Easitalk ST

Reviewed by John S Davison


Issue 31

Jan/Feb 88

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XLent Software

A communications desk accessory? Well, why not? If you use your ST for electronic mail or remote database searches its nice to be able to have instant access to comms facilities while using some other GEM based program, such as a spreadsheet or word processor. Even if you don't use electronic mail as such, but just tinker around with bulletin boards Easitalk could be of use to you, as it offers lots of facilities at a reasonable price. You can quickly learn to use the program as it comes with a good quality 46 page instruction manual, most of which is written in tutorial style.

It runs in either medium resolution colour or high resolution monochrome, and offers VT52 terminal emulation for text-only bulletin boards and services, and also PRESTEL viewdata emulation in colour or monochrome. It handles all PRESTEL features except flashing colours and cursor. In monochrome it uses shading to differentiate between PRESTEL colours.

File transfers can be handled using ASCII or the Xmodem protocol. When using Xmodem you have a choice of 128 or 1024 byte blocks and checksum or CRC checking. The instruction manual contains a list and explanation of Xmodem error messages, about the only time I've ever seen this. Full marks, XLEnt!

A 64K capture buffer may be toggled on and off to record incoming and outgoing text as required. Amount of free space remaining is shown in a status display at the bottom of the online screen. The buffer can be saved to disk and cleared when required. Buffer contents can't be viewed directly, but only by saving the buffer to disk then reloading it again, and using the 'local' duplex setting to route the data to the screen. The buffer can't be printed or transmitted either. XLEnt should rework this part of Easitalk to improve the facilities.

Viewdata frames may be saved to disk and reloaded later for reference. A frame may also be printed at any time, either in text-only form or as a screen dump to the printer via the ALT-HELP facility.

Full control over the RS-232 transmission parameters is possible, with baud rate settings from 75 to 19200 (including split rates for PRESTEL), parity, stop bits, word size, duplex, and flow control. It's possible to define and save lists of up to ten services or bulletin boards you use, together with their phone numbers, user-IDs, passwords, and the name of an associated command file. This may then be used for autodialling, auto-logon, or even to fully automate a complete communications session, including retry of engaged numbers at specified time intervals. This means you could let Easitalk collect your electronic mail for you at a specified time, perhaps during off peak periods when phone and connect time charges are lowest.

In summary, Easitalk offers very good value, having facilities only previously available at a much higher price. If you need a versatile low cost communications program this could be the one.