Issue 15: Jan 2002






Tip of the Day


My trip down the Champs-Elysées


'C'ing through the window 'pains'


Atari UK 2


Star Alliance - Battle for Earth


M: Interactive Composition




Calamus from scratch


Porthos 1.28


Put a Little Bee Under the Bonnet of your TT



Calamus from scratch

By Christoph Brincken


In 1987 an early version of Calamus 1 found its way in to my disk box. Some years later, I bought a book from Data Becker, and learned how to use Calamus 1.09. In those early times, there were only two programs able to print real black with a dot-matrix pin printer. 1st Word, for example left nothing but a gray shadow.

[Screen-shot: Calamus SL2002]

[Screen-shot: Calamus SL2002]

This was when the famous text processor, Signum appeared and later Calamus. Calamus was in fact  one of the key applications for Atari in Germany, together with Signum, 1st Word, Cubase and Steinberg 24. Unlike the USA or Great Britain, the Atari ST in Germany was mainly used as a "black and white" workstation. While the Macintosh cost about 4,000 US Dollars, the Atari was only about 400. People wanted a Mac, but bought an Atari ST, the "Power Without The Price" Mac. Two million people were using the Atari ST/TT in Germany.

Calamus was able to print to cheap non-PostScript printers and brought two new data formats to the Atari: The Calamus Font format (CFN) and the Calamus Vector format (CVG). CFN brought superb vector fonts to the ST/TT platform from all the famous font houses, but, they were quite expensive.

Programs which supported the CVG format were the popular Outline Art from DMC and the high-end vector tool Avant Vector Pro, which came in three versions: as a basic tracer (Avant Trace), the more expensive vector tool Avant Vector and the quite expensive Avant Vector Plot, the first Atari program which exported and imported Encapsulated PostScript(EPS).

[Screen-shot: Avant Vector]

About 1992 DMC came out with a new color version of Calamus, Calamus SL. It was able to seperate films for pre-print, streaming directly to a film exposure machine by SCSI.

Many graphic studios where founded in Germany at this time and some still use Calamus today. Around 1995, Calamus was sold to MGI in Canada. Later the German programmers left the sinking company DMC and bought back the rights from MGI. But only the rights to develop an Atari version. Some days ago the new Calamus SL2002 was delivered. The new Calamus is very much like the old, using modules, but these modules as well as the core have been enhanced.

[Calamus SL2002 splash screen]

There are five programmers working on Calamus. An interesting is Calamus runs perfectly on different platforms. On the Mac it needs MagiC Mac and even though it's emulated, it's extremely fast. One can also buy it as a "Windows package", which comes with an Atari emulator included and behaves just like a PC program. And in my opinion it's light years ahead of Quark Xpress. The emulation is so perfectly integrated that it is sold as a "Lite" version at the on-line book shop "Amazon" as a page layout program for the PC.

Calamus has two new printer drivers, one, WINPRINT lets you use any printer active in your Windows system, the other, MACPRINT for the MagiC Mac emulation uses the active Mac printer - it works superbly. Very nice is the ability to read almost any ASCII text file, as is the ability to use PostScript Type1 and TrueType fonts from Mac or PC without any trouble.

I have worked with Pagemaker 6.5 and Quark 3.31 and hated both. When I start Calamus, it's pure power and joy. I particularly like the kerning feature. With Calamus you will always have the feeling of total control over your document, while with Quark its always "print out and see what you get" and with Pagemaker 6.5 you'd better save your document before you print it because it might crash and overwrite your open document.

Calamus Bridge 5 module
[Screen-shot: PDF export window]Bridge started as Dataformer, it was very promising and added converting functions and EPS export, but it was very buggy 10 years ago. Later it was redesigned, became very stable and got a new name.

Calamus SL2002 comes with the Lite version of the Bridge module. This version is able to convert text frames to vector frames, which means you can make a text layout and convert this to a vector graphic. This graphic can be exported and used with a plotter program to cut out the foil for a signboard, or it can be converted to a bitmap and exported in many formats.

In the full version, PostScript export was added. The PostScript export enabled Calamus to use any film exposure service and convert whole sites to PDF with Adobe Acrobat Distiller.

Bridge 5 adds a direct Acrobat PDF export function. That makes it worth upgrading from 4 to 5, it's brilliant and doubles the fun of Calamus!

For me it was a great experience when I bought the Bridge 5 module. It exports Calamus files directly as Acrobat PDF with perfect results.

[Screen-shot: Finished PDF document]



Bridge 5


invers Software


Check web site for prices and upgrades.




Useful links


[ Top of page ]

MyAtari magazine - Review #1, January 2002


Copyright 2002 MyAtari magazine