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Article #69 (74 is last):
From: aa700@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Michael Current)
Newsgroups: freenet.sci.comp.atari.product.8bit.reviews
Subject: News Station / DTP / commercial
Reply-To: aa700@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Michael Current)
Posted-By: xx004 (aa700 - Michael Current)
Date: Tue Oct  6 15:06:15 1992


NEWS STATION
------------

Reeve Software 
29 W 150 Old Farm Lane
Warrenville
IL 60555
USA

48K disk, Atari 800/XL/XE

Reviewed by Allan J. Palmer


Creative Software

One of the more original non-game software products to appear for the Atari 
8-bit range in recent years was Broderbund's Print Shop, which allowed the 
creative production of greeting cards, signs, banners and the like. Text and 
graphics were mixed with the art being supplied in the form of icons which 
were positioned about the page layout. However, even with all its good points, 
there were still some things which Print Shop did not cater for. Signs, cards, 
etc created by Print Shop are not saved to disk - once you had printed your 
masterpiece, that was it, you could not reload it at a later session to tinker 
with again. Additionally, there was limitation in the fonts used for text - no 
mixture of upper and lower case, no mixture of fonts (at least not without 
fiddly printing, repositioning paper then designing and printing again...). If 
you want to combine lots of text (in various sizes and fonts) with graphics 
for the production of a newsletter or similar, then Print Shop has its 
limitations.


DeskTop Publishing become one of the "hot" microcomputer buzz words at the end 
of the 1980s. News Station from Reeve Software attempts to provide owners of 
Atari 8-bit computers with that capability. If you want to produce a 
newsletter, or a document which is primarily text with graphics inserted, then 
News Station is worth considering.


Overview

News Station is supplied on disk in a simple clear plastic case - basic 
packaging, no frills. The instructions are probably the weakest part of the 
package, comprising of 5 single-sided typed pages stapled together with an 
additional 1 page addendum for the latest version (3.0). The instructions are 
presented as a series of descriptions of what the various control-key commands 
do. It is disappointing that the instructions do not include either an example 
of output from the package, or a tutorial to explain the features. 
Clarification of some commands could be provided. One immediately noticeable 
omission is in regard to the loading instructions - you are told to insert the 
disk then switch on your computer; you also need to disable BASIC by holding 
down the Option key if you have built-in BASIC, as on the 130XE. A small 
point, but it can be irritating.


When the disk boots, the Plate Editor program loads. This is one of the two 
main programs on the disk, the other being the Press. In order to overcome the 
memory limitations of a 48K machine, to store and manipulate the data which 
makes up a full page, News Station works on one-eighth of a page at a time. 
Each eighth is referred to as a plate, thus the Plate Editor is used to add 
graphics and text to each plate. When you are satisfied with the content of 
the plate, it may be saved to disk. When you wish to print a page, use 
[Escape] to exit from the Plate Editor and automatically load the Press. 
Basically, the Press displays a directory of plate files on a disk and allows 
you to specify which plate should appear in which position on the page.


The Plate Editor

The Plate Editor operates in two modes, either Text or Graphics. [Control-T] 
or [Control-G] toggles between the modes respectively. In text mode, different 
fonts may be selected. Besides the standard Atari font, the control-character 
graphics may be selected, or a font may be loaded from disk by the [Control-F] 
command. There are 6 sample fonts included on the News Station disk. 
Unfortunately, these are not named or depicted in the instructions; (they are: 
Computer, Greek, Block, Cursive, Square and HighQuality). Having loaded a 
font, you activate it for use with the [Control-U] command. Inverse characters 
may also be used in any font. Character heights and widths may be adjusted by 
[Control-H] and [Control-W] commands - sizes range from 1 to 8 giving 64 
possible combinationsfor each character. Thus, (with a bit of patience) you 
may mix fonts and character size on a single line. Additional control over 
text positioning may be achieved by adjusting the spacing between lines, and 
the movement up or down the plate in scan line increments. In text mode, you 
are given a screen on which you can type text where you want. Alternatively, 
the [Control-V] command allows you to load an ASCII text file (created by a 
word processor) to a plate - however, if the text goes off the right side or 
the bottom of the plate, then it is not used in the final product.

In Graphics mode, you are able to use 3 types of graphics, namely Print Shop 
icons, standard 62 sector picture files produced by art software such as 
MicroPainter or MicroIllustrator, and direct drawings (by joystick or touch 
tablet). With the range of Print Shop icons available , your graphics work 
should know no bounds. Icons may be placed on a plate in one of three sizes - 
the smallest about one-twelfth of a plate, the largest about one-half width. 
Picture files require a '.PIC' extender. Only the top 5/6 of a picture fits 
onto a plate (a plate is 52 sectors long when saved to disk). My initial 
experimentation with the package leads me to believe the best approach is to 
use Graphics mode on a blank plate and position your graphic images (from 
whatever source) before switching to Text mode and adding your words around 
the artwork.


General Points

Plates may be saved to disk with the [Control-S] command, they are reloaded 
with [Control-R]. To my mind, the disk access commands could be made more 
user-friendly. There is no facility to get a full directory of a disk in a 
particular drive. The latest version does include a facility to load plates 
from either drive 1 or 2, but still only saves to drive 1. If you try to load 
a plate file from a disk with no plate files, the program locks up and you 
have to reboot!

If you want to create a banner across two plates, or to flow columns down over 
the border of two plates, I find the best method is to save your initial 
plate, then using it as a guide, in type-over mode, add your new text, or 
graphics.


The Press

When you want to print a complete page, load the Press. This program initially 
asks you to specify your printer type - printer drivers for Star SG-10, 
ProWriter, Epson RX80 (Panasonic, Citizen), Epson MX80 (Gemini 10X) and Atari 
XMM801 are included. Version 3.0 of News Station now includes a further option 
to allow you to build a custom printer driver which may then be saved to your 
program disk and subsequently used by the selection of "Other" from the 
Printer menu. Having selected your printer, you will be prompted to insert a 
plate data disk into drive 1, when the disk is accessed, the names of the 
plate files on it are displayed down the left hand side of the screen, with a 
page grid (divided into eighths) appears on the right hand side. Using the up 
and down arrow keys and [Return], you may move up and down the list of plate 
files and select the plate you wish to appear in the next available position 
on the page grid. You may use the same plate as many times as you like on one 
page, and obviously, you can save a blank plate from the Plate Editor in order 
to print blank plates in the Press. As yet, I have not been able to determine 
if there is a means to change the content of the plate grid if you get part 
way through and realise you have the wrong plate in the wrong place. When you 
select the final plate on a page, the program automatically begins the 
printing process without any pause for user acceptance or confirmation.


Summary

As noted above, there are some rough patches to News Station, primarily in the 
area of documentation and examples, with perhaps some improvements necessary 
in user-interface. Like most American software (e.g. Print Shop), the page 
size created is 11" x 8.5", i.e. not A4 format. This may or may not be a 
problem for you. The package does provide for a range of creative output, and 
if you want to create a newsletter, instruction sheet, or some varied 
combination of text and graphics, then if you have the patience to compose 
your plates carefully, News Station will certainly satisfy your requirements. 
In the short time that I have experimented with the package, I have found it 
to be quite a powerful piece of software for the 8-bit Atari. Obviously the 
output is not the same as something produced from a ST with Fleet Street 
Publisher and a laser printer, but what are your needs? If you have a 48K 
8-bit Atari, a disk drive and a printer, then News Station may be all you need 
to embark on DeskTop Publishing.
-- 
 Michael Current, Cleveland Free-Net 8-bit Atari SIGOp   -->>  go atari  <<--
   The Cleveland Free-Net Atari SIG is the Central Atari Information Network
      Internet: currentm@carleton.edu / UUCP: ...!umn-cs!ccnfld!currentm
     BITNET: currentm%carleton.edu@{interbit} / Cleveland Free-Net: aa700





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