In the beginning was Tasword. Somewhere in the middle was YS issue 1 with news of The Writer and Word Manager. Now, not quite at the end, Max Phillips looks at the new Tasword 3...
There are poor demented People with posh computers who think you can't do anything 'serious' with a Speccy. As if playing games wasn't a serious business. They even take pity on it and call it 'the humble Spectrum'. Since when has anything Sinclair been humble, huh? And they laugh if you say you can wordprocess on it.
The cure for these people is to get them a copy of Tasword 3 and tell 'em where they can load it. Not that the new Tasword cures all the problems of the Spectrum. It doesn't make keyboards grow or microdrives quicker or... Nor does it do anything that hasn't been done before. Like 64 characters across the screen or fancy page formatting.
What it does do though, is turn your Spectrum into a very usable, modern wordprocessor. And in particular, it incorporates most of what Tasword II users have been asking for and casually does the kind of thing newer programs such as SofTechnic's The Writer do - you know, those little extras like word counts, free space indicators and so on.
The new program has a lot of its predecessor in it - it looks the same and has the same weird habits like letting you drive the cursor through thin air past the end of your text. But the real hassles with the old program are all long gone. It's also pretty radical in that it only works with microdrives; there is no cassette version.
There's around 17K free for documents - about 3000 characters less than alternatives but no great loss. Tasword is pretty speedy even with long documents (it scrolls better than some arcade games) and the only real time-sink as waiting for those 'drives when it goes for the main menu.
Handing blocks of text is still done by marking their start and end with two special characters. Like its rivals, Tasword is a bit sloppy here because you can put lots of markers in at once. It can get a bit slow as well because Tasword doesn't keep an eye on where they are and has to go and look for them whenever you do a block operation.
MOVIN' AND MERGIN'
Moving stuff between files is also a pain - you have to do Word Manager-style contortions of merging text and then block moving. A saving grace is the new extend-Z which does a copy but leaves the markers in place so you can repeat the copy several times.
The vast array of editing commands (mostly extended key sequences) covers everything you can think of. Some of the stuff that's appeared since Tasword II, like 'ignore case' and manual or automatic search and replace is all there as well.
Print formatting is greatly improved over the old Tasword though not as versatile as The Writer. You can specify a header and footer at the top and bottom of each page, page numbers likewise, and either in the middle or on alternate sides of the paper so that they look right when you staple the printout into a leaflet.
There are up to 32 printer control codes for your printer's special features - more than enough methinks. You can print just a section of text, ask for several copies of a document and, sensibly, combine any number of files on a tape together to form a long document.
Tasword III also has a mail-merge facility so that you can do tricks like automatically addressing letters to the members of your club and so on. It isn't as completely comprehensive as The Writer but it's probably sufficient for the few of us that'll use it.
You can set merge-fields in the text from a datafile (created with Tasword or preferably MasterFile - details included in the manual). You can prompt for variables at print time so, for example, you'd only enter the date once to get it stuck on every letter. And you can do limited conditional printing (only print this bit if this guy hasn't paid has subs yet and so on).
However, the text is not reformatted after fields have been merged and merge-printing can mess up both the margins and the page-breaks! Well, if it can't be good, you can at least be careful...
But the best bit of all is customisation menu. These go beyond the normal setting up for your printer interface (which is a bit iffy - you might need to type in some - shock, horror - lines of Basic). You can save versions of the program with your own margin and tab settings, help screens, printer control codes, screen colours and so on. So everything's just how you like it when you RUN the cartridge. Neat!
And I shouldn't forget to mention the great 64-page manual, on-screen tutorial program. Tas II to Tas III document converter and... All in all, Tasword III is good enough to be a strong alternative to The Writer, Word Manager or anything else knocking about on the Speccy. And it's out now, works reliably and does a good job.
So it hasn't quite got the same fabled - oops, fabulous - list of goodies as The Writer. But it's close enough to give you a hard time choosing one or the other. Someone we know was a bit miffed when YS called Tasword the "undisputed King of Speccy wordpros". Sorry... It was a touch unthinking. We should have realised that it's far from undisputed. But King? Yep, possibly so....
THE WRITE STUFF
You can turn the copious help screens off for a bigger screen once you know what you're doing.TRUE and INVERSE VIDEO step all the help pages through the window in turn. You can even alter two of the pages to show the particular special effects you've set up on your printer!64 columns of quite readable text. Or 32 if your TV's naff. And watch it slick-scroll sideways if your document is anything up to 128 characters wide.Tasword II has no tabs... the new version lets you set up to 10 tabs across your document. The Writer has right, centre and decimal stops as well but with Tasword's ability to slide text left and right on a line you can manage...Hit EDIT for a full screen (and more) of help.Tasword III shows on-screen where pages will break on the printer. But, sadly, if you put your own page-breaks in, it doesn't get it right.Never one for inserting text, Tasword is still a little strange. The new auto-insert mode works like most wordprocessors - you type and it automatically reformats the paragraph for you. The old insert on/off keys are there and are quicker...What's all this then? A second character set with all sorts of funny foreign fings and dingbats to stick in your document. You may not be able to print all of these (trivial detail) but you can adopt the 2nd set so that it does produce the unusual characters your printer does...