A&B Computing

Micro Artist
By Paean Systems
BBC B/B+/Master 128

Published in A&B Computing 2.04

Micro Artist is a program allowing the creation of colour pictures using a Mode 2 screen and offers a comprehensive list of features. Operation is very simple, with no menus or switching of screens employed and mercifully no list of keys to remember or keystrips to contend with.

After loading the program, the user is presented with a drawing area in black, flanked by 40 small boxes on the side borders. These boxes display the twenty fixed commands, twelve re-definable characters and eight colours available to the user.

A cursor is shown in the drawing area which is moved under joystick control to the box displaying the function you wish to use. Having done so, the fire button is pressed to activate the command. I should point out that there is no option to use keys and you must have an analogue joystick of good quality to use Micro Artist.

All the usual drawing routines are provided such as continuous and dotted lines plus rectangles, squares, triangles, circles and ellipses which may be drawn open or filled. Text may be drawn any desired size and, like all the other drawing routines, in any one of the eight colours.

Other features available are horizontal and vertical reflection, rotation, two kinds of rubber banding, enlargement, reduction and a continuous readout of the X and Y coordinates of the cursor. The background may be set to any one of the right available colours.

The area filling routine is really superb allowing any enclosed area to be filled automatically by selecting the colour and then positioning the cursor within the boundary of the area to be filled. Two colours may be used together for filling to provide a very acceptable imitation of colours not normally found in the BBC palette.

A further colour fill available is called "star burst" which fills any enclosed area with a random dot pattern. This again may be done using two different colours to provide some very interesting effects.

A most unusual feature of this program is the "exploding cursor" (!) which is used to set the position of various functions and to define areas for enlargement, reduction, reflection, rotation, star bursts and colour overlays.

The redefinable characters can be altered at any time quite simply by using an on-screen eight-by-eight grid. This enables the use of as many different characters as you like by designing more new sets whilst your drawing is still on screen. The standard characters defined initially, I found very useful, as they provided some excellent designs with which to do air-brushing and shading.

Once you have created your masterpiece it can be saved to tape for subsequent reloading. This takes about two-and-a-half minutes which is not too bad if you're used to tape but seems like an age for those like me who use disc.

It is possible to dump your picture to printer by breaking out of the program and typing your command in the text window at the top of the screen to call a screen dump. Before doing so, you can switch off the command boxes on the edge borders of the screen so they are not included.

The documentation provided with the review sample of Micro Artist consisted of several typed sheets that, although looking a bit unprofessional, were nevertheless very thorough in content.

The only thing I found annoying about this program was that it would only run from tape. It can be transferred to Replica of course but you can still only load and save screens using tape.

In the main, Micro Artist is a real joy to use being fast, flexible and friendly, with features that are rarely found on a drawing program capable of providing some really excellent results.

If you are in the market for a program of this type, I would urge you to buy Micro Artist. It is certainly the best drawing program I have yet tested on the BBC and is being sold for a price which I consider to be ridiculously low. It is only available by mail order from Paean Systems, Little Bealings, Woodbridge, Suffolk

Peter Rochford

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