Notepad Comparison and Word Processors for the BBC.
Two Articles by Stephan Richardson.
Here are two articles submitted by K2O (Stephan Richardson.)
The first compares two notepads. The second discusses word processors
for the BBC.
The two articles are separated by three lines of asterisks. I apologise
for the length of this article. I had to join the two together so that they
would fit on the DFS version of this issue as filename space ran out.
Comparison of Cambridge Computer Z88 and Amstrad NC100
This report came about because of several people asking me as to which of these
two machines represents the better buy. So detailed below are the contents of
each machine for you to take in and make the decision for yourselves.
Z80 running at 3Mz. Z80 running at 6MZ.
Standard size rubber membrane Standard size plastic keytops
(Quiet) (Quite noisy)
One serial port. One serial and one parallel port.
4xAA Batteries or mains adaptor. 4xAA batteries or mains adaptor.
1xCR2032 battery to preserve memory
96 character by 8 lines with the option 80 character by 8 lines.
of a pixel map at the right hand side
when in the wordprocessor. This gives
an indication of the layout of the
current page. A small vertical bar at
the right hand side of the map
indicates the currently displayed
There are 3 slots, two of which are There is only one slot to take PCMCIA
designed to take ram packs, the third cards of up to 1M capacity. In the
and rightmost slot can take either a basic system, this memory is only
further ram pack or an Eprom pack for available as file space, the inbuilt
more permanent storage. Ram packs are applications cannot make use of this as
available in 32k, 128k, 512k, and 1M main memory.
and Eprom packs in 32k, 128k, and 256k.
The additional ram from these ram packs
is made available for use as main
memory or file space as required. The
main circuit board can be expanded up
to 512k internal ram.
Contained on an internal 128k rom. Contained on an internal 256k rom.
Internal ram 32k. Internal ram 64k.
The word processing software here is The word processor here is Protext. It
Pipedream, a combination of word has an inbuilt spelling checker, a
processor, spreadsheet and database. macro facility and command language.
There is no spelling checker built-in These enable mail merge and other
to Pipedream, but one is available as facilities to be easily accomplished.
an extra purchase option. Mail merge Maximum file size editable is 38k,
facilities are possible in Pipedream, but a document can comprise as many
but are by no means straight forward. files as required. Only one invocation
Multiple invocations of this of this application is possible.
application are possible.
This application does not exist on this This is a purpose built application to
machine, but is easily done using the hold names, addresses and telephone
database facilities of Pipedream. numbers. It can also be used with the
word processor for mail merging.
The diary application allows the user The diary application here allows the
to enter text which is associated with user to enter text associated with a
a date. Only one diary application is date, however, the application creates
allowed to be active at any one time. a text file for each date that the user
The data for a diary is held in one enters text. There is an upper limit of
single file, but multiple files can be 64 files, and hence 64 dates for the
created e.g. one for business and one application. Also, these text files are
for personal data. The text files are normally hidden from the user. This
of a fairly simple structure and can effectively forces the user to keep
easily be created/amended by Pipedream only the most important dates here.
or a Basic program. Note. Diary contents cannot be printed!
The only limit on the number of alarms This is part of the Time Manager
that can be defined is one of memory. application. Up to six alarms can be
Use as an alarm clock is limited as the set. Use as an alarm clock is possible
sound output from the inbuilt speaker as the sound from the inbuilt speaker
is low. The alarm facility allows is adequate. Only messages can be
either a message to be output or a output by this facility.
command to be invoked, which makes this
a very useful tool.
BBC Basic (Z80) is supplied here with BBC Basic (Z80) is supplied here with
the following limitations :- the following limitations :-
Colour not supported (obviously!) Colour not supported (obviously!)
Sound and Envelope not supported Limited Sound support, Envelope not
High resolution graphics commands not
supported (A patch to implement these
Z80 assembler (NOT 6502!) Z80 assembler (NOT 6502!)
Full access to the CLI Access to CLI limited to Filer commands
The filing system is a hierarchical one The Filing system here is a linear one
and supports filenames of 12 characters and therefore does not support
in length with an optional 3 character directories. Filenames can be up to 12
filetype separated by the usual '.'. characters in length overall i.e. 8
Directories are supported. Spaces are characters + '.' + 3 character
not allowed in the filenames. This filetype. Spaces are allowed in the
application is classed as a 'Pop-down' filenames. The filer can be called from
and can be called from any other any application in the NC100.
application in the Z88.
This provides the Z88 with the means to This provides the NC100 with the means
talk to other computers via the serial to talk to other computers via the
port and a modem. serial port and a modem.
This is yet another 'pop-down' which The terminal program is used to send
can be called from any application documents to/from another computer.
within the Z88 to instigate the import Documents may be sent via the serial or
or export of documents to/from another the parallel port. The Lapcat software
computer. from Arnor is the recommended software
as it can use either port provided the
correct cable is used.
This is another 'pop-down' which can be This is a stand-alone facility, and as
called up at any time from any such cannot be called from other
This also is a 'pop-down' and therefore This facility is only part of the diary
can be called up at any time. application, and is not available
This also is a 'pop-down' which can be This is part of the Time Manager
called up at any time. application. Up to six different time
zones can be maintained, one of which
is selected as being the current zone.
However, the current time is generally
always displayed as part of the status
line in most of the applications.
This is a full function calculator with This is a full function calculator with
a constant facility and up to 10 a constant facility and a single
memories. A set of unit conversion memory.
tables are also available if required.
The Printer Editor
This allows you to create files that The facility to have the parameters for
map the formatting requests of more than one type of printer saved for
Pipedream to those of your printer(s). use at a later date is not available.
These files can be loaded as required Only one printer definition is
saving you the need to re-type all the saved.
relevant commands each time.
There are many third party software There is no third party software other
packages available for this machine than the file transfer software by
which cover spelling checkers, file Arnor.
transfer software, data compression
routines, Databases, Event timing etc.
Modems, Printers, Bar Code Readers Modems, Printers, and even a floppy
and even a floppy disk drive from disk drive from Ranger Computers are
Ranger Computers are available. available.
Title Author Publisher
Z88 Magic (*) Vic Gerhardi Kuma Computers Ltd
Z88 Computing Ian Sinclair David Fulton Publishers
Z88 Real Power Computing F.R. Flaig F.R. Flaig
Using Your Z88 Patrick Hall Glentop Press Ltd
Z88 Portable Computing Dave Oborne Sigma Press
Z88 A Dabhand Guide Trinity Concepts Dabs Press
Z88 Pipedream A Dabhand Guide John Allen Dabs Press
The BBC Basic(Z80) Reference
Manual for the Z88 (*) Douglas J Mounter M-TEC Computer Services
Z88 Developers's Notes (*) J Harrison/M Elton Cambridge Computer Ltd
Title Author Publisher
NC100 Magic (*) Vic Gerhardi Kuma Computers Ltd
The Amstrad NC100 Notepad Ian Sinclair Dabs Press
How to Program the NC100 Notepad Patrick Hall Sigma
The Amstrad Notepad Advanced
User Guide (*) Robin Nixon Sigma
I hope this has been of use to all prospective buyers out there.
Stephan Richardson (K2O).
Word Processors on the BBC 8-Bit Machines.
This article came about due to my having read/overheard such statements as
'xxx is the best wordprocessor bar none on the BBC' (substitute for xxx the
name of your favourite!).
As far as the 8-Bit BBC machines go, there are a large number of
commercially produced word processors, and no one article can possibly do them
all justice. Because of this I shall deal with as many of them as I have
used/come across. If I have missed any out, do not think that they were omitted
due to not being suitable for the job, but either that I had no knowledge of
them or, more likely, that they were not outstanding enough in any one area to
be mentioned. The order I shall deal with them in is mainly one of familiarity
i.e. the more publicly well known ones first. So off we go :-
This is the oldest and probably the most well known word processor. It
operates by means of embedding formatting commands into the text. As it
operates in Mode 7, the delimiters round the formatting commands cause the
commands to appear in green. The option to preview the text in 80 columns is
available provided there is sufficient memory left (or a shadow ram/second
processor is in force). It is one of the easiest word processors to use, but
suffers from the need to preview the final layout prior to printing. Cannot
edit a file that is larger than the available memory.
Add-ons. Spelling Checkers, Print Enhancers.
This was the follow up to Wordwise, and shares some of its weaknesses, but
this is more than offset by the addition of a programming language which is
very BASIC-like, and 10 additional areas called 'Segments', which can either
hold text or programs. It is this programming language that has given Wordwise+
the edge over other word processors as it enables the user to extend the
wordprocessor or even front-end it!
Add-ons. Spelling Checkers, Print Enhancers, WORDEX, and utilities/front-ends
written in the programming language e.g. Continuous Processing Rom,
Wordease, Wordaid, Pen Friend, Corplan, and Wordwise-Mail.
This was the final extension to the Wordwise series, with extensions to the
programming language, drop down menus, File selectors etc.
Add-ons. As for Wordwise+, but some (e.g. WORDEX) are not required as most of
its facilities are already built-in.
This was Acorn's answer to Wordwise, and a very good answer it is too.
It will work in both 40 and 80 column modes (and even 106 columns if
Over-View's *WIDE is invoked). It provides a nearly WYSIWYG environment but
requires a printer driver for any text effects such as italics etc. Extensive
use is made of the function keys and has some formatting commands that are
inserted in the two character command area. It uses rulers to set out tabs,
line length and left margin. View has the ability to edit a file which is
larger that the available memory by means of the EDIT filein fileout and
Add-ons. Spelling Checkers, Print Enhancers, The rest of the 'VIEW' family, and
'DOUBLE VIEW'. 'DOUBLE-VIEW' provides enhanced features for View including
the ability to edit two documents at the same time.
This was the last word processor to come from Computer Concepts. It is a
very sophisticated piece of software, with drop down menus and comprehensive
formatting facilities. As with View, rulers set out the layout of the text and
the formatting is carried out as you adjust the ruler! Text may be viewed in
40, 53, 80, or 106 column modes. Text styles such as bold, underlined, and
italics are all shown on screen. Support for continuous processing is done by
means of a list of files being maintained which comprise the document. Multiple
documents may be edited (up to 16 or memory limit, whichever occurs first).
Add-ons. Spelling Checkers (especially Spellmaster), Print Enhancers, The rest
of the 'INTER' Series (especially Inter-Base).
This was Colton Software's first incarnation of 'Pipedream'. It is a
wordprocessor/spreadsheet/simple database package. It is really only useable in
80 column modes, and hence really requires shadow ram. Its major strengths are
multi-column support and inbuilt spreadsheet functions. Text styles such as
bold, underlined, and italics are all shown on screen with the exception of the
current cell, which displays the highlight code(s).
Add-ons. Spelling Checkers, Print Enhancers, The rest of the 'VIEW' family.
Those of you with the Master Reference Manual (Part 2) will know that EDIT
has a very powerful set of document formatting commands. These are all three
characters in length, the first of which is always '.'. Users of IBM mainframe
computers will recognise the commands that EDIT uses as being almost identical
to IBM's SCRIPT language. Because of these embedded commands, it is usually
necessary to preview the file first to ensure that the layout is correct. EDIT
has probably the most extensive search and replace functions of any
wordprocessor on the 8-Bit machines. The ability to build an index of selected
words as standard is also useful.
Add-ons. Spelling Checkers, Print Enhancers.
This word processor from Ian Copestake has always been exceptionally well
supported by the author. The software itself is easy to use and will operate in
40 or 80 column screen modes. Its unusual features are 'Print control
paragraphs', background printing and the ability to work on two documents
simultaneously. It can also handle documents that exceed the memory capacity of
the BBC in a manner similar to that of View. Mail merge facilities are provided
as standard. An extra purchase option is Power Fonts, a special version of PMS
Multi-font system which provides a WYSIWYG display using the fonts, as well as
enhanced printing from 9-pin dot matrix printers.
Add-ons. Spelling Checkers, Print Enhancers (especially Power Fonts).
This word processor from Merlin is rather dated now, but was one of the
first word processors to optionally have a dedicated database resident on the
same 16k chip! The database was used for mail merging, but was a powerful
product in its own right. The word processor supported 40 or 80 column modes
and was WYSIWYG in that the screen reflected what was printed unless you
embedded printer control codes in the text.
Add-ons. Spelling Checkers, Database option.
This is one of the word processors purposely designed for use in schools,
and can be used at various levels. It works in Mode 7 and supports line lengths
of up to 80 characters. It has an inbuilt outliner (called the planner), allows
the creation and use of Dictionaries and Help files. Support is provided for
the Concept keyboard. It is supplied with a range of fonts and various
Add-ons. Spelling Checkers.
This is the second word processor that is purposely designed for use in
schools. This one is available in several languages, which is one of the
reasons for its inclusion here. It is used mainly in the middle to junior
Add-ons. Spelling Checkers, Print Enhancers.
This wordprocessor is very popular in the early levels of education in
schools. The software displays the text on the screen in a large clear font
that closely matches the characters that the children are taught. The cursor is
even displayed as a pen! The software can be tailored to inhibit some of the
more advanced facilities to simplify it for the younger user. Because of the
size of the text on the screen, a pixel map representation of the layout of the
current page is displayed at the bottom right of the screen.
Add-ons. Spelling Checkers.
That just about covers the most popular word processors. Others not
mentioned include Beebpen, Starword, Prompt Writer, ABC all performing what
they claim to. Now we shall continue with brief details of the add-ons
mentioned by each word processor.
There have been many spelling checkers for the BBC micros over the years,
so here are the major players :-
This is by far the quickest on the market, largely because the software
totally resides in a 128k chip! User dictionaries are supported, but must be in
either rom/eprom or sideways ram. Spell checking on entry is supported as are
anagrams and crossword type searches. If you have View, Wordwise(+) or
Inter-word, then this is the one to go for.
This is a powerful program, and comes supplied with a large dictionary on
an 80 track disk. Several utilities are supplied with the software. User
dictionaries are also supported. The software works by loading the text and
finding all the unique words and then checking those words only once in the
dictionary. The words that are not found in the dictionary are then presented
to the user with the option of adding them to the dictionary where appropriate.
All words that are in error are then suitably marked in the text for the user
This software provides similar facilities to SpellMaster, but as the
dictionary is on disk, it is not as fast or as convenient.
This spelling checker started life as a basic program (Spellcheck I) with a
disk based dictionary. Then quickly became more powerful in its first
incarnation in Rom (Spellcheck II), the dictionary still being on disk but
bigger. Its final incarnation in Rom (Spellcheck III) had some of the most
common words in the rom, the rest being on the disk. Words can be added to the
dictionary as they are found.
These came about to improve the quality of the printed output from earlier
9-pin dot matrix printers. They operate by printing out each line in graphics
mode in two or more passes, with a small line movement between each pass thus
improving the resolution of the characters. Later, as printers became cheaper
and provided NLQ and several fonts, these products gradually lost favour. This
was even more so when 24-pin printers became affordable.
Watford Epson NLQ Rom
This provided a single NLQ font for the 9-pin Epson printers. Since only
one font is provided, the rom was easy to use and the results were quite good.
CJE Mult-Font NLQ
This software provided many fonts for 9-pin Epson printers. The fonts
resided on disk and were loaded as required. A font editor was supplied so that
the user could design additional fonts.
PMS Mult-Font NTQ
This software provided by far the most fonts for 9-pin Epson printers. The
fonts resided in rom or rom-images to be loaded into sideways ram. Up to four
fonts could be stored in one 16k image. The fonts could be printed in a variety
of heights and widths. Software was provided to design the fonts and to create
the rom images. A special version of this is used as Power Fonts in Wordpower.
This was the final development of PMS Multi-Font NTQ. Fonts could be stored
in special 64K chips (16 fonts per chip). The basic system comprised one 64k
chip containing the software and 16 fonts, a disk containing the font editor
and the 16 fonts, the user guide, the font catalog and the function key strip.
Preview on screen was supported in View, Wordwise(+) and Inter-Word.
Other stand alone print enhancers include Clares Fontwise/Fontwise+ and
I hope that this has been an informative text, and all that remains is for
me is to state that I use mainly Inter-Word, View, View Professional,
Wordwise+, Wordpower, and PenDown. As I only have a cheap 9-pin Epson printer,
I also use all of the above Print Enhancers. My choice of word processor is
very much determined by what I am intending to do. This, for example, is being
prepared in Inter-Word.
Stephan Richardson (K2O).