If the title X-Basic causes a stirring at the back of your mind it's because it has been on the streets before - in fact, almost two years ago. At that time it was sold by Crescent Software and retailed for £9.99 on cassette. Siren has repackaged it, rewritten the manual and repriced it. But, does it stand the test of time?
X-Basic is another of Siren's budget utilities. As with his other budget titles, Simon Cobb of Siren has released the program on disk only. A pity as these programs would be appreciated also by those with cassette systems. And it would no doubt be received more favourably at the lower price of cassettes.
When I receive a program of this sort, it is always pleasant to find a demo on the disk. The demo supplied with X-Basic is fairly neat when you consider X-Basic consists of only 2k of relocatable code. As with most utility programs, extra commands are introduced to the system in the form of RSXs or bar commands. A total of 58 new commands are added. You can certainly spice up your system with that lot. I mentioned that the program was relocatable: if you have other things present in memory you can avoid a clash and locate X-Basic anywhere.
Listing all X-Basids commands is pointless and makes stodgy reading. As acompromise here is a selection of the more useful commands and what they can do:
- |LINE.W.LEFT scrolls any part of any line left. (There is an equivalent command to go right.) You can have wrap-around or not.
- |WINDOW.UP scrolls a defined window up a certain number of lines. The scrolled lines are filled with a selected ink.
- |SCROLL.DOWN scrolls the whole screen down by a chosen amount.
- |WAIT.KEY waits until a certain key is pressed before continuing,
- |READ.CHAR returns the Ascii code of a character on the screen at the current cursor position.
- |GR.MODE selects the graphic mode - choice of XOR, AND, OR or forced (new ink replaces old ink).
- |SLOW allows you to slow down the operation of any program. Helpful when debugging.
- |EXPAND.FUNC enables you to expand the function key buffer from its default setting.
- |BIG produces double-height characters,
- |INVERT turns a character on its head.
- |INSERT allows you to mix machine-code with your Basic listings.
As you can see from this selection, X-Basic offers a fairly comprehensive set of commands. There are others that you may use very occasionally, but it's good to know they are at hand. It's only when you get down to programming that you discover how useful X-Basic is. It can shorten your listings quite considerably and will add that extra sparkle. Two years have passed since X-Basic first reared its head and in that time many utilities have appeared. However. I am sure there is still a home for a competent package.