SINCE THE release of Tasword 2 it has been the acknowledged leading word processing program for the Spectrum. The release of two new programs, and rumours of a third, could well change that.
The new programs are from Oxford Computer Publishing - OCP - and Softechnics. OCP has given us an exclusive look at Word Manager, available on cassette at £12.95 - microdrive compatible - or at £19.95 for a Kempston disc interface version.
A good word processor is many things to many people but each should display text as it is typed in, enable the insertion and deletion of text at any point, and do so a character, word or block at a time. It should have margins which can be moved and a tab function similar to that on a typewriter. To give a professional look to the printed documents it should also be possible to line the text up on the left side only - left justified - or left and right sides - right justified. Other functions - such as replace, centre justification, footers and headers, and page numbers - are useful but not vital. Word Manager includes all of those.
Some other features include a mode for writing over existing text, a string search which lets you find any 16-character string in the text, the ability to print lines of up to 128 characters, and mailmerge - that is, printing a number of copies of the same text, usually a letter, each with different names and addresses. The mailmerge feature uses a file of names and addresses from the OCP Address Manager.
Although written for the Spectrum, Word Manager is easier to use on the Spectrum Plus with the extra keys. Unlike Tasword 2, which presents a blank screen for entering text from the start, Word Manager gives a menu of choices to start - see figure one. That menu is used to give information on the number of words entered, the memory used and remaining, and the cursor position. Moving to text already in memory gives the opportunity to move to any word in the text.
The first thing you will notice about the text screen is the column of lines down the left hand side. Those are new paragraph markers. Symbols are used to denote the types of justification, and special markers for the start of a new paragraph or page when printing. The screen will display up to 24 lines of 64 column text compared with the 22 columns of Tasword, but that is paid for by having no information on the current state of the text on the screen.
With no function keys on the Spectrum, programmers have had to resort to some unusual methods to include all the features. In this case it is the use of the unshifted numeric keys for functions rather than numbers. Pressing 1 changes between overwrite and insert modes, 2 locks on the capitals, 3 returns to the main menu, 4 to 9 move the cursor and 0 deletes characters.
With the Spectrum Plus the only one of those functions which does not have a separate key is 1. If you have a Plus, press Caps Lock first after loading the program; that allows you to use the numeric keys for numbers straight away.
The righthand margin can be set in two ways, one for printing and one for display. If you set the display margin to more than 64, each line will be shown over two lines on the screen, with the unused part highlighted in a different colour. An indent margin for new paragraphs can be set using the tab function. There appears to be no way of moving the left margin.
The tab function allows tables to be typed in columns although it is somewhat longwinded. One column must be typed in, the tab position reset and the next column typed in and so on. There is no tab function or indent margin on Tasword, although left and right margins can be set to any position between 0 and 64.
Tasword includes a feature called word-wrap, which automatically takes any word which straddles two lines into the second line. On Word Manager that is done only when the new paragraph key is pressed. If you are accustomed to word-wrap on your word processor you might be surprised to find that this does not make the slightest bit of difference when you are entering text.
The range of options for deleting text is as good as many more expensive word processors, although perhaps not as convenient. The options include deleting characters either for- wards or backwards - where Tasword will only delete forwards; deleting a line which consists of the character under the cursor and the next 63 characters; deleting a word; and deleting the rest of the paragraph. Using the block commands parts of a paragraph or several paragraphs can be deleted. In comparison, Tasword will delete characters and lines only.
Other block functions allow you to move or copy blocks of text from one place to another. A substitution function allows you to replace any string. That is very useful, especially when technical documents are being prepared. The disadvantage is that it changes all strings which match after the cursor. In comparison, the search feature finds the first occurrence in the text, asks if it is the right one and if not moves to the next and so on.
Thanks to the inclusion of printer/ driver software for a range of interfaces, getting Word Manager to produce hard copy of your text is easy. However, the use of the graphics as printer control codes certainly gives Tasword the edge when it comes to controlling the printer to give different styles of print. Tasword can also be used with a ZX printer.
Other additional features of Word Manager are the ability to print lines of up to 128 characters, where Tasword can print only 64 character lines.
A slow print simulates multi-tasking by allowing you to either create a new piece of text or edit the old while it is printing. Printing multiple copies of the text in either single or double spacing, and with or without page numbers, is available.
A mailmerge facility can only work when the word processor has access to a database. In this case the database is created by OCP's Address Manager and is limited to names, addresses and postcodes, whereas two separate programs - Tasmerge and Masterfile - are necessary to do the same with Tasword. Tasword does have, however, the advantage of a more flexible mailmerge system.
On the Spectrum Plus Word Manager is relatively easy to use, and presently it is certainly the most powerful word processor for the Spectrum. Owners of Tasword who decide to buy Word Manager might like to know that it will read Tasword files for editing.
Price: £12.95 (cassette), £19.95 disc
Press:S to show script on screenB to clear memory and show blank screenj to justifyd to dejustify* to use microdrivesc to use cassette recorder? for help screenENTER to return to BASICNote capital B. This will erase the current script memory.Word count: 567Memory used (chars): 8715Space left (chars): 14325Cursor position: 2