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Fastfonts for DOS.

A tech recently released a new package of scalable fonts for DOS-based word processors. Called FastFonts, it lives up to its name. Once everything is installed, FastFonts works quietly in the background whenever you print. It intercepts the word processor's commands to print text and converts them into graphics images with a variety of impressive font styles. In spite of this involved process, it is only slightly slower when printing with an HP DeskJet 500 than using the onboard fonts in text mode. When printing in the landscape mode, FastFonts is considerably faster than the DeskJet's internal system.

Installing FastFonts is easy. You simply insert the disk and type "Install". The first two chapters of the manual give clear step by step instructions on how to install the program for WordPerfect, LetterPerfect, PlanPerfect, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Works, or WordStar, the six applications FastFonts currently supports in DOS. We had no problem going through the steps to install FastFonts for WordPerfect, and had the whole program in place in less than 20 minutes.

The problems came later, when we loaded WordPerfect again. We had not thought to change the start-up command for WordPerfect in Dosshell, so the print spooler was not present, and we ended up with the file we wished to print sitting on the hard disk waiting for the print spooler to jump into action.

The print spooler for FastFonts also causes one other little problem. You must keep a hard drive as your default directory (at least with WordPerfect) to have enough room for the file that WordPerfect sends to the print spooler. One drawback of FastFonts is the way that the print spooler takes over the entire computer for the duration of the printing. On a long document, this can mean sitting around for a while. Another drawback is the quality of FastFonts' draft mode. In draft, the characters are composed of 1/32-in. square blocks. While speed is somewhat improved, the image quality is seriously degraded. The only reason to use FastFonts' horrible draft quality is for checking lay-out on dot matrix printers.

There are numerous special features that can be accessed from its main menu. Special fonts can be made up from the Special Effects menu. Here you choose the typeface, what design will be printed on the letters, the background pattern, the outline style, the type of shadowing, and proportional or fixed spacing. The Fonts Metrics Editor allows the user to change the kerning pairs and spacing for the different typefaces, as well as specifying what sort of type the application is to consider the font to be (sans-serif, slab serif, script, roman, special symbols, display).

Bitstream, PostScript, and TrueType fonts can be loaded into FastFonts using their Type Importer. Conversely, there is a function for converting FastFonts into PCL/4 soft fonts, if you have applications that support HP soft fonts, as well as a Universal Type Installer for applications using PostScript, TrueType, or Intellifont.

We found the only problem with FastFonts typeface editing came when trying to use the Pattern Manager, a program that allows you to add Encapsulated PostScript or Adobe Illustrator pictures as special effects backgrounds. The hot key for replacing one pattern with another starts the operation immediately and there is no way to reverse the replacement of one of the standard patterns, short of re-installing the whole program. This also means deleting all of the FastFonts files, except for any special effects fonts created, as FastFonts will not properly install if it is already present.

The standard package includes three roman, proportionally spaced fonts (Marin, Providence Lite, and Santee), a fixed font that looks as if it came from a manual typewriter (Cobb) and five sans-serif fonts (Dixon, Hemet, Marina, Gilligan, and Oxford). Gilligan and Dixon are almost indistinguishable, only the 9s being much different.

Also included are three script style fonts: Atech Brush, Quincy and Hancock. Of the three, Hancock is closest to cursive writing, while Quincy resembles fancy hand printing, and Brush looks like a brush pen was used.

There are three novelty fonts: La Costa, Miami and Windmill. Finally, for those of us in the sciences, there are three sets of symbols. The first is simply called Symbol and contains the Greek alphabet and mathematical symbols. Next there is International, which includes the makings for "universal" signs. While many of these seem useful, especially for temporary signs, our hope that WHMIS labels could be printed was not fulfilled, although six of the symbols could be used in the lab. Thirdly, there are the Dingbats with numerous stars, religious symbols, pens, pencils, scissors and what I hope is the V for victory sign.

I would like to make one criticism on the subject of the symbolic fonts. Atech should have included a better listing of what key to type to get what character; you now must use the preview setting on the special effects menu to discover what each key does.

In addition to the FastFonts for DOS package, Atech also has a catalogue with 117 additional font packs. When browsing through this catalogue, we saw Ivanhoe (Old English), Baxter (Linotext) and Tooled (Goudy Handtooled). They offer their own version of Century Schoolbook, as Centurion. As a personal bias, we would have liked this as one of the serif fonts in this package (Century Schoolbook really looks like it came out of an old book from public school). Personal preference being what it is, we don't think we would ever use La Costa (Hobo) which is part of this package. However, it helps to put such a font into this type of package to broaden styles available.

The additional font packs contain two fonts each and seem reasonably priced at $US30 each. As well as its standard grade English fonts, Atech also has 29 professional quality typeface packs and at least nine foreign language typefaces available. Both the professional and the foreign language typefaces cost $US80 per pack.

For anyone out there who has not worked with scalable fonts, this feature can be a tremendous advantage. Using 12-point as a basic font size makes for very easy reading; anything larger seems too big for letters and such.

However, there are times when space limitations may dictate a different base font. We recently had to prepare a comprehensive review of the chemical and clinical data in some 200 volumes. We used the same 12-point for our summaries as for letters. This would have required 250 typed pages and were restricted to not more than 200 double spaced pages with a 1-in. left and a 2.5-in. right margin for the summary. When we were completely unable to cut the data down to the required size without omitting important parts, we looked for all the places we could save space. We found that a 10-point base font with 8-point tables made a readily readable document. This is now standard practice for all documents of this nature.

Matthew Clarke (the senior reviewer here) found a new and great use for the small fonts when testing the capabilities of this package. He could just read the 2-point font printed on our HP DeskJet 500 and discovered it was great fun watching the old guy (Jack) tilt his head way back trying to make out the message in 2-point through the "close-up readingest" part of his lineless, progressive bifocals.

Larger fonts are great for posters, banners, signs, title pages and such. FastFonts provides an economical route to extend your printer's capabilities. The wide variety of fonts in the introductory package should handle all your needs.

FASTFONTS, Atech Software, 5964 La Place Court, Suite 125, Carlsbad, CA; Tel: 800-786-FONT or 619-438-6883; Fax: 619-438-6898. Earlier versions were known under the name Publisher's Powerpak.

Software and Hardware names used within the text are registered trademarks of their respective developers and manufacturers.

Editors note: The point size of a font is the distance from the top of the tallest character to the bottom of the longest descender. It is measured in 72nds of an inch. A 2-point character is 2/72 of an inch high. The text in this review is 9 point Caxton light.

Jack Clark, MCIC, is a former CSCT president. He is regulatory affairs associate at Ortho-McNeil Inc. His son Matthew is a high school student. Marvin Silbert, FCIC, is the editor of Chemputing.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Chemical Institute of Canada
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Chemputing; printer software from Ancier Technologies Inc. Atech Software Inc.
Author:Clark, Matthew W.; Clark, Jack
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Article Type:Column
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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