|★ APPLICATIONS ★ BUREAUTIQUE ★ BRUNWORD|Amstrad Computer User) ★|
Three in one
Flexibility and power are important in a word processor. Bill Tomlins puts the latest version of Brunword to the test
I HAVE tried most word processors available for the CPC - from the original Mini Office to the CP/M oldies like Wordstar - but I had never tried Brunword, so I was pleased to be given the 6128 version to test.
For your money you get an A5 sized manual and a single disc containing the programs, which consist not only of a word processor, but include a spelling checker and a datafile program.
Available at extra cost is a program called Disc Extension which links in, and lets you do such things as format and copy discs from within Brunword. It also provides the facility to archive and retrieve files to and from tape.
The 40-page manual appears to have been produced with a good quality dot matrix printer. The first 22 pages are devoted to the word processor and spelling checker, the remainder mostly to datafile and mail merging.
Unfortunately there is no index, nor appendices summarising the commands, which on occasions makes it hard work to find which command you require. However, the manual's content is good, and does describe all the commands. It includes worked examples, but I am not too sure about the order of things, particularly without the benefit of an index.
The word processor provides the expected facilities to enter and edit text, insert printer control codes, justify text and move, copy and delete blocks of text around a document. It also boasts one or two other unusual features which you may or may not consider to be useful. On the other side of the coin, one or two fairly basic features are missing.
How well does Brunword work? I have to admit that even after using it for a period, I still don't find it a particularly easy program to use. I think the main reason is that the commands used to carry out editing functions are called in one of three different ways.
Some involve the use of function keys, a method that I don't like as I always find it difficult to remember which key does what. Other commands are called by pressing the Control key and another key simultaneously, while yet a third command involves pressing the Escape key and then following it with another key - or, alternatively, pressing the Escape key again to obtain the main menu.
The problem is that while in most cases the keypress have been logically chosen to the extent that, for example, Control-L is used to set left margin and Control-R the right margin for a complete document, temporary margins for a paragraph are set with f1 and f2.
One surprising omission is that of the "delete line" command. You can delete single characters with CLR and DEL. and words to the right of the cursor with Control-D, but the only way to delete a complete line is by marking it as a block and deleting that. There's a facility to undelete single words, but not blocks of text.
Movement round the text may be carried out with the cursor keys. Shift plus left or right cursor will move to the beginning or end of a line; Control and left/right cursor will move to the beginning or end of the text; the screen may be scrolled with Shift and up or down cursor key, and about two-thirds of a screen can be "jumped" with Control and the up/down cursor key. Beyond this you are on your own.
There are no facilities to move to the start or end of a paragraph or a page, nor to Go to to a specific line or column.
One extremely irritating feature of cursor movement is that when you move the cursor up or down your text, as soon as you come to a blank or part-filled line the cursor jumps as far to the left as it can. This means that you are constantly having to move the cursor across from the left margin if you move back up the text to correct something and happen to cross a paragraph break in the process.
The maximum size of document that can be handled at one time is between eight and ten A4 pages of text, but facilities are provided to link files at print time.
Insert and Overwrite mode are both provided, and when you insert text into the middle of a document, as each word gets pushed off the end of a line it moves down to the start of the following line. While this keeps things tidy, it can be a little distracting to see the text beneath where you are working shuffling around all the time.
The Tab key may be used to move the cursor across to user-definable tab locations, but Brunword seems to do this by inserting ordinary spaces into the text, so if you change your mind about a layout of columns of figures you are lumbered with deleting a lot of spaces.
Care must also be taken with using the justification commands, as they can easily destroy special layouts you have created. There is a rather laborious way around this, as Brunword provides a "hard" space - produced by pressing f4 - that cannot be altered by justification.
Text may be right-justified if required, but this is not the automatic process it is with most programs. The procedure is to type in your text, which will appear with a ragged right margin, then either use Control-W to right-justify the whole thing, or Control-B to justify a paragraph. When you justify the lot it is displayed on the screen a section at a time, a process which takes a few seconds.
You can un-justify text, either by paragraph or wholly. In addition, you can work with inset left and right margins. This is done on a temporary basis, paragraph by paragraph, which means you have to reset them every time you start a new paragraph. You can also centre complete paragraphs marked with temporary margins by a single keystroke - useful feature.
Blocks of text may be marked, using f6 at start and end of a block, and once the section has been highlighted you may delete it, copy it or move it to another part of the text.
You may also make use of one of Brunword's special features, saving blocks, or for that matter the whole document, into any remaining space in memory. You have to name it, and Brunword creates its own internal directory of RAM files. This assumes, of course, that there is sufficient room. If not, you are warned of the fact.
These RAM files may be recalled and merged into the text at any time, or re-loaded in place of an existing document. When you come to save a document to disc you are asked whether you just wish to save the current text or the other files in memory as well. This facility is unusual and does have uses on occasions,.but with the speed of disc drives, I wonder whether it isn't safer to just save them on to disc. (One unusual feature of Brunword is its ability to save files in encrypted form if a security code is specified first.)
Find and Replace facilities are provided and these allow you to search for a single word, or a group of words, and replace it or them with an alternative. Only the replacement text is case sensitive - so it will always replace with the case you specify - but it will find all occurrences, whatever their case.
Printing it out
Minting facilities are quite good, and you may nsert control codes into the text to turn different
printing effects on and off. They are set by default to Epson-compatible codes, but may be changed to suit your printer. These are not permanent changes, though they are saved with the text, so the solution is to save a blank file which will contain only the printer codes, and load it before starting a new document. Not ideal, but it works.
When printing you may specify the page length and the left and right margins, and also set headers and footers. You can specify whether the page number is to be printed in a header and whether it is to be to left, right or centre, but you may not change them during the course of a document, although a different one may be specified for odd and even pages. You may also specify the starting page number and, optionally, the pages you want to start and finish printing.
You may specify a set of printer codes to be sent to the printer before printing commences. This may be used to send "reset" codes, or codes to turn on NLQ, or whatever you want.
You may also link together of separate files so that they print as one long file with page numbers running through. This is done by creating a special link file containing only the names of the files to be printed, preceded by a line containing three ampersands. Headers and footers may only be changed when a new file is printed.
The Spelling Checker
Brunword is supplied with a dictionary of about 30,000 words and there is room for a further 5,000, give or take a few.
The reason for the limit is that it is loaded into memory before checking starts. The result of this is that the checker is fast - very fast as long as it doesn't come across any words it doesn't know. When it does, it pauses and you can choose between saving the word to the dictionary, continuing without change, or editing the word.
If you choose to edit you are returned to the normal part of the program and can correct the word. You then have to re-start the check by pressing the Escape key, then X and X again. If you make a lot of spelling mistakes this slows things down a lot.
Alternatively you may ask for Help, in which case Brunspell will search for any words it thinks are suitable and list them on-screen. When you see the one you want you may press Escape and select the word from the list with repeated cursor presses, finally inserting it into the document by pressing T. You can then continue.
There appears to be no way to view the contents of the dictionary, but you can remove a word by typing it in the text area, followed by pressing fO. If you then use the spelling checker, it will remove the word. It doesn't just remove one word, but the whole family. For example, Help, Helped, and Helping are the same family, and deleting one will also remove the others.
Single words may be checked during the course of text entry by pressing the f3 key. If you haven't yet loaded the dictionary, you will be prompted to load it the first time you press f3.
If you have added any new words to the dictionary you have to remember to re-save it to the disc before switching off, something which is easily done.
The Datafile program provides a simple card-index type of database into which you can enter names and addresses and other details.
As long as you enter data in the recommended format, the program can make use of it in a semi-intelligent fashion, depending on whether it is a company name or a person's name. You can sort the data into order and you may find or select according to criteria you specify and then save the selected items to a "quick" file, which may then be used for merging and printing.
Facilities are provided to print from within Datafile in a variety of different formats, or you may elect to carry out a mail merge using Brunword. This is done by resetting the computer, reloading Brunword and then merging a further program called Datalink into it. You then create your document in the normal way, but insert special codes into the text to mark which data field you want entering at that point.
Layouts are therefore quite flexible and you can, for example, arrange to print address labels with more than one label across the page, a feature lacking from some database programs.
When merging of data is taking place the text is automatically rejustified as printing progresses to make sure that any gaps or overflows of lines are corrected.
Brunword is undoubtedly good value for money, but only you can decide whether, in view of its intended use, its shortcomings are outweighed by the benefits.
My opinion is that it comes midway in the range of word processors. It provides a lot of features, some unusual, but it also seems to miss out on a number of features which I feel are basic - such as the ability to delete lines.
If you use complex layouts or need a word processor that has flexible editing facilities, I wouldn't recommend it. But for occasional use and straightforward letters - assuming you can remember the commands - it is certainly a lot better than many.