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REVIEW: QwikForms CD-ROM
Ivo Kroone firstname.lastname@example.org
After seeing promising advertisements announcing the "QwikFroms" CD-ROM in
Amiga World, I thought it would be the perfect disc for me. Clipart in
ILBM format, ready-made documents in PageStream format, spreadsheet
templates, standard letters and fonts compatible with PageStream. Although
a little pricey (I paid Dfl. 59,-, which is about $ 35) this should be
Configuration for testing: Amiga 500 plus (68000/Kick 2.04/ECS)
A570 CD-ROM drive
HP LaserJet 4M
Everything the ad promises is true. But still I'm disappointed. The
first, nasty, problem is that the disc has no label. No label means no
booklet and a name-less volume. So far I have not found a picture of
ready-made document providing the user with a print-it-yourself sleeve for
the CD-case. Because of this, I decided to create a sleeve while exploring
the CD to write this review. The sleeve can be found on any AmiNet site:
one needs to have the CD present as the project uses fonts (Fox/McGarey-
Fractured/Mongrel) only found on the CD. Of course only images from the CD
have been used.
ScalaMM cannot use this disc, it gets hopelessly confused by the name-less
volume. With DirectoryOpus using "expand path names" the entire CD is not
usable! Opus will keep returning to SYS: instead of reading CD0:. The
solution is making an ASSIGN to it so the disc has a name, and turning off
"expand path names". So after:
Assign foo: CD0:
one can access the disc as "foo:". WorkBench has no problems with a label-
less disc, but as there are no .info-files the disc seems not to be meant
to be accessed from the WorkBench. The volume size is 381 MB. There's no
accompanying book showing thumbnails of all pictures.
Playing around with the CD learns that this item is aimed at the Amiga as
well as the Atari ST market. Lots of directories contain sub-directories
"AM" and "ST". Most of the sub-directories contain the same data but
stored in other formats. So most of the clip-art is stored in IFF and IMG
format. As the Amiga is a true wizard at reading exotic file formats, this
might be a waste of disc-space. On the other hand, using a slow Amiga like
I do the IFF format alone is a reason to buy the disc, duplicates or no
duplicates. All file-names are MS-dos style. A big turn off to me,
especially compared to those more than excellent AmiNet CDs. The short
upper-case filenames are really annoying. We have a capable operating
system, a special Amiga CD-ROM (more about that later) and still MS-dos is
bugging us! On a brighter note, there are a couple of pretty funny anti
IBM pictures on the disc. :-)
Clipart is spread over a number of directories. The root reads:
The first directory contains 38MB of so called classic software, from 1989
that is. Because of the Atari/MS-dos style file-names most software is
crippled and therefore ot usable. 16MB of the total 38MB is Amiga
software, the remainder can be used with your favorite Atari emulator! The
Amiga programs can be used without any unpacking. Except for the silly
".INF" files it's a nice archive of real oldies. Much of them still have a
".FNF" file showing their origin (Fred Fish).
The UTILITY directory is much like the classic software. Real old
utilities with truncated filenames. This time usability is even less as
everything has been put in one big directory. It is up to the user to find
out which files belong to which program. Worthless.
Finally a CD-ROM with Amiga clipart, ILBM and PostScript! The directories
have been separated in an Amiga and an Atari part, totalling 63MB of ILBM
files. Both containing the exact same pictures, only ILBM (abbreviated
.LBM) for Amiga and IMG for Atari. Using your average IFF viewer one
easily can browse trough the images. And again "The Sterling Connection"
company disappoints. Lots of the files contain nothing but a big mess
(yes, with all viewers). Reading the file with a HEX editor proves that
all files have been converted to IFF using "GraphicWorkshop 6", which seems
to be a bad program as about 20% of all ILBM files has been crippled.
The other 80% varies from useless to good. The useless category contains
things like arrows (I could never have drawn a real arrow myself!), dots
and boxes. More useful are the classic holiday, travel, school, people and
cartoons which will surely make every document more attractive. As far as
this is concerned this CD-ROM is no less than any other ClipArt CD-ROM I've
seen for other platforms. The big difference is, of course, that this one
contains IFF pictures. Most others are meant for PC (PCX/GIF) or Macintosh
(MAC/TIFF) computers and therefore mean lots of conversion. For those with
fast Amigas running KickStart 3.0 converting pictures should be no problem,
still I personally prefer the native Amiga format.
When using bit-mapped pictures for DTP purposes the pictures should be as
big and oversized as possible. Even a real cheap matrix printer will
output 200x200 DPI. Which means that a 200x200 pixel picture can only be
printed on a square inch without getting jagged edges. The pictures on
this disc will just about do. Most are black'n'white (1 bit plane) hires
lace, taking up very little memory. Judging quality: all pictures have
been scanned, none have been drawn by hand. Scanning quality is good.
Other directories contain GIF files (colorful and therefore less useful for
DTP purposes) redefining the word miscellaneous: everything from girls to
open heart surgery. A "PI1" directory contains low-quality artwork from
the Atari drawing package "Degas" (to be imported in PageStream).
The "EPS a lot" directory contains 5MB of postscript pictures. These will
be recognized by PageStream as both "IBM postscript" and "Illustrator".
This directory however is a mess. Pictures are not sorted in any way, just
thrown in EPS1 to EPS9. Still these are nice, useful quality images.
Another directory comprising 26MB of clipart-files is less useful.
PageStream recognizes these as "IBM EPSF" which can be used but simply
don't look very good on paper.
The unique thing about this CD-ROM are the ready-made PageStream documents.
All have a ".DOC" extension, which is odd because Amiga owners usually end
their filenames with ".PgS". As PageStream runs on both Atari and Amiga
the creators had an easy job. Indeed PageStream accepts every document on
the disc. Regrettably quality of the documents leaves much to be desired.
Many are so simple one can make them in a matter of minutes. Others are so
specialized I doubt anyone will ever find a use for them. Yet others only
apply to American culture or law so no one outside the USA will ever make
use of them.
Same goes for the text files. Most of them are extremely short (less than
1024 bytes). All contain extra carriage returns which have to be stripped
by Amiga users. What did they think, the Amiga is the latest type-writer
from Commodore? :-)
Templates (13MB) for various spreadsheets are nice but again chances are
small one needs exactly the template found on this CD. Templates for
Analyze!, MaxiPlan and Superplan are included. I tried most of the Analyze
files and they all seemed to work OK. Models include things like book-
keeping, savings plans, calendars and biorhythm. I found this library
especially useful for examples.
CompuGraphic, Outline and Type1 fonts can be used perfectly well with
TypeSmith. Exploring with TypeSmith learns that all fonts are indeed
public domain, some have even been created using TypeSmith!
Installing is a breeze, just add them using PageStream's FontManager. This
does not mean the QwikForms CD has to be in the CD-ROM drive from now on.
As soon as a font from the CD is accessed a request will pop-up asking for
CD0:. This again shows how anoying it is not to have a label attached to
the volume. The solution is to access the CD by it's assigned name and
using that assign from within the fontmanager. With any other CD in the
drive, PageStream will accept that volume but cannot find the fonts. This
means a big problem when working with more than one font CD-ROM. Fonts
work pretty quick from CD, there's absolutely no need to copy them to the
As with all font-collections quality varies from nothing special to real
smart or funny. Well, just take a look at the file I created for the
sleeve, it uses a couple of interesting fonts.
This CD-ROM comes in handy when doing DTP work. If your system handles
GIF, PCX or other non-Amiga formats as easily as ILBM, this CD might not be
the perfect solution for you. If, on the other hand, you prefer native
Amiga formats over everything else this CD is good.
Compared to jewels like AmiNet4 the Sterling Connection did a very poor
job. From a technical point of view this CD is terrible: no volume name,
upper case filenames, 8 character file-names, crippled files, only 381MB
used and old software. It seems like the CD has been mastered using an
Atari ST or MS-dos machine and no one ever took time to test it with the
Amiga. Still I had a lot of fun exploring the CD and creating a CD cover
My advice is to wait till it gets real cheap and then buy it. At $ 40
this disc is way overpriced.