APPLICATIONSDIVERS ★ AMX MOUSE & DESKTOP|8000 Plus) ★

AMX Mouse & DesktopApplications Divers
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Is a 'mouse' a real breakthrough for the PCW or is it a rather extravagant extra to clutter up your desk. This month Advanced Memory Systems launch the AMX desk top package, where the mouse can at last show its paces in the proper 'WIMP' environment, Alec Rae decides whether it could prove a useful pet for the PCWuser.

Desk top packages are commodities that always sound good in the adverts. In the world of the ‘paperless office' it seems almost blasphemy still to be taking notes on the back of used envelopes or looking up a phone number in a dog-eared address book. But often the practicalities of the average desk top package makes it too bothersome to use regularly.

The new AMX package goes a long way to overcome these problems and presents its services in such a way as to make them attractive and easy to use. The package is an ‘organiser' like the Gem desk top for the PC and is a reasonable facsimile of the famous Apple Macintosh setup.

For those who are wary of using CP/M it allows you tc move, copy and erase files and run programs without even bothering about whether it is P I P M : = A : or A : = M :. It has a diary, telephone book and a note pad that are real practical propositions and it allows you to create any number of memos (now that is real organisation). You have a clock with an alarm, a calculator that works well and even a puzzle that is annoying enough to keep you going for days. All this without touching your keyboard in a genuine WIMP environment.

Great ingenuity goes into the design of the screen icons, as if it was a serious possibility that a large number of dyslexic people would go out and buy word processors. When you are given the choice of keyboard repeat rate, Desktop shows a snail (for slowness) at one end of the scale and a car (for speed) at the other.

You can view the directory on any drive either in boring old text or by Icon, Program files are shown by a little picture of a screen while the text file icon has writing on the front. Most interesting are Mallard Basic files which are each depicted by a little Locomotive.

File it in the bin

Once you display this directory, the world is your oyster. You can 'drag' files around by putting the pointer onto the file, pressing the operating button and pulling the file to the correct place. You can erase files by dragging them to a little bin icon, and move files to the M drive or B drive by dragging them to the appropriate disc icon.

You can also run a program from any drive by clicking on its icon. Desktop doesn't affect any key assignments you've made with SETKEYS, so you can safely leave your word-processing program in drive M and call it up when you need it.

Desktop takes over 80K of your M drive, an important consideration for 8256 users, but as it carries out all the functions of PIP.COM, DIR.COM and SHOW.COM you don't need these utilities cluttering up the drive.

Here we are again

The neat part of Desktop is that when you leave your chosen program you are automatically taken back to AMX Desk Topt loaded from your M drive. This overcomes the basic problem with 'organisers' -remembering to use them. You still need the AMX disc in the A drive when you want information from your diary or telephone book, but it is still easier and more convenient than many of its competitors* When you eventually leave Desktop you are asked if you want to retain any diary or phone book changes and. if so, you have to replace your Desk Top disk for updating.

This automatic linking back to the AMX program can cause a few minor problems. Should you try to run a text file, the program thoughtfully informs you that you cannot open it (you can only run applications like Disckit, WordStar or SuperCalc). You can. however, print it or +type' it - display it on the screen as with the TYPE command in CP/M. It does this easily but then immediately returns you to the desk top before you have a chance to read it, unless you are quick to press [PTR].

You can't use the pull down menus from within other programs, but this is often a rather unsuccessful facility in other desk top programs. The note pad only provides limited space, but if you want to write great swathes of text you would probably use your word processor anyway.

These are minor irritations when compared with the potential of the package. It is easy and pleasant to use and does everything that it sets out to do. The telephone book is quick and efficient and has an effective 'Find' facility, that could actually make it quicker to use than a ‘manual' telephone book.

Dear diary

The diary, although perhaps limited for space, seems practical enough to use. If there is an entry against a given date it is highlighted on the calendar so you have no excuse for forgetting to look. You can pass back and forward through the months with ease and can use the calendar feature to work out the day your birthday is on up to the year 1999 (sensibly avoiding the century leap year problem - Ed). After that you have to guess.

The ultimate feature for all aspiring bureaucrats is a special memo-writing option which neatly lays out all your memos and then stores the result to disc. The editing here is made slightly more complicated by the use of the mouse. Most of the effects you would want are available {paste, cut, copy, clear, justify centre and inserting or deleting lines) but you have to refer to an option at the top of the screen to carry out these simple tasks. You pick out the text or move the cursor around the page with the mouse, and this takes a moment or two to get used to. Still it is a facility that no red-blooded executive should live without.

Notes are taken under an option disarmingly called the ‘Jotter1. This gives you a potential of five pages of notes and more importantly you can move from page to page easily and quickly. You can even transfer text from one facility to another using the paste routine.

A four function calculator is available and worked either from the mouse or the keyboard - it's quite convenient to use the mouse.

You can set the time and date in a small clock window and perhaps more interesting you can set an alarm that bleeps away merrily, as long as you have Desktop on screen. As you mainly use the program as a link between other programs this is less useful than it might seem at first. It is invaluable, though, if you set your mind to solving the 'simple' sliding block puzzle.

This puzzle is a faithful copy of the trend setting Apple Macintosh one and doesn't seem to be any easier than the original. The manual gives you nine possible solutions (including one marked ominously ‘Impossible') which you can work towards until senility sets in or the alarm goes off to point out that you have just wasted two or three hours of your life.

One at a time

The only problem with pulling out the many windows is that you cannot use a window that is overlapped by another one. Every so often you get an message window telling you to close all the others that overlap before you can use a facility.

The best way round this is to adjust the size of the windows, a simple exercise using the mouse. For instance the directory window can be expanded or contracted at will - you can still use it at its reduced size to find the file you want.

The other possibility is to actually move the windows around the screen to suit your needs or artistic sensibilities. This system is not Infallible, though. Try as you like it seems impossible to show the jotter and the 'phone book at the same time.

Verdict

The mouse itself is not a thing of beauty in grey with 'something bright at night' red buttons. The action is not as smooth as some mice but it works well enough. It soon becomes such a natural extension to your hand that you have to think what to do when you eventually have to use the keyboard again.

The program at last provides a desk-top organiser that you would really use to ‘organise' your life with the PCW. It would also be very useful to those who are wary of taking the plunge into the twilight world of CP/M.

8000PLUS

★ PUBLISHER: Advanced Memory Systems
★ YEAR: 1987
★ CONFIG: PCW
★ LANGUAGE:
★ INFO:SUPPORT AMX MOUSE
★ PRICE: £79,95

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L'Amstrad CPC est une machine 8 bits à base d'un Z80 à 4MHz. Le premier de la gamme fut le CPC 464 en 1984, équipé d'un lecteur de cassettes intégré il se plaçait en concurrent  du Commodore C64 beaucoup plus compliqué à utiliser et plus cher. Ce fut un réel succès et sorti cette même années le CPC 664 équipé d'un lecteur de disquettes trois pouces intégré. Sa vie fut de courte durée puisqu'en 1985 il fut remplacé par le CPC 6128 qui était plus compact, plus soigné et surtout qui avait 128Ko de RAM au lieu de 64Ko.