by Pat Herrington
March 1998

People frequently ask me to name my favorite program. There are so many really good ones that I've always been hard-pressed to answer. However, I recently obtained PowerPAINT by Digital Express, and it quickly became my all-time favorite. PowerPAINT is by far the most comprehensive graphics design program ever developed for ADAM. It is both very, very well-designed and very, very versatile; but, even more important, it is very, very entertaining. PowerPAINT is FUN!

Of course, all the standard features are here: you can design your own pictures as with any good paint program, using input from both the keyboard and the joystick; and you can load pictures from other sources and customize them to suit. (Here's where the versatility comes in. PowerPAINT recognizes ELEVEN different types of files; all those pictures you've collected in various formats can be used with this program, including RLE, SmartPAINT, PaintMASTER, SpritePOWER, FontPOWER, Clipper, and regular hi-res pictures, among others.) You can print out in various sizes and widths, assuming you have a dot-matrix printer! You can use your creations in your own programs; and you can save in different formats depending on wbat use you plan to make of them. And recall them and resave them to a different format. And so on.

PowerPAINT makes use of all DEI's previously-developed programming tricks, and introduces new ones. The special function keys and SmartKeys are all fully operable, and many options are available using the Control key. Many little extras include choice of upper case or lower case SmartKey labels, full file management (delete files, rename volumes, even format disks without ever leaving the program) and peripheral management (change drives, scan drives, etc.) There is even a special routine built in using WILDCARD for those who have a speech synthesizer! All these features add to the attractiveness & convenience of the program, but they are extras. The heart of PowerPAINT is its extensive graphics design capability.

PowerPAINT includes features that let you work independently on background, foreground, sprites & text, and includes a multitude of options for each task. This division of modes goes a long way toward controlling the color-bleed problem, and allows for really elaborate, pixel-by-pixel detail work as well as fast filling-in of broad areas. Text can be inserted anywhere, using several fonts supplied with the program or others (you can either design them independently or snatch them from Public Domain. ) You have full choice of text colors & background colors, so you can make the text blend in anywhere. You can use "special" fonts (actually graphics fonts, I think) to get letters in varying sizes, tiny to huge. (The backspace key doesn't really erase text in this last category, which is why I think they're graphics fonts. It works with the others, though. ) You can also use rabbit graphics to design special text of your own. I'd heard of rabbit graphics, but never knew what they were before now. It seems similar to redefining the fonts; the "picture" made with each of the character keys is designed so that each keystroke can be an element in a larger picture; you can build up your own special characters, a keystroke at a time. The manual shows this clearly with diagrams.

Various "brushes" are included on the medium in many different patterns, from dots to cross-hatches. You can change the colors on these, too, and overlay them on each other to make any combination you choose. The medium contains two separate sets, but, again, you can design your own or use shapes designed by others and load them independently. The same is true of the sprites included on the medium; there are two sets of 32 each, and you can choose to use your own. Sprites can be "stamped" anywhere on the screen, over and over; if you wish. You can fill your screen with the same sptire. (cont'd. next page)

I especially like the features which allow you to change your mind if you do not like the results. In any case, it's a good idea to save several different versions of your picture in progress in case you want to go back to an earlier stage and develop it differently. The only flaw I could find with this program is that it CAN lock up occasionally, but if you save your work as regularly as you do in SmartWriter, this poses no great concern.

Now, getting back to versatility: this is indeed a program that will grow with your system. First the bad news: you-need a 64k memory expander to use it. PowerPAINT uses all of ADAM's available memory PLUS the expanded memory. This means, however, that all of the program loads into memory at once, eliminating the waiting that would be necessary if different parts of the program bad to load separately. Once it's loaded, it's THERE, until you decide to load files on your own. This is good news for those who do not have disk drives. More good news is that, while you can use all the features with no more than a 64K card, PowerPAINT will be even more useful to those who have 128k or more. The extra memory will allow you to print a full page of 8 different screens. That is, each screen is a "cell"; with 64k you can have up to 4 cells in memory, or about half a page of graphics. You. can scroll between cells, to make one large picture. With a larger expander, you can have 8 cells at a time. Not a bad use for that extra memory! *(Of course, you can always print out any cell in various sizes.)

Though PowerPAINT has only been released for a few weeks, there are already new packages being released into the Public Domain for use with it; and, as noted, it is compatible with any number of PD volumes & commercial programs already out there. It is very difficult to imagine PowerPAINT becoming "obsolete" in the forseeable future.

Does PowerPAINT make all other paint programs obsolete? No, not as long as there are ADAMites without 64k cards. They can continue to design graphics with other programs, secure in the knowledge that when they are ready to step up to 64k and PowerPAINT, they can take all their hard work with them.

The documentation for PowerPAINT is quite thorough, and clearly written; but it still may be tough going for the novice. My advice for the new user would be not to try to digest everything at once, but to play with the program and see what it will do, while keeping the manual handy for reference. I think I'd even make a little "cheat sheet" for the special function keys (other than SmartKeys, which are obvious.) You will learn as you go, and enjoy doing so.

As programs for ADAM go, PowerPAINT is a little pricey at the suggested retail price of $44.95. No doubt you will want to consider carefully before spending that kind of money. But to ME, it is easily worth every cent, and then some!

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