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A high-resolution plotter for $200?

A High-Resolution Plotter for $200?

A plotter draws vector graphics with a pen in the same way they might be prepared at a drafting table. A printer assembles a bit image and scans line by line much the way a television image is formed. As a result of this difference, printers can be assembled at a much lower cost than plotters. The printer excels with high-speed text, but when it comes to graphics, the plotter can produce smoother lines, crisper lettering and operate in full colour.

With PrintAPlot, the vector graphics can be rasterized into a bit image allowing a printer to emulate a plotter for a tenth the cost of buying one. The package contains two programs. Capture, a TSR (Terminate and Stay Ready) utility, saves plotter output as a file for IDCPlot to print. The file can also be read by many word-processing and desktop publishing programs. IDCPlot can print in colour or it can simulate colour with a grey scale of dot patterns. Unlike real colour, these patterns survive photocopying. Most commonly used printers are supported. For the review, the HP DeskJet Plus was used. As a test, it was interesting to go back to past reviews and look at some of the deficiencies that could be corrected with PrintAPlot.

Printer resolution too high: A high-resolution printer can be both a plus and a minus. Lines may be too fine to reproduce, especially when the figure is reduced in size. Adding an imaginary HP 7475A plotter to Printgraph allowed Capture to save files for PrintAPlot while Freelance could produce them directly. With a single command, the pen thickness could be increased to make heavier lines.

Insufficient RAM: PrintAPlot overcame the limitation of Presentation-Master (see June' 89, p.8) to fill the page in the very-high resolution mode with only 640k of computer RAM. The plotter scanning pattern was visible with a "1" pen, but could be eliminated with a thicker "3" pen. With this program, .PLT files could be saved directly or with Capture. The latter is preferable as it is easier to save each diagram with a new filename.

Program outputs only to plotter: Many technical programs provide only this one route. FlowPlanner (see Sept' 89, p.6) produced a high-quality output after saving with Capture and printing with PrintAPlot.

Installation and operation is simple, but most plotters use the serial port and the output must be redirected to LPT1: for Capture to function. Some programs (Printgraph) let you select from a menu; with others (Presentation-Master) you alter configuration files. Unfortunately, some very good programs may not allow redirection and will not function with Capture. A number of programs (Freelance) have the provision for saving plotter output directly to file and do not require Capture.

PrintAPlot is recommended for anyone doing graphics who needs or wants a high-quality plotter. Compared to a plotter, it is faster, much less expensive and in some cases, the quality may even be better. The ability to vary the line weights and select colours as a grey scale, that will stand up to photocopying, adds a totally new dimension to enhancing existing graphics programs.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Chemical Institute of Canada
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Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:computer graphics software
Author:Silbert, Marvin D.
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Article Type:evaluation
Date:Jan 1, 1990
Previous Article:Impediments to innovation: twenty years on.
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