Beyond SmartWRITER
Part III: A Review of SpeedyWrite V2.0, Cont.
by David Sands


If you know how to use SmartWRITER, you have very little left to discover about it, and it has given you all it can. As an entry-level word processor, SW was judged better than most. But, it lacks so much that better programs, like SpeedyWrite, offer, that you owe it to yourself to investigate alternatives. For one thing, using a different program can make a real difference in your attitude to the work you are doing.

For another, it can make that work much easier. SpeedyWrite 2 (SW2) has within it several features that can simplify even basic word processing tasks. These are the Macro functions, the Pocket Database, the split-screens, the two separate workspaces and SpeedyWrite Spell.

To deal with the latter - Spell is not part of the SpeedyWrite program, it's an additional ($24.85 US) program and is installed after you load SpeedyWrite. Spell has a 10,000 word dictionary and a 5,000 word Thesaurus. This isn't large - almost any paperback dictionary offers more, and supplies definitions. But Spell is there in the ADAM, and a misspelling will create a flash on your screen and a beep sound. If perfection in your writing is as important to you as it is to me, you may want to avail yourself of the convenient 'off' feature (CONTROL + DELETE), and use the Spell-Checking part of the program after you've written your piece. And no, there ain't no grammar checker. The Spell program lets you add your own words and create your own dictionaries, and the Thesaurus can be a help when the right word won't come.

SpeedyWrfte Spell requires a 64K memory expander and, when loaded into memory, eliminates the Help and Pocket DataBase features from the basic program. These can be restored, eliminating the Spell program, from the SW2 Filer menu.

SpeedyWrite's Filer menu contains, as a "header window" superimposed on any screen, and with one keypress, (STORE /GET), -- Save, Load, Delete, Init, Rename, Catalog, Status, Copy, System and PkDBASE. Here are all the "utilities" you are likely to need when working within a program. The one exception is Format, which SW2 offers, but only in combination with the SmartBASIC program.

I'll assume reasonable familiarity on your part with the ones SmartWRITER offers. Init is occasionally useful when you've got an old, full disk or datapack but no space to store your current opus. Use Init, which clears the directory, and start loading files over top of the old ones. If you've got a media holder stuffed with every disk or tape you've ever filled, and no new ones this side of tomorrow, Init will help. Why this example occurs to me, I'll never know. Rename is also an occasionally useful function, especially in connection with the Copy function. I use Rename rarely, but it's there when I need it.

Status is one of my favorite Filer utilities in SW2. With it, I can check on exactly how much space I have left on my disk / tape, how big my files are, and change the read and write protection settings. Of them all, the security of knowing how much room you have left on a media needs to be experienced to be believed.

One of the drawbacks of a review such as this, based on personal use of a broadly featured program, is that everyone -you, me, Saddam, -- will use a program differently. I'll deal with my favorite features, but my priorities just aren't the same as yours. SW2 would be a joy to use with a dot matrix printer, I'm sure, because it has great built-in features to exploit those printers - but I don't use one. (But, he said, the beautiful job Dave Cobley does in formatting and printing out the ADVISA is all done with SpeedyWrite 2, and that's just a small example of its capabilities). Similarly, I don't find the Preview feature particularly useful. Preview is part of the Print menu and lets you see how your finished work will look, as you've formatted it. It takes a little getting used to, and I don't find it valuable. It does help SpeedyWrite do one marvelous thing with the ADAM printer, and that is selective reprints. As we all know, printing a single page from a multiple page SmartWRITER file is often a good trick, occasionally a damn bore, and always fussy. With SpeedyWrfte you select the page number you want to reprint, or find it in the Preview screens, and Print it. Hallelujah!

SW2 offers both split screens and two workspaces. Split screens show two or three parts of the same file. The advantage in rewriting and fine tuning is clear, or in following your train of thought clearly from your introduction through to conclusion. SpeedyWrfte 2 can't do it all for you, though. Ask me how I know. The two separate workspaces in SpeedyWrite 2 let you jump back and forth between two different files, or make two flies out of one. It's a superb feature when you must shorten but don't want simply to delete everything that won't fit. The two workspaces are accessed with a CONTROL + T keypress combination, and I find new uses all the time for them. One that works well is to outline, load that file, and then expand on the other screen, saving the expanded file as you work. Being two keypresses away from a reference, like a transcript, historical document, old file, download, readme, whatever, is again one of those experiences that SmartWRITER users owe to themselves (some of us are getting on, and we need some more discoveries like those that enlightened our younger years and showed us what the rest of the works knew about that we didn't; like marshmallow chocolate ice cream).

If you use your ADAM for correspondence, the SW2 Pocket Database feature will add convenience to your life. For example, one of the ten 'screens' can contain addresses for regular letters of complaint: Hydro, Telephone, Revenue Canada, etc. You can access PkDbase files through the SW2 Filer menu, but even faster is to store it in the expansion memory Ramdisk. It's available then without using the disk drive. As with other functions, you access it with the keyboard, not SmartKEYs. When set up on a RamDisk, the WILDCARD key brings up the PkDbase, and a TAB + NUMBER combination selects your screen. Since databases can contain anything you need as information, you can use them as specific help screens; put in all your most-needed Control codes, your printer codes, your CSIS codes...

Integrity demands every reviewer have some reservations about whatever it is he's undertaken to discuss. SpeedyWrite 2 makes that duty difficult. I have some problems with the file access setup, and I have had problems with disks and file access. But I can't entirely blame the program for them. I think they more likely have been what the service and repair trades call 'finger problems'. The cursor control in SpeedyWrite, where you use HOME + ARROW keys to jump from sentence to sentence, is fast, but not always precise. It seems to get hung up in letter-number combinations, or among initials separated by periods.

But that's about it. Not much to complain about, and a lot to praise. I appreciate little things about SW2, like the CONTROL + X combination keypress which lets me 'untangle' character transpositions, something I'm prone to when transcribing. Type 'hte' for example, put the cursor on the 'e' and type CONTROL + X -- you get 'the'. It's convenient. CONTROL + Z jumps the cursor from space to space. It may never be a useful item for you, but I find it handy when reviewing. Disk directories are easy to print from within SpeedyWrite; just Catalog, press SHIFT and SmartKEY IV (a SpeedyWrite Macro) and then ESCAPE. Then print the catalog. Fast and convenient. I may someday have all my disk catalogs printed out and kept with the disks. I may someday win the Lotto-649 too, the chances are about equal.

SpeedyWrite's Pocket Database is a good example of how a complete word processor program will allow you to work with the ADAM, doing everything within a computer environment. It may very well be a problem to you in that it all sounds like it might be too much of a good thing. Too many of us born again SpeedyWrite types may put off the tentative ones amongst us by our enthusiasm. To drag the analogy out to the legal limit; it's not necessary for your baptism in SpeedyWrite, to be a total immersion. Everything you know how to do with SmartWRITER you can do in Speedy, with very simple adaptation. And everything you do now, you can continue to do, and use the much more complete features as you want them. I have yet to write my own Macros, preferring to keyboard a lot of repetitive material, but as soon as I want to stop typing everything, I can create and save 100-character phrases and use them with two keystrokes. The amount of work I would have saved just typing "SpeedyWrite", would justify the effort. However, there's a quick and simple Search and Replace that does the job. Faster than the other brand, too!

I encourage anyone, and everyone, to get their own copy of SpeedyWrfte 2 and SpeedyWrite Spell.

Future articles in this series will deal with CP/M and TDOS compatible word processors, and may not come as regularly, as the writer will first need to master TDOS, then the program. But I'm looking forward to VDE: Tom Keene's encyclopedic knowledge of it in his "Put It In Writing" series, will be a great help.

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