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Triple pack for professional quality graphics.

Triple Pack for Professional Quality Graphics

Ashton-Tate has put together a three program set called Master-Graphics to handle all your graphics needs. The three programs, Sign-Master, Diagram-Master and Chart-Master, can be purchased separately or (with substantial savings) as the triple package. They produce high quality graphics with a multitude of printers and plotters in black & white or colour. Together they take 2.1 MB of disk space and utilize a common interface program, but can also be operated from floppies. They operate with a user-friendly menu system and, although the documentation is good, require little more than a quick look for a few tricks.

I made my first title page with Sign-Master a few years ago on a friend's machine without the manual. Just type and at any point (or points) on the line you can change the font style, its size, colour, underlining and whether centred, right or left justified or italics. When finished press <Esc> to preview the "sign" on screen. You can then print or go back into edit mode and make changes. If you picked characters too big for the page, it will scale them down. Tables require a few simple tricks to make the horizontal and vertical lines.

A variety of print sizes and font styles are common to the three programs. When I contacted Ashton-Tate about the lack of sub and superscripts for technical work, they sent a disk with these fonts. As you are limited to six fonts, the configuration file (CONF05.DRI) was modified using my word processor to substitute these for the script and symbol (I don't need bells, cows and airplanes) sets.

Diagram-Master is not really a CAD (Computer Assisted Drafting) program, but more of a technical illustration program. You construct a drawing by adding lines and shapes. A wide variety of line weights, styles, cross hatching, etc. are available as well as a library. Once made, drawings can be accessed as library files allowing you to make complex drawings in stages. The heat exchanger and cooling tower were made separately and added this way. As an extra, Diagram-Master also produces organization charts and GANTT diagrams. Unlike many programs for these latter two types of charts, Diagram-Master allows you to go back to the drawing board (the name for the main drawing disk) and add comments or symbols.

Chart-Master was designed for business graphs and has two severe limitations. Business never plots X vs Y except where X is at uniform intervals such as weeks, years, etc. You must be able to work within this restriction or you can not plot your data. The legend is placed on the right of the graph and the relative width of the graph adjusted to fit the legend. If your legend says too much, you shrink your graph and the whole thing looks silly. There is an option to move the legend with a plotter, but not with a printer.

The good news is the professional quality of the graphs and the ability to import data directly from Lotus 1-2-3 or dBase. There are several line styles or cross hatching patterns. You can plot lines, points, moving averages, bars, areas, combinations or pies. Two Y axes can be used on one graph with Y linear or logarithmic. You can also add text to put notes on the graph.

All three gave clean "Hi-Res" printouts with my 9-pin dot matrix and DeskJet printers, but my DeskJet (or other Hewlett-Packard products) couldn't print a full page using the full 300 dpi resolution "V-Hi-Res" mode with 640k of RAM. The image size was reduced 60-70% to fit within the existing RAM. Ashton-Tate plans to correct this in a future version. The smaller size is just right for cut & paste with text for manuals and course material. The 150 dpi "Hi-Res" mode produces very good overhead transparencies. Alternatively you can purchase more RAM or plotter emulation software to get the full-page 300 dpi resolution. The latter tricks the program into plotting to a disk file which the plotter emulation software uses to produce a full high-resolution page.

All three gave professional quality output with little effort. They could be mastered in a matter of a few hours to put that final "polish" into a paper or report. For superior 35 mm slides, a Polaroid Palette is one of the output options. Who should buy this package? It is of value to anyone who needs drawings, tables, title pages or graphs. They provide a rapid user-friendly method to produce high quality graphics and let's hope this means the end to those unreadable hand-lettered overheads. The price structure for the triple pack favours buying all three rather than trying to make a decision for one or two.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Chemical Institute of Canada
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Silbert, Marvin D.
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Article Type:Product/Service Evaluation
Date:Jun 1, 1989
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