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Lotus Ami Pro Program Is Hard to Beat

RICHARD O'REILLY <i> is director of computer analysis for The Times</i>

There is much to recommend Ami Pro 2.0, the latest version of Lotus Corp.'s high-powered word processing program for Windows.

It handles every job from simple correspondence to complex scientific or financial reports to illustrated newsletters to overhead transparencies.

Ami Pro 2.0 is priced at $495 but can be purchased for as little as $99 in various upgrade promotions if you have competing word processing software or the earlier version of Ami Pro. It runs on computers that have Microsoft Windows 3.0.

The most obvious additions to the new version are the “smart icons” arrayed in a row just below the typical Windows menu bar at the top of the screen. They are a collection of small graphic symbols that act as buttons to invoke various program functions. For instance, pointing with the mouse at the symbol of a lighted flashlight and clicking the mouse button brings up the search and replace menu.

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A good portion of the program’s power rests in its “style sheets,” which define the design and layout, and sometimes the contents, of a page. About 50 pre-defined style sheets come with the program to produce a wide variety of memos, letters, reports, outlines and even daily, weekly and monthly calendars. You can modify them and make new ones as you desire.

Aside from setting margins and tabs, style sheets also control the type styles to be used for various components of a document, such as titles, headings, subheadings and body text.

High-quality typography is assured because Ami Pro 2.0 comes with Adobe’s Type Manager and a selection of 13 type fonts. These are “outline” fonts that can be rendered in various sizes. Using the graphics mode of Ami Pro 2.0, you can scale them to larger sizes, or skew type at an angle or print it sideways on the page. The results are smooth with no jaggies, either on the screen or on the printed page.

One of the more beneficial features of Ami Pro 2.0 is the way you can edit documents while viewing them in full-page mode. You see a much reduced image of a full page on the screen--too small to read but easy to see the general layout of the page. If a short business letter is unbalanced toward the top of the page, you can easily add in a few blank lines. If you want to zoom in for a close look to change a word or two, just click on the magnifying glass smart icon.

Work group revision of a document is another strong feature of the program. Suggested revisions and deletions can be added by each reviewer in separate colors so it is easy to tell them apart.

Another important power feature is the master document, with which you can link separate files to create a single document and assure that the pages are numbered properly.

Desktop publishing functions are available through the use of graphics “frames” that can be inserted into a document to contain clip art images that come with the program or scanned-in images or hand-drawn graphics made with the program’s drawing mode. You can easily drop such a frame anywhere on your page, using the appropriate smart icon, and watch the text wrap around it.

There is both a spelling dictionary and a thesaurus with 1.4 million words, including definitions. That is one reason this program takes up 10.5 megabytes of disk storage before you’ve ever written a word.

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Aside from some functions that are hard to decipher, the program worked fine. But there was a flaw that makes me wonder how thoroughly it has been debugged. In the on-screen descriptions of style sheet features, the word “border” was misspelled “boarder.”

In addition to the host of new features, Ami Pro is no longer sluggish to use. Competition from the new version of Microsoft’s Word for Windows and Word Perfect for Windows will be stiff, but they’ll have a tough job beating Ami Pro 2.0.


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