Scor­pio News


October–December 1987 – Volume 1. Issue 4.

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A Brief Look at WordStar 4

by P.A. Greenhalgh

This issue of Scorpio News is brought to you courtesy of WordStar 4. This is the latest version of this “classic” word processor, and it has a large number of enhancements over previous releases. Some of these are trivial, a few should have been in it from Version 1 and several are a boon. This is a very quick look at a number of its new features, and it will probably only make full sense to those of you familiar with earlier releases of WS.

For a start, there are three new dot commands included that make life so much easier. These are .lm, .rm and .pm – set left margin, set right margin ant set paragraph margin (i.e. indentation of the first line of each paragraph). You can insert these as and when you like throughout a document, making reformatting (with ^QU, reformat from cursor to end) a totally painless affair.

There is also extensive support for a wide range of printers, including control of those with proportional character sets (e.g. lasers and many matrix printers). This is still somewhat of a “fraud”, but it is a definite step forward for mankind. The “fraud” aspect of it is, that WordStar still only justifies with a fixed number of characters per line, rather than being completely variable, as in typesetting where a line is of a specific physical length (e.g. x cms). However, WS4 contains width tables for the particular font in use, (which I haven’t got quite right yet!) works out how much of a given line the text is going to occupy, and thus how much blank space there will be in total, and divides this blank space up into the gaps between words. You can see this by looking at this page: the last line of each paragraph has correct spacing (unmodified by WS4) – look at the other lines at the paragraph. By the way, we now get 20%+ more text per page!

The <ESC> key now has new functions. Press <ESC>! and “5:16 PM” appears, <ESC>@ and “8 September, 1987” appears – quite handy. However, the main functions of <ESC> are user-definable, and <ESC>y definitions, where y is any letter or number, may be set up to return whatever sequence of characters that you want, including control characters and sequences. This can be very useful.

Mail-merge is now a standard part of WS4, as is a spelling checker and thesaurus. The spelling checker is quite fascinating, as it works phonetically. For example, present it with sikiatryst, and the alternative it offers you is, quite correctly, psychiatrist. A single keystroke makes the substitution for you. It will, like most spelling checkers, allow you to build your own personal dictionary, so that for example “Nascom” no longer throws up the “correction” of “Nazism” !!

The thesaurus is also fun (and useful!). Point to a word and hit a particular key combination. You are presented with the alternatives. Move the cursor to the one you fancy, press return, and the substitution is made for you. For example, I will now put the word “thesaurus” several times, and then use it to show the options offered: dictionary, glossary, lexicon, list, synonym finder, synonym listing, vocabulary, word finder.

Help is now far more comprehensive, press ^J followed by the command that you are interested in, and you will be given a brief description of its use. This of course means that you need to know the commands to begin with (!), but you can see these, with their one of two word descriptions, if you have the top-of-screen menus turned on.

There is now on un-delete function. Each time you delete something, either a word, line, block, whatever, it is stored in a temporary buffer. ^U can be used to restore the buffer to the screen. A neat quirk is that the restore is done at the CURRENT cursor position, so if for example you heave two words transposed, you can swap them by going to the first and typing ^T^F^U (delete word, move right one word, un-delete word). The buffer is of a finite, user-definable, size and if the delete you are about to do will not fit into the buffer, you are given a warning that you will be unable to un-delete it.

Maths functions are built-in. If you “block-mark” a horizontal column of numbers ^KM will add them up for you. Alternatively, ^QM takes you to a calculator, which has log, sin, square root functions etc. After you exit, <ESC>£ can be used to bring the last equation typed into your document, and <ESC>= will bring in the last result, e.g, log(int(sqr(64)*sin(30))^5) = 2.3856062736.

There are many, many more features that I do not have the space to cover here. Operation of most functions is MUCH faster, a utility, WSCHANGE, can be used to set up just about anything and everything, and so on. WS4 is, as far as I am aware, only available for MS-DOS. Unfortunately I doubt that it will ever find its way to CP/M-80.

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