Faster SmartWRITER
Part I: Some Basics and Proof
to the Theory
by David Sands


EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was supplied to us by The ADAM News Network and originally appeared in the Vancouver Island Senior ADAMphiles A.U.G. Newsletter / Editor - David Cobley.

It's not surprising that many ADAM owners, and most members of V.I.S.A. say they use their ADAMs for word processing. The ADAM has a fine word processing program in SmartWRITER, it's printer produces a much finer product than the usual home computer dot matrix printer, and the operation of the ADAM, with the program instantly available at power on, is considerably easier than any contemporary and many current machines.

But, like performance evaluations you may have had to endure, once we quickly cover the nice stuff we're into the suggestions for improvement and places where management is unhappy with our productivity, attitude, etc.

So, what can we do with SmartWRITER to make it perform better for us? My suggestions are based on four years use of the ADAM primarily as a word processor, two of them as editor of a monthly ADAM user group newsletter that was entirely produced on the ADAM computer and it's printer. There are some ideas here that may be new to you as well as some old tricks.

First, forget the Standard Format. That's the typewriter style screen. I use Moving Window exclusively and find Standard a bore and awkward. My routine, on powering up the ADAM, is always: power on, Escape / WP key, Screen Options key, Moving Window key, and then Margin / Tab key.

Just as fast as that, too. When your Margin / Tab options come up on the SmartKEYs, set Left and Right Margins for about 3 and 35, respectively, depending on how your TV or monitor displays.

This gives you: one, a full screen to work on, with 20 lines of typing; two, fast access with the cursor arrow buttons to anything you have on that screen; and three, all of your work is in front of you, none of it is off the screen at the right or left or up at the top and needing an eternity to scroll down onto that typewriter roller so you can correct something.

When you are ready to print, hit Margin / Tab again and reformat to whatever you need: the default or standard settings are 10 Left and 70 Right. I feel ADAM printouts look better if they're slightly narrower than those.

Remember the "Home" and arrow key combination moves a screen of material at a time. Remember also that the arrow keys are the source of the "spiral" problem in SmartWRITER, where your page length indicator on screen left just cycles endlessly and you can't Store, among other problems. Use them carefully...

Some experience with this system will show you that a: it works, and b: it's faster.

Trust me, have I lied to you before?

Some things SmartWRITER does well but with maddening slowness. Insert and Delete come to mind. To work quickly in SW, try not to do much of either. Backspace and type over if you've just missed a short word, a "the" or an "it" for example, and your typing speed and the ADAMs' reformatting each line as you retype will be quicker than going through the Insert routine. If we could get rid of the 'Done?' keys and the eternal 'Are You Sure?' in Delete, we could do without some other luxuries, but we're stuck with them. So avoid them, retyping is faster, and you don't take your hands from the keyboard to hit damn old SmartKEY VI "Done" all the time.

Insert, though, is one of the reasons we're not still using typewriters, as is Delete. If you've used your ADAM at all, you have discovered that it works faster than it's screen display. When you finish inserting, hit "Done" while typing. Don't pause.

Similarly, with Delete, get the highlighting done and hit Delete twice. Get the timing right and it disposes of "Are You Sure?" in quick time.

I use Insert and Delete only if I can't correct my problem with Backspace. It's faster and you use a single key on your keyboard. Staying on the keyboard is the secret of high speed typing.

Size of files is a real cause of slow work in SmartWRITER. Five full size pages is the limit suggested in your Coleco instruction material, but for real speed from the program do a page by page type / Store routine. I have found that while this will save time, you must train yourself to use it, and combining files when you print can create time-consuming problems. Always add the next file when you're at the bottom of the previous piece. Otherwise, ADAM will load the next file into the first apparently randomly. I have used this trick to bring little boxes and other kinds of stuff into columns, saving the time of creating it while working on something else, but don't use it where time is tight.

Printing on the ADAM is just plain slow and as noisy as a rock concert. My solutions are simple because there isn't any magic here. My printer is elevated on a pair of the universal mounts sold everywhere for dot matrix printers. They fit the ADAM printer and they help it run cooler without the strange, time-consuming behavior a hot ADAM gets into.

You can save a lot of time with continuous or fan-fold paper, even If you want to print only single sheets.

Buy a good grade of paper, it's sold by weight, and "clean edge" paper the perforated edge strips off very nicely and few people will notice.

If you're using single sheets, taking the time to line up the paper right the first time means you don't have to reprint. Fan fold will feed evenly through the printer if you take a piece of coat-hanger wire and shape it so that it rests perfectly across the back of the paper slot on the printer with a bent-down piece in each of the little holes you find there. Look where it says "Align edge of paper here." Credit for that great trick belongs to David Cobley, not me. Fan fold will save time even if you align it each time. It sits under the printer and it's always ready.

You may want to investigate "printer buffers." These units, available from the mail order suppliers, give the printer its own memory and allow you to continue working while printing the previous job. I have no personal experience with these, but that may change.

While we're on printing: the "Print HiLite" feature can be used to fit an extra line onto a page and save a reformat and reprint that might be required if you didn't want a second page with a single line on it.

These ideas get more into the helpful hints category than major timesavers, but they all add up. Improve your typing with a program like ExperTYPE, now dirt cheap from mail order outfits, if correcting errors, "hunting and pecking" or taking forever to find keys is your real problem. It is possible to type faster than the ADAM can display, but it catches up with its screen buffer. Search only works top to bottom, but it can be a quick way to the end of a previously typed piece. When "Get" brings the file up on screen, Search for something that isn't there and you'll be at the end of your piece.

The famous - Infamous, to be more precise -- SmartWRITER line-and-a-half line feed has several solutions. One is to go to SmartKEY VI, choose superscript or subscript SmartKEY, a space, and Return in order to get a single line between paragraphs, but this is slow. My solution works and it's fast. Remove the daisy wheel from your printer, find the backslash symbol (first one below the Escape/WP key) and snap it off. Unless you type programs which require it, you won't miss it (other snap-offs could be the { or [ brackets). Then simply type backslash / Return between paragraphs. I've used this system for years and never had a problem. Not losing that extra line every two paragraphs can get a lot more on a page and save printing time.

Store and Print in succession - never Print first. If it's really important, Store it on two different ddps or disks and on two different drives if you have them. The time this takes beats rewriting / retyping / raging at fate.

Timing, I am told, is everything in life. Time your printing for those periods of your work when you need a break. Drink your coffee while printing or get on the phone.

An ADAM printer sound will make anyone think you're calling from Action Central and they'll show some respect. Family members excluded, of course. Leaving an ADAM printer working seems to guarantee reprinting, but only if you're in a hurry.

If the noise the printer makes is a problem, some kind of printer cover is the answer. The cheapest and easiest I've seen was a garage sale turntable cover, done in dark plastic. Other answers include putting a cardboard box over it, and for real class, try office or computer surplus stores: I've seen covers from a DEC word processor which easily covered the ADAM.

Next month, other ideas and techniques for faster word processing.

TESTING THEORIES BY DAVID COBLEY

Horizontal Margins 3 and 35 - Vertical Margins 6 and 60 (Default).

In Standard Format:

Scrolling top to bottom using Down Arrow / Home: 1 min 20 sec.
Scrolling bottom to top using Home key only: 1 min. 5 sec.

In Moving Window:

Scrolling top to bottom using Down Arrow / Home: 1 min. 20 sec.
Scrolling bottom to top using Home key only: 59 seconds.

When I reset the horizontal margins to 10 and 70 (Default).

In Standard Format:

Scrolling top to bottom using Down Arrow / Home: 1 min. 9 sec.
Scrolling bottom to top using Home key only: 1 min. 3 sec.

In Moving Window:

Scrolling top to bottom using Down Arrow / Home: 49 seconds
Scrolling bottom to top using Home key only: 37 seconds

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