Three From Atari ...

reviewed by Ken Goldie


Issue 9

May/Jun 84

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When you bought your Atari, did you feel that you ought to do something more than just play games? I did, and after waiting a couple of years, I finally took the plunge and bought three 'business' packages from Atari.

ATARIWRITER is a ROM cartridge based word processor, and can be used with disk drive, cassette and any printer, ATARI or otherwise. Instructions provided are excellent and the program is so user-friendly, that you can be typing away within minutes of first opening the carton.

When first booted, the program's main menu appears on screen offering such choices as Create, Edit or Delete File, Format Disk and Index of Disk Files. After selecting the Create mode, you can begin typing straight away with the cursor tracing your progress. The cursor is not the usual square but a blinking underline. At any time you may return to the main menu by pressing ESC.

Editing, carried out in the Insert mode, is simplicity itself. CTRL commands can shift and delete blocks of text, move the cursor to the end or beginning of lines, paragraphs or files, set margins or page length and more. A Preview function, allowing sight of the completed 80 column text on the 40 column screen can be called up - an extremely useful feature. Any recurring errors can be traced and rectified by a Search and Replace command, saving much time.

Overall this is one of the best pieces of software for the Atari on the market. Easy to use and versatile, it provides facilities that some other word processors costing over twice the price cannot boast. My only complaint? Well, I use an Epson printer and although the program can print control codes, if you don't support it with an Atari printer, you must translate the character required into the printer's decimal code, a rather tedious task. Another example of Atari's reluctance (refusal?) to support non-Atari products. All is not lost however for I discovered later that Chipsoft produce a printer driver allowing full, direct from the keyboard, use of all the program's facilities. Needless to say, I snapped this up and my only grouse with the package has disappeared.

THE HOME FILING MANAGER is a 16K disk based program that can best be described as an electronic card index. The package comprises two disks, one to boot the main program and the other being the master data disk for file storage which can be copied to suit. There is also an excellent instruction manual.

Again, choices are made from a menu that can be easily accessed at all times allowing cards to be created, edited and printed. In addition, cards can be called up by title search or by any phrase appearing therein. Each card is graphically represented, like its paper counterpart, with 12 ruled lines. Any cards produced by your search are neatly marked by a graphic 'paper clip'. All entries are automatically sorted alphabetically by title and can be easily edited or deleted as required.

This is an ideal home utility for storing addresses, referencing books, stamps etc. which, although limited when compared with such as File Manager 800, is highly recommended to the single disk drive user.

The last item of the trio, FAMILY FINANCE is again disk based and requires 32K. The instructions provided are easy to follow and the program operates from two disks, one dealing with actual income and expenditure and the other, using data from the former, relating it to a user determined budget.

Up to 13 individual categories can be input and financial details entered as required. No graphics are employed and displays such as Income against Expense or Actual Income against Budgeted Income can be provided, either on a monthly or annual basis, in a straightforward columnar format. Files can be easily added to, edited or deleted.

I found this to be a rather slow, limited utility that certainly did not fit my requirements. Unlike other, albeit more expensive, packages, it does not project results but rather provides a simple summary of past transactions within a relatively narrow range of categories. No facility, for example, is provided to keep track of payment/clearing of cheques, something which I think is a must for any home financial program.

In conclusion, three packages of, to my mind, varying value. Before parting with your hard earned cash, try to see them running. I can wholeheartedly recommend the first two but don't just take my word for it. Unlike arcade games, you must, I feel, spend some considerable time determining in advance which program is closest to your own requirements, rather than, as was my case, trying to alter those requirements to suit the program.