Put It In Writing!
Part II: Capabilities Abound Throughout VDE
by Thomas J. Keene


Another User option which is something that you will probably want to personalize, is the tab settings. The default setting is five spaces for the first tab, then ten more for the second tab and twenty additional (total 35) for the third tab. The last default tab setting is at 55. These may be OK (or not) but you can set the tabs to your preference when you start VDE and that is also one of the User Options.

There are quite a few User Options, not all of which are of interest to everyone. One which I should call to your attention is the alternate video in header. In the header (that top line on the screen of the text you are working on) contains some useful information. You may have the data presented as white letters on a black background or inverse with black characters on a white background. Ether way may be OK but I have a great suggestion for those using a color monitor. I really recommend this setup.

A COGENT SUGGESTION

I recommend that you use the CONFIG command to change the color of the background and the characters. Set the background to Dark Blue (4). Set the Character Clear Bit Color to Transparent (0) and the Character Set Bit Color to White (F). The inverse characters are changed also. Set the Character Clear Bit Color to Dark Yellow and the Character Set Bit Color to Black (1).

This arrangement of colors will not only be very pleasant (but it will make the header vastly easier to read. Now when you opt for inverse video in the header, the line across the top will be a yellow band against a blue background and the characters in that yellow band are a high contrast black. In the main body of the text you have high contrast white characters against a dark blue background. Another place where this yellow background is of enormous value is in the use of control characters. Modern printers make extensive use of the control characters. Take for example the escape character; it is a control character that is displayed as the character [ inside a black box. But with this arrangement it will be displayed as a black ] inside a bright yellow box against a dark blue screen. This really stands out! And since you will have zillions of these control characters interspersed through your text as printer control commands, you will really appreciate this suggestion. If you would prefer not to have the header, it can be removed altogether with a toggle command or it can be suppressed in the default mode by a User Option selection.

One user option you should be aware of is the Enable Help Menus option. This is normally set to "yes". In this case, if you need help there are a lot of instructions that are at your fingertips while you are writing. If you are experienced enough and feel that you no longer require these help menus, you may disable them and this will gain you about 1K of additional editing space (room for text). If you rarely use the help screens, then it would be to your advantage to set this to "No". As I said there are a large number of the user options and I refer you to the VINSTALL documentation. It is named VINST266.DOC.

VDE will accept "wildcards" in its search mode for selected strings of text. For example, if you want to search for the word "weird" but you know that sometimes you are prone to spell it "wierd". So in your search you can enter the word as "w_rd" where the character "_" is the wildcard that VDE uses. If you don't care for the uppercase 6 to be your wildcard, you may select another wildcard of your choice in the User Option section.

These user options can save a lot of time once you are set up. However, most of them are also activated by one of the standard commands in VDE. Quite often these are commands that toggle an option "on" or "off".

GETTING STARTED:
A Word or Two on 'MACROS'

Having set your User Options, you may wish to continue with VINSTALL and create a group of "MACROS" for special applications. For those who are not familiar with the meaning of the term "macros", it means that you have changed a particular key to perform a different operation. You may change the uppercase "1" (one) to enter a string of words like "Now is the time for having fun".

Of course, that is a frivolous example, but you may want to make a macro for letter writing where one key enters your address, another your City, State and Zip Code. You can make macros that do certain things, such as activate a string of control codes for your printer. Look at the heading of this article. There are printer control codes that select the font style, double wide and double high, double strike, emphasized mode, centering, as well as setting the page length and skip over perforations and a host of operations that you may wish to use time and again. These can be a real pain in the neck to remember if you have to set them up each time you start a new article. It is very easy to forget one or more of the control codes, which only becomes apparent when you type out the document. A macro can be made that will do many such chores at the stroke of a single key. VDE has a provision for creating macros that become a part of VDE until you change them. This is another of the uses of the VINSTALL program.

Personally I haven't used the macro provision since I began using QUIKKEYS. It can supply virtually unlimited (not quite) macros and it is very easy to create and store new macros. I just can't stress enough the value of macros in the use of a word processor. For instance, the VDE command to go to the bottom of a file is CONTROL + Q + C (^QC). That in itself isn't too hard to remember, but when you add it to a list of over 70 control commands, it is not too difficult to forget. Of greater significance is the fact that it is a lot easier to press just one key instead of three. Each person might have a unique preference for the most wanted macro keys but there are many seldom used keys in CP/M which are naturals for using as macros. That group of six keys in the upper right hand corner of your keyboard aren't used at all in CP/M. And each of them has an uppercase and three of them have a control key application. This gives you 15 keys for macro operation right there and you would never use them in word processing otherwise. Another extremely useful thing about QUIKKEYS is that you can have more than one set of macros just waiting on your disk to be implemented. You could have a set that is dedicated to a given kind of writing. You might create a set that has all of the macros that you would use in normal text preparation. But you would want an entirely different set of macros for screen play writing.

If you are doing a lot of technical writing which requires formatting that is unique to special reports that may even call for lots of non-standard characters, you could use a separate set of macros. If your printer supports International Character sets (for example the EPSON LQ510 has special character sets for USA, France, Germany, England, Denmark (2), Sweden, Italy, Spain (2), Japan, Norway, Latin America, Korea, Legal) they could be implemented with a set of macros, one for each nation. This unique set of macros would only be activated when you were going to be doing that kind of writing. But there is indeed no limit, other than disk space, for as many sets of macros as you need. I have several sets of QUIKKEY macros for my word processing but I have other sets for use in telecommunications and other applications.

VDE now uses the same command and control settings that WordStar 4.0 uses. It doesn't have quite as many (for example the dot commands are not available as such) but anyone who is familiar with WordStar will have no trouble using VDE.

I mentioned the "ruler" earlier in this article. Here is a general way that it will appear on the second line of the header. Because of the limitations of page width in the publication of the newsletter, I can't display an entire ruler header. But you should get a good idea of what it can do for you:

BO:TESTFILETEXT Pg 0 Ln 1 CI 45 vt
]...T........T................T................T...................................===> 255

(NOTE RE ABOVE: TRANSCRIPTION IS EXACT BUT FORMAT IS NOT.)

The BO: on the first tine of the header tells you that this text will be saved on the B:Drive. The name of the file is next displayed. This may be changed while you are in control of VDE. The command to change the file name is CONTROL + K + N (^ KN). The header then opens the next line with the prompt: Name:

If you had a ruler on the second line of the header, this prompt will be the third line.

The next entry of the header is [A. This tells you the mode you have selected. The "A" stands for ASCII. You recall that I said the mode could be Non document, ASCII or WordStar. The mode in the default mode is ASCII but it may be changed in the command line:

A>VDE266 {B:} {FILENAME.TYP} {[m} <CR>

As in the earlier command line, the curly brackets {} indicate an optional entry. I have added the command to change the mode. The letter "m" can be either A, N, or W. The mode selector can be a plain tatter (A, W or N) but it must be separated from the filename with a space and/or a "[".

The next entry on the header is the page number. This will only show a meaningful number if you have selected pagination. This will be discussed later. The next entry is of great value to you in writing your text. It shows you what line number you are now working on. Any time you are doing writing that must be precisely located on the page, this is the information you really require.

The next entry is of equal importance. It displays the column where the cursor is now riding. I refer to this almost constantly. It is for this reason alone that I never turn off the header. The final entry is seen to be "vt". This indicates that I have selected variable tabs. If I have selected in my user options to have the Insert mode as a default mode, that would appear here as "INS". If I had enabled hyphenation in the User Options I would see "hy" here. "AI" would indicate Auto Indent: "DS" Indicates Double Space: "MR" indicates margin release. If I invoke a control command from the keyboard, the " ^ O" or " ^ K" will briefly appear here. Also a number of diagnostics will show up here from time to time. If I exit, I will see the word "wait" appear here.

I intend to continue this discussion of the use of the word processor VDE in the next issue of the newsletter.

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