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Myrmidon Software
Utility: Word Processor
ZX Spectrum 48K

Other Links

Dominic Handy
Chris Bourne

SAGA SYSTEMS have built a solid reputation in the Spectrum add-on market based on their peripherals Spectrum keyboards predominently. Now they have come up with a piece of software that is best used in conjunction with one of the peripherals they sell. Late last year Nick Buckingham strolled into the Saga offices to see if they would publish his word processor, The Last Word, as he hadn't had much success doing it himself. Saga were very impressed with Nick's program, but wanted the manual re-written and software 'tweaked up on a few points, mainly compatibility with other periperhals. Once this had been achieved , the program was ready for release.

The software is accompanied by a comprehensive manual (which is being updated every time Saga thinks of something extra to put in). The cassette arrives in a NORMAL cassette box (!) and comes with all the relevant programs for transferring The Last Word to the storage medium you have as well as the obligatory introduction letter and a very neat piece of software that can convert any Tasword II file that you care to give it into something that The Last Word understands.

The layout of The Last Word is very easy to follow, and on loading you are put straight into OVERWRITE mode. This shows the large 20 line text file window and a very neatly presented status bar at the top of the screen. This contains all the information you am likely to need during the typing in of the document: cursor status, justification, word wrap and so on . . . The text window width can have 4 different settings, 40, 48, 60 or 80 columns. I found the tiny 80 column characters tiring to read but the mode is useful if you want to see what the finished output will be like. The actual print line can be extended up to 146 columns if necessary by using the appropriate number of screen lines to accommodate the text.

The Last Word contains all that the average home and business user would need, and more. Text is typed in as normal but when you want to fiddle about with it care is needed as The Last Word is so powerful you could find yourself splicing a text file in a few swift key movements.

Cursor movement is very comprehensive with all the features found in Tasword III except movement paragraph by paragraph. The cursor can be moved around sentence by sentence instead, which I found a bit less useful. The author has also included a useful option which allows the user to input a line number for the cursor to jump to very useful for moving around in a large chunk of text. Inserting new text into an existing text file is easy, but looks a little strange at first. As insertion begins, all the existing text after the cursor disappears until you go back to OVERWRITE mode this may seem trivial, but I found it very awkward to use, especially when I forgot the gist of the original text.

The facilities for deleting text are also very comprehensive and all types of things can be deleted: the cursor character, to the end of a line, to end of the file or the whole file.

The author has tried to dispose of the laborious marking of blocks of text and plumped for the option of inputting the line numbers instead of block markers. This approach means that blocks of text can be deleted by specifying the first and last lines. This is by far the quickest method. There isn't an actual Move Block command as this can be done using the repeat/delete options.

The first key that a Last Word user should memorise is the REFORM to next firm marker key. This effectively rectifies the mess that is made of a paragraph that you've been playing around with by rejustifying the whole lot. The key is well used as most the The Last Word options do not rejustify after commands have been carried out, leaving tidying up in the hands of the user.

When any main option that could effect your text is chosen a small window opens up at the top of the screen into which commands are entered, which commands are entered. A CALCULATOR mode allows you to use the Spectrum as a normal calculator. This option is very powerful, as the result of computations may be saved as a BASIC variable (m1 to m0) or included in the text. Saved variables may be incorporated in calculations a powerful and useful facility. The routine, I was told, took up a very small part of memory, so it seems a pity it isn't included in other Spectrum word processors.

The EXCHANGE option allows words in the text to be swapped and can also be used to find a word(s) in the text. If the urge grabs you, every occurrence of a word or phrase can be deleted. During exclusive substitution operations it is necessary to know where all the words you want to change occur in the text as The Last Word just provides a line number and asks if you want to exchange the occurrence of the word on that line. If you don't know where you are in context, you end up guessing! Replacing all occurrences of a word or phrase is straightforward enough; unfortunately the keyboard buffer is not cleared and you can end up with lots of 's's over the text. I felt this option was quite limited on its own - it's only possible to exchange strings of up to 16 characters, and the letters have to be input in upper or lower case correctly…

The Last Word includes an option that allows a simple variable of any length from BASIC to be INCLUDEd into the text file. I found this most useful when I wanted to include saved calculated results or very long bits of text that crop up over and over within an annotated piece of script.

The Last Word includes the use of TABULATION markers, but they are very inflexible as you can only have one width of TAB column. This means that most tables would be hard to enter using these, nevertheless, moving across the line is much quicker via TAB markers.

All the options are accessed via different combinations of shifts, which means that once you're a proficient user of the program there is absolutely no reason to look at the screen menu system while typing. Where The Last Word scores particularly highly is via its compatibility with practically every disc drive or printer you run with it. Every disk system I could think of, and some I'd never heard of before were catered for with full CAT. ERASE and LOAD/SAVE options, proving that a lot of time had gone into ensuring compatibility - every programmers nightmare.

The printer options cater for all types of visual output, with 24 different control tokens available.

Printer tokens, unlike Tasword III take up no screen space and just invert the letter they start at. When an inverted letter is encountered by the cursor, the window at the top of the screen displays the token that is represented at the top of the screen displays the token that is represented at the cursor position. Any number of printer tokens may be placed on one letter, taking up no more screen space. Because of this, the ragged edges of text in the printer output are avoided, unlike in Tasword III where graphics characters are taken as text letters and used in justification of lines.

Overall The Last Word is a very powerful wordprocessor with lots of little things like the calculator and including of BASIC strings to make it appeal to both the first time and experienced wordprocessor user equally. Where The Last Word fell short was in the expansion of each of the options. There is certainly no lack of commands, but each command fulfils its function with no frills attached: things like the printer menu and exchange menu could have been improved. As The Last Word was written to put a new angle on the wordprocessor market, it may take some getting used to, but once mastered it performs beautifully.

User Friendliness: 8
Speed of Operation: 8
Tab Markers: 5
Calculator: 9
Mail Merge: 2
Find/Replace: 7
Peripheral Compatibility: 10
Printer Options: 9

Screen Line (chars): 40,48,60,80
Printer Line (chars): 146
Word Count: Yes


General Rating:

Not Rated

Screenshot Text

A textfile on the LAST WORD, showing the video markers on the right of the screen which indicate the type of return in operation for each screen line (hard or soft). The rectangular status area above the text contains the command area: The find/Substitute/Quit option has just been selected. The first few lines in the text area tell you what the wordprocessor is actually up to - in this case, substituting 'Spectrum' with 'machine'.