APPLICATIONSPAO/PRESSE ★ FLEET STREET EDITOR PLUS ★

Fleet Street Editor Plus (8000Plus)Fleet Street Editor Plus (Amstrad Action)Fleet Street Editor Plus (CPC Magazin)
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As the only inexpensive dedicated word processor on the market, the PCW has established a firm niche for itself among those who want to produce letters, reports, manuscripts or manuals. As it stands, it can produce a variety of different type styles, but can't cope with graphics, a wide variation in type size or complicated page layouts.

A new breed of software package has recently emerged, usually on much more expensive micros, known as the Desktop Publisher (DTP for short). This software extends the idea of a word processor by providing complete page make-up facilities on the screen, including graphics and display typefaces.

Fleet Street Editor Plus ('FSE Plus') is one of the first fully integrated programs to provide a text editor, graphics editor and page layout editor which allow you to build up a fully illustrated A4 page on the PCW. While the rather 'under-powered' microprocessor inside the PCW imposes some restrictions on the package (principally those of speed), most of the functions available with DTPs on other micros can also be produced using FSE Plus.

The program also sets out to present its functions in a 'user friendly' way by using a series of pull-down menus and selecting most of its facilities from these.

A guided tour

FSE Plus comes on two discs, one for the program and the other for the graphics library. Both sides of each disc are full to capacity. These discs are pocketed in the back of one of Mirrorsoft's high quality A5 ring binders, which contains a well illustrated manual falling clearly into tutorial and reference sections.

There are also appendices at the back providing a quick reference for control keys within the various editors, and a gallery of the various fonts and clip-art. These pages are particularly useful, as you can flick through graphics on the page, rather than having to load them page by page into the graphics editor.

The tutorial section of the manual is referred to as the 'Guided Tour' and runs to 25 pages. As the name suggests, it takes you round the package, using a partly completed page to work on. As part of the tuition, you're asked to fill in the remaining column with a short story, leading headline and an appropriate graphic. This neatly covers all aspects of FSE Plus and provides a gentle way into some of the necessarily complex sections of the program.

The reference section is sub-divided into the four main menu headings on the initial menu: text, graphics, layout and housekeeping. Each section provides detailed information on the function of each menu and control sequence used in the program. At the end of the manual is a more general section on page design and some useful hints on planning you publication.

The manual, as with previous offerings from Mirrorsoft, is well laid out and clear, and should present few interpretation problems!

First steps

The first thing to do is to copy the two master discs.

Most of this can be done with DISCKIT, but side A: of the program disc has to be copied using PIP because of the FSE Plus protection system. When you come to use the program, you still have to pop your master disc in briefly to check you've a legally acquired copy of the program. While you're at it you'll need at least one blank, formatted data disc to take the text, graphics and pages you create. There's no room on the program or graphics discs for any data.

The program takes a while to load, and copies files off both sides of the program disc. If you have a PCW8512, more of the editor's files are copied to the M drive, but the program is still quite usable on the smaller machine, with a few extra disc swaps.

The main menu screen shows the FSE Plus header and four menu options. Each refers to a particular function of the system.

The text editor

This is a simplified word processor, which is quite adequate for editing short sections of text, though longer text is probably easier to prepare with LocoScript or Protext and feed directly into the text or layout editors.

Once you've loaded text into the editor, you can insert and delete characters in the normal way, and a quick press of the [RELAY] key reformats the current paragraph. Paragraph breaks can be inserted with two [RETURN]s. This is important, as the text and layout editors only recognise a double return as a paragraph break, and it's not possible to split paragraphs merely by indenting their first line.

There are three menus within the text editor, covering filing, block management and page setup. The file menu lets you load and save text files, abandon the current edit, start a fresh text file, erase a disc file and show details of memory and disc space. The memory details include the amount of RAM available for text and the amount lost in the current editing session. 'Lost memory' is a peculiar concept, which comes from the fact that the text editor uses up an increasing amount of workspace as it goes. If you save the text periodically and reload, then the 'lost' memory is restored.

The block menu controls cut and paste operations, and all the standard ones are there. You simply mark the start and end of any section of text by moving the cursor and selecting an option from the menu, and can then paste, copy, cut or save the text. You can use key sequences for each of these operations, and LocoScript users will be used to working with [CUT], [COPY] and [PASTE], You need to re-mark a block after each operation, which is a nuisance. There is also a memory overhead (see box).

The page menu allows you to select column width, font size, and line spacing (known as 'leading'), and to display a word count and the column length. The column length display is particularly useful, as it allows you to measure your text in column inches or column millimetres and thus write to length. This is very important when producing single pages and can save a lot of time in the layout editor later.

The graphics editor

This is where you create the pictures for your page. You can either clip them from the graphics library disc or create them from scratch using the drawing, fill and zoom facilities within the graphics editor.

The editor uses a small arrow pointer as a cursor, which can sometimes get lost in a complex graphic, but you only need to move it again with the keyboard or a mouse to see it easily. You can move the cursor in small steps by pressing any of the four cursor keys, or by even finer amounts (a pixel at a time) by holding down [EXTRA] while moving it. Areas of the screen can be defined by marking the bottom left-hand corner with a press of [ENTER] or [RETURN] and then stretching an elastic box out and completing it with another [RETURN].

Most of the features of the editor are selected from one of seven pull-down menus. The first of these, as with the text editor, deals with filing, and offers options to save the current graphics screen to disc or to memory, and to start anew or select graphics from the library. You should back up each graphic regularly, as you can then undo any mistakes more easily by going back to old versions. You can scan through the library a page at a time and select a graphic by outlining it. This calls it into the graphics editor and you can then pull it apart and adapt it as you like.

The frame menu lets you change the style and thickness (weight) of the lines making up a box, circle or ellipse. There is a wide variety of different combinations.

Even though this is the graphic menu, you can still add text to your picture, using the text menu. There are some limitations, like not being able to edit text on a line, once you've left it (by pressing [RETURN], for instance), but you can still choose the same point sizes and typestyles as in the layout editor.

The graphics editor includes a good fill routine which will fill complex areas quickly. There are 32 fill patterns available, and the fill is initially in black. The graphics editor checks with you that the fill is OK before changing for your selected pattern. When you come to transfer graphics to a page layout, you must choose the 'pixel-by-pixel' copy option, otherwise the result of scaling a fill pattern to fit a new size can cause weird effects.

The edit menu offers options to copy, delete, move, rotate and scale a predefined section of the graphic screen. There is a limit on the size of this section, which is again a function of the available memory. You should scale the graphic in the graphic editor and fill after you've changed its size, if you want to avoid distortion in the layout editor later on.

The draw menu offers an easy way in to drawing a number of regular shapes. You can use the options to construct lines, boxes, circles, ellipses and squarcles. This last object is a box with rounded corners, but oblong versions of it tend towards ovals. You can also draw freehand, using the sketch option, but this is much easier with a mouse than with the cursor keys.

The final menu, for zoom, allows you to insert and delete individual pixels, and is very useful for 'tidying up' graphics and checking that 'closed' shapes don't leak when you try and fill them. You move a predefined box around the screen to outline the area you want to zoom on, and the editor will then show it at full screen size.

The graphics library

The 26 pages of graphics supplied with FSE Plus are varied and well selected. You have lots of borders, flashes and logos ideal for the kind of newsletter work to which the program will probably be put. There are also some good maps, a complete set of PCW memorabilia and even a Harrier jump-jet. The selection is better than similar sets on other DTPs and has less of a 'US feel' to the drawing style than many.

You dummy

Before you get down to the nitty-gritty of laying out the pages of your publication, you have to set up a publication file on disc. You enter a long (35 character) description of the publication and a six character file name, a description of the page (A4, A5 landscape or A5 portrait) and whether you're going to need facing pages (ie special left and right hand pages). If you are, FSE Plus will offset the pages to allow for stapling or binding. With this information, FSE Plus goes away and turns it into a file to hold your layout.

The next stage is to define a page dummy, which is a kind of template. This isn't essential, as you can create a page quite happily without one, but it does allow you to create several pages with the same basic layout. You make up a page dummy by positioning a series of horizontal and vertical lines (the 'limits') on a blank page. These limits outline the blocks in which you can then put text, headlines or graphics. The limits can be moved at any stage in the layout, but only one font and type size can be used in any block.

You can only define one page dummy per publication, so if you intend to use dummies and expect to have a front page which is different from the inside pages, you will probably have to layout the front pages from scratch.

When designing a page dummy you start by specifying the number of column guides you'll want to use. You can choose between one (full page) and seven (I" columns). Guides can be removed or adapted later if need be, but they do help to get a set number of equal-sized columns on the page. You can also choose to have imperial or metric measurements on the sizing rulers which appear along the top and down the left-hand side of the page.

You can continue to add or delete limits and can 'clip' them to the column guides to ensure the proper column spacings. When you've finished, the page dummy is saved to your publication file..

Bugblatter Beasts

The rest of this review tooks at Fleet Street Editor Plus as it is intended to be. While the production version we had for review largely meets its specification, a number of problems were discovered during testing of the program, and it's only fair to mention them.

None of the problems cause the package to crash (stop working), but they can be inconvenient. Most are to be found in the text editor, and are most easily circumvented by loading text from files created on a separate word processor. These files must either be in LocoScript 1 or ASCII format.

Text Editor

The Cut and Paste option doesn't always work when you're moving a block from the end into the body of the text.

The [RELAY] key, which reformats a paragraph, sometimes stops reformatting part way through a paragraph.

The [RETURN] key, which you're meant to press twice to insert a hard return into the text (split paragraphs)

sometimes refuses to take effect.

The above three faults are not 'bugs' as such, but are a function of the way text is handled within the editor. Each time you move, copy or delete a block of text, you throw away some of the available text memory. If the limit drops too low, a message 'No RAM room' appears, and most of the editing functions stop working. You can rectify the problem by saving your work and re-entering the text editor, and avoid it by regularly saving your work. It's hardly the ideal way of working though.

Very infrequently, while deleting text from the screen, all the text disappears and you're left with a single line of peculiar graphic symbols. This only happened once during testing.

Layout Editor

If you delete a headline and the horizontal delimiting marker, the editor is sometimes confused and may still prevent you adding a replacement. If you save the part-complete page, and reload the layout editor, you should then be able to continue.

The layout editor

The editor itself offers seven drop down menus and shows about a third of an A4 page, complete with limits, text and graphics, rather reduced and elongated. You can move a small arrow cursor around the screen with the keyboard or a mouse, and build up your layout by picking options from the menus.

The file menu offers the normal save, load and abandon options, but also allows you to save just the format (the page with guides and limits) to use as a page dummy on future layouts.

The font menu lets you select any of five fonts in each of four point sizes, five styles (normal, outline, bold, slanted and underlined), and in a variety of leadings. You can also call up a status display of the current settings. If you change any of the font options, text in the current block (the area with the cursor in it) will take up the new attributes. If you increase the size so much that the text won't fit in the current block, you will lose what FSE Plus can't fit. It's still in the text file though, of course.

The graphics menu offers only one option, but this is different depending on the contents of the current block. If the area is free, you can insert a graphic - if it already contains a graphic, you can delete it. The insert option allows you to select a graphic from a disc file, and to reduce it to the size of the area you've defined on the page to take it. This is done progressively in horizontal and vertical scans and you can either maintain the relative proportions of the graphics or do a 'pixel by pixel' copy.

The draw menu lets you insert boxes and lines. These are different from guides or limits, though they may lie over them. They appear on the finished page and are printed as borders. The same menu lets you alter the weight and style of each line, with five thicknesses from I to 9 point, and continuous, dashed or dot-dashed.

Pre-prepared text can be inserted into (and deleted from) any defined block by selecting an option from the text menu. If there is insufficient room to take all the text, you can either flow it into another area by repositioning the cursor, or close the file and continue it on another page. Headings are added directly from the keyboard, and as the font, size and style can be the same as in articles, you can use this option to enter any kind of text from the keyboard.

When you are laying out prepared text on the page you can stipulate 'discretionary hyphens' at appropriate points in words, and the layout editor will then automatically hyphenate at these points to avoid big gaps in narrow columns. You can also automatically justify text with another option from the text menu.

The page menu will flip from one page of a multi-page publication to another. It is also used to add or delete entire pages and to return to the dummy page layout.

The last menu is named view, and allows you to insert and delete limits, to turn their display off, to show a vertical ruler and to turn the 'snap' function on and off. This last feature automatically ties text and graphics into the top left-hand corner of any defined block. Without the snap on, you can position them at any point within it.

Putting it on paper

Once you've completed the page or pages which make up your publication, you can view them at reduced scale in sequence to check the overall layout and then print them out. You have options for the PCW printer, other dot matrix printers and even a laser, though this will only produce a high quality print at dot matrix resolution.

The high quality mode on the PCW printer takes a good while to complete, and you would obviously only print your master copy, and photostat other copies.

Because the PCW printer is fairly cheap, you won't get very high quality text from any desktop publishing program. Certainly if you think that LocoScript's 'high quality' text is not good enough you won't be happy with FSE Plus's output. If you have access to a photocopier which will do reductions, you will increase the print quality by preparing A5 pages as A4 and reducing them.

Verdict

In the many months that FSE Plus has been rumoured, there have been several attempts at producing other DTPs. They have succeeded to varying degrees, but Mirrorsoft's product has certainly drawn the most from a PCW in this area to date.

The various areas of the program are well integrated, with text and graphics coming together well at the layout stage. H&H software, who programmed the whole thing, are also to be congratulated on providing so many facilities on a relatively slow micro, without the whole system grinding to a halt. If you have the cash to invest in a Kempston mouse, you'll probably feel the benefit in ease of use, especially when manipulating graphics. FSE Plus is not perfect.

Even forgiving the 'bugettes', there are a number of peculiarities with the program.

The main one must be the way in which the text editor eats into memory every time you define a block.

None of these is more than an inconvenience, though, and if desktop publishing is what you and your PCW have been waiting for, you won't currently find another program to give you more for your money.

Thereby hangs a tail...

Fleet Street Editor Plus is designed to be completely usable with nothing other than the PCW's keyboard. That's not to say that you can't use it with other input devices, though. The most obvious of these is a mouse, and the program is written to work with the Kempston breed of these high-tech rodents.

The mouse can be used for selecting options from the program's menus, for controlling the graphics blocks and for placing and deleting limits. The new high-resolution mouse works well, and only requires a small clear area of the desk. However, there are a few problems with the integration of the two programs. Click on either mouse button in the text editor and you're liable to leave small graphics blocks on the screen. The layout editor also develops ideas of its own and will only let you place limits in set places on a page dummy. Rather disconcerting.

Once the teething troubles are ironed out, you may be interested in a combined mouse and FSE Plus deal which Kempston are putting together for £119.95.

If you want to extend the graphics library, you might like to connect a Rombo video digitiser, which can capture images from a video camera or tape. See the review on page 59 for more details. FSE Plus owners can get a £20 discount on this unit via a form in the back of the Fleet Street manual.

MINUSES

  • Odd use of memory in text editor
  • One or two minor bugs at the moment

PLUSES

  • Versatile integrated package
  • Excellent manual
  • Good selection of pre-defined graphics
  • Makes full use of the features of the PCW

8000 Plus

★ PUBLISHERS: Mirrorsoft , Profisoft GmbH (GERMANY)
★ YEAR: 1987
★ CONFIG: PCW
★ LANGUAGE:
★ LiCENCE: COMMERCIALE
★ AUTHOR(S): ???
★ PRICE: £49.95 / £69.95

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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.