Wednesday 31 August 2022

Blog post written with Protext on Amstrad

The following was written in early June, and I thought I had published it already. I just wanted something out before August ends :)

Text created in Protext begins->

Ok, so this Amstrad typing career has gotten slightly out of hand. But I just had to explore at least some alternatives to the rather slow and old-fashioned Tasword.

This is Protext on the Amstrad 6128, not the CP/M version though.

Already I feel the cursor movement around the paragraphs is more modern. Inserting between text is on by default and performs much like the "auto-insert" on Tasword, that is, as we now expect it to work.

I can insert lines by pressing return, and lines can be removed by using delete at the left edge, so I don't have to remember a separate ctrl-key combination to do these obvious things.

The first time I encountered anything weird was when I tried to backtrack my cursor to the previous line. This cannot be done by using arrow left at the left side of the screen, even if the text is part of the same paragraph. This is curious as I can indeed backspace to the previous line. In fact I can use shift+left arrow to get the cursor there.

My impression with Protext is that it indeed is quite fast and better for editing text than the Tasword. It has less weirdness of the 1980s home computer word processors.

Protext is not entirely free of clunkiness. Again the justify is on by default, adjusted to a particular page width. This width setting is not really even respected, if I for example delete a line to a previous line or I write new words into an already wide line.

But it is possible to use a Ctrl+f to reformat a paragraph. Doing this automatically might have been too slow and behave weirdly. I could also easily turn the justify off and have more normal looking text-editor paragraphs. Perhaps the software works a little faster for it, too.

If I turn off the word-wrap with Ctrl+w (not mentioned on the help bar), the cursor keeps going forever to the right. So only if I press return the pararaph will be completed, which is kind of correct, but it is not visually a very good solution.

I do note that Protext appears to have only about 20K free for text, which is not that much. Remember Tasword running on CPC6128 had more than 60K to work with. I'm not out to write a novel anyway, these tiny blog posts take about 2K.

Saving the file was not immediately obvious, as the Help bar only gives key shortcuts for text editing. Although the Tasword file menu appeared somewhat basic it was actually quite clear. However, the problem was not huge. Pressing ESC gives a kind of command line interface together with the possibility to have HELP. Using S will prompt a filename and save the file.

Moving a paragraph is not more complicated than with Tasword. Bonus points for using the actual COPY key that is featured on the Amstrad keyboard. Shift+COPY creates markers for both start and end, then Ctrl+M moves the area.

A somewhat more general problem with Amstrad text editing is that the computer does not have separate backspace and delete keys, the single DEL key instead acts as a backspace. Pressing shift+DEL does not result in forward delete, unlike I had hoped.

So, on with Protext until something better comes along. I might still give Tasword a chance, given I can find the options for making the software behave faster and better. However, even then the Protext overall typing and text editing experience is much better.

Afterthoughts (written in Blogger)

This time I fixed a few typos in the above text, as they made the sentences unclear. I already know that a few typographical errors, repeats, mannerisms and other brain farts get through when I simply write the whole piece from top to bottom. To me the idea that the text editor might influence overall composition, is more interesting.

I had some trouble with transferring the file to Linux. Firstly, I realized I had to use the PRINTF command to "print" the output of the document to a file, this way there are no command codes and such that might result from using the S-Save command.

The first resulting file was corrupt, but this may have been because the disk image I used in HxC was not valid enough. I'm also thinking the converting tools were not up to the task, as the Protext on Amstrad side seemed to read the files back happily.

Using a more "clean" empty disk image I got the file out. Just as with the Tasword file, I did some manual work removing the returns from line endings, here I also removed the tabbing and page breaks. Again, there was also some junk at the bottom of the file.