Reviewed by Bill Latino
19519 BUSINESS CENTER DR.
NORTHRIDGE, CA 91324
$99.95 - Diskette/32K
The long wait is over. For a mere century note, owners of a 32K ATARI 800, 810 Disk Drive, 850 Interface Module, and 825 Printer (or Centronics 737 or Epson MX-80 Printer) can meld their hardware into a word processing system rivaling dedicated systems costing over $6000.00. Writers and small businessmen would do well to note that the aforementioned hardware can, by judicious shopping, be purchased for about $2200.00. That the above is also a personal computer system of considerable merit is frosting on the cake.
Most stand-alone word processors display the text under development on an easy to read, green phosphor monitor, at 80 to 132 characters per line. Text Wizard (and other currently available word processing software for the ATARI) displays text at 40 characters per line on a TV screen (fair readability) or monitor (excellent readability), hence, text format will appear quite different (from what appears on the screen) when it is actually printed on paper. Most of the time, this will present no great problem, but it does demand a little imagination when doing columnar work.
Although the three printers usable with Text Wizard are capable of clear, easily read print with true lower case descenders, print quality is not as good as would be obtained with most dedicated word processors. However, when one considers that dedicated word processors derive their typewriter quality print from optional equipment Daisy-wheel printers which cost more than the whole system described at the beginning of this review, "correspondence quality" print starts to look pretty good! I've yet to have an editor return my manuscripts, or an advertising manager my ad copy, because of unacceptable print quality.
And then there is service. Should a user have trouble with a Wang or Olivetti word processor, a phone call would most likely result in the appearance of a service engineer within the hour. Service for personal microcomputers is spelled one way: "carry-in". The result being loss of equipment usage for a few days (at best) to perhaps months. From a service standpoint, the only argument in favor of a personal microcomputer based word processor is that you could own 3 to 5 of them for the price of a typical dedicated word processor and the associated service contract. While not suggesting that 2 or 3 systems be kept on the shelf solely as backup systems, it is conceivable that "spare" systems could more than earn their keep in areas entirely unrelated to word processing. I cannot imagine many Engineering, Sales, or Accounting Departments, within a small company, which couldn't put a 32K ATARI computer (outfitted with disk drive and printer) to good use.
The above discussion is not meant to be critical of the Text Wizard program. Similar limitations are fact for most better micro based word processing systems regardless of hardware /software parentage. Hopefully, the foregoing will have helped the reader determine whether or not he should even consider implementing a word processing system on his ATARI. Contrary to some ad copy, such an implementation is not for everyone. My own feelings on the matter are that many professionals - writers, lawyers, doctors, and salesmen, and some small businesses, could find a cost effective solution to their text generation problems with such a marriage.
NOW THAT WE'VE CLEARED THE AIR...
To those readers still with me - Text Wizard gets my unconditional recommendation. No, it is not perfect, but of the half dozen or so commercially available word processors for the ATARI computers, it certainly comes away the winner in my book.
Text Wizard is simplicity exemplified. Unlike some competitive programs, DataSoft's offering does not have separate text, edit, and format modes. No selection from a menu is demanded of the operator, nor is the menu missed - all options are available to the operator without demanding inconvenient and time consuming stopovers at a menu. After program loading, text is entered directly from the keyboard or via a previously saved text file from diskette. Multiple files may be merged or chained so that composite documents may be created.
The 31 editing commands act directly on your text and provide for extensive manipulative capability independent of current text position - hence, if you look up at the screen and notice that 3 paragraphs back you misspelled a word or left out a sentence, a few keystrokes will have the error corrected and the cursor back at the last type position.
Some of the edit features follow - most are self explanatory:
There are 28 printing commands - all of which are imbedded in the text (in inverse video) and can be edited as simply as the text itself. Remarks are also entered into the text in inverse video and, like the print commands, will not be printed. The ease with which print formats may be specified and edited invites experimentation as to the form the finish will take. This word processor is especially nice when working up ad copy, catalogs, sale brochures and the like. Following are some of the printing features:
MARGINS - set left, set right, set top, set bottom, set length of form, set second left and right margins (allows printing across the paper in two columns)
SPACING - line and character (nominal spacing between characters)
PRINT FONTS - proportional (yes, it will right justify proportional type), condensed, elongated, subscripted, and superscripted
MISC. - center text, block text right, underline text, indent text, justify right, un-justify right, define header, define footer, set page number, page numbering, eject page, wait at page end, and chain files
Text files may be saved to, loaded from, or deleted from disk under program control. A disk directory, listing all text files and the amount of sectors remaining on the diskette, can be called from Text Wizard. However, all diskettes must first be formatted under ATARI DOS.
It might be argued that a non-menu program with about 70 commands might be difficult to master. Thankfully, DataSoft had the foresight to use mnemonic commands wherever practicable. We are given commands such as:
With such a logical methodology (and a concise, easily read manual), it's easy to become familiar with Text Wizard's commands and capabilities after only a few hours of use. It's a sure bet that once you do, the old Smith-Corona will be reserved for such mundane tasks as addressing letters.
No more retyping entire documents simply to correct a few mistakes, insert those few words or line you left out, or to try for different flavor in a sentence or paragraph.
Very little conscious effort is required of the operator in regards to text placement on the screen or, ultimately, on paper. Text is simply typed until one wants to terminate a line or start a new paragraph (accomplished with 1 or 2 'returns' respectively). As text is output to the screen, word-wrap-around is automatically initiated - that is, if a word cannot fit on a screen line without being continued onto the next line, it is moved in its entirety to the following line. Thus, words are never at line ends. Text wraparound also occurs when the text is printed. One can simply rely on the default parameters of the program and text will be printed with about one inch top, bottom, right, and left margins. Of course, alternate formats may easily be specified while entering text or 'ipso-facto' (if one wishes not to disrupt his train of thought while creating text).
A particularly nice feature of Text Wizard is that right margins may be specified as either un-justified (ragged- right) or justified (straight right margins). justified right margins make for especially neat and professional appearing text - much as is seen in most books, magazines, and typeset documents. The justified mode works with proportional print, condensed print, and elongated print. The same cannot be said for the competition.
It would obviously be very difficult to determine from the screen at what point a printed page will end. This could make page numbering a formidable task were it not for the pagination feature built into Text Wizard. At the users option, automatic page numbering directed to appear anywhere on the top or bottom line of a page.
Suppose you just finished writing a 30 page feasibility study and upon rereading your work discovered that a particular word (yes, the one used about 50 times ... ) was misspelled. Even with a word processor it would be a formidable task to locate and correct all 50 errors. Text Wizard has a search feature that may be used alone simply to locate words or phrases or in conjunction with a replace feature to automatically replace either selected or all occurrences of the search phrase with the replacement phrase.
You say that last paragraph of your term paper might look better as the third paragraph? No problem - use the move text feature to try it on for size. It doesn't look good there either? Try deleting it altogether or possibly replacing it with a fresh approach - both options easily exercised via the delete and replace features also thoughtfully provided in Text Wizard.
Identical inquiries with nearly identical replies the creation of 'personalized' form letters is easily accomplished. Simply save the body of your most polished answers to your most frequent queries. Next time one of these replies would seem to fit the occasion, simply type the address and appropriate greeting and merge this with the previously save file. A few minutes of editing to personalize the reply (if necessary) and an appropriate closing and you're in business.
TO WRAP IT UP...
As mentioned earlier, Text Wizard is not perfect. The addition of just a few features could turn a very good program into a truly remarkable one.
User adjustable line scrolling would allow the operator to "read" his text at whatever rate he desires - great for proofreading and checking the readability of ones work (if reading what you've written slows YOU down, what will it do to your readers?)
How about a more direct method to accomplish text removal form within a document? As it stands now, unless the section one desires to delete is at the end of the text, one must either: A. delete it one line at a time, B. move the section to the end of text and perform a block delete, C. move the section to the beginning of the text and save the edited version from the "old" beginning point, or D. save from beginning of text to beginning of section to be deleted, from end of section to be deleted to end of text, and then chain the files thus created to obtain the edited version. Deletion SHOULD be as simple as placing the cursor over the beginning and end of the section to be deleted and hitting a control key.
Ever notice how top heavy most short letters appear? A vertical centering option would allow the computer to set top and bottom margins so as to vertically center the text on the page.
As mentioned, Text Wizard's tabs are set for 5 screen spaces or 3 printed spaces. Nice, but tab stops should be user adjustable.
A built-in math function would eliminate the necessity to turn to ones $ 10.00 calculator because he couldn't access the number crunching capability of the $1000.00 computer sitting under his fingertips.
A decimal alignment feature would be particularly useful for those involved with preparing fiscal reports or other columnar numerical work.
Well, there's my "wish list". Who knows what version 1.3 will bring... I certainly wouldn't hold out for Utopia however. Text Wizard has exceptional utility in its current version and, should new versions be forthcoming, these will be made available to registered owners for a nominal fee. Which reminds me ... $5.00 will buy a back-lip copy of the program when submitted with the registration card. Crashed diskettes will be replaced for a $30-00 charge.
In closing I do have one major criticism of Text Wizard DataSoft, you took too long!