AMS produces what is easily the most comprehensive mouse package for the Spectrum - the AMX. It's been around for more than a year and is regarded by many software houses as the standard mouse for their database, spreadsheets and graphics packages. Rainbird has taken this attitude with Art Studio and Softechnics, which currently favours the Kempston mouse, is about to take a nibble at AMX in Artist II.
It's the best dressed mouse in town with a rugged, easy to grip, body, a long lead which connects to a flat, Kempston-like interface. The interface includes a Centronics printer interface which can be controlled with four AMX Basic instructions.
AMX is the only mouse to sport three click keys. They can be independently programmed and AMS uses them to the limit of their potential in its graphics programs. To prepare the printer option you must type * Mouse Off which stops the interface from generating interrupts when the mouse moves. LPrint and LList will then send data to your printer.
If you want to list a program, rather than doing a screen dump, you enable the Basic tokens by typing *Tokens command. Your printer may not issue line-feed instructions automatically so the fourth extended Basic command, *LF, produces a line feed as well as a carriage return.
The package comes with four artist packages, the simplest of which is AMX Art. It's similar to Rainbird's Art Studio but the icons are displayed at the side of the screen and the three click buttons are programmed Execute menu option, Leave menu option and Move mouse, and Cancel last order.
Drawing tools include a pencil, paintbrush, paint roller, spray can, palette, text layer and eraser. The pencil can be used to draw lines, the paintbrush can be programmed to use a selection of eight tips which vary in density and width. And the paint roller use textures set up in the palette option. There are 40 textures which can be used to paint lines of varying width on to the screen or fill shapes. The shapes include shaded box and circle.
The text menu gives you access to five type faces which can be printed at normal or double-height and, if you want to go over the top, in italics. The type fonts consist of standard Sinclair character set, Bold, and futuristic 2001.
AMX Art gives more control over its mouse hardware than any of the other packages on the market - which isn't surprising. For instance the Lock command will trap cursor movement in an invisible grid which has character squares either 4 x 4 or 8 x 8. The former is useful for accurate mouse positioning and drawing long straight lines while the latter enables you to keep colour within attribute boundaries.
Screen pictures can be saved to and loaded from tape or Microdrive. You can store your own effects or load in screens from professional programs.
The package displays all screens in black, white or shade.
To add colour to your designs you'll need Colour Palette. It's a short program but, nevertheless, effective in adding ink, Paper, Flash and Bright. Just load in your screen, which has been exported from AMX Art, and set up the paint brush for the type of colour and effect you require. Then run the cursor over the screen and the colour appears. It's as easy as painting a wall.
While paint-and-play is an addictive occupation, particularly with a mouse, you'll soo want to control the AMX in your own programs - won't you!
The AMX Control Program extends Basic to incorporate mouse-orientated commands. There are 23 commands which create menus, find out which menu options have been clicked choose type fonts, display icons, set mouse sensitivity and define screen windows.
The commands are freely mixed with Basic and can use parameters such as variable, arrays and codes. AMS has included an icon designer - which works in the same way as a UDG designer. Using it you create and store icons for use within Basic or machine-code programs. There's no reason why you shouldn't even create your own operating system.
If you have problems with the technical side of mouse usage you can load the demonstration program on the second side of the AMS cassette. It shows the type of applications which can be written and shows the considerable power of the package. A four-function calculator and sliding puzzle are written in Basic but for speed and type of application they could equally have been written in machine code. Even my jaundiced eye could not tell the difference.
Click keys: 3
Sensitivity: range between 1 and 6
Software: Bundled - AMX Art, Mouse Control, Icon Designer, Calculator and Puzzle
Compatible: Art Studio, Artist iI
The best mouse around. And the most stylish. The snag is its excellence is reflected in the price!
The AMX art utilities output to a wide range of devices. Lock restrains the mouse in specific areas of the screen.
AMX mouse wins by a whisker. Package contains comprehensive colour design utilities.