'XyWriter II'; Here's a word processor with strong capabilities (Evaluation).

Author: Garry Ray

Originally Published in PC Week 1 (Feb 28, 1984)
If you're a heavy word processing user or someone with major text-processing operations, XyWrite II may be just the ticket for you.

Designed by the same people who helped develop the software for the Atex text-editing system, XyWrite II offers users great functionality and capability. The price for this is time spent in learning to use the system.

Atex, for those of you not in the publishing field, is the IBM of text processing for newspapers and magazines, and it is probably the most widely used text-editing system for those applications. We use it here at PC Week. XyQuest, the developer of XyWrite II, was founded by several ex-Atex employees with the purpose of bringing sophisticated text processing to PC users--and for the most part they have succeeded admirably.

Sure, XyWrite II isn't one of those pointy-feely programs that "anyone--even the average userc can use. It's not a kaleidescopic activity center for overgrown infants, but it is a very powerful text processor for serious writers. It may be that XyWrite II--dare I say--takes some time and effort to learn. It's even somewhat difficult to use--a lot of commands and a lot of options. But bear in mind, this is a text editor and a word processor, and it can function as the front end to a very expensive typesetting system. It's not a video typewriter for Baby Bumstead.

And I think it sure is the hands-down winner when compared to some of the software that's sold in the name of user friendly!
If you're doing any work with a typesetting house, you can benefit from using XyWrite II. You can type words into a PC using XyWrite II, put the files onto a floppy, and zap the stuff over to your typesetter. The cost reductions can be enormous.

But why emphasize the typesetting? XyWrite II is a good all-around word-processing system. It is certainly one of the more comprehensive systems we've used.

Unlike many word processors on the market today, XyWrite II doesn't try to hand-hold the user through menus, prompts, icons and "what-you-see-is-what-you-get" displays. Sure, you can use the four help screens, and you can use the split-screen facility to get a preview of your document. But the major strength of XyWrite II is its flexibility.

Starting Up

XyWrite II starts by loading in a text start-up file that is a set of default specifications for margin settings, page length, printer and any other setting that you may want to establish at start-up time. You can change the start-up file through the editor itself or by running the Basic program that comes with XyWrite II.

Next you'll see whatever display you may have requested through the start-up file. Usually you'll want to start with a display of the directory so that you can choose the text file that you want to work with. If you do request a directory, the last line shows you the total number of characters used on the disk or subdirectory that you're working with. This will help you to determine whether you should start with a new floppy disk or start deleting old files from a hard disk.

The command line at the top of the screen is the line on which you enter all of the instructions to XyWrite II. The last command you've used always remains at the command mark and can be reused at any time by pressing the F9 function key. The preview display will show you the document as it would took if printed on paper, including page breaks, headers, footers, margins, justification and much more.

You have the ability to use two screens simultaneously in XyWrite II. Because it produces standard ASCII text files, XyWrite II can be used as a program editor. We used it constantly for atlering batch files and creating program code.

XyWrite II gives you the ability to define keyboard macros that execute commands as if you are typing them from the keyboard. One of our staff members created an entire set of macros to format text files as memos, articles or letters according to the user's request. He was utterly fascinated by XyWrite II's "little programming language." We were fascinated that our budding hacker never found the "little debugging language."

XyWrite II can run on a hard disk and will accept DOS 2.0 commands directly from the command line. You can change subdirectories and erase files using standard DOS commands from within XyWrite II.

In addition, you can run COM or EXE programs as subtasks to XyWrite II if you're running DOS 2.0. The program overlays DOS and will allow you to temporarily leave XyWrite II, run a spelling checker on your file and return directly to XyWrite II without any disk switching, rebooting or exiting. It isn't a concurrent system, but is the next best thing. Unfortunately, you can't run batches files from XyWrite II. The manual isn't exactly a paradigm of lucid documentation. It reeks of computerese and is difficult to follow.

A sample sentence tells it all; "The top area of the screen (the header) is the command area and is the interface between you and the program. Commands to and responses from the program are passed through the header."

There're a lot of references in the manual to interfaces, inputting, RAM, volatile memory and executions. And it's even worse when the typesetting jargon is used. It seems that most of the authors' terminology was extracted from an Atex manual. The approach isn't good for laymen and it isn't good for typesetting people. The worst thing about the manual is that even though it includes a tutorial, some of the lessons aren't on the disk under the correct nams and some aren't there at all, we found.

Some of our less experienced staff members nearly pulled their hair out on this one.

Good try, but no cigar, gentlemen.


But we can't bring XyQuest too much to task on the poor tutorial and jargon of the documentation. Because at $200, this package is inexpensive. The manual, even though it's tough to plod through, is very complete.

Source Citation:
Ray, Garry. "'XyWriter II'; here's a word processor with strong capabilities."
PC Week 1 (1984): pp53 (2) (1016 words)