|★ APPLICATIONS ★ DIVERS ★ Printmaster +|The Amstrad User) ★|
|Printmaster Plus||Applications Divers|
A sign of the times
We take a critical look at Dataflow's PrintMaster Plus for the CP/M+ machines
You run a small business, a shop maybe, and you want to advertise a new home made cake you wish to sell. So what do you do? You get out your pencils and coloured texters and spend an hour or so creating a nice sign to go on your shop window. Or you use Print-Master Plus. The same applies to Banners, Letterheads, Calendars (monthly or weekly) or Greeting Cards (or what ever type of card for that matter).
Print Master Plus from Dataflow allows you to do all of the above and have the results printed out on a dot matrix printer. PrintMaslcr Plus is not to be confused with HrintMaster, which performs an entirely different task.
Insert a CP/M disc, boot it up, insert the PrintMaster Plus (side A of course) and at the A> prompt type, "PM" press the RETURN key and you are away. PCW owners have to run a setkeys file first to configure the keyboard.
You are now presented with a menu, with a border made up of "+" signs, "-" signs and signs. (Why the programmers haven't used the graphic characters incorporate into the CP/M+ character set 1 cannot understand). The menu displays 7 options;
Each one of these Items can be selected by moving the ">" and "<" signs withthe arrow keys and then pressing the RETURN" key to select an option. The CLR key is used to go back to the previous menu (only applicable after leaving the main menu) or if you are usinga PCW you would use the CAN key.
Creating A Greeting Card
Creating a greeting card would be the most involved of all of the features Print Master Plus provides. After selecting this option you are presented with another menu with the following options;
Whichever option you select from the main menu, either it be a greeting card or a banner you arc always presented with the above options. As we are starting from scratch, we will select; Design Your Own. In doing so a menu with the following options is presented;
When making a card, either a Christmas, Birthday or whatever, the chances are that you will have a picture or two on the front cover, some text of course, one or two pictures inside the card and not forgetting the text. This is PrintMaster Plus's limit. It would be nice to make a choice of how many pictures you can use at once but it isn't there. When creating a card I would prefer it if I could use more than one font on the inside, one for iny cute little poein Oil ways steals the girls hearts) and the other where I write my message to my loved ones. Again PrintMaster Plus only allows me one lonl for the cover or inside.
The one thing i found very annoying with PrintMaster Plus was the need for changing discs all the time. This problem could be over come by using two disc drives (PrintMaster Plus would be happy but my budget wouldn't). Or if you cooked at lot of eggs, (fried of course) you would be very used to the procedure of ejecting a disc, flipping it over, then putting it back in the drive.
After creating your Card, you are asked if you want to save it or print it.
In about half an hour you should have your printer spitting out paper and you notice your masterpiece isn't quite what you expected. It is a pity that you cannot view your card before printing, but for someone who uses an "=" sign for a border, I can understand why the view option isn't there.
Creating A Sign
After selecting Sign from the main menu, you again are asked for the choice of printing, creating or loading signs. Like before we will select the Design Your Own function. You are now presented with the options;
Selecting Border, takes you to a menu where you pick the menu you desire for the sign. Page 10 of the instruction manual shows all the borders you can select. There are eleven in all and cover a variety of topics.
Selecting Text will present you with a menu where you select the font you wish to use. As with creating a greeting card, disc swapping is very great at this stage, so do not make the mistake of choosing the wrong font, otherwise youwill spend more lime swapping discs than anything else. There are 10 fonts provided with the package, and I do not know of any package that will let you design new fonts, (neither do the designers pity)
A fter selecting the text you prefer, you might want to select the graphics or pictures to go on the sign. (You may select the text, graphic or the border in any order). Again more disc swapping. (Think your self lucky PrintMaster Plus fits on one disc).
At this point you are again presented with another menu where you select what size your graphic is, what type of graphic you want and where to put it. Again more disc swapping, you wrist should be about to drop off by now. Selecting Graphic 1 or Graphic 2 will take you to the same menu. PrintMaster Plus Gives you the option for "1 graphic, 2 graphics or no graphics at all.
After creating your sign you would select the Finished option, as before you are taken to the standard menu as you were when you finished your calendar.
Creating a calendar
Monthly or Weekly Calendars are very handy for the businessman or anybody for that matter who would like to make their own diary. PrintMaster Plus allows you to create simple Calendars with minimum keystrokes (but not minimum disc swapping).
After selecting a calendar you are presented with the following options;
Unlike previous menus, this time the Calendar Type must be selected first. No other option will work without stating what type of calendar you wish to use.
Selecting text defines what is al the top of the calendar cither il be a monthly or weekly calendar.
A nice feature about the calendar is that you have the option to Enhance a Date, this means to put text into a certain box, like your birthday, appointment with the brain specialist or anything else. When the calendar is printed out, thetext inside a date will only come out in the Editor font.
Graphics can also be selected for your calendar but can only be positioned in two places, either side of the text at the top.
When you have finished and are happy with what the calendar may look like, select the Finished option.
As stated earlier, PrintMaster Plus has the ability to make stationery, or letterheads if you prefer. After selecting stationery, you are presented with the following options;
Selecting Text 1 op or Text Bottom will present you with the same menu where you select the font you wish to use (top and bottom can be different).
When selecting graphics for the top or bottom again the same menu applies, and again the top or bottom graphics can or cannot be the same.
When you are happy with the design of your stationery select the finished option.
Crealing a Banner
For the Video shop owner or a promoter, a banner is one of the best ways for your message to be seen. After selecting a banner you are presented with the following options;
You would think with the minimum of options it wouldn't take long before you have your printer spitting out paper. Wrong!! If you use every option above you will have to change the disc over 9 times before the printer starts printing. 1 believe that to be a pretty poor effort. Selecting the text and the graphics is pretty self explanatory. It is the same concept used in all the functions.
After you have designed your banner select the Finished option. From far away the banner could look very nice however the drawback is the amount ofcharacters you may use at the one time. For a long message, you have to create several banners and join then together.
Configuring PrintMaster Plus
For owners of a second disc drive or a non DMP2000 printer, this option is for you. After selecting this option the following options are shown;
All of the above speak for I hem selves, a simple answer to a question is normally all that is expected, except for printer setup.
After selecting Printer Setup the following options are presented;
Another nice feature of PrintMaster Plus (there aren't many) is the ability to work with many different printers. You may select from a wide variety and I would be surprised there is a dot matrix printer not supported. (Even colour printers are supported, but does Print-Masler Plus print in colour ?)
After selecting the type of printer and if it needs just a carriage return plus a line feed or just a carriage return, you may pri nt a simple test. The test pattern is a Christmas tree. When fired up, Print-Master Plus's default printer is the DMP-2000. This is compatible with the dot matrix printer supplied with the PCW range of computers.
After learning what keys do what, (typed on a yellow sheet of paper found in the packaging) there is no need for the manual. When the manual was designed it had the PC version of PrintMaster Plus in mind. All screen shots throughout the manual are from the PC. This is a no no in my books. When a package is designed (or converted, in this case) for a particular computer, the manual should be. designed for that version only. Who Wants to know that the PC version is a ton better the the Amstrad version and has more functions? At times the manual can be very misleading, throughout it will tell you to press the Backspace key to correct your mistakes. This may be the case on other versions, but not the Amstrad version. When the need arises to correct a spelling mistake, you must erase the line(s) of text or start from scratch.
On the Amiga, Apple, Atari ST, Commodore, PC and IBM JX version of Print-Master Plus is a built in graphics editor. This allows you to edit the pictures provided or create new pictures. This feature is not included with the Amstrad version. After speaking to the technical staff at Dataflow, their reason for not implementing the graphics editor on the Amstrad version was, "PrintMaster Plus on the Amstrad was designed (converted actually) using the language 'C. This was then compiled under CP/M, thus no graphics capabilities." Try telling that to the PCW game manufactures.
So the way to get round this problem is to use one of the graphics packages designed to create graphics for Print-Master Plus. Art Gallery I and Art Gallery II are the two packages designed for the job. (Were they written in CP/M as well?) Both of these packages retail around $51 each.
Buy It, Yes or No?
The Australian designers of PrintMaster Plus for the Amstrad have gone about it in the wrong way. CP/M Plus is a very slow operating system and programs that do as much as PrintMaster Plus does should not be written using it. If the program was developed using machine code (loaded in Basic) it would be possible to make a compatible version for all CPC users, not just 6128's. The operation of the program would evidently speed up and the graphics option could be included. Disc swapping could also be kept to a minimum.
With the present version Disc swapping could be kept to a minimum if you are the luck owner of twin disc drives. PCW owners may like to copy all the relevant files onto drive M: where there is no need to swap discs, unless you wish to save your masterpieces to a floppy. Apart from the drawbacks already stated, I was not very happy with using the package. I found it a headache just to print out a sign. I lost track of the amount of time I swapped the disc (I'm surprised the program didn't) and became lost in what I was doing. This might be normal however as I have been using PrintMaster Plus on a MicroBee and a IBM PC for a long time.
I must say that the printed results can look quite effective and are of an acceptable standard.
I have seen banners, signs and calendars of equal quality produced by Basic programs. Unless your programming skills arc limited, I cannot really recommend PrintMaster Plus.
PrintMaster Plus for the CPC6128 and the PCW retails for about $59.95. A PC version is also avaliable, for more information on this package contact Dataflow on (02) 331 xxxx.