by Jon Loveless
Published in ANTIC, April 1984 Issue
There are currently three true word processors available for the ATARI, and that in itself creates a few problems. Typically, you would run out and buy one the moment one of 2 things occur:
1. you have the money, or
2. you find a store that has one in stock.
If you have not yet done so, or have done so and are still interested in what else is available, then read on. We are going to do an exhaustive comparison of the currently available word processors.
NAME: Letter Perfect (TM) Vers. 2.0
LKJ Enterprises, INC.
P.O. Box 10827
St. Louis, MO 63129
Note: LKJ has 2 disk based versions of Letter Perfect and 1 ROM version. Version 1.0 was released early in 1981, and has been replaced by Version 2.0. Disk based Version 2.0 is the one being compared here and you should be aware of which version you are looking at before you buy.
NAME: Text Wizard (TM)
19519 Business Center Drive
Northridge, CA 91324
NAME: Atari Word Processor
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
The most difficult part of any software comparison is the final recommendation, so we are going to present the recommendation first. The bottom line is that all three of these word processors are excellent. If you were to choose one at random with no advance knowledge about its capabilities, you would end up with an excellent product and a purchase of value. All three have a number of commands to get used to, and with practice can be mastered in fairly short order. After several sessions at the keyboard these commands will become second nature and a more detailed evaluation can be made. Here again, none will fail, but regardless of which you purchase you will undoubtedly find something you wish you had.
Having started with relatively equal booking, let’s look at the best and worst features of each word processor first, and then fill in the middle ground with a chart of feature comparisons.
LETTER PERFECT (TM)
The database merge capability stands out as truly unique feature of Letter Perfect. This will allow the printing of form letters to a list of people without the need to manually change the name and address. The name and address list can be developed on Letter Perfect and then, using the companion program Mail/Merge (extra-cost option), print out individual letters using the name or other data in the heading and the body of the letter. Coupled with the LKJ Database Management System (to be released soon) this should be a powerful threesome.
The general ease of use is probably next on the list of Letter Perfect best features. If you accept the default values built into the software, you can boot the disk (a menu will appear), press
There are also a few other features that should come under the category of “nice touch”. For example, pressing the CONTROL key and [A] will move the cursor to the beginning of the line you are on, and CONTROL [Z] will move the cursor to the end of the same line. This may sound insignificant, but with nearly 50 commands, and 15 format representations this kind of simple and logical interaction is appreciated.
Version 1.0 had a number of bugs, and other problems often associated with the first release of new software. Version 2.0 has corrected all of these and added a few other niceties. As a result, we are hard pressed to find what we could call a “worst. LKJ chose to utilize their own Disk Operating System which creates instant compatibility problems problems. This has been corrected to a large degree with the optional program Mail/Merge. In the absence of the comparison program, however, it does limit you to using Letter Perfect files. Atari’s 40 column TV screen limitation is overcome somewhat by a “SCREEN FORMAT” command on the menu, but this is at best only a partial solution.
All in all, Letter Perfect is a well written, well engineered, easy to use program that will satisfy the vast majority of word processing needs.
TEXT WIZARD (TM)
The least expensive of the three word processors being discussed here, Text Wizard has to be labeled as the BEST BUY. It is an extremely powerful yet simple word processor, and has the added ability to write and edit BASIC programs. If you do any software development you will really appreciate the edit capability. For example, you can load a basic program, edit it, and print all or part of it to your printer.
Word processing commands are very logical and can be given at any time except during print. There is no menu, but every command ties to the keyboard in a fashion that is easy to remember. The console keys START, SELECT, AND OPTION, for example, are used a great deal. To print, save, or load a program you would press OPTION and either P, S, or L. Perhaps the nicest feature involves the INSERT mode. If you press the CONTROL key and the INSERT key at the same time, you enter this mode which allows you to insert letters, words, or even paragraphs. Text to the right of the cursor is “pushed” as you type which makes the job of adding text into the middle of a paragraph a simple matter.
Text Wizard makes no attempt to overcome the 40 column TV screen limitation imposed by Atari. This translates to “print it if you want to see how it will look” and wastes a lot of paper. Difficulty may also be experienced when using the header/footer commands on shorter than normal pages, but with some experimenting this can be compensated for. Although you would have to do a lot of typing to feel the pinch, Text Wizard uses more of your memory space than Letter Perfect by about 6000 bytes.
ATARI (TM) WORD PROCESSOR
Make no mistake, this is the most sophisticated and powerful of the three programs being compared. At the top of most lists would have to be the superior text formatting/viewing capabilities of the ATARI word processor. Of the three programs we are reviewing, this is the only one which does an excellent job of compensating for the 40 column screen limitation. By pressing the [SELECT] key, you are transferred to a special graphics mode which shows you what your document will look like when printed. Although you can’t read it in this form (words have been replaced by lines) the image is very clear. It is from this mode that all of the form controls are indicated as well, and you can see the effect of your margin changes instantly. All other changes require that your text be re-formatted under program control. The reformatting, incidentally, is fascinating to watch the first few times, but on a long document can be time consuming. The trade off of reformatting versus printing to see what the results will be, softens the wait considerably.
The Atari Word Processor has a number of very sophisticated features that aren’t found in many others in its price range ($150). It makes liberal use of the Atari scrolling and screen editing features which provides substantial freedom to view your text. It intentionally makes a backup copy of the last page that you “re-save” after editing. This allows you to reclaim it in the event you have a change of heart. It allows you to change capital letters to lower case, and vice-versa with a simple keystroke. You would have to see this one in action to believe its usefulness.
After using both Letter Perfect and Text Wizard for some time the Atari Word Processor seems very complicated even though great pains have been taken in the Atari tradition of human engineering. The documentation, which seems intimidating at first, is designed for the person with no computing experience and is demeaning in its simplicity for anyone other than the rank beginner. Time is the best teacher, though, and Atari has really done a commendable job of preparing the user to reap full benefits from their program. After the dust has settled, the one remaining shortcoming seems to be the numerous keystrokes needed to accomplish certain tasks. The Atari Word Processor is completely menu driven, with at least 5 levels of menu to contend with in certain cases. To format a document, for example takes five individual keystrokes if you want to include depagination. Printing can take four and so-on. Much of this results from the added features and functions that Atari has provided, so it is possible that there isn’t a better/faster way. It just seems that there is so much “protect the user” philosophy built in to it that is sometimes gets in the way of efficient operation.
The best way to finish this off is to refer you to the chart of features that accompany this article, and to encourage you to try each of them at a local dealer. All three word processors are good, if not great. All have their strengths, and in fact I use all three depending on my purpose or goal. All three are good value for the money. If I had to choose one above the others, however, I would give the nod to LJK. They seem to be on the right track, and are tying their software together into a nice, albeit expensive, package. The database (Data Perfect) is now available as well as the ROM version of Letter Perfect. The latter, incidentally, sells for $250, which seems a bit high. It is an enhanced version of Version 2.0 and will be given a thorough review in the next issue, so be sure to check it out.