From Fred '92
SAMPrint was "Noesis Software"'s first release and received rave reviews everywhere - only for people with printers, it lets you create posters, cards or leaflets using the fonts and clip art in the program - or you can use your own!
SAMPrint costs £14.99
Noesis have produced an excellent program for printing posters, headed stationery and greetings cards. It comes with two discs, one the working program and the other a data disc with the libraries of fonts and graphics needed to design your artwork. The first surprise is that there is no manual, but you don't need one. The program is extremely easy to use, and all the necessary instructions appear on screen.
All printing is on A4 paper. The posters and stationery are straightforward printouts, but the card printing is very ingenious. The "cover" and "inside" of the card are printed in opposite corners of the paper, top to top, so that when you fold the sheet in four you have a neat card, properly laid out (see Fig. 1).
A choice of decorative borders is available for cards and posters, and the size is adjusted to suit what you are printing. Figs. 1 and 2 show the Art Nouveau and Christmas borders respectively - there are others, including a delicate lace, various thicknesses of plain line, marching ants, footprints, cars and an explosion effect.
On posters and headed notepaper you may select up to two graphic motifs from the very extensive library supplied. A card may have one graphic on the cover and one inside. Graphics may be used as an all-over fill, placed diagonally, or cut-and-pasted exactly where you want them. Three sizes of reproduction are available. The exception is in stationery, where the graphics are always small and placed in the corners of the paper - one at the top and one at the bottom (see Fig. 3).
There is quite a range of type faces supplied, Gothic, handwriting effect, Roman, Western, and several others. I should have liked a wider range of sizes. There are two very tiny ones and all the others are pretty large, so a choice of halfway in between fonts would come in handy. In Fig. 2 I could not word the menu as I really wanted to because I could not get any more words in and still leave spaces between the courses. There was no room for a fourth course.
The graphics library is superb, although there is rather an America bias - mail boxes are US shape, baseball dominates the sport section, and we have all the States in outline with their emblems. But this is perhaps a nit-picking criticism - there are a huge selection of standard items - Christmas trees, graduates, cats and dogs, gifts, flowers, business motifs, travel items (Big Ben, Notre Dame, the Great Wall of China etc.), and many more, all of which print beautifully in all three sizes. Bruce Gordon tells me that enhancements are planned, so I hope we can look forward to more data discs and an even bigger choice of graphics and fonts.
There is also a graphic editor, which lets you design your own motif from scratch or modify any of the existing ones. Four "custom" libraries are supplied, three of which are totally empty and one of which has only a few items in it, so that you can save your own designs in the special library format needed by the program. The editor is very easy to use, and allows designs to be mirrored vertically or horizontally and inverted. I should have liked the cursor to repeat if held down. You can toggle it to set or reset pixels automatically as it moves, or to allow you to change pixel status manually, but you have to press a cursor key for every one-pixel movement which makes it a bit slow. Fig. 4 shows the "Oklahoma" emblem modified by removing the state outline map to leave just a covered wagon.
Print quality is fine so long as you have a fairly new ribbon. The head makes only one pass per line so the output of an old ribbons gets a bit pale. I understand that the possibility of a double pass printout is being looked at for a future upgrade of the program.
I only have one major criticism of Samprint. You are encouraged to make a copy of the data disc, but it is not possible to make backup working copy of the program disc using COPY or BACKUP. As a software writer, no-one is keener than I to stamp out software theft. I am all up for making games programs un-copiable. But this is a serious program and serious users are often up against deadlines. If someone asks me for 50 posters, and may want a repeat order in a day or so, I should hesitate to use a program for which I had no backup copy. Accidents do happen, and although a corrupted disc can be returned to the publishers for replacement, deadlines don't leave time for that. I firmly believe that all serious programs should allow the buyer to make a working copy for his own safety. There are ways of making a program capable of producing one or two working clones of itself, and no more.
But this is one are where, in the end, service to the customer should override the concern to make theft impossible.
That apart, I like this program very much. It produces neat and attractive items. The decoration is versatile - you decide whether you want borders, text or graphic items, and you can preview your design, change it if it doesn't suit, save it to disc and reload it. Even at the printing stage, you can return to the layout design option without printing if you spot something you want to change. It is absurdly easy to use. I thoroughly recommend it. You will find it very useful and you will have a lot of fun with it.
SAM PRINT costs £14.99 and is available direct from Noesis Software, Unit 12, Oxwich Court, Fenrod Business Park, Valley Road, Swansea, SA6 8QP.