The Alternative

Reviewed by Mark Hutchinson


Issue 25

Jan/Feb 87

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Colour or Mono.

The Alternative is loaded as an Accessory file on the GEM desktop and can be called via the drop down menu. It is a system that will allow you to store often used phrases and statements and instantly recall them by using one of the designated ALTERNATIVE keys.

So what does that mean? Well, suppose you use BASIC or in fact any GEM based program (LOGO, 1st Word, GST 'C' or whatever) you will probably use certain phrases and statements quite often. In a program why bother to type, for example FOR PAUSE =1 TO 100:NEXT PAUSE if you can just press ALTERNATE-P? If you have defined this key, the Alternative will print the statement on the screen immediately.

The Accessory will let you set up a file of key definitions using its own editor, for which you must have an 80 column display, and then save the file under your own name but with the extender ALT. You may have a different file for each of your programs. The file will store 36 alternate key combinations but you may concatenate using the caret which means that a key can combine the statements of other keys. Be careful not to get into an endless loop using this though! The keys used by the Alternative are the characters A-z and 0 to 9 and each will store a string of up to 60 characters. If you wish, the Alternative can be bypassed by pressing ALTERNATE and -.

My copy of the program worked well. I spend a lot of time using a word processor but as I use very few standard statements with a word processor I did not find a lot of use for it in this context. It comes into its own, however, when used with a language (like BASIC?) or with the text editors found with Modula 2 or 'C'. The only problem was remembering what each key was for. The ability to print a quick reference would be very handy.

The Alternative is easy to use, resides as an accessory so is always there and has separate data files. If you take the trouble to set it up and use it fully then it is a good buy. There is a similar program about to be released which may give it some competition but it is a good program and I would recommend it.