|★ APPLICATIONS ★ DIVERS ★ DR Draw and DR Graph|Amstrad Action) ★|
|Dr. Draw and Dr. Graph||Applications Divers|
Computer giants Digital Research - the people who brought you CP/M -have converted some of their programs for Arnold at a very competitive price. Steve Cooke goes drawing and graphing.
Digital Research have been waxing lyrical about their 'Amstrad Professionals' range recently, and even went to the unusual length of taking a stand at the Amstrad Show in January to display off their wares. DR normally stick to servicing the business market, so then-move into Amstrad-land could mean the arrival of some impressive up-market software at reasonable prices
DRDraw and DR Graph both f;ill into the increasingly popular 49.95 price-bracket for Amstrad CP/M programs. Both packages are aimed squarely at the business user but even if you're not the commercial type you may have been wondering what sort of drawing package you get lor fifty smackers, so read on...
First the bad news. Since they require the GSX graphics extension to operate, you're won't get them up and running on anything other than a 6128 or PCW 825S In practise, however this is unlikely to limit their appeal since most businessmen probably wouldn't have a 464 or 664 anyway.
Assuming, however, you've got the necessary hardware, what do you get? We'll poke our noses into DR Draw first , since this is the package that's most likely to have the broadest appeal.
Most home micros have by now acquired some pretty stunning graphics programs. Even the humble Spectrum has titles like The Artist which can give you everything from patterned fills to spray-paint options. Drawing programs, however are a rather different breed - rather than treat the screen as a canvas on which you can splash colour and light, they treat it as a designer's layout sheet, divided into a grid on which various different drawing elements can be placed.
To make the difference clear, imagine you had to use a 'paint' program (like Kuma's Artwork, for example) to produce the illustration in Fig 1 You would have no option but to use the CIRCLE, LINE, and PLOT functions to build up the entire image bit by bit. The final image is a single clement, with each section individually drawn.
Using a draw-type program, however you build up your image using different elements The bicycle, for example has three identical elements consisting of segmented circles which form the two wheels and the chain sprocket. Draw programs enable you to create elements like these and then replicate them, using different horizontal and vertical scaling if desired, anywhere on the 'grid'. 'I'he final image is a collection of individual elements, each of which can be edited, saved to disc, shrunk enlarged, and otherwise manipulated quite separately from the rest of the display.
This approach obviously has enormous benefits for certain types of illustration but for it to be successful, the DRAW program has to offer not only a wide range of features but also a very friendly user-interface As a general rule, the user of such a program is not so concerned with the creative aspect of screen design, but with saving time and at the same time maintaining a high-degree of technical accuracy with regard to scale, perspective, and image alignment
Unfortunately, although DR Draw is very easy and quick to use, it has some annoying drawbacks. The first is in setting it all up Installation involves copying about 20 files from the master disc onto two separate discs and is very poorly explained. CP/M aficionados will not experience any problems here, but for the naive user such problems as the creation of an appropriate ASSIGN.SYS file will almost certainly invoke a lot of headscratching.
For example, DR Draw is set up so that it will edit in one screen mode and output in another. You can therefore create your masterpiece using Mode 1 and then display it on a Mode 2 screen but if you want (as I did) to develop images on the Mode 2- screen, you have to alter the ASSIGN file and there is very little clear information in the documentation on how to do this
The next drawback concerns printed output. The program uses the GSX graphics extension to drive the screen display, printer , and plotter (if you have one). However you can only use GSX if a 'driver' is provided for your particular output device.
Drivers are provided for screen modes 0 , 1, and 2. but when it comes to printers you are limited to the Amstrad DMP1 , Epson compatibles. Shinwa mechanisms, and Hewlett-Packard plotters. Although this does cover the most popular configurations, you may still find yourself with an incompatible printer if you're unlucky. Certainly my feeling is that for £49.95 there should be a wider selection.
Design elements in DR Draw fall into seven main categories: arcs, bars (rectangles), circles, lines, polygons, text, and markers. The last category simply provides a small selection of symbols that can be used for picking out or emphasising pans of a drawing All the other categories can be drawn, scaled moved, copied, deleted, and saved as desired during image composition. All operations are effected upon the current element, which is the last element created unless otherwise specified.
Unfortunately, although you can specify which element should be the current element, what you can't do is combine elements to form more complex ones. For example, it would be nice if you could, using the CIRCLE and LINE functions , create our bicycle wheel asm Fig. 1 and then define the wheel as an element in its own right. This would save a lot of time but does not appear to be implemented in DR Draw.
There are seven different type-fonts available, though to be honest none of them is particularly attractive There are a wide variety of fill patterns, and in Mode 1 there are also, of course, four colours to play around with which can make a big difference in producing the final image though you won't be able to reflect thai difference on hard copy unless you've got a colour printer.
The program is , however, very easy to use once set up and despite a rather large number of sub-menus the user can create accurate displays quite quickly Two different grid sizes are avail able in each mode, allowing you varying degrees of precision in placing your elements on-screen. The cross-hair cursor moves quickly and smoothly and is used to select menu-options as well as plot points. A 'SNAP' function will drag the cursor instantly to the nearest grid co-ordinate when plotting points if desired. Turning off 'SNAP' allows you to position points to pixel-accuracy either between or on :he grid-points; but using the grid is a quick and easy way of aligning elements without having to laboriously calculate pixel positions.
Unfortunately a number of element manipulation functions tend to erase the grid markings which are nor re-instated unless the 'REDRAW' option is selected. If you're using the more detailed grid then REDRAW takes an annoying amount of time to replot all the points before allowing you to continue.
DR Draw is difficult to get up and running, but easy to use thereafter and is particularly well suited to the creation of flow-diagrams. certain types of technical drawings and other illustrations that lend themselves to the 'bit-by-bit' approach. It's fun to use, but for most people a cheaper paint-type program may well be more attractive.
DR Graph, as its name suggests, is a utility program for transforming numeric data into diagrammatic information. Using the program you can create line graphs, bar graphs, pie graphs, step graphs and so on to display data entered either manually or imported from Visicalc or Supercalc data files
Like DR Draw, this program requires the CSX graphics extension and so is not a candidate for 464 systems. Unlike DR Draw, however its use is rather more specialised and at £49.95 is unlikely to have the general user rushing down to the shops with eager anticipation
If , however you have a copy of Visicalcor Supercalc that you are already using proficiently and you regularly need to create complex graphs then it may be worth a look. Bear in mind however that you will still have to ensure that your printer is compatible with the GSX drivers provided.
AMSTARD ACTION #6