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Graphics Programs to Draw Upon

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RICHARD O'REILLY <i> designs microcomputer applications for The Times</i>

Turning someone who hardly can draw into a graphic artist may be asking too much of even the best computer software, but there are some programs that will come close enough to fool most people.

Arts & Letters, $395, from Computer Support Corp., is a program that makes it very easy to prepare elaborate illustrations on a PC that can be printed out or used in desktop publishing.

Draw Applause, $495, from Ashton-Tate, is meant for making professional quality presentation graphics--the slides and overhead transparencies used as illustrations in the best business meetings and speeches these days.

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Arts & Letters works with the Microsoft Windows operating environment, giving it a look that resembles the Apple Macintosh computer and a common set of commands with other Windows programs. That makes it easy to use if you already know Windows. But it also means that you have to own Windows to run Arts & Letters, or buy it for an additional $100.

Computer Support, based in Dallas, previously had a program called “Diagraph” that let you produce drawings from a library of several thousand clip art images, which are pictures drawn by professional artists.

Arts & Letters carries that process to a new level by turning your screen into a what-you-see-is-what-you-get drawing board. There are 2,200 clip art images included in the program, ranging from scores of different shapes and sizes of arrows to a wide variety of human figures, industrial symbols, furniture layouts, animals and jet airplanes.

The symbols are pictured in a reference book. Simply look up the image you want in the book, note its reference number and call up that number in the graphics library section of Arts & Letters. Once the image is on your screen, you can easily change its size, proportions or shading by simply pointing at it.

You can combine as many images as you wish on your page and add to your picture by using a full set of drawing tools that let you create straight and curved lines, circles, boxes and solid geometric shapes.

Text can be added in a variety of type styles. The sizes can be adjusted vertically and horizontally in increments of hundredths of an inch.

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A unique feature of Arts & Letters is something called “logical alignment.” With it, the components of an image can be called to the screen and given the shading desired. Then, using logical alignment, the components arrange themselves into the completed image. One such image included in the program is of the human physique showing all the muscle groups.

The finished pictures can be printed on a laser printer for top quality, or exported to a desktop publishing program.

Draw Applause is not a Windows program, and thus you have to learn its own peculiar system for doing things. Unlike Arts & Letters, where the image being worked on always is displayed, Draw Applause requires you to frequently invoke a command called “redraw” to display the latest changes on your screen.

In return for its somewhat cumbersome method of operation, Draw Applause makes it very easy to create perfectly sized and proportioned color slides or black and white overhead transparencies of a wide variety of word charts and business graphs.

After you have created all the graphics needed for a presentation, the program allows you to call the Ashton-Tate Graphics Service with your computer modem and transfer the images to the service for fast, high-quality reproductions that will be returned to you by mail. You must subscribe to the service in addition to buying the Draw Applause software. The quality is much better than the display on a computer screen and rivals that of professionally produced graphics.

The service is less expensive than contracting out for your graphics presentation needs, but it’s not cheap. The base charge for processing each image is $10. On top of that, you pay an extra $5 for each reproduction of a color slide or black and white print and an extra $8 for each reproduction of an 8 1/2-inch by 10-inch color overhead transparency.

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Thus, it would cost $150 for a single 35-millimeter slide for each of 10 different images. There also is a minimum charge of $100 per order. Telephone charges incurred while transmitting the images also will add to your costs.

Text charts are easy to make. Selecting the category called “words” from a menu of choices at the top of the screen leads you to an on-screen depictions of various standard layouts, such as bullet charts or numerical column charts.

After picking the layout, you fill in the blanks appearing in an “action panel” at the bottom of the screen. Finally, you command the program to redraw the screen and you’ll see a finished slide with all the text properly positioned and sized.

You can keep things very simple and have handsome, but plain charts. Or you can be as elaborate as you have the time and patience to be. For instance, it is easy to add a graduated color background that starts bright at the bottom of the screen and fades to darkness at the top.

A modest collection of images are included with the program, such as a clipboard onto which text can be written or a hand holding a sheet of paper. There are even hamburgers and apples. Each image, which is in color, is easily resized and positioned wherever you want it on your slide or transparency.

Numerical bar, line, area, pie and table charts are as easily created as the word charts. They, too, can be dressed up with pictures and symbols included in the gallery that comes with Draw Applause.

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I have a couple of gripes about the program, however. It assigns unconventional commands to some keys. For example, it uses the Escape key to complete some actions instead of reserving it to escape from the current procedure. The down arrow key also is used where you would expect to use the Enter key.

Also, version 1.0, the only one now available, is a real memory hog and can interfere with other programs already installed on your hard disk. There is a special installation routine available to overcome this problem, but you have to know enough about computers to recognize there is a problem and then ask the technical support people for a solution. The next version, 1.1, however, is due out in a matter of weeks and will require less memory and include the special installation utility.

Those complaints aside, Draw Applause will give you professional quality presentations without having to hire a professional graphics artist.

Computer File welcomes readers’ comments but regrets that the author cannot respond individually to letters. Write to Richard O’Reilly, Computer File, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, Calif. 90053.

GRAPHICS PROGRAMS

Arts & Letters

A $395 graphics program with clip art images that produces artwork for desktop publishing or direct printing.

Requirements: IBM PC or compatible computer with a graphics video board, 640 kilobytes of RAM, at least one megabyte of free storage space on a hard disk, Microsoft Windows (any version) and, a mouse or digitizing tablet.

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Features: Contains library of 2,200 clip art images for drawing wide variety of illustrations; full drawing tools for creating lines, curves, circles, boxes and solid geometric shapes; mirror images, and unlimited rotation, resizing and reproportioning of images. There are 15 type faces, each of which can be sized vertically and horizontally and spaced in increments of tenths of a point. Black and white or color images can be produced. Additional libraries of clip art images and type are available.

Publisher: Computer Support Corp., 15926 Midway Road, Dallas, Texas 75244, (214) 661-8960.

Draw Applause

$495 color graphics software for producing professional quality presentation graphics in slides, overhead transparencies and prints.

Requirements: IBM PC/XT or compatible machine with at least 640K of RAM, an EGA, VGA or PGC video card or compatible and equivalent color monitor and hard disk. A mouse or digitizing tablet is preferred, but keyboard operation will work.

Features: Provides layout templates for basic types of presentation word charts such as bullet charts, text tables, multiple column text. There also are templates for basic bar, line, area, and pie charts. Text is sized to proper proportions for each template chosen and you fill in the blanks with your own words and numbers. Extensive enhancements are available, including graduated color backgrounds, grid lines that disappear into the distance, spiral type, exploding type, halos. Various borders and symbols are provided in a gallery of images. Slide, transparency and print quality much higher than screen resolution is available by sending completed images by modem with built-in communications software or by mailed disk to Ashton-Tate Graphics Service.

Publisher: Ashton-Tate, 20101 Hamilton Ave., Torrance, Calif. 90502-1319, (213) 329-8000.

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