BOOK REVIEWS By Rory O’Farrell
The short interval between the arrival of the last two 80-BUS Newses, and
the assumed deadline for the Christmas issue means that the following notes
are thrown together in somewhat of a hurry to get the disc in the post. As
most microcomputer enthusiasts, I now find it difficult to use an ordinary
typewriter (even, dare I say it, an IBM). These notes are prepared using a
text editor, in this case WordStar, and a disc with the files on it posted off
to the Editor. The editorial discretion is exercised, the disc output is fed
through his Qume, and camera ready copy is produced from what is substantially
my original typing.
The tools to do this are Word processor or text Editor programs. Nearly
every vendor of software can supply at least one of these, sometimes a number
of different programs. Each such program has its adherents and as the numbers
of adherents grow, so the book publishers reflect this by publishing books on
particular word processing programs.
WordStar is one of the most widely used text editors. This can clearly be
geen in the number of books available for it. Two of these have recently come
to my attention.
WordStar Made Easy by Walter Ettlin, published Osborne/McGraw-Hill
is an easy to read "how to use it" manual on WordStar. It is certainly streets
ahead of the manual supplied with the program itself. [ Bd. – I wonder if Rory
is referring to WordStar 3.0, as the 3.3 manual is considerably better and is
also typeset? | This book is typeset, and well laid out. The subject is broken
up into 18 sections, which conduct the reader logically from turning on the
computer and getting WS running to complicated formatting and printing using
files of data.
An example of this might be the preparation of circular letters to
clients, including a reference by name within the body of the letter to their
wife. The phrase "and we look forward to seeing you and your wife nnnnn at our
Christmas party" will force a line to different lengths, depending on the
length of the name. The line with "Ann" in it will be much shorter than the
line with "Theodora". If the body of the letter is right justified, then it
will be rare for the right margin of the line with the insertion to come to
the correct place on the paper. WS has an optional program called MailMerge,
which will print such a letter, extracting the variables from a separate file.
It will also reformat the body of the letter to accomodate different length
insertions, so that the above discussed problem does not arise. Having read
Ettlin, one would be well able to start work on such a project, even had one
never used a Word processor program before.
Another WordStar book is “WordStar and CP/M made Easy” by Lee, published
John Wiley and Sons.
This book has been written and typeset using WordStar, the typesetting
having been done on what appears to be a daisy-wheel typewriter. In
consequence, it is tiring to read, both as the typestyle is typewriterish, and
also quite small (about 7pt. according to my measurement). The typewriter is
all right for short documents, but most book publishers nowadays seem to think
that it will do for longer ones as well. They loose sight of the vast amount
of thought and effort that has gone into the design of typefaces, and the
contribution to legibility that these make. As the source file of the book is
on disk, why don’t they feed it into a compositor rather than a typewriter?