For the last year or so I have had the use of an ICL 'One Per Desk'
(OPD) desktop microcomputer at work. The OPD has supplied with it,
on ROM, a package of software called 'XChange' by Psion. 'XChange'
consists of four integrated utilities: Quill (word processor),
Abacus (spreadsheet), Archive (database) and Easel (graphing). It is
a very useful tool. Now, believe it or not, users of 48k 8-bit
Ataris with a disk drive can have the equivalent. Database
Publications have (at last) produced an Atari 8-bit version of their
successful MINI OFFICE II, already available on Amstrad, BBC and
you have been trying to decide whether to spend anywhere between
thirty and fifty pounds on either a word processor, spreadsheet or
database, you can now obtain all three plus more for under twenty
MINI OFFICE II is supplied on a double-sided disk in
a sturdy box with a detailed 80-page, spiral bound manual and
consists of six modules: Word Processor; Spreadsheet; Database;
Graphics; Label Printer and Communications.
These are displayed as a menu when the disk is first
booted, and selecting one of the options takes you down to an
individual menu for the chosen module. The use of sub-menus within
each module is maintained to provide ease of use and assimilation.
The text appears in a Roman style font in white on a black
OFFICE II includes a full-featured word processor which provides
just about all the facilities that most users could want. In Edit
mode, the screen header displays the elapsed time since you started
entering text, the number of words entered, the amount of free
memory and whether you are in Insert or Overwrite mode. There are
comprehensive commands to move through your text document, to delete
characters, words or lines, and to manipulate blocks of text
(deleting, copying, moving, totalling the words in the block, wholly
changing the block to either upper or lower case). In addition,
there are facilities to automatically number each page, display the
typing speed in words per minute on the screen header, use 'hard'
spaces, and more.
There is a preview mode using a software generated
80-column mode which produces multi-coloured characters that are
just about readable. The scrolling speed of the preview can be
adjusted. Page formatting commands are available in the Print mode
(in addition to being available as embedded commands within the
text) including single-sheet printing, justification, setting up of
print control characters, page length, margins, and the positioning
of headers and footers. Individual text files may be chained to
create a larger document. This word processor can be used with the
ATARI 1029 printer (is this a first?) and Epson compatibles.
A very flexible Mail Merge facility is also included
and this integrates with the Database module of the package.
Documents may be saved to and loaded from disk. The word processor
and all modules support more than one drive, and on the 130XE, this
includes the RAMdisk. My main criticism is that it does not appear
to have the facility to use a pre-defined driver file for features
such as underline, italic, condensed print, etc. In order to
accomplish these functions, you have to use the 'Set Print Code
Strings' option of the Print Text menu to set the control codes
particular to your printer and assign them to Control +number
combinations. These codes would have to be input at each session
with the word processor, something which obviously needs remembering
each time you use the package. Perhaps I am spoilt after using
PaperClip, but I feel that I would not use the Mini Office II word
processor for extensive document writing.
Like the word processor, this module is also very comprehensive. The
default spreadsheet set up is 15 columns by 20 rows, but use of the
Insert command when in Edit mode allows for additional columns and
rows to be added to your spreadsheet up to the limit of available
memory. Unfortunately, however, the manual does not give an
indication of these limits or clearly explain the method of editing
in additional rows and columns. Text and numerics are easily
enterable, together with complex formulas into each cell of the
spreadsheet array. The formulas may include such arithmetic
functions as COS(n), LOG(n) and SQR(n). Facilities are provided to
modify individual cells and to make global changes to the entire
spreadsheet – changing column widths, number of decimal places,
justification and more. If you have used a simple spreadsheet, such
as SmartSheet' from PAGE 6 issue 22, you will be impressed at what
can be done here in MINI OFFICE II. Options are provided to control
the printing of the whole or part of the spreadsheet, with provision
for the it elusion of printer control codes. Naturally, disk saving
and loading are catered for. Spreadsheet data may also be saved in a
form compatible with the Graphics module in order that the data may
be displayed as a graph. Having used a number of spreadsheets, I
felt the MINI OFFICE II version was very adequate with the only
missing facility being the ability to do block moves/duplication of
cells, in addition to the supplied single cell duplication.
Database module allows you to create and maintain files of
information which you may then manipulate in whatever manner you
desire. I found the documentation for this section very clear,
taking you step by step through the definition of a database file
structure and the creation of the database to entering and editing
of data, followed by descriptions of the other functions including
disk utilities, printing, searching, and sorting. A database record
may be defined with up to 20 fields and each field may be either
Alpha (i.e. text), Decimal, Integer, Date (in DD/MM/YY format), or
Formula. This last option gives the powerful facility of calculating
one record field from the contents of others. Editing records is
very straightforward, and there is the facility to mark individual
records which then allows you to create a sub-database for separate
manipulation. Whilst in the edit mode, individual records can be
The utilities function includes 4 important features:
a copy option to create a back-up of your database files, a copy of
marked records to create sub-files, a facility to extend the size of
the database from the initial maximum set at file creation up to the
limit of available space on disk, and a program to merge databases.
The Print menu is very comprehensive, allowing for
the printing of all or marked records, selecting particular fields
or parts of fields to be printed, printing the selected fields from
each record in either horizontal or vertical format, with or without
field titles. Provision is also allowed for printer control in terms
of page length and printer codes.
The Search option is equally impressive allowing for
searching all or only marked records, with the search operators
including all combinations of =, < and > and provision for the use
of wild cards. One other menu option to be noted is the ability to
total a given field in all or selected records, or to alter the
values in a field throughout the (marked) records. To give wider
variety to the type of report produced, the Mail Merge facility of
the word processor may be used to read Database files and generate
comprehensive record listings, opening up the possibility of
invoices, receipts, etc. Similarly, the Label Printer module can use
Database files to generate labels. One of the obvious applications
here for users will undoubtedly be a custom designed disk
cataloguing system. No complaints on this module.
feel the name Graphics is a slight misnomer for this module of the
Mini Office II package. More strictly, this is a graphing module.
Essentially, you have the option of producing vertical bar graphs,
line graphs, or pie charts from data that you either enter directly
or load in from files produced by the Spreadsheet module. I found
this module to be very impressive, and whilst not incorporating some
of the more esoteric statistical functions of B/Graph, it certainly
would satisfy the needs of the majority of users.
The pie chart offers the ability to explode one or
more segments of the pie for greater effect. The bar graph can be
drawn either flat or in 3D. Having produced the desired graph, text
can be placed where desired on the screen. Graph screens can be
saved to disk for subsequent use in this module, or for use within
other programs. The module also supports Atari 1029 and Epson
printer dumps, and allows for graphs to be saved on disk in a format
suitable for loading into the word processor files giving the
ability to generate documents containing graph data. A very neat and
This module is capable of accepting data from the keyboard or from
Database files and allows you to design the format of label desired.
Editing options provide for the specification of number of labels
across the page and label depth. Using database files, specific
fields or parts of fields can be printed in the desired positions on
a label template. As in other modules, printer codes can be
incorporated to utilise facilities such as bold-faced text, italics,
etc. A nice compact and usable feature of the package.
The Communications module provides an answer for
those who found ViewTerm from Miracle Technology somewhat lacking. I
am only a novice in the communications field, but I was soon able to
get to grips with this module. Using the menu/sub-menu style of the
other modules you are able to define your communications protocol.
(MicroLink/Telecom Gold 300 and 1200 baud protocols are built in and
a customised option is available). One important feature I found was
the easy to change Filter mode, enabling you to switch between ASCII
and ATASCII mode with a simple key-stroke combination. If you have
ever used the CBABBS bulletin board, for example, you'll find the
benefits in the use of ATASCII. There is a Auto-Print mode enabling
all text received to be sent directly to your printer and this,
again, is a feature which can be simply toggled on or off.
The module is designed to operate with a serial modem
connected to port one of an 850 interface or with Miracle
Technology's DataTari cable. Macro keys can also be set up for use
when in Communicate mode, and uploading and downloading are catered
for. To this newcomer to comms, the package does not appear to
include Xmodem facilities, but I could be wrong.
review of MINI OFFICE II, of necessity, only scratches the surface
in some areas. The program is, after all, six individual pieces of
software, but incredibly well integrated. Yes, there are some
shortcomings. I will, personally, still continue to use PaperClip
for word processing, but the inbuilt word processor does give
additional options for the formatting of reports from the database.
In my opinion, twenty pounds (less five pence) is a reasonable price
for any one of the six modules (well, maybe not the label printer)
and anyone who wants to use their ATARI for purposes other than
games should not go wrong in purchasing MINI OFFICE II. This is a
product that Database Publications must be proud of.