Despite its name Designer from Gap Software is not another graphics package. Instead it's a two-program utility to help the small businessman cut the cost of his printer's bills by producing rough artwork for his advertising leaflets, posters and cassette inlays.
The designs are built up using the first program of the suite. Five sets of 21 user-defined characters (UDGs) are preset in the program. If this isn't enough the UDGs and character sets can be redesigned or new ones can be created using the second program, a character designer.
When it's running, the top two rows of the Spectrum's 22-row screen display are used to display the current set of UDGs and a third line is used to show the main menu options. The bottom line of the screen is used for the status and subsidiary menus.
The main menu has four options: Mode, Cursor, Functions and Attributes. The three modes are Draw, Move and Text. In Draw mode cursor moves are shown on screen while in Move the cursor can be moved without drawing a line. Creating a design involves a lot of switching between these two modes. Text prints letters in either normal or double-height characters starting at the current cursor position. Selecting Cursor allows you to change the shape of the cursor to that of one of the UDGs. Attributes lets you change the ink and Paper colours for the cursor and apply these colours to part of a row (or column) or to blocks of whole rows (or columns). Functions gives access to the saving, loading and printing routines. It is also used for changing between the sets of UDGs and the Page function.
Only one UDG character set can be used at a time.
While a ZX printer can be used to print out your design it makes more sense to use an 80-column printer. Spectrum screen dumps are about a quarter of A4 size and a Page option has been included so that several screens can be linked together to give an A4 print-out. This is probably the most important feature of Designer.
I found it very frustrating having constantly to switch between modes (particularly between Draw and Move) and swap UDG sets to build up any sort of picture.
Because you can design your own character sets from scratch there would be potential to use it as an electronic circuit-board layout designer or for foreign language applications, for example as an elementary Japanese word processor.
Clearly it has found a niche, although it may not be the one the authors had originally expected.
Reviewer: Mike Wright
Not really up to it as a sign designer. of more interest as a planner - say of circuit boards. Pricey though.