|★ APPLICATIONS ★ BUREAUTIQUE ★ PROTYPE|Amstrad Computer User) ★|
|Arnor - Protype||Applications Bureautique|
Printing with that specialist touch from Arnor. Jim Johnson investigates the new Protype print enhancer.
It's been a fair old while since we saw anything for the CPC from Peterborough-based Arnor and, for a time there, it looked like the word processing field had lost a strong competitor for good.
However, before some of you could decide to switch off that valued piece of software, Protext, due to lack of continued support, Arnor has kicked back into the market with something which, even at a first glance, is much more than just a half-hearted effort to rekindle interest in the 8-bit market.
Several years in the making, Amor's new "print enhancer", Protype, bears all the signs of tender nurturing, a result of which being that, for all those specialists it has been designed for, it will prove to be an absolute godsend.
Created as a typesetting program for making the most out of either 9 or 24-pin printers, there is much more to this package than the seven resident fonts, which may catch your eye to start with.
Ranging from the medium italic cursive of the Lucca.636 font, to the bold upright sans serif of the SkyboLd.646, there is certainly enough variety of print to make any newsletter or manual look decorative.
However, and this is where the specialist angle comes in, each of these fonts are capable of utilising Protype's extensive library of non-standard characters, symbols and diacritics.
Now, to the layman, diacritics are the accents and symbols placed over letters to alter their pronunciation Just think back to your schooldays and remember the French Graves and the German Umlauts, and you'll know what we're on about
Indeed, using Protype, you can add any number of these diacritics to any character. When you consider that the program has been designed to cope with up to 40 European languages, you'll realise that there's a whole lot of variations to be had in terms of character printing. In all, you can access an extra 54 characters on screen, using defined keys for creating accents.
This may sound like gobbledygook, but when you consider that 1992 and a supposedly united Europe is looming up fast, I think it's about time we British got to grips with some foreign lingos.
Superscripts, subscripts, underlining, boxing, encircling of characters and mirror imaging of text all come as standards with Protype, allowing you to create even the most complicated of mathematical equations in any of the resident fonts, as well as enabling you to highlight specific areas of text.
As a versatile typesetting tool, other features include the justification of text, allowing for microjustification on all line spacings. Text can be proportionally tabulated, and line graphics can be used to create an excellent finish to any written product.
Setting column widths, up to a maximum of 20cm, Protype allows you to set out text with great variety, with appropriate spacings, foran extremely professional finished product.
In fact, about the only thing you can't do, is actually edit the text. Rightly so, for the program is designed for use with other word processing programs such as Protext itself.
For those of you who have yet to sample Protext, the Protype program can also be used straight from BASIC, and also from other commercial wordprocessing, database or spreadsheet programs without too much reconfiguration, as long as they produce non-graphics printer output.
However, one point to note is that, although Protype only takes up around 350 bytes of the memory available for text and programs in the main 64k, you must ensure that the program you use with it, does not need the second bank of memory in the 6128. As a result, Protype cannot be used with CP/M Plus programs.
For Protext users, many of the instructions within Protype will be part and parcel of your word processing routine, but, for the uninitiated. Pro-type may well be hard work getting used to.
A quick read through the manual will inform you that a thorough knowledge of Protext is essential before ploughing on with your text alterations, while those of you planning to make a start directly from BASIC, will need to have a fair idea about programming and hexadecimal notation.
Some of the toggling procedures for producing the featured effects of the utility, will need to be referred to quite often before they are mastered, which brings us back to the original point that, extremely clever program that it may be, Protype is for the specialist.
Indeed, with some foreknowledge of programming, or the Protext word processor, you can achieve outstanding results with even the lowliest of 9-pin printers. 240 DPI x 216 DPI resolution on a 9-pin printer is certainly not to be sniffed at, though some of the printouts will be slower than you may be used to with other programs.
<< Fig 3: A serious linguist's paradise. A selection of the diacritics available with Protype.
As an example, the manual gives a demonstration of the high quality NLQ, or Near Letter Quality, characters of the resident font Klassik.626.
True enough, test the routine and the characters produced are of a very high quality, though to achieve this, the printer makes no fewer than twelve passes to create the text. Admittedly, in draft mode, the print speeds are much faster, but that is only to be expected with poorer quality output.
All in all, Protype does do exactly what it sets out to do, enhance your printing power. Specialists and students in the language fields, be it modern or ancient, will find the enhanced character sets outstanding, while mathematicians, and scientists will find the library of specialised symbols a real boon, coupled with the capability of Protype to set subscript and superscript. Even the resident fonts are of an extremely impressive quality.
In terms of text alignment, justification and the creation of published products, Protype is also an extremely valuable program to have on your side but, despite all of these excellent features in its favour, it has to be said that it may be a little too much for the beginnertohandle:thestartingproce-dures are well outlined, but extended use, without prior knowledge of programming or word processing routines, may well become tricky, leading perhaps to disillusionment with the program.
The comparatively lengthy wait for NLQ character printing may also detract somewhat from a program that is nonetheless undoubtedly going to become a firm favourite amongst Ar-nor followers and a must for those CPC word processor users who require that bit more than just the normal a, b and c in their text.
Retailing at an inclusive price of £30, the price is pretty much within everybody's range and the Protype enhancer works with the 6128, 6128+ and the 464 machines with 64K expansion and disk drive, coupled to an Epson compatible printer.