Newsdesk InternationalApplications Pao/presse
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When PCW's started life they were very serious, Graphics were for effete games-playing machines with pretty coloured screens. Real computers only dealt with letters and numbers. Electric Studio with their light pens, mouse driven art packages and video digitisers, have probably done more than most to bring graphics to the green screen.

So it is only natural that they should be amongst the first to hit the market with a desktop publishing package. Newsdesk International has obviously evolved directly from their successful art packages and makes full use of the advances that have been made in producing illustrations on the PCW,  The idea is that you can produce a page just like a page of your favourite tabloid. You can create a masthead and illustrations in the art package, write headlines in 18 or 36 point in different type faces and arrange your text in a variety of type faces around pictures taken from digitised pictures or culled from Electric Studio's Snip Art package.

Having said this, it is obvious that the emphasis is still on the art side. It includes the company's complete art program, which seems to accentuate this fact. It soon becomes obvious that it is easier to make the page look good than to carry out the basic tasks of getting the words onto it.

Those used to the Electric Studio system of menus will soon be zipping back and forward through the various options, though it can be daunting to the uninitiated, especially as the path through the menus sometimes seems to lack logic.

It is also true that the complexity of the system is such that a quarter of the screen seems to be covered by menus - a problem at times. For instance when you toad the Index file from Snip Art to see the choice of possible illustrations, you find that a couple are always covered by the menu.

The program has aimed to give great flexibility in the layout of text, but the price to be paid for this is that beginners {and even a few experts) may be confused by the very blankness of the empty page.

All together now

The main danger in sitting down in front of a desktop publishing program is the desire to use everything at once. By the time you've mixed seven different type faces (with your headline in 36 point Old face, of course), reversed out boxes and used fifteen pieces of Snip Art, the final result can be less than a work of art. Producing a really professional-looking piece of work is probably more to do with restraining the natural desire to use everything on a single page.

You have the choice of three type faces in 12 point for your body copy (the main blocks of text). While not perhaps the sort of font a professional magazine would use, they all quite readable and can, within reason, be mixed on the same page.

There are five fonts in 18 point for smaller headlines and seven fonts in 36 point for your main headlines. There is a reasonable mixture of practical and artistic fonts with most of the ‘exciting' type faces sensibly restricted to 36 point.

You also have the choice of using these faces in single or double width to make best use of the space available and it is a simple, if time-consuming, job to delete your first attempt and change the font.

You enter headlines using the 'Keyboard Input' option which allows you to place your text anywhere on the page. The program helps you by forcing you to choose a position that is suitable to the size of type face you are using, so that you can't overwrite the line above. It does work against you, however, when you cry to mix type faces or want to place something precisely in a box.

One disappointing feature is that there seems no simple way of discovering which font and size is currently selected. Given that you will often need to change fonts, you may prefer to go through che relatively long process of checking through the 'Font Change' menu each time rather than risk trying to write your body copy in 36 point Old face.

“I take my text..."

There is a text handling Mini Editor with which you can edit ASCII files or even create your documents. This works well enough although most people will probably want to write their documents in the homely environment of their word-processors and only make their last minute changes in the editor. You position the text on the page via the 'Windows' menu, This is where you discover that owning a Light Pen or Mouse is a good investment. It is not a quick exercise at the best of times but using the keys can be painfully slow. You can vary the size of a column to your heart's content, giving real flexibility to page make-up. Once you have filled a column, you move the cursor to another part of the page or duplicate the column you've just completed. The theory is that you can keep all your column sizes the same width across the page. You can keep track of your position on the screen by a read out showing the cursor position as a percentage of the x and y axes. It takes a bit of practice to feel totally at ease with this feature. As you are putting the page together 'a bit at a time', it's difficult to plan ahead. While you are able to produce regularly sized columns for most of your page, it is a major achievement to do this right across its width. Luckily you can make your final column any size to use up the space. Start where you stop When you have filled one window of text the program automatically takes a note of where you stopped in the text and will start there (or anywhere efse that you specify) when you come to fill the next window.

Unfortunately there is no way to accurately calculate the length of an article on the page or how much of it you have used, so it would require a very complex trial and error process to, say, produce an article split evenly over four columns.

The A4 page is obviously coo large to show on screen, but you can choose which part of the page you want to see any time by a rather lengthy process called setting the screen. You can also see a reduced version of the complete page to check the overall design and see what space you still have to fill. You position your text in a box on this small page and are then asked whether to clear the text already in that area (particularly handy if, heaven forbid, you should make a mistake and want to start again.)

It is not easy to position these boxes accurately, especially as it seems impossible to start text right at the cop of the window.

You can have an open or closed box drawn round your text or draw lines on yourself using the art package. In fact the range of features you can use to brighten up your text is endless. For example a simple filled rectangle written over with reverse ink text makes an effective reverse block heading.

A picture or a thousand words

Where Newsdesk wins is in the way that you can use pictures. The simplest way to do this is to invest in an Electric Studio Snip Art disc with its wide variety of cartoon images to suit any situation. These can be customised using the art package or you can even create your own illustrations from scratch. The classiest way, of course, is to invest in a digitiser and snatch whatever image you want from video tape.

You can then take these pictures and squeeze them into the space available, even distorting them to fit should the need arise. When you are content you can then opt to save the page to disc or print it out.

One problem with desk-top publishing programs is the quality of the print. Hard copy is invariably produced using a built in screen dump facility. This is both time consuming and often produces a less than stunning result.

Taking this into account Newsdesk International produces surprisingly good results which can be improved further by taking a photo-copy. However it would perhaps be advisable to postpone launching your competitor to 8000 Plus until you can afford a laser printer.


Those who already use Electric Light Studio products may well find this a natural upgrade. If you are the sort of person who wants to have complete control over page lay-out and produce a real work of art, this is a serious proposition* Jt*s not recommended for people in a hurry, though.


★ YEAR: 1987
★ AUTHOR(S): ???
★ PRICE: £49.95


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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.