Dragon User's Review Of Orange Flex 1 (Orange) for the Dragon 32 - Everygamegoing

Orange Flex 1 (Orange) (Dragon 32)

Reviewed By Roland Hewson In Dragon User #068

 

It is rare these days to have software released for the Dragon Flex system and I was intrigued by this disc. Orange Software have once again produced excellent value for money in that this is a compilation of two discs formerly from Microvision. Mon and Hex Pack- 7 which originally retailed at three times the price.

So what do you get for your fiver? A great deal. The Flex Pack Utilities are I believe written by Roy Coates who has already produced excellent articles on Flex (see Flex Revisited, September 1985 and Dragon Plus Expansion, January 1986), and full instructions come on the disc. The instructions for each utility program are held in the files with the extension INS. Their files are in 'QTP 1 format and may be viewed onscreen or sent to the printer if a hard copy is required. The first utility is a program called FONT, and is a small utility which enables the user to select different printer modes without the usual use of sending control codes to the printer. The utility lies in the default utility command space within the Flex Operating System and when called with a simple keyboard command displays a menu of available printer modes which may be selected by entering the number displayed against the desired option. The program is written for the Epson range of printers and pressing the T key (TEST) will cause two lines of the alphabet to be sent to the printer so that the effect of the various options may be seen.

These options are:

  1. Return to Default Mode
  2. Alternative character font
  3. Condensed Mode
  4. Elite Characters
  5. Emphasised Characters
  6. Pica Characters
  7. Double Strike Mode
  8. Enlarged Mode
  9. Return to Flex

The second utility is a DIARY routine which allows the user to create a text file containing entries in the usual manner. When this program is called, the file will be scanned and any lines found to contain the current date will be displayed at the terminal. If the Diary command is inserted into the FLEX start-up file then the diary checking becomes automatic on power-up. The comprehensive instructions detail two methods of invoking the diary routine and hew new information may be input and redundant information detected if required.

The next utility is a HELP facility which has been designated to allow access to information stored within a help-file by simply typing the heading that the required detail is associated with. The facility com prises two files, the first being the help program itself and the second being the text file containing the desired information. The information is stored in the HELP file as a heading followed immediately by the information itself which may consist of any number of lines.

There are two methods of invoking the HELP routine 1 to either call for the information under one heading , or to display a list of all headings found. I found this little feature particularly helpful in storing the detail of all those small 'cheat' instructions and other commands that one either writes in a book or on bits of paper which are then promptly lost.

The fourth utility on the disc comprises two small programs for screen dumps for Epsom compatible printers. They perform either a single or double sized screen dump respectively and are only suitable for graphics modes PMODE5 and PMODE4. Also contained within both alternatives is an X routine. This turned out to be rather dull in that it is a replacement for the TSC utility XOUT, which will delete all files having a common specified extension unless they have been given a file protection such as PROT.

The fifth item on the disc is a 'phone 1 utility which isof specific use to operators who use their systems daily. The program will search each line of the directory file, or any occurrence of a string entered by the user and will then display any lines containing the word required by the user. The program is easily adapted to form a simple data retrieval package.

The sixth utility is hardly a utility at all and is called COOKIE, and indeed turned out to be a 'fortune cookie' which gave a whole series of useless lines and sayings which one would find in the edible variety or on a daily calendar. I personally find little use for this routine, but perhaps it could be coupled to the DIARY used earlier. The one thing it does do is to add a little light relief when reviewing the disc.

Utility seven turned out to be a Quick Text Processor (QTP) which is a simple text processor program allowing the most common forms of text format to be achieved rapidly and easily. An ordinary text file created using a standard text editor can be processed without modification using the default values with 'QTP 1' or alternatively by inverting the relevant 'QTP 1' commands into the source file. The utility reads the source file from disc and not from memory, therefore there is no limit upon the size of the file to be processed. The instructions contained on the disc are clear, comprehensive and effective: underlining, linespacing, width and margin settings are all available and there is even a Verbatim option which allows portions of the text to be printed without being affected by the text processor (ideal fortables, etc). This processor is ideal and the simple commands also contain options for new lines, and centering given text, or uses given text as a page header (the latter option is only available when page numbering is enabled).

The eighth item on the disk is QMON itself which is a small machine code monitor type program which allows memory locations to be examined or altered, both Ascii and Hex dumps of memory are catered for and the instructions are short , simple and to the point.

The final two facilities on the disk are TERM and PROMPT. TERM allows the use of an RS232 terminal connected to the Dragon 64 through the RS232 port. The facility enables you to input a desired baud-rate, and also displays a list of 14 baud-rates from 50 to 9600 if the baud-rate is omitted. PROMPT allows the changing of the standard FLEX prompt '+++' to any user defined string of up to three characters. This is useful for marking special system discs that have been configured for a particular application. The routine also changes the FLEX '???' prompt to match the new user prompt.

To sum up this disk, there are ten utilities of varying quality and usefulness; and clearly designed for FLEX users who must be serious about their Dragons to have FLEX at all, and I must say at 50p per item it is well worth the expense to add these utilities to those already available under FLEX DOS. As one would expect from Roy Coates, the instructions are lucid, the programs run smoothly and his descriptions of the routines difficult to better. If you are running FLEX then an investment of 5 plus 50p for postage and packing is one of the best you will make this year. (I would reiterate: please do not forget the 50p as clearly Orange Software are charging very modestly for the disc and that 50p does make a difference to their profit margins.)