Tempus - the Text Editor

Reviewed by Steve Pedler


Issue 31

Jan/Feb 88

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Anyone who has programmed his or her ST at all will have used some sort of text editor to enter the program into the computer. Manufacturers of computer languages usually (but not always!) provide some sort of editor with the language package. Why then would any software house expect a programmer to pay £30 on top of the expensive language software when the editor is something you get for free?

Unfortunately, the quality of bundled text editors is not all that high. Software manufacturers are understandably reluctant to expend time and effort on a product which is merely to be given away. Tempus, from the German software house Creative Computer Design is an attempt to combine the best of both worlds, but you will have to dig deep into your pocket for it. Is is worth it?

Tempus comes on one single sided disk plus a comprehensive loose leaf manual in a grey ring binder. The manual is well printed and very thorough and clear in its explanations, screen shots are used where appropriate. The disk is not copy protected, the manufacturers having correctly surmised that no-one would buy a text editor that could not be copied onto other disks. You do have to go through an installation procedure the very first time you use Tempus, but it is quick and easy and it only has to be done the once (in fact you can only do it once as the installation program is deleted after it is run!).

The editor itself is fully GEM-based but has been enormously enhanced in that many of the GEM routines have been rewritten in 68000 assembly language which considerably increases the speed of operation (GEM itself is written in C). On loading the program you are presented with a file selector, not the standard GEM file selector we know and love(!), but a completely revamped selector with many additional features. For example, it contains selectable buttons for all currently available drives, if you want to look at the directory on another drive, just click on the button. There are also a series of buttons to select all the common filename extenders (.C, .DOC. .TXT, .S etc) so you don't have to keep re-typing the directory line of the selector. This is how the GEM file selector should have been written! Two problems with the standard selector have been put right, typing an underscore into the directory line no longer crashes the machine, and the 'action' button (which contains 'OK' on the standard selector) now contains the name of the operation to be performed (Load, Save etc.). You can also pass an argument line containing the name of a file to be loaded when Tempus is run, if you run it from a shell program. The authors say that Tempus is compatible with currently available shell programs although there was apparently a problem with early versions of Metacomco's Menu+ (later versions are OK). I have been using Tempus with Menu + for some weeks now without difficulty.

'one of the finest pieces of professional software'

File loading and saving has been speeded up – simple tests showed that it took 7 seconds for Tempus to load a 35K file, 18 seconds for Metacomco's ED and 22 seconds for 1st Word. Up to four files may be present in memory simultaneously and the loaded file is displayed in an enhanced GEM window. The title line of the window, in addition to the file name, contains the current line and column numbers that the cursor is in and these are updated when you move the cursor. This makes it very easy to go to any specified line, but more of this later. A major improvement is found in the window arrows and scroll bars. These auto-repeat so that all you do is click on an arrow or scroll bar and hold the button down to scroll through a complete document. Scrolling is incredibly fast – a complete screen of text scrolls smoothly past in under a second.

Tempus contains a full set of facilities for moving around the text more precisely. You can jump to any specified line number, move to top or bottom of the text, or to the beginning or end of a line – all with equal speed and ease. You can also set invisible markers in the text and so move instantly to and fro between different areas of the text – a feature I found to be extremely useful. All the usual block and search/replace facilities are there, and are carried out so quickly as to be virtually instantaneous. The editor can even build a cross-reference list for any specified string. Once the list is built, clicking with the right mouse button on an entry in the list moves the cursor instantly to that line in the main text.

Tempus has many other features, too numerous to discuss in detail here, but I will just mention briefly that it can of course print your text files, that there is an inbuilt programmer's calculator, that a digital clock is displayed at the top of the screen and that it can use alternative fonts designed with DEGAS. The facilities of Tempus are accessed either through drop-down menus or via the function keys, and all facilities are also available from the keyboard using Control-key or Alternate-key combinations. If you use certain text strings frequently these can be assigned to one of the function keys used in conjunction with Shift or Alternate. These and many other customisable features of Tempus can be saved to disk as part of an installation file loaded whenever Tempus is run.

I can only think of one missing feature – there is no facility to automatically change the case of a letter or word on which the cursor is resting, you have to delete and retype it. It would also have been nice to have one or two disk utility features present, such as disk format and file deletion and rename, but this is just nitpicking. There is one small but irritating bug –you cannot get the apostrophe (') from the keyboard! The reason is that the inbuilt clock can be toggled on or off with the Alt-' combination, but the '-key without pressing Alternate has the same effect! All is not lost though because Tempus can display a character table similar to 1st Word, and you can get the apostrophe from that. I can live with this in order to use this amazing program.

Having run out of superlatives, all I can say in conclusion is that if you are at all interested in programming the ST you will find Tempus very useful indeed. Go out and buy what must be one of the finest pieces of professional software available today. It is worth every penny.