Every now and then among the multitude
of good quality entertainment, comes a package worthy of the accolade
'supreme'. The Graphics Arts Department from Databyte has all the
hallmarks of such a program.
This is the latest in a line of
graphics software from various companies and is compatible with
all computers with a minimum of 48k. It comes on disk only and is
To my way of thinking the program
has four parts
1. Arts Bench
3. Picture Viewer
4. Picture Dump
ARTS BENCH: Menu driven,
over 30 commands selected by keyboard including any of 128 colours,
all selected from four paint pots and a mixing palette. To achieve
more than 4 solid colours at anyone time you have to employ the
use of the DLI command. This proved to be difficult at first as
the documentation is rather sparse here. Basically, if you select
a colour register of your choice for the DLI's then plot where you
want your band of colour to start, you may then plot colour changes
all the way down the screen using the same register with either
a different shade of the original colour or a new colour chosen
from the sixteen solid colours available on the Atari. Whenever
you use the original colour register in the area you have designated
for your variations you will achieve your desired result. You can
use any of the three other registers to draw with over your DLI's
without the colour being changed. (I told you it was difficult,
but it is well worth it!). DLI's should not be turned off without
first saving your picture as, once turned off, you'll have to reset
them again. This caused me considerable time on developing a picture.
Full use of the Rainbow command is available on any of the colour
registers but not when you have elected for DLI's.
There are 16 set patterns which
can be used as backgrounds or for in-fill, which can also be modified
to suit your own ideas but we'll come back to this later. The usual
commands such as Lines, Rays, Circles, Rectangles are available
plus Triangles and Ellipse. I especially enjoyed the Ellipse as
you get the opportunity to select the degree of angle. There is
a Kaleidoscope mode which lets you draw symmetrically in four locations
at the same time.
An unusual command is a Cursor
location command. Press '?' at any time and it will tell you the
co-ordinate of the cursor. A three stage zoom is standard, Brush
speeds can be altered and there is a comprehensive list of 40 different
brush sizes plus a built in editor.
We now come on to the more advanced
parts of the menu. Invert (swap colour) allows you to either invert
the screen, or an area, or to select the colours you wish to invert.
Rotate is an excellent command. Define the area, move the joystick
to rotate and press the trigger to set it. The Move Block is another
good command allowing Move Full Block or Foreground and it even
has a Move Again facility. Another command in a similar vein is
Mirror/Flip. Again you define the area, press the trigger and there
you have it either mirrored horizontally or flipped vertically.
Undo Last Command is a godsend in any drawing program, if you make
a mistake and spoil you work just press 'U' to restore your picture
to its original condition. For those amongst you who love to play
about, Scroll Picture will occupy you for hours, use the cursor
keys to move the picture left, right, up or down.
To finish off your masterpiece
all you need is to give it a nice caption and G.A.D. allows you
to do just that! Type in your message, choose from nine different
sizes, move it to anywhere on the screen and press the trigger.
A nice facility is Last Message where you can achieve a 3-D effect
by changing the colour of the text and overlaying the original with
the new. There is also an in-built font editor.
The Disk Utilities have a very
good range - Load/Save picture, Format Disk, Directory of Disk,
Delete Files and Rename Files. The Directory displays not only the
Pictures but also Fonts, Patterns and Brush files and free sectors.
All Load and Save routines have masking and previous file recognition.
THE EDITORS: There are three
editors available, Font, Pattern and Brush. All the editors employ
the same theme, you modify an existing set. Designs can be Saved
or Loaded at any time. Even though there are already 40 brushes,
the use of an editor is worthwhile especially if you wish to 'spot'
colours on the screen. The same applies to the Patterns. Apart from
getting an 8 x 8 editor, there is also a display across the width
of the screen. Colours can be changed but need to be selected before
editing for best results. With the Font editor I found that if you
use a font from the many types available on one of the PAGE 6 Utility
disks and rename them using .SET as the extender, then you will
save yourself a whole lot of time. On the other hand, playing with
the editor can be a whole lot of fun.
PICTURE VIEWER: Apart from
loading pictures singly from the Arts Bench, the only way to view
pictures properly is to load up the section titled Arts Gallery
which is a self-contained program which can be copied to other disks.
The annoying part is that you cannot go from this to the Arts Bench
or vice versa, each part has to be loaded separately. However, as
previously stated, you can Format, write DOS and Autoboot and write
this program to disk, all without ever leaving the program. Choosing
pictures is simple but unfortunately it does not have the capabilities
to memorise a selection of pictures thus causing you to forever
return to the menu to choose the next one.
PICTURE DUMP: This section
is again selected from the 'Art Gallery'. A choice of three printers
is given (Epson, Gemini and Prowriter) plus the opportunity to create
your own by typing in your printer codes. Once a printer option
is displayed on screen with the option to accept or refuse it, you
are offered the choice of using twelve different variations of shading.
These are quite well represented by a number of dots per area from
24 (solid) to 0 (blank). Each colour can be selected for shading
of your choice. The program cannot detect subtle changes in colour
variations such as using DLI's to achieve more than four colours,
consequently only four shades are dumped to the printer. The picture
itself is one size, taking half a page. The timing for the dump
was average and the quality good.
CONCLUSION: With extensive
error trapping, clear messages and the added bonus of a machine
code program to allow insertion of pictures into BASIC files, the
program is excellent value for money. All programs, except those
stated, are heavily protected against copying. The only minus points
are the documentation which is only ten pages long, with six devoted
to instructions and only one demo picture. For a wide ranging and
comprehensive program such as this, much more extensive documentation
should have been provided.
Graphics Art Department is priced
at £29.90 and is available from any of the retailers advertising
in PAGE 6 or from the distributors themselves. Whether you are a
budding artist or just a doodler, the Graphics Art Department is