Cut & Paste

Reviewed by John S. Davison


Issue 23

Sep/Oct 86

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Electronic Arts/Ariolasoft 

Cut & Paste is one of the growing number of word processors now released for the 8-bit Atari. It's produced by the much respected Electronic Arts of the USA, and is available to our American cousins on Commodore, Apple and IBM PC's as well as Atari. It's distributed in the UK by Ariolasoft, and costs 24.95.

Cut & Paste comes nicely packaged in a hard plastic box, which opens like a book to reveal two single sided disks and a glossy 27 page instruction manual. The program disk contains the Cut & Paste program, while the data disk contains a number of example documents. These include a letter, memo, and envelope layout, the idea being that you type your text over that in the example, so helping you get the correct format.

The manual isn't as comprehensive as it looks at first sight, as the first half of it contains four sets of instructions covering the four makes of computer mentioned above. The rest of the manual covers general topics common to all of them. It's easy to read, but going through it I got the feeling it must be missing out a lot of the program's facilities. Was this an oversight, or were they really missing? I decided to write this review using Cut & Paste to give it a practical test.

Booting up the program disk revealed instant friendliness - on screen instructions telling you what to do, and a menu bar along the bottom of the screen with options chosen using the arrow and RETURN keys. All the menu items are shown in inverse video, so to select a particular option you have to 'de-highlight' it with the cursor. I found this illogical and slightly irritating in use.

One of the design principles of Cut & Paste is that the commands you use most often are the easiest to perform. In practice, this means that you only have to press ESC to access the menu bar, then RETURN to perform the command, as the cursor is usually already positioned over the most used option on that menu. Full marks to the author for this piece of thoughtful design.

No marks for the next feature, though! Cut & Paste's files are held on disk in a non-standard format, and there's no facility provided for converting them to DOS files. This means you can't manipulate the files with DOS, process them with other utilities such as spellcheckers, or merge them with Atariwriter files. This, frankly, is appalling. Unnecessary use of custom formats is currently a pet hate of mine.

The fun really began when I tried to enter text on the edit screen. Like Atariwriter, Cut & Paste operates in insert mode, so correcting mistakes involves deleting characters rather than typing over them. But incredibly, Cut & Paste doesn't use the delete key - you have to backspace over a character to delete it. I found this very clumsy and unnatural in practice. In fact, the only other editing keys which work are the arrow keys. Attempts to use anything else elicit a noise like a half strangled chicken from the speaker!
For deleting larger amounts of text you could use the much vaunted cut and paste feature from which the program takes its name. The feature does work quite well, allowing you to mark text, cut it into a buffer, and then paste it back into your document at any point (multiple times if you wish).

The text stays in the buffer until you make another cut, or clear the buffer manually. It also stays there across a document load, so you can cut from one document, load a new document in, and then paste the buffer contents into it - a nice touch.

To begin the review I wanted a centred, underlined title. Horrors - there's no centring function, or any way of underlining! I like to begin paragraphs with a 5 character indent on the first line only, and separate the new paragraph from its predecessor with blank lines. Cut & Paste can't do this automatically either, you have to do it by hand. There is an indent facility, but it indents whole paragraphs. You can't use it for smaller units of text.

Having keyed in the review, I wanted to preview it on the screen. Not possible. OK, so print it out. Selecting PRINT from the menu bar brings up a full screen print menu. This has the usual facilities for modifying margin and page sizes, line spacing, page numbering, number of copies, and single/continuous stationery selection. You can also supply a page header at this point, but not a footer. Unfortunately, the header is not stored on the document file, so next time you load and print the document, you have to remember to type in the header again.

One of the few good points in Cut & Paste's favour is its handling of 'widows and orphans'. These are terms used in the publishing industry - you may not have heard them before, but if you've used a word processor, you almost certainly know them by sight. A widow is the last line of a paragraph which annoyingly prints as the first line on the next page. An orphan is the converse of this, when the first line of a paragraph prints as the last line on a page. Both give your printout an untidy appearance. You normally have to deal with them manually, but Cut & Paste automatically detects and corrects them. Also, if it finds a single line paragraph it assumes this could be a heading for the paragraph following, and ensures both are printed on the same page. This I like!

There are no facilities for right margin justification, or for selecting fonts or other special features your printer may offer. If you want to use a Near Letter Quality font for your final copy, hard luck!

A feature I find essential in a word processor is the search feature. Without it, locating a particular point in a document can be very tedious and time consuming. Guess which word processor doesn't have this feature? Right!

I find it difficult to raise any enthusiasm for this program. Its few good points are far outweighed by its many bad ones. In action, it seems closer to an electronic typewriter than a computerised word processor. But then on the front of the box it does call itself 'The Remarkably Simple Word Processor'. If you want something on which to compose the odd letter or page of notes, then Cut & Paste could be for you. For anything more complex, though, you would be much better off with one of the many other word processors now available for the 8-bit Ataris.