ZX Computing1st May 1986
Published in ZX Computing #25
Screenmaster 1 And 2
Simtron software specialise in what they call 'programs to help you' - their previous offering being the Car Cure diagnostic program. But now Simtron have embarked on something a little less obscure with the Screenmaster family of graphics utilities.
At the moment, only Screenmaster 1 and 2 are near completion (though SM3 is under development with further programs in the series planned) and Simtron let us have an early look at the two programs.
Screenmaster 1 came as a bit of a surprise as it's a character generator - the sort of thing that I haven't seen sold as a separate program for ages. Most graphics utilities include UDG and sprite generators as standard these days so perhaps there's not really much call for programs which do that and nothing else.
SM1 has three options, allowing you to create either UDGs, Sprites (measuring two by two character squares), or what they call Pictels, which are small pictures four characters high by four wide. All these are created by the standard method of plotting squares on a magnified grid, and can be Saved/Loaded as necessary. The program also includes an animation routine which allows you to animate groups of sprites in order to see how they look 'in action'. Simtron tell us that they may also add a routine for rotating sprites.
As a character generator it functions perfectly well, but it's not a very ambitious program and doesn't do anything that many other programs don't already do. The only real advantage in buying SM1 rather than a graphics package which includes its own UDG/sprite facilities is that it's considerably cheaper, but of course you don't get the added screen design facilities unless you also buy Screenmaster 2.
SM2 is a more ambitious program and offers a whole range of options allowing you to create full screen pictures. All the usual features are included, Fill and Brush with various patterns, Circle and Box, and also commands for drawing ovals, ellipses and a variety of polygons which I don't remember seeing in any similar packages. In the unfinished version of the program these seem rather slow, though they will be considerably faster when finished. Simon Wright stressed that the Screenmaster programs are intended not just to act as utilities, but also to allow the user to see how the programs work, giving them an idea of the programming involved. As a result some sections of the finished program may be left in Basic, which may well affect the speed of the routines. On the other hand, routines such as Fill which are fully machine-coded do work quickly.
Both programs will be available separately, though they can also be bought together for the special price of £7.95. So far, SM2 seems to be shaping up quite well, and with luck we'll have a completed copy of the program in time for a full review in the next issue.