Issue 32

Mar/Apr 88

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Most ST owners who have not previously owned an Atari will naturally think that their 16 bit computer is superior to the 8-bit Atari. Those who have 'upgraded' to an ST will also probably feel obliged to defend their decision and many existing 8-bit owners will feel under increasing pressure to sell up and buy an ST. But why? Is the ST really superior to the Atari XL or XE in all respects? Much depends on the software available and whilst in some areas the ST is certainly superior, in other, quite surprising, areas the good old 130XE is more than a match for the ST!

One of those areas is quite surprising word processing! Now most people will think that word processing on the ST must be infinitely superior but it just ain't the case! This issue of PAGE 6 is the first where the word processing has been done entirely on the ST and it may well be the last! The reason for going over to the ST was the advent of Word Perfect, hailed as the ultimate word processor, which can certainly do some amazing things but which,in its current version, has a number of bugs and deficiencies and, unbelievably, can't do the one thing I need which is to save pure ASCII text! The two features I need from a word processor are keyboard macros and the ability to save ASCII text with no added carriage returns, line feeds or control codes. I want exactly what I type to be saved on the disk but, despite the claims, there does not appear to be one word processor on the ST which can do this and which also supports keyboard macros. On the 130XE I know of three word processors which can achieve this and which also contain 95% (or more) of the features that any average user will require. These programs are Superscript, Paperclip and, the biggest bargain of all, TextPro which is available in the public domain. Is it not truly amazing that an Atari 8-bit public domain program can out-perform many commercial programs on one of the world's most powerful home computers?


This lack of software support really highlights one of the main problems with the ST and a problem which has plagued Atari all along. Despite the wealth of software released, much of it is not up to the standard available on other machines and the ST is just not supported in the way it should be. A stroll round the recent Which Computer Show proved the point. There was hardly an ST to be seen anywhere. You could find one here and there brought in by those companies who have supported Atari for some time such as Mirrorsoft and HB Marketing but most visitors, unless they were looking hard, would have gone away completely unaware that an Atari ST can be used for serious applications. Even companies like Word Perfect Corporation and Cashlink Software, who both produce top business software for the ST didn't have an ST on their stands!


Back to the ST versus the XE. For my money the 130XE is the outright winner as far as word processing goes. All the features that I need in a word processor are available on the 130XE and those extras that are on the ST I don't really need. Add to that the ease of programming the 130XE and in using DOS 2.5 (there are times when GEM can be more of a hindrance than a help) and there is no contest. The 130XE is friendlier, easier to use and, in this area at least, just as capable as the ST. Controversial comments? Yes, but these are the facts. If any ST users can come up with a compelling argument the other way I would be pleased to hear it. Better still, maybe someone could come up with some software that is as good as Superscript or TextPro!

When you think about it, the reason why the Amstrad is so successful, is that it does exactly what people need and no more. It is certainly not as powerful a computer as the ST but it does its job and so does the 130XE. If you are thinking of dumping that XL or XE, think again! Unless there is something you really need that you know the ST can do and your 130XE can't, don't bother buying an ST. Just stick with one of the best home computers ever produced. You probably don't realise just how good it is!