The Print Shop Companion

Reviewed by Alan Goldsbro


Issue 24

Nov/Dec 86

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If you've heard the old adage 'Sequels are rarely equals' then fear not for The Print Shop Companion is one of those sequels that not only equals but in fact adds considerably to the original. When the Editor offered me the opportunity to review this package, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. At last, I thought, an enhancement to the much used Print Shop. I won't make you wait until the end of this review to let you know whether it is a good offering or not. The answer is a qualified yes! Before you drop what you're doing however, and go out and buy it be warned that it will only run on 64k XL and XE models.

Print Shop Companion is designed to compliment the Print Shop and if like me you've struggled to create quality icons, moaned about the borders, swore at the fonts and wondered what on earth to do with Tile Magic, then despair no longer - help is at hand. The Print Shop Companion has six sections. Using the tried and tested modus operandi, it smoothly allows you to take control from booting up the disk. The first requirement is Program Set Up - similar to the original. It asks for Print Shop to be placed is the drive so it can modify the disk to accept true 'companionship'. All this does really is, a) turn the background colour from Atari blue to black and, b) add a command to the graphics, borders and font files so they will accept the Companion. It also obtains details about your printer configuration from the original disk. Once this has been achieved its on to the main menu.

The first section is the new Graphics Editor+. Based on the original it has 18 new commands and, without going into full detail, it's fair to say that the majority of commands seen in most graphics programs are available. Worth mentioning are - scrolling picture, undo, pattern, mirror, flood fill, negative, tile, text and superimpose. A notable omission from the editor is the wrap-round which was quite a handy feature in the original, however the new commands easily make up for it. The cursor now moves faster on the screen and as before you control it by joystick, keyboard or light pen, which has not got any easier to use. The text is only one size and in the standard Atari font. In all, the graphics editor+ is a vast improvement on the original and really is a pleasure to use.

Leaving the editor and returning to the main menu is instantaneous as the program makes use of the XL/XE extra RAM. The next section is the Border Editor, which consists of three editing boxes where you can modify existing borders from the nine on the Print Shop or any of the fifty stored in the Companion. The edit boxes are really a smaller version of the original Graphics Editor (Print Shop) and are just about as difficult to use. The boxes represent: 1) the corners, 2) the top and 3) the sides. As you draw the area around the edit boxes is filled in, either across the screen or down the side depending upon what edit box you are in. Extra commands are flip horizontal/vertical, negative colour, flip top; button, flip right. One feature which isn't available is the opportunity to 'get' an icon and place it in a box to use as a border, this could make the border editor really something! A compensation is the ability to copy the current edit box to the other two.

The Font Editor is the third section and again you are presented with another editor box and the opportunity to either edit the existing eight fonts from Print Shop or any of the new twelve from the Companion. Creating a font is a multiple step process. Select your font from the existing ones or start from the standard Atari reference font. Create or modify as you like (or can). Store them temporarily in memory and then save the entire font to your data disk. This is handy when you want that elusive pound () sign, just alter any character to suit and store. If you use the reference font you can select this in any of three sizes however you cannot, unfortunately, do this with the other fonts. A number of the Editor+ commands are available with extras such as Index, guide lines and redo. As you work, the memory used in creating a font is displayed. If you are creating a large font with embellishment then you may have to work on the alphabets in two goes, for example on a small font the memory used is 27% and a large font could easily be 90%. With every extra pixel used, it could easily push you over the top. One other feature is the command Flip Backward, you can create your own backward font for reading in mirrors!

Tile Magic is really a spin off from the kaleidoscope feature of Print Shop. This section gives you eleven different moving patterns, which can be frozen and saved to disk or flipped to the Graphic Editor+ to add your own special touches. One interesting feature here is the instant flipping between tile magic and graphic Editor + and vice versa. There is nothing really much more to say about tile magic except that it will probably get used as much as the kaleidoscope!

The fifth section covers Creature Maker, a sort of computer mix and match book that my kids used to play with. According to the manual there are 1000 possible configurations available. As with the tile magic, flipping back and forward to the Graphic Editor+ is available and scrolling picture to simulate walking.

The final section of the Companion is Calendar to create weekly or monthly calendars using any of the fonts. Graphics in a choice of two sizes can also be used. The range of year is from 1753 to 9999 i.e. Georgian calendar. Whether you choose a weekly or monthly calendar you can type in your special dates or reminders. The added bonuses are it can be saved to a data disk for later use giving you the opportunity to dump to printer without going through Print Shop. I really like this section, for years I've been wanting a monthly calendar that printed out days similar to those on large wall planners and now I've got it - the only problem is I don't have time to follow it!!

That just about concludes the summary of The Print Shop Companion although there are a few more extras such as 20 bonus graphics from Broderbund Software products i.e. Kareteka, Spare Change and Loderunner, 20 numeric graphics 0 - 9 in left and right formats and 4 date endings, st, nd, rd and th. These are superimposed to make up date icons. Final extra is the ability to leave the main menu and load in the Print Shop disk. Unfortunately this does not worth the other way round.

Well I think that just about covers the Print Shop Companion. Yes it truly is a companion and well worth the price. The manual is 38 pages long and this time you will need to read it before attempting some of the sections. I thoroughly enjoyed using the Companion and for most people the balance between application/ children's use will be acceptable. I would have preferred a label maker instead of the Creature Maker/ Tile Magic sections but you can't have everything.

Print Shop Companion is available from Software Express to whom I'm indebted for the loan of the program.

Alan Goldsbro