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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.