Anyone looking to buy a dot-matrix printer will know the 'in' thing is 'near letter quality' type.
These NLQ machines work by printing each letter at least twice, slightly altering the dot position to fill in the gaps to produce an effect that will pass casual scrutiny as a typewriter/daisy-wheel print-out.
For those who bought an early machine, or a cheaper one without this facility, including the ubiquitous Epson RX and FX series, salvation is at hand in the form of programs like Qualitas that use a software trick to achieve the same effect. Typically two slightly different graphics dumps of the text are superimposed to produce the 'high quality' effect. This also allows you to print in a variety of founts including ones normally unavailable on your printer and to use proper proportional spacing.
Because the letters are actually drawn on the paper under the control of the computer, rather than using the printer's hardware set, the output is not surprisingly quite slow. Even so, the resulting effect is well worth the wait.
Qualitas, as the name suggests, is designed to work with the Tasword word processor (both tape and Microdrive version are available).
The driving software and one of the founts becomes merged into the code of Tasword itself which does cost a bit of memory. On the tape version you lose the Tasword Help page and 26 lines of text - hardly crucial.
However, this system does mean that it is impossible to switch founts within a document without first halting the printing and re-loading a different fount.
The program comes with five founts already designed, including Pica (10 characters per inch) and Elite (12 characters per inch) which are almost invariably supplied as standard with printers and which should match your normal draft print-out. The other founts supplied are Mercury, Piazza and Clarion. Some near letter quality printers only offer one fount in top quality so Qualitas may even find a market amongst those who want to extend their range.
Altering the founts or designing your own is possible using the fount editor program supplied - it looks just like a user-defined graphics designer except that the blobs aren't square and they overlap.
The program arrives ready installed for the Brother M1009 and the Epson range. The implication is that you should be able to customise it for any truly compatible printer that uses the same system of 'quadruple density bit-image graphics'.
On the whole Qualitas is a value-for-money program that will prove invaluable to many dot-matrix printer owners. Building it into Tasword makes it very easy to use but a stand-alone program that just used the same files might have been more versatile.
Label: Seven Stars
Price: £7.95 (tape), £8.95 (microdrive)
Reviewer: Tony Kendle
A shot in the arm for your printer. Easy to use and great value. The link into Tasword is neat.