $29.95
XLENT Software, P.O. Box 5228, Springfield,
VA 22150. (703)644-8881.