Samna’s Ami Truly User’s Friend

A mi is French for friend and it’s also the name of a very friendly word-processing program from Samna. It’s easy to use and, just as important, it has features that are hard to find on IBM PC-based word processing programs.

Ami is the first reasonably robust word-processing program to take advantage of “Windows,” a program from Microsoft that provides a PC with a graphical user interface, causing it to function somewhat like an Apple Macintosh. Like all Windows applications, Ami allows you to use a mouse to issue commands from pull-down menus as well as to modify the appearance of your text. Another Windows characteristic is “What You See Is What You Get” (known in the trade as “WYSIWYG”). Ami displays text in the same font, or type style, as you’ll get when it is printed. It also displays your layout so there will be no surprises when you print out your document.

Although not billed as a desktop publishing program, Ami does give you a great deal of control over the format and layout of your documents. You could easily use it to create brochures, flyers, newsletters or other professional-looking documents. You can even have multiple columns on screen (and on paper) and import text and graphics from a variety of other programs. Of course, the quality of your document depends a great deal on the type of printer you use. Fortunately, Windows (and therefore, Ami) works with a wide variety of printers, including high-resolution laser printers from Hewlett-Packard, Apple and other manufacturers.

To run Ami, or any Windows application, you need a machine that is compatible with the IBM AT or PS/2. Older style IBM PCs with the 8088 or 8086 central processing unit (CPU) are too slow for this graphic environment. You’ll also need a hard disk, a color or monochrome graphics display and at least 640K of memory. Ami comes with a “run time” version of Microsoft Windows so you don’t have to buy the full Windows package unless you want to take advantage of Windows’ advanced features such as the ability to run multiple programs at a time.


All Windows programs let you import text or graphic images from any other Windows application. You can, for example, insert a drawing created with the Windows version of PC Paint Brush, Micrografx Designer or any other Windows graphic program. You can also import graphics or text from Excel, Microsoft’s Windows spreadsheet program.

Like Microsoft Word and some other word processing programs, Ami uses “styles” to provide control over the appearance of all or part of a document. A style can determine the text’s font and size as well as tabs and indentations, columns, and just about any other characteristics of a document. Styles can be combined into “style sheets” and stored on the disk as a file. That way you can group related styles, say for a brochure, into one file and use it when you are working such a document. Ami comes with 25 pre-defined style sheets to enhance the appearance of a variety of document types including memos, newsletters, press releases and reports. Users can modify the styles or create their own. A company’s graphics department could create and distribute style sheets to help ensure a uniform look for company documents.

Another interesting feature is Ami’s use of “frames.” The manual refers to a frame as a “mini document” within a document. Any text or graphic inside a frame is unaffected if you make changes to the rest of the document. A frame could be used to create a sidebar, a chart or any other portion of a document that has its own unique attributes.

You create a frame by using the mouse or arrow keys to draw a box. Then you can type inside the box or import text or graphics from another program. Frames can be resized, and text from the main document can flow around frames. A frame is required if you want to insert a graphic into a document.


The program offers a variety of display modes. In “layout mode” all of the text appears on screen just as it will look on the printed page. That can be great, but it can also cause problems. First of all, it tends to slow down the computer because the machine has to work harder to display all your fonts and layouts. Second, fonts or type sizes may be hard to read on a screen even though they would look good on paper.

Tiny italic type might look fine in a finished document, but it’s very hard to read on the screen. Ami solves this problem and the speed problem by offering a “draft mode” where all text is presented in the same easy-to-read type style regardless of how it will eventually look on the printed page. If you want to see your type styles and layout you press a key or click the mouse and you’re back in layout mode. You can also preview your page exactly as it will appear in print or enlarge your work to get a blown-up view of your document.

The program can be used with or without a mouse, but I strongly recommend one for Ami and all other Windows programs. The mouse makes the program easier to learn because you can use it to select commands from pull-down menus at the top of the screen. There are other ways to use those menus, but they involve remembering which keys to type. However, once you’ve used the program for awhile, it might be faster to use the keyboard for some commands. Ami makes that possible and provides keyboard shortcuts for many frequently used commands.

Like any friend, Ami has its flaws. My main complaint is that it lets you work with only one document at a time. I’ve become spoiled by programs like WordPerfect and Microsoft Word that allow you to simultaneously edit two or more documents. When I write, I keep my notes in one window and my article in the other. The only way for Ami to work with multiple files is to use Windows to run two copies of the program, but that takes a lot of memory and isn’t possible with some systems.

The program also lacks footnotes, a thesaurus and other features that are becoming commonplace in high-end word processing programs. Samna has announced that it is developing a professional version of the program for more demanding users.

Ami has a suggested retail price of about $149 but the price will go up to $200 on April 1. Samna is located at 5600 Glenridge Dr., Atlanta, Ga. 30342. Phone: (800) 831-9679.

Computer File welcomes readers’ comments but regrets that the authors cannot respond individually to letters. Write to Lawrence J. Magid, P.O. Box 620477, Woodside, Calif. 94062, or contact the L. Magid account on the MCI electronic mail system.