By Domhnall Dods...
Papyrus 4 has to be one of the most eagerly awaited upgrades on the Atari scene since MagiC 4. In this issue we are going to look purely at the package as an upgrade. Kev will be doing a full review from the point of view of a complete newcomer in AP#5 early in the New Year.
Ever since Papyrus 3 first burst onto the UK market nearly two years ago, regular users have been clamouring for features such as colour graphic support, word count and Thesaurus. Version 4 brings news both good and bad on this front. Dealing firstly with the bad news, there is still no word count nor a thesaurus - both of which have become standard on any "serious" WP package these days, even the now rather elderly Protext boasts these features. Rumours abound on-line that the latest German releases have now have these added but for the meantime UK users will have to do without.
Now with the bad news out of the way why should you spend £39.95 on the latest upgrade? What exactly do you get for your money? The package arrives in a cardboard box similar in size to the original. Inside you will find a single disk, a twenty page manual (yes that's right, twenty pages only) and a CD Rom containing 500 true type and PostScript fonts. Sold separately the CD itself is worth £40 so if you have a CD Rom drive then the upgrade already begins to look like very good value for money indeed. If you don't have a drive then this gives you one very good reason to go out there and get one, especially given that prices for double speed drives have now fallen dramatically.
Installing the upgrade is very simple, just copy one TOS file to your working Papyrus folder and double click on it. If you wish to retain version 3 then back up your folder first as the upgrade will overwrite the existing files.
On running the new version the first thing you'll notice is that it seems to take much longer to load than its predecessor despite having been completely re-written in machine code as opposed to GFA Basic. The reason for this is that the program has been compressed. If you want to speed things up simply run a decompression program such as Mega Depack thus reducing considerably the time taken to load. Once you are into the program proper the re-coding really starts to show with everything whizzing around the screen noticeably faster than version 3. This is especially true of operations which involve intensive screen re-drawing such as scrolling up or down a page at a time.
From the day it arrived on the market and magazines like ST Review enthused about Papyrus's "pseudo DTP" properties, users have been asking "where are the colour graphics?" Now they're here. Using the same EFMS modular file system found on other HiSoft packages such as True Paint, you can now load and print colour images in a wide variety of formats including the most common such as GIF and JPG. Unfortunately although a driver for an HP 560C was provided for printers with separate black and colour cartridges, colour images which contained black areas printed out with that rather muddy shade of dark green more usually associated with older machines which mix coloured inks to approximate a black ink. Full control over the print codes is provided but being of a nervous disposition when it comes to printer drivers I have yet to experiment further in an attempt to cure the problem.
The other major change is the all new interface. Many functions previously hidden away in the menus are now right there on the desktop just a mouse click away. Functions such as font selection and point size have joined the old favourites like line spacing on a new enlarged task bar which sits at the top of the screen. This is great news for power users running on Falcons in enhanced screen resolutions but on an ST High Res screen the task bar takes up valuable space on screen and limits the amount of room available for displaying documents. That having been said the toolbar really does make working smoother, easier and quicker. Justification, tabs, line spacing, page selection and tool selection can all be accessed from the toolbar. Previously accessing these was a good deal more cumbersome involving several mouse clicks or keyboard shortcuts.
One of the most powerful features in the original Papyrus was the use of paragraph tags. Their usefulness has been enhanced further still. "How is this possible?" you might ask. The clever chaps at ROM have realised that rather than copying all the attributes of a particular paragraph, you might wish to copy just the styling commands (colour, font size, text effects, hyphenation etc) yet leave the layout and tabs unchanged. With that in mind they have added the ability to define text styles as well as paragraph tags.
Printing of bitmap graphics has been further enhanced by allowing the user control of the dithering. A choice of ordered, halftone, or line is available which should be enough for most people's requirements.
For anyone who prints documents in a foreign language (or even a UK one such as Scots Gaelic) which uses accented characters, Papyrus 4 is a real Godsend. No longer is there any need to resort to special fonts or software to print the accents. If you are using NVDI 4, Papyrus now allows the use of the full character set of any Speedo or True Type font using a system known as Unicodes. Previously Atari Users have had access to only a fraction of the characters contained in fonts, usually all those with the foreign accents have been beyond our reach. Now simply set the switch for "extended" in the compatibility options and the world is your oyster. Unfortunately you still have to access the extended character set via the font layout dialog but it should be possible to set up a keyboard Macro to call any frequently used characters. Oh yes keyboard macros have been added too. Now you can define frequently used words or phrases to a macro and you need never bother typing them out again. The macro can even be set up to insert another file into your document should you so wish. Personally I find it easier to type things out in full rather than remember the macro but each to his own.
Curiously, though it lacks "standard" features such as word count, Papyrus boasts others which are lacking on so called "industry standard" packages found on platforms such as the PC. At work I am forced to use Word 6.0 from the dreaded Microsoft and try as I might I cannot persuade it to insert the filename of the document together with the path where it is stored on my hard drive. Various colleagues have tried, even veteran Word "experts", all have failed.....but Papyrus 4 can do it using the "insert special character dialog". Previously this was restricted to inserting the date or page numbers. This feature is especially useful if you work with large numbers of documents, particularly if they all look similar. All I have to do now is persuade my employers to replace my PC with my beloved Falcon......
Unfortunately I have to report that version 4 sees the introduction of a bug, a fairly major one, but thankfully one which can easily be worked around. If you attempt to open a file which has an extender other than PAP or RTF, a TXT or HTM file for example, Papyrus will crash completely with a "bus error". Thankfully this can be avoided by creating a new document and then inserting the original into that but care must be taken to ensure that you remember this particular feature. This has been reported to Hisoft but sadly no response has been forthcoming. It is unfortunate that a new bug has been introduced into a mature product such as Papyrus for it mars an otherwise excellent product.
There may well be many other features lurking beneath the surface but I simply have not had time to explore more thoroughly. Rest assured that Kev "test to destruction" Beardsworth will be more diligent in time for the next issue.
It would have been nice to get a "proper" manual rather than a twenty page addendum to the original and the omission of a word count facility and thesaurus in today's market is bewildering to say the least. But those "minor" niggles aside, is it worth upgrading?
Yes, absolutely, particularly if you want to be able to include colour graphics, speed up the production of documents or write letters to foreigners in their own language. If you already have a CD ROM drive the inclusion of the 500 font disk makes the upgrade even more worthwhile.
|Contact:||HiSoft on 01505-718718|
|Price:||v3 £89.95 - v4 upgrade inc font CD £39.95|