THERE'S no getting away from it. The Last Word, from Saga Systems is different from any other word processor I've seen - and that includes Amstrad Locoscript and Wordstar on CP/M.
It has all the functions required of a word processor and includes commands which you may need when you've got to know the package better. You do not, however, have to know all the commands to write simply structured documents.
The main control keys are symbol shift and extended mode so the program is easiest to use on the Spectrum Plus, or 128, rather than the old 48K machine. Of course, the system will also work well with the Saga Systems keyboard - but then it would, wouldn't it?
The screen is split into the usual status bar sector - at the top - and the document window, which takes up most of the page. Text can be printed on the screen in a number of sizes ranging from 40 to 80 characters a line.
Margins can be set to cope with any paper width. If your printer copes with 100 characters a line, so will The Last Word. However, unlike other word processors with this facility, everything is displayed on screen. For instance, if you set the screen to 60 characters a line and your margins to 100 characters a line, then the left-over characters would be put on the next line of the screen window.
Tabulation positions are also simple to set but slightly inflexible as you can only set one width of margin. You could put a tab marker every eight characters along the screen width. You can clear all those tabs by entering 'one' as the specification, but you cannot set up odd tabs at varying distances along a line.
Once you've set the tabs and margins for your document you can type in the text. Unlike a typewriter, however, you do not have to worry about the end of a line. It will simply split the last word on the line in half or, if the word wrap is in operation, the word which would be split is taken onto the next line.
The four cursor arrow keys are used when editing text line-to-line or character-to-character. Using the extended mode and symbol shift, you can also move through a document word by word, or sentence - not line - by sentence.
Movement around the text file is made simpler with a Goto command using extended mode. That type of command is best used when you need to go to the end or beginning of a file and will do it quickly without panning through the remainder of the document.
Copy can be manipulated in blocks - paragraphs - or whole documents. Lines can be justified against the left, right or both margins, and even centred. If you make an error in layout, blocks of text or even the whole document can be reformatted so that more characters can be put on a page, lines can be made shorter by moving in the margins, and text can be centred.
Blocks of text can be copied from one area of the document to another. You can also delete paragraphs and find words or phrases in the text. The latter option looks at each group of characters, which it deems to recognise as a word, and that can cause problems. If you wanted to find every recurrence of the word 'Gilbert' then The Last Word would find it with no problems unless the word had a comma after it - Gilbert, - in which case it would not recognise it. To be fair, this is a fault shared by other word processors.
You will often want to know how many words are in your document. The Last Word not only gives the number of words but also the number of bytes used to store the text file. Files can be up to 24K long which allows you to put almost 25,000 characters in your documents. Words have an average length of six characters, so the program can hold roughly 4,000 words - enough for the most ardent writer.
The Last Word has a unique way of handling printer and file compatibility. You can exit to Basic and produce routines to drive the printer, transfer files from other machines or storage devices, and set up text within strings such as names and addresses, which can then be inserted in your documents. All those functions are called when the program reaches a special mark in the text.
Print parameters, such as setting the type of text you require - bold, italic or double sized - can also be set up using those marks.
The markers can be set anywhere within a document and several of them can be run together. If you put two or three in a row you will notice a strange, but appealing attribute of the word processor. You can put hundreds of markers one after the other but they will take only one space in your document.
Once set you can see what effect the markers are meant to achieve by passing the cursor over the black marker blob and pressing the right cursor key. Each marker's job will be displayed in the status window, one at a time, as you page through them. When you've encountered all the markers you have set, the cursor will start to move down the line again.
You can dump your text to a wide variety of printers using Centronics and RS232 interfaces. Setting up the program to cope with your particular printer interface will cause no problems. It includes an interactive menu on which is displayed all the control codes for interfaces. Just turn to the code appendix for your interface.
The Last Word is the friendliest word processor I have used. It has everything you require with a host of extras - a remarkable programming feat given the memory available.
The program even includes a calculator and an alarm clock. The calculator manipulates numerical data within documents - such as lengthy formulae - and the alarm can be set to remind you when to save your files. The manufacturer recommends that you back up your work every half an hour - very sound advice too.
The author has spent two years writing the program. He had no experience of word processors, but merely an idea of what he would want a text manipulator to achieve. He has succeeded in surpassing the quality of all word processors on the Sinclair market, and many in the MS-DOS and CP/M markets.
Whether The Last Word is the last word in word processing, only time - and the other manufacturers who take it up - will tell. As for Saga, it intends to produce a 128K version and updates for the Spectrum. It has no plans to launch it on other machines so, you lucky Spectrum people, you are part of a growing minority which can enjoy the power of The Last Word.
Publisher: Saga Systems
Programmer: Myrmidon Software
Mail Merge: Yes
Word Wrap: YesStandard Phrases: YesAccess to Basic: YesFile chaining: YesOnscreen Help: YesTabulation: YesScroll text window: NoUndelete: NoText file size (words): 4,000
The Last Word displays a file status window.