Art For Art’s Sake

There are literally hundreds of Art applications available for home micros, ranging from simple doodlers to complex suites offering solid 3D animation; the choice is bewildering. So what features should you look out for when buying one for your machine? Andy Storer paints a picture of the perfect pixel package…

Image001

King Tut gets another airing – the original pic was picked up as brush, rotated in 3D, pasted down 4 times, swapped to tint mode and overlaid with two circles. Simple eh? On Deluxe Paint III maybe…

How many colours in the spectrum?

Whether you’re paying £3 or £300, most art programs provide a system of pull-down menus and icons for moving between the screen painting area and palette and painting tool control. This is absolutely essential, since you’ll want to be able to move quickly through the range of colours on hand and the painting ‘surface’ before you.

A good program will allow you to flick back to a full screen painting area after changing tools, operations or colours from an overlaid control panel. The more advanced packages will offer you the choice to scroll through a much larger area of work than can be displayed on screen at any one time or, alternatively, have a number of screens in memory that you can flick between.

Although you can buy packages for mono systems, most on offer are designed for colour. Obvious really. Painting’s all about colour isn’t it? Well, up to a point. The point being that you don’t need thousands of colours to produce effective artwork. The number of colours available to you will initially depend on the resolution your machine’s able to support and the degree to which the software allows mixing of the standard colours and combining them to form composite hues and shades.

But more sophisticated software can actually address the hardware to change the screen-scanning to display a new palette of colours on every line. Thus, for instance, Quantum Paint on the ST can offer 4,096 on-screen colours despite the ST offering only a choice of 16 from a palette of 512.

For general purposes, however, 256 colours is the most you’ll ever need – beyond that it becomes difficult to distinguish them. The best packages will offer you a full screen palette which displays all available colours, rather than a simple palette bordering it, thus allowing you to select the one you wish to use simply by clicking on it.

Image002

A 512 colour extravaganza on the ST’s Spectrum 512. But shouldn’t you only be able to see 16 colours at once?

Pixel Picassos

The beauty of electronic painting is the ability to continually modify your work without having to start all over again. Whilst a package will offer you the obvious option of a variable sized eraser, alterations are often likely to involve finer tuning than rubbing out whole areas.

So, for instance, once you’ve chosen a colour and done some drawing you will be able to change it simply by selecting a shade from the palette you wish to replace it with. Ideally, you should be able to click on any individual pixel of colour you’ve painted and be given its exact RGB code so that subtle alterations can be made.

In addition, it’s useful to have a ‘cycle draw’ option where you may select a range of adjacent colours to be painted in sequence as a brush line is drawn. In this way you can subtly blend colour to produce graded hues. In this respect it’s also useful if you can individually alter the hue and luminance of any particular pixel or area by simply clicking on a relevant icon.

The ‘front end’ control panel will allow you to choose between the range of painting tools on hand. A good package should offer you not only different pens, brushes, sprays and fills but a range of shapes, transformations, preset effects and texts. For freehand drawing, mouse control is infinitely preferable to the joystick or keyboard, assuming you don’t have a graphics tablet, and the range of pens and brushes should allow you a choice of line thickness, tip size and style.

Ideally, rather than preset sizes and shapes, you should be able to step up or down through a range. Likewise, sprays should also offer variable density and offer a choice of pattern, flow and nozzle type. The option to fill enclosed areas of artwork with a range of preset patterns is also essential, as is the ability to design your own fills.

Such design may require a fair degree of detail, so a facility allowing a graded zoom magnification of any area is also essential.

Ideally you should be able to grab any part of a screen and use it as fill for another and also merge, or ‘dither’, two adjacent fills so that a perfect gradation is apparent.

Getting into shape

Image005a

Any art package worth its salt should allow you to zoom into an area of the screen for detailed work. Even an average package will offer a zoom of 16x magnification.

Another feature worth looking out for in art packages is the ease with which it is possible to call up perfect circles and ellipses of varying size and thickness for exact positioning in the work area. Advanced packages will also allow you to smooth the curvature of a circle or ellipse to remove its jagged edges.

Of course, you’ll want to be able to construct other shapes, not all of them regular, and in this case you should look for a package that allows you to form multi-sided polygons. Creating the exact shape you desire is likely to be a process of hit and miss, so it also essential to have an ‘Undo’ function.

The most sophisticated features available to the pixel painter are block manipulations. Standard packages offer the facility to define sub-screen areas and move or copy them to other parts of the display. Middle range products will allow you stretch, skew, rotate and distort such defined blocks, whilst the more advanced will not only provide the tools to mirror, flip and invert the image-block but also make it opaque or transparent. It should also be possible to smear a specified area so that it appears to have been dragged. In addition, a more comprehensive package will allow you to outline and frame specified areas with a range of borders and define shadow depth and direction effects.

What can I get out of it though?

Unless you wish to incorporate your artwork into a program or game, then you’ll be wanting to produce hard copies of your masterpieces. The simplest way of achieving this is by photographing the screen. For this you’ll need a 35mm camera with a variable shutter speed which will allow you to shoot slow enough to avoid screen refresh lines in mid-scan. It’s best to shoot in a darkened room with the aperture wide open at a speed of 1/8 or l/4sec.

Colour printers aren’t much cop unless you’re prepared to fork out the readies, so the only other recommended way of displaying your work is by transferring it to videotape. A composite video lead between your micro and the video’s input should do the trick quite easily.

There’s always more…

This overview has concentrated on the options offered by paint packages and takes no account of related features, often incorporated, such as sprite construction, animation and 3D modelling. Express will be covering these areas in the near future.

Write then, let’s go

The inclusion of a text facility is also essential so that you may annotate diagrams or drawings. Here, you should look out for those programs which offer a range of text and font sizes and also include options to vary density and add outline, underlining and skew.

Finally, you should be able to save whole or part-screen files in a compressed form to save on disk space, and also be able to save and load palette and paint tool selections as new default values.

Graphically Superior

Rik Haynes checks out the best buys in graphics software for your machine…

Amiga

With its huge potential as a graphics workstation, and thanks to its superlative custom-designed  chips, the Amiga has perhaps the largest and most impressive selection of excellent graphics software and hardware. This includes a wide variety of paint and animation software, video digitisers, genlocks, etc. But this power unfortunately comes at a price – namely extra RAM and disk drives are not only recommended but absolutely essential in some cases.

DeluxePaint III

  • Paint and Animation Software
  • £79.99
  • Published by Electronic Arts

DeluxePaint III is the latest version of the most popular Amiga paint package around. Requiring 1Mb of RAM, DeluxePaint III includes an impressive paint-animation capability, extra-halfbrite 64-colour and overscan mode support, new wrap and tint brushes, font handling enhancements and substantial speed increases in all modes of operation. Electronic Arts is offering a upgrade service for owners of DeluxePaint (£50 + £5 carriage) and DeluxePaint II (£30 + £5 carriage).

Photon Paint 2.0

  • Paint Software
  • £85.99
  • Published by Microillusions, USA
  • Distributed in UK by Activision

Photon Paint 2.0 is a 4,096 colour HAM-compatible paint package with sophisticated brush operations, surface and contour mapping, shadowing with adjustable size and offset, and luminance with definable source location and intensity. Although Activision has yet to confirm plans to run an upgrade offer for owners of Photon Paint 1.0 in the UK, there is a service available in the US.

Sculpt 3-D

  • Animation Software
  • £85 inc VAT
  • Published by Byte by Byte, USA
  • Distributed in UK by Amiga Centre Scotland

Sculpt 3-D allows you to design and animate 3-dimensional scenes and incorporates an interactive object editor and power tools for constructing arbitrary solid shapes with symmetry, reflection, surfaces of revolution, extrusion, and cross section reconstruction. Sculpt 3-D also includes anti-aliasing, variable object colours and texture, unlimited (number, colour and placement) of light sources, arbitrary observer (placement, angle and direction) of view, phong shading, flat polygonal shading, full ray traced imaging with shadows and highlights, supports all the  Amiga’s graphics modes including overscan and 4,096 colour HAM, and is IFF-compatible.

Sculpt 4-D

  • Animation Software
  • £320 ex VAT
  • Published by Byte by Byte, USA
  • Distributed in UK by Amiga Centre Scotland

Sculpt 4-D is a state-of-the-art professional animation program which requires 1Mb of RAM and two disk drives. It includes substantial enhancements and additions to Sculpt-3D, though at this price, Sculpt 4-D is strictly for Amiga owning animation enthusiasts with loadsadosh.

Zoetrope

  • Paint and Animation Software
  • £99.95 inc VAT
  • Published by Antic, USA
  • Distributed in UK by ISM on 0983 864674

Zoetrope is the Amiga version of the popular ST Cyber paint and animation series, and is split into five modes: painting, cell animation, image processing, video titling and “flip book” pencil testing. Zoetrope requires 1Mb of RAM.

Atari ST

Despite being overshadowed by the Amiga in the visual department, the ST has still managed to attract a wide variety of good quality graphics software which can produce some very impressive results.

Flare Paint

  • Paint Software
  • £34.99
  • Published by AMS/Logitech
  • Distributed in UK by Database Software

Flair Paint is the current flavour-of the-month paint package for ST artists, allowing you to draw images in low-res and high-res – but not medium-res – screen resolution modes.

Degas Elite

  • Paint Software
  • £24.99
  • Published by Electronic Arts

Degas Elite was one of the first paint packages released for the ST, and it still remains one of easiest and most versatile paint programs around for that machine, allowing you to draw images in low-res, medium-res and hi-res screen resolution modes.

Spectrum 512

Image003

Another shot from Spectrum 512 on the ST, showing off smooth toned gradation across a range of colour.

  • Paint Software
  • £59.95 Published by Antic, USA
  • Distributed in UK by Electric Distribution.

Using scan-line palette changing software techniques, Spectrum 512 allows you to draw images on a low-res screen with 512 on-screen colours.

Cyber Studio

  • CAD-3D 2.0 and Cybermate Software
  • £79.95
  • Published by Antic, USA
  • Distributed in UK by Electric Distribution

Cyber Studio requires 1Mb of RAM and combines a 3-D design program Stereo CAD-3D 2.0 and powerful animation control language Cybermate. CAD-3D allows you to create 3D objects and includes camera view with variable zoom and perspective control, three independent user positioned light sources plus ambient lighting (all with variable intensity) and wireframe, hidden line, solid, or solid outline modes. Cybermate uses Forth-type commands to create animation sequences, incorporates delta compression techniques, special effects and lap dissolves and allows you to splice in animations from multiple sources.

Cyber Paint 2.0

  • 2D Paint and Animation Software
  • £69.95
  • Published by Antic, USA
  • Distributed in UK by Electric Distribution

Cyber Paint 2.0 allows to paint and animate 2-D images and can be used to add the final touches to a Cyber Studio 3-D animated sequence. It includes automatic image registration to create cel animation arrangements, real-time zoom mode, multiple static or animated overlaid images and special animation effects with automatic intermediate view generation (tweening) on any area of the screen. Cyber Paint 2.0 requires
1Mb of RAM.

Cyber Sculpt

  • 3D Sculpting Software
  • £79.95
  • Published by Antic, USA
  • Distributed in UK by Electric Distribution

Cyber Sculpt is a professional 3D off-station solid-modeler used to port 3D object files to high-end rendering systems – and includes variable magnification, spline path extrude and spin, face bevelling, and cross-sectional model creation. Cyber Sculpt requires 1Mb of RAM and Cyber Studio (CAD-3D 2.0).

PC

DeluxePaint II

  • Paint Software
  • £99.99
  • Published by Electronic Arts

DeluxePaint II is the PC version of the popular Amiga paint program, and allows you to draw images in CGA, EGA, VGA, MCGA, Hercules and Tandy graphics modes.

Spectrum

Art Studio

  • Paint Software
  • £12.95 (Spectrum 48K compatible)
  • Published by Rainbird
  • Distributed in UK by EEC

Advanced Art Studio

  • Paint Software
  • £22.95 (Spectrum 128K Only) Published by Rainbird
  • Distributed in UK by EEC

C64

Art Studio

  • Paint Software
  • £12.95cs, £15.95dk
  • Published by Rainbird
  • Distributed in UK by EEC

Advanced Art Studio

  • Paint Software
  • £22.95 (Disk Only)
  • Published by Rainbird
  • Distributed in UK by EEC

CPC

Image004

Even on the Amstrad CPC, a machine supporting only 4 colours, the range of fills is impressive – here it’s Advanced Art Studio from Rainbird.

Art Studio

  • Paint Software
  • £17.95dk
  • Published by Rainbird
  • Distributed in UK by EEC

Advanced Art Studio

  • Paint Software
  • £22.95dk
  • Published by Rainbird
  • Distributed in UK by EEC

First published in New Computer Express magazine, 25th March 1989

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Amstrad PC1512-The Clone of Contention

PC1512-001

The new Amstrad machine, says John Lettice, is up and running.

Amstrad has traditionally made larger and larger piles of money not by stating the obvious so much as by doing it. Obviously, there was big money to be made in the home computer market, so the CPC464 was launched. Obviously serious users wanted a complete system that they could use rather than puzzle over, hence the PCW8256 and 8512

The latest move, the launch of the PC1512 series, is probably the most obvious of the lot IBM has dominated the business market for the last five years and has sold stacks and stacks of its PCs simply by virtue of the fact that it is IBM. Other business manufacturers have followed the IBM standard, and until recently, when a lot of small companies decided they could put together IBM clones, sell them for half the price of an IBM PC, and still make a profit, the bigger companies were all doing very well for themselves.

Now the obvious bit here is that it needn’t actually cost any more to produce a business machine than it does to make any other machine, and that if a company were to produce a PC clone in volume it could sell it at a price low enough to make the business manufacturers lose interest in the PC standard fairly rapidly. That’s what Amstrad has done with its PC, and the initial intention is to carve out a large slice of the world market. On first impressions the new machines might just be neat enough and cheap enough to do it.

The machine is simple in construction. It’s smaller and lighter than the IBM PC, but the need for 5.25inch disc drives and IBM standard expansion slots has kept its desktop footprint up to around 15 x 15 inches.

The entry-level machine has a single drive plus monochrome monitor, and the series goes up to single drive plus 20Mb hard disc and colour monitor. The review machine s twin floppy drives look up the whole of the front plate of the machine, and being substantial metal-sheathed beasts extended back across half of the machine’s base unit.

I/O ports are on the left-hand side and around the back. On the left beside the volume control (zero to horrible racket) is the keyboard plug and mouse port. I take it the latter’s placing was dictated by circuit board layout, but while I’m happy to meet my first left handed mouse I’m not sure how the majority of users, who are I believe right handed, will take to it.

Parallel and serial ports are at the rear, with video output and power input (like other Amstrad machines the power supply goes through the monitor) just along from them.

On most PC compatibles the expansion slots are accessed by unscrewing the casing, generally a fiddly task on a crowded desk, but the Amstrad PC uses a hatch to the rear of the top of the casing plus one on the side for access to the cards’ interfaces. Both these are easily snapped in and out.

The monitor is again neatly designed, and is mounted on a tilt and swivel stand that fits into a well on the top plate. Unlike standard IBMs the monochrome and colour versions use the same video output, with the mono simply showing shades of grey instead of colour.

IBMs also have severe limitations on the number of colours that can be displayed at once – which is why PC games generally have odd colour combinations – but the Amstrad can handle 16 in 80 column mode. It’s also compatible with two of the modes available on IBM’s EGA (Enhanced Graphics Adaptor), which is more than you can say for most software packages…

Screen quality is quite good, although not superb, and this leads on to a major disadvantage. Because the power supply is in the monitor you can’t fit third party monitors to the machine without fitting a new power supply or running two monitors. You’d also better be sure of the monitor you want when you buy the machine, because if you upgrade from Amstrad mono to Amstrad colour you’ll wind up with a useless mono monitor.

The machine s keyboard is basically IBM format, although there’s a separate Enter key on the numeric keypad (operation being similar to the one on the PCW), and the Alt, Control, Caps lock and PrtSc (print screen) keys have been moved to slightly more sensible locations.

The feel of the keys is fine, although I’ve seen better on machines four or five times the price of the Amstrads. The keyboard also includes a joystick socket, but this apparently emulates the cursor keys rather than being compatible with point here is that the basic mechanics of I/O flatten out performance considerably.

Screen handling is also an impediment to the Amstrad’s speed. As far as text display is concerned it’s faster than the IBM, but seems lower than the Olivetti M24, which also runs an 8086 at 8MHz. Graphic screens are more significantly slower. The test used here, which I hereby patent, involves F15 Strike Eagle software (see last week’s issue for review) and time taken to run out of fuel. With afterburners engaged the Amstrad took just under three minutes, while the Olivetti turned into a brick at just over two.

The Amstrad, however, is probably still faster than the IBM in terms of graphics. The spectacular differences in Basic speeds (over twice the speed of the M24) can incidentally be ascribed in part to Locomotive’s Basic 2, which is very fast indeed It also runs under Gem, and together Gem and Basic 2 suck up over 470K of the machine’s 512K Ram, but that’s another story.

System software

PC1512-002

This is probably the most valuable, and unnerving, area of the whole machine. The standard IBM operating system is Microsoft’s MSDOS. and this is included. It is, however, also possible to use the machine with a second system, Digital Research’s Dos Plus, which is also bundled, and finally it can be run under Gem, DR’s windowing front end for the PC. Gem isn’t strictly an operating system, but has been pre-installed on a third disc which also includes Dos Plus.

Working out which you’ll use is problem enough, but the confusion is heightened by various bits and pieces that squirt out of the discs as you chug along.

Dos Plus allows a measure of multitasking, and the disc includes a couple of little programs, including an alarm and background printing utility, that take advantage of this. These, however, can only be accessed through Dos Plus, not through MSDOS or Gem. Considering DR wrote both Dos Plus and Gem I’m sure there must be a way to put the two together, but initial phone calls didn’t enlighten me.

Dos Plus and Gem in fact, although worthwhile independently, don’t seem to add up to more than the sum of their parts. Exit to Dos from Gem and you can’t get back to Gem Desktop. Instead you’ve got to put the Gem Startup disc back into A, type autoexec or gem (although the latter appears not to work if you’ve run a program in the meantime) then reload the Desktop disc. It seems to me that DR ought to be able to make the two systems a lot more integrated than this.

PC1512-003

Compatibility

The way to make a machine totally compatible is to make it as slow and horrible as the original IBM. Amstrad to its credit hasn’t done this, but the machine is still almost 100 per cent compatible. Lotus 1-2-3, dBase, Flight Simulator and Open Access all run, and I had no trouble with a fairly wide range of other programs, apart from Sargon 3 chess, which seemed reluctant to return to a text screen after going to a graphics display. The latter also, however, gives trouble on the Olivetti, where it crashes whenever it seems to be losing…

Hardware compatibility is more difficult to judge, but the machine is likely to be able to take most IBM expansion cards, with a few exceptions. It won’t take an EGA because it can’t patch out its own graphics, and extra serial and parallel cards may cause problems depending on which areas of memory they use. The advice here is try before you buy.

Verdict

There are a few disadvantages to the Amstrad machines in absolute terms, but as a total package of software and hardware they’re well up in the front runners among PC clones. Take price into account and they have no competition there. Their competition elsewhere really depends on what you want a machine for.

If you want a fast, non-compromise machine at the cutting edge of technology you’d probably look elsewhere, but the Amstrads make no pretence to being this kind of machine. What they are is cheap, relatively fast machines that run more different software packages than any other micro. At the moment this software is mainly business, but as the support market goes crazy it’s inevitable that software of all kinds will be launched for the PC.

So, the message is. if you want it for business it’s a good buy now (although bear in mind you’ll have to buy extra applications software and a printer) while if you are an enthusiast it may be worth your while waiting until the support starts coming through. Either way, at the price it’s hard to go wrong.

  • Machine: Amstrad PC1512
  • Supplier: Amstrad, Brentwood House, 169 King’s Road, Brentwood, Essex, CM14 4EF

Prices

  • 512K machine plus –
    • Single 360K drive and monitor – £469
    • Single drive and colour monitor – £649
    • Twin drives and mono monitor – £587
    • Twin drives and colour monitor – £764
    • Single drive, 10Mb hard disc, mono – £822
    • Single drive, 10Mb hard disc, colour – £999
    • Single drive, 20Mb hard disc, mono – £940
    • Single drive, 20Mb hard disc, colour – £1,116

First published in Popular Computing Weekly, 25th September 1986

Master Scan

MasterscanWEB

Master Scan is a product in the image of the machine it’s designed for, the Amstrad PCW: no nonsense, no frills, doing the job – and at low cost. But it has one elegant feature, as Justin Moffitt reports: this scanner uses the PCW’s own printer mechanism.

The Amstrad PCW has always been seen as more than just a word processor. Following the introduction of many desktop publishing packages, it is not surprising that Database Software has launched Master Scan, a scanning device. What is surprising is the way it works – it uses the PCW’s own printer mechanism.

Setting up

The Master Scan package comprises: a small interface box to which the scanning head is permanently connected; a manual; the Master Scan software; and some sample artwork to scan.

The manual includes a connection diagram which states that the interface box should be plugged into the serial port; it also shows an artist’s impression of the rear of the PCW with the relevant interface marked. Unfortunately, the PCW doesn’t have a serial port as standard; and the spot where Database claims the serial port is, happens to be a ventilator! The box in fact connects to the expansion port and provides a through connector for other peripherals, such as a mouse.

When you’ve removed the printer dust cover and ribbon, the scanning head can be fitted. This is easy to connect and rests securely on the ordinary print head. The printer dust cover must be removed to allow the lead connecting the scanning head and interface box to move freely.

Software

The Master Scan software loads from CP/M, so allowing you to scan an image and save it for use later. It uses a simple and pleasant system of menus and includes clear onscreen prompts as to what keys to press. The menus are controlled by a highlight bar which can either be moved using the cursor keys, or, for more experienced users, options can be executed with a single keypress.

The scanner menu lets you set the necessary parameters for the image to be scanned. The software allows you to magnify an incoming image by factors of 50%, 100%, 200%, 300% and 600%. The start and finish columns for the scan may also be adjusted to allow a specific area to be scanned. Up to 240 pixel lines may be scanned; then the software asks whether you want to keep or destroy the image. Once you have an image scanned and kept in memory, you can view it onscreen and/or print it out as required.

You may save a scanned image in a variety of formats, including those used by The Desktop Publisher, Fleet Street Editor Plus, Newsdesk International and Master Paint. As you can also load data in any of these formats, the software can be used to convert clip-art between the numerous desktop publishing packages. The disk functions use a powerful file-selector system that resembles the Locoscript disk editor. The drive and user area can be selected, then a highlight bar may be moved over the disk filenames to select a file.

Alternatively, you can type the filename in the standard CP/M format. Unfortunately, Master Scan won’t let you delete or rename a file.

How Master Scan works

Most scanners available at present are flat bed devices that hold a page in a horizontal plane and scan the image line by line, having a specialised mechanism to advance the paper. Database, however, has used the standard PCW printer mechanism to move the page, which lowers the costs without loss of performance. Simple, and clever!

The printer graphics mode is selected to give smooth movement for the scanning head when scanning a page. The head moves unidirectionally, left to right, requiring a second pass to return it to the start position. The paper is then advanced by a small fraction and the process continues until the complete image has been scanned.

When scanning a line, a small beam of light is focused onto the page and the intensity of the light returned is measured. The interface box then converts this measurement into a series of binary codes which are read by the Master Scan software. Using a complicated algorithm to average the incoming codes, a screen image is produced; but, as the PCW cannot display pixels of different intensities, the density of screen pixels is used to emulate grey tones.

Scanning

Before a page can be loaded into the printer, the scanning head must be removed and the autofeed page function used. The vertical page setting is manual and is carried out with the page-feed knob, whereas the horizontal setting is made from the Master Scan software. Due to the displacement of the scanning head from the print head, the lowest possible starting column is five and the scan must be at least fifteen columns wide. The software makes sure these conditions are met.

A full-width scan for 240 pixel lines, using 100% magnification, took 13 minutes 12 seconds, but most scans will be faster than this because only part of the page will be read.

The scanner cannot read colour material, glossy pages or pages printed using water-based inks, nor can it read anything that will not pass round the printer roller. To surmount all these limitations, Database suggests that you make a photocopy of the material to be scanned. This seems to work perfectly in each case.

The quality of the scanned images is generally very good, although the end result will nearly always have to be cropped and may need superfluous detail removed. I found that near letter-quality text from the PCW printer was not clear when scanned at 100% magnification, but that slightly larger text could be read without difficulty. Images in jet black and white only were best, especially cartoon-type drawings and similar sketches, but the scanner also coped well with photographs.

The external contrast control on the interface box may be used to make the scanned image lighter or darker as necessary but a mid-way setting is fine for most work.

When the magnification is, say, 600%, the unit does not simply scan the image at 100% magnification and repeat each pixel six times, but actually improves its resolution.

Using scanned images…

Images saved from the Master Scan software may be used in many desktop publishing and art packages. The Master Scan software itself does not have any image-editing facilities, so you will almost certainly need another piece of software. Let’s take a look at two in detail.

…with Master Paint

If you want to use your scanned images alone, then Master Paint is the answer. It is a full art program that resembles Mac Paint and uses a WIMP environment that can optionally be controlled by a variety of mice, including those from AMX, the Electric Studio, and Kempston.

The program allows you to scroll the scanned image around a screen window, allowing for images large than the display size. There are icons to draw a line, a box, an ellipse and a polygon, all with the option of using a variable-width pencil. There is also a spray can and a fill tap, for which you can use a pre-defined pattern or define your own. Parts of a drawing may be removed using an eraser. The zoom function is used to show a 16×16 grid magnified by a factor of 64 and allows pixel by pixel editing. There is also an extensive series of block functions, including copy, move, cut and paste. Titles and other text may be added in a variety of fonts and sizes anywhere on the image. Master Paint has a powerful set of disk tools that even includes a formatting routine.

Although the program is more suited to creative art than technical drawings, it is well suited to editing of scanned artwork.

…and with Desktop Publisher

The Desktop Publisher provides a more complete page-design system. The program contains a number of modules called the page editor, the text editor, the graphics editor and the disk file editor, all of which use a series of pull-down menus and – like Master Paint – these can be controlled by a mouse as well as the keyboard.

Although the graphics editor is a little less extensive than Master Paint, it provides all the necessary tools for editing scanned images. Master Scan images can be rescaled upon loading, allowing them to be fitted correctly onto the page. As in Master Paint, there is a pixel by pixel editor and a number of block-editing facilities. Text in a number of redefinable fonts may be made to fit into any area, no matter how large or small.

The completed image can then be positioned on the page using the page-editing module and moved if necessary. Other graphics images and columns of text can be added to complete the page layout.

The end result can be viewed at a fraction of its normal size, then printed either in draft or high-quality mode on the standard PCW printer or an Epson compatible. The quality of the text columns is greatly improved by the fact that they are printed in standard printer text mode rather than being converted into graphics data.

The Desktop Publisher provides the ideal environment for editing scanned photographs and drawings, which can then be directly incorporated into newsletters, and so on.

Microfax

Database claims that Master Scan can be used as a form of facsimile system, transporting graphics data from one place to another using a modem. The company calls this feature ‘Microfax’.

The Master Scan software has no built-in facility for Microfax and so communications software with a file transfer facility is needed. However, Mail232, included with the PCW, is ideal. Due to the way in which scanned images are saved, there is no checksum facility to warn of corrupt data in the file; this would be helpful in correcting lost or badly-transferred data.

Microfax will probably find little support as a standard since the person or company receiving the image must also have a PCW with suitable software. As a result, Microfax cannot be considered a serious feature of the Master Scan package.

Documentation

The well-written manual is ideal for quick reference: it lists each menu option along with a clear description of its function and parameters. It also contains some very useful tips on how the quality of scanned images can be improved. For the technically minded, there is a small section on how the scanner works.

Conclusion

Master Scan is innovative and, with relatively little practice, produces good-quality results which can be incorporated into many desktop publishing systems.

Master Scan scores over video digitisers already available for the PCW, as there is no need for extra hardware such as video cameras and lighting; but it does lose out on capture time.

At only £69.95, Master Scan represents excellent value for money. What more can I say?

Master Scan costs £69.95, Master Paint costs £19.95, and the Master Pack containing both costs £79.95. The Desktop Publisher costs £29.95. All available from Database on (061) 456 8835

First published in Personal Computer World magazine, December 1987