Graphics Art Department

reviewed by Alan Goldsbro


Issue 20

Mar/Apr 86

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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 joystick controlled.

To my way of thinking the program has four parts

1. Arts Bench
2. Editor
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 for you!