The Grafpad is a 235cm x 360cm board with attached pen and an interface that plugs into the expansion port, on your Amstrad computer. For CPC 464 owners this means tape-only operation and picture save and load, which can be very time consuming.
A 14-page manual sets out the various functions available under headings showing the icons which appear on the pad around the edges of the drawing area. These are laid out in such a way that the left-handed operator would find them almost impossible to use.
Instructions could have been more detailed in some sections and more stress should be laid on the precise method of holding the pen, since it is possible to hold it near the base in such a way that the device is well-nigh unusable.
Grafpad 2 operates in Mode 1 only. Colour selection is via four boxes at the top of the pad, and changing the four colours to any from a choice of 27 is simple. The drawing area makes use of most of the screen, with a two-line message pad at the foot. A GCOL feature is similar to the logical plotting in Rembrandt.
The regular cursor is a solid, non-flashing cross hair. I would have liked a hole in the middle to facilitate single pixel plotting. A full cursor will give you horizontal and vertical lines right across the screen, crossing at the current drawing point - useful for lining things up correctly. All modes are selected by pointing the pen at the appropriate icon and pressing the E button on the left side of the pad. Each operation is terminated by pointing at the Off box and pressing E.
You will need a fairly steady hand to draw freehand but the Solid Line mode is easy to use and each offers a choice of several line thicknesses. Circle displays the radius rather than the finished circle before final positioning, and Ellipse shows a diamond shape which is difficult to relate accurately to the actual ellipse. But Square, Rectangle and Triangle are straightforward, the latter being particularly pleasant to use. Solid versions of triangles, circles, squares and rectangles can be drawn. Polygons are available and can be moved around before positioning.
Spray mode has eight different patterns but you'll need a bit of practice to achieve the desired results, and it behaves a little oddly near the left-hand edge of the screen.
The Eraser function presents probably one of the most advanced features in this package. The size of eraser varies from one pixel upwards and it rubs out only one colour at a time. This is really useful if you want to use construction lines in a different colour - it is so easy to remove them when the drawing is completed.
In contrast, the Fill is diabolical! In addition to solid colour fills there are two banks of assorted patterns which can be rotated through 90, 180 and 270 degrees -such a waste, when filling is difficult, operating in an upwards direction only from the cursor position (V shapes require very accurate initial placing). Complex shapes need many fills, and if you get it wrong - disaster! Admittedly you can stop the fill by hitting Escape - but this does not remove what has already been drawn, making you doubly grateful for the efficient rub out mode!
Text can be positioned anywhere on-screen, and the angle can be changed with up and down arrow keys. Standard, large, bold, backward and forward italics give a wide choice of sizes and styles. A coloured tail is a further option, but for anything other than standard upright it can be hard to estimate just where it will appear, since you don't see the other styles before printing.
There is a facility to draw horizontal and vertical lines of a given thickness, a x2, x4, x8, x16 and x32 grid, an option to create a graphics window and two menus of in-program icons which can be placed anywhere necessary. The accompanying Icon Generator program enables the user to design other icons for his own purposes.
Pictures can be dumped to Epson MX, FX or compatible printers by selecting the P icon - so long as the interface doesn't get in the way when trying to connect the printer cable! No information is given on whether or not screen designs may be incorporated in your own programs. There is no Magnify facility.
If your eyesight is good, your hand steady and you're not given to tearing out your hair when a careless fill loses you your last three hours work, or if you're a CPC 464 owner happy to use cassette-based soft ware or if you're a CPC 6128 user who doesn't mind having to load the program twice and and you're not left-handed, then Grafpad 2 does have a lot of very interesting features -some exclusive to this utility. Change that Fill, include an option to Unfill, and for all but the south-paws it just might be worth spending all that money.
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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.