Issue 17: Mar 2002






ACE: World Exclusive


Have Atari users got a future?


I want my AEX!


Tip of the day


Get Calamus Fonts Without Selling the House


The Current State of the Desktop Publishing Art


Reader Profiles: Markus Binder


Atari GmbH




Atari Emulation -
Part 2



[Chato & Dave banner]
The Current State of the Desktop Publishing Art


Recently invers released the latest version of Calamus, SL2002. It's definitely a worthwhile release. Still, there are probably plenty of readers out there who know little or nothing about Calamus and this article intends to rectify this.

The computer has captured the printing trade. It's no longer possible to compete in this industry without using computers and computer software. All the books, magazines, brochures, advertising, you name it, is now done with computers. In essence the computer has become the layout mechanism for creating these and any other type of document. The software which converts your computer into such a layout machine is referred to as desktop publishing, and indeed this title is well-deserved and now literally true.

There are a number of well-known programs which perform these tasks. Quark, PageMaker, InDesign and a number of others. These are the well-known Mac and PC programs which are much in use these days. Quark, it should be noted, is the dominant program now in use. Well, what about the Atari platform? There are a number of programs for the Atari, some of which have been ported with limited success to the PC and Mac world. Some of these programs were quite interesting and had quite a bit of potential. Pagestream and DA's Layout come to mind. There is, however, one program on the Atari side of the tracks which is still being supported and updated regularly, this of course is Calamus SL. The big surprise here is that Calamus is easily the best DTP (DeskTop Publishing) program available anywhere on any platform. It runs directly on the Atari and through the alternate OS MagiC Mac it runs flawlessly on the Mac. Through an embedded emulator it runs as a native application on an IBM, or by using MagiC PC.

Now all software has flaws and even the worst (well perhaps not the worst) program might have one feature or two that you would wish your software has. But overall Calamus has more features, more power and more flexibility then anything else out there. Calamus used to have large limitations in terms of file compatibility with other platforms but these problems have been overcome to a great extent that it is now possible to import and export files so other platforms can make use of the output of Calamus. It also used to be true that Calamus users were dependent on the proprietary CFN font system. This too has been altered and Calamus users can use both PostScript Type 3 and TrueType font formats. Once loaded they work exactly as the native font format.

Another big change in the last few releases of Calamus is running on the Mac or IBM, it is now possible to directly access the Chooser on the Mac, or the Windows drivers on the PC so your work can be printed directly to any printer connected to that particular machine. Your limitations here are not with Calamus but with the drivers themselves. I mention this as a limitation but it is the same limitation that owners of software native to these platforms face. Meaning that some of the drivers are less than perfect. When using Calamus on an Atari you are limited to the printer drivers supplied by invers or others and the drivers you can modify yourself with the supplied Printer Generator program. Some of the Atari drivers are quite up to date but many are getting long in the tooth. In one specific case this remains an advantage but in most others you will find that Calamus is more useful on the Mac or PC simply because Calamus can make use of these more up to date drivers. To a certain extent this is overcome by a special Calamus driver which allows the user to make use of the drivers supplied by NVDI, but even these drivers are getting a bit aged. One of the advantages of a native Atari driver is for Star Screened (stochastically screened) color photos printed on Epson machines. The latest batch of Epson drivers put out by the Epson Corporation are simply not capable of printing stochastically screened color images and one must fall back on the Atari driver. More on all this later.

How does one use Calamus?
Calamus is a frame based program, meaning you create a specific frame, whether text, raster, image or other and then either create data from within the program or import data to fill that frame. Calamus uses icons to represent the various options the program uses. There are close to probably 500 icons in the standard package and thousands of options. Sounds scary? Well it's not the easiest program in the world to learn but much easier than the above statements indicate.

As your cursor passes over an icon there is a text description of the icon's purpose in the upper right hand corner of the application window. This is meant to help you learn the icons, but memorizing each and every icon is neither necessary nor the best way to learn the program. All the icons in Calamus are part of a greater scheme to make effective use of the program!

To navigate through Calamus there is an extremely effective tool, the macro recorder. Icons come in families. There are the text icons, the raster image icons and so on. Usually no more than ten icons to a group, often less. In addition there is the "Top line" which contains the icons for the individual modular components of the program. Using the macro recorder you create macros that take you from group to group within modules or from module to module or groups within different modules. Essentially you need to memorize your own individually created macros. This is one of those cases where the explanation is more complicated than the actions.

[Screen-shot: Blank page]

Making a macro is simplicity itself. Turn the recorder on and it memorizes the key strokes and/or mouse clicks. There's no practical limit to the number of events. After you've completed the navigation you turn the macro recorder off and the program then gives you an opportunity to assign a key combination and a name to this macro. Just about any combination of keys can be assigned to a macro. The key combination can be altered at any time by calling up the saved macros. To make this even more useful, macros can be assigned globally, meaning wherever you are in the program the macro will work, or they can be local, affecting your work only in the module you happen to be in. For example, no matter what I am doing I can call up the Eddie Lite module (in my case [Alternate]+[T]) and I find myself in the standard package text editor. I don't need to hunt through the Calamus icon jungle.

 [Screen-shot: Key bindings]

[Screen-shot: Define Key Binding]

These dialogs show the macro recorder key options and some of my stored key bindings.

I could edit text directly in the text frame but even the "lite" edition of the text editor is a powerful word processor. I can, by tapping [Alternate]+[T] go back to the frame creation part of the program or [Alternate]+[Control]+[F] go back to the last family of icons I worked with. These key combinations I assigned myself. Calamus comes with many pre-defined macros and key combinations but I prefer, as you should prefer, to make custom macros. Everyone has their own preferences and memory tricks, therefore making your own combinations is much easier.

The macro recorder is far more powerful than my description. Anything or any series of actions can be recorded and utilized. I can type directly in Spanish on my US keyboard simply by adding the control key to the letter I type. These were local macros for the text editor. I can access and set up a module, which would take a great number of key strokes, with just one tap of the keyboard. For example, when I access the Star Screening module the resolution and color plane settings are already set the way I want them. Incredible power lies here. I can even make macros out of existing macros! In other words I can make a macro which records my accessing previous macros. No matter how long it might take to actually create a macro, implementing the macro is instantaneous and transparent to the user! Meanwhile the icons are still there, but now they serve as a reference point and learning tool. They are not the way I use the program.

The modular nature of Calamus
I speak about the macro recorder before going into the primary nature of Calamus because I want to remove the intimidation factor. This is an incredibly well thought out interface. Part of the beauty of this interface is the comparative ease of learning a program which is capable of
every aspect of the layout trade. While you can easily use Calamus to turn out a one-page flyer with a dozen words of text, it is just as easy, once the program is learned, to turn out a 600-page book loaded with text, diagrams and photos.

The actual Calamus program is an empty shell. Everything, every aspect of the working parts of the program consists of loadable and user configurable modules. The Calamus package comes preset with a number of the standard modules already loaded but this is a starting convenience. You can load or delete any modules you wish. Using the term "module" implies that these are separate parts of the program. In fact, these modules are so integrated that the user is unaware of this feature in terms of ease of use. The Calamus help line tells you what each of the new icons does. More importantly the macro recorder acts as if all these loaded modules are part of one program, and for all practical purposes they are. Unlike Quark, which uses "extensions" which must be accessed through the extensions manager, a module once loaded into Calamus becomes an integral part of Calamus. You can use or remove, at any time, any of these modules. This in turn gives tremendous flexibility in terms of simplifying the program or if you lack sufficient memory for certain tasks, it gives you the ability to free memory up!

Calamus does have a powerful virtual memory option which allows you to designate part of your hard drive for use as memory, but nothing beats physical memory for speed. If memory is a problem modules can easily be deleted, or when needed, loaded all with tremendous ease.

A small digression
Before going further into the program let me talk about its compatibility with other platforms. Without any of the optional modules you are limited, aside from the native CDK Calamus format, to exporting your pages in various raster and where applicable, vector formats. Just about all raster formats are available and many vector formats although not EPS, PS or PDF. To export pages or frames in EPS, PS or PDF (Encapsulated PostScript, PostScript and the new Portable Document Format) formats you will need either the optional Bridge module or the optional PS/PDF printer driver. Bridge Lite comes with the standard Calamus package and has the above limitations.

[Screen-shot: Graphic export dialog]

A quick digression on exporting files is in order. I make this digression because the following feature is undocumented and at the same time quite interesting. Both the optional Bridge and Bridge Lite module allow the export of pages or frames. For that matter entire multi-page documents can be exported in PDF or PS formats with the full version of Bridge or the PS printer driver. Calamus allows you to "tile" pages. What this means is that if you have a page which is for example 11x17 and your printer can only print 8x11, Calamus creates tiles, in this case 8x11 tiles which will print the entire page. You then glue or tape the results to create your finished 11x17 page. You can even create a 30 foot page but you'll need a lot of glue. Among the many options for tiling are three for choosing the type of tile: portrait, landscape or user defined. If you cover part of your page with a tile, that tile can be used by either version of Bridge to export whatever is underneath. So even though a tile itself is blank, if it covers a raster image, text and a vector image those frames can be exported as a raster image combining the images and text in one file. If you have the optional version of Bridge or the optional PS printer driver you can do the same thing but you now have the options of EPS, PS and PDF. This undocumented feature dramatically increases the export capability because you can create mixed photos or files in an extremely simple manner. For example, Photoshop allows adding text to your image, using Calamus you can do the same thing but with much more control and other types of files can be included or excluded!

More on importing files
As far as importing text files go you can import RTF or ASCII text. You can also export in these formats. Just about all Atari formats are supported but here I'm referring to industry standard formats. Using the optional Calipso module you can import EPS and PS files and work with them directly. There are some problems with the PS import. The file must be created in a certain way if the file was created with Quark, but basically Calipso works quite well and gives Calamus users the ability to import these formats into documents and continue working with them directly within Calamus. You can also directly import into Calamus just about every raster format that exists including Adobe Photoshop's PSD format. You can import JPEG, TIFF, GIF, BMP, PCX, TGA and a number of others, including of course all the standard Atari formats.

To sum up this article, and I intend a number of others, Calamus is a very powerful program. The learning curve is steep but the program more than justifies the outlay of energy. Once learned, and by no means mastered, Calamus can churn out the most complex documents which programs like Quark are simply not capable of doing. The modules which come with the standard package are pretty complete. There is a histogram module which allows quick correction of all your images along with built-in capabilities to adjust contrast and brightness with the included CLUT controls. There is a small but adequate paint module for touching up or correcting files. There is a powerful vector drawing program which also comes standard. Part of the standard package now includes a full featured bar code generator, Focultone and HKS color palettes to aid in matching spot colors. Within the program you can create a number of raster shapes as well as every kind of line your heart desires. A powerful text editor with search and replace and quite a few more. The standard package also includes a color separation module and a raster screening module, both for the creation of press-ready copy.

[Screen-shot: CLUT module]

In addition there are many, many optional modules. They include a full featured paint program, a more powerful vector program and a module which consists of photographic filters. There is a more powerful text editor. There is the unique stochastic screening module called "Star Screening," which allows the conversion of any file into a stochastically screened image. These images print out much sharper then conventional images on low resolution (less then 2400 DPI) printers. There is the "Fine Data" module for users with less memory which allows the user to work with screen images while the actual images remain on the hard drive, thus saving immense amounts of memory. This is aside from the virtual memory option of Calamus. There is the Merge module which allows masking and more advanced image processing. There is the Multi-Color Blend module which allows making "blends" out of raster frames. These blends can be configured as circular or any degree of vertical and horizontal. As many colors as you wish can be part of the blend. There are many more where these came from. As well as Calamus itself being updated constantly, so the modules are always being revamped with new ones always appearing on the market. While I own many of the optional modules the only one which I consider necessary for cross-platform compatibility is the full version of Bridge and the RTF import/export driver. Calamus is far cheaper than Quark especially since many of the standard modules would cost extra in other programs. Calipso, the PS/EPS import module would be the final necessary item for professional users.

 [Screen-shot: Blend module dialog]

The Blend module dialog.

Some of the new features in Calamus will make sense only to those familiar with the program. In addition to style sheets Calamus makes heavy use of something called text rulers. These rulers control the formatting of text. On this latest update to Calamus you can double-click on a ruler and an editing dialog comes up where all aspects of the ruler can be altered. Another new addition to Calamus is layers. These layers can be either kept separate or collapsed, visible or invisible. Plus you can have thousands of them in one document, although I can't foresee needing that many. This means complex pages can be composed as templates with additional information on different layers. Instead of composing separate documents you can use one document with different layers.

While Calamus has always been a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) there are additional view options which increase this aspect of the program. You can even view the actual effects of changing the raster screen on your individual frames and pages. You can convert you photo files into duochrome, triplex or even quadruplex images. These are powerful new features and make the update well worth acquiring. A list of Calamus features that have already existed would run to thousands of words. This program is powerful and future articles will deal more with tips and tricks although I'd be happy to receive comments on what readers want more information on.

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MyAtari magazine - Feature #7, March 2002


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