RISC World

>DTP Software for all?

If you're looking to get creative with your RISC OS computer, you'll need some software to help you do it. In this article, David Bradforth shows you a selection of what's currently available for RISC OS users and makes some personal recommendations.

Over the last twenty years, every Acorn magazine has - at one time or other - been produced using a RISC OS computer.

Whether it was Acorn User or Archimedes World in the early 1990s; with the former producing the page layouts then adding colour in at the print stage on a Macintosh or the latter relying entirely on RISC OS for the process; or Acorn Computing (The Micro User) with its one-off experimentation around the same time. The results in each case were very impressive, and a good example of the capabilities of Impression II.

Since then, the design scene for RISC OS users has changed significantly. Gone are the days were RISC OS computers are sold for their graphics capabilities, alongside commercial printing packages from the likes of AB Dick, but with ever-increasing speeds of computer available to users, what software exists out there?

What follows is by no means an exhaustive look at what's available, but we've divided it into two categories: layout and graphics.

Page Layout

The foundation of desktop publishing is, very simply, page layout. The process of constructing a page to include any text or graphics elements required in a format that's appealing to the eye.

The Impression series was, until very recently, still available from Computer Concepts. Admittedly the program hadn't been developed for a number of years, but in its final release form it seemed to have a lot of things necessary and many happy RISC OS users are still making use of it. What it lacked, however, was 32-bit compatibility, and a deal was struck with X-Ample Technology of the Netherlands to co-ordinate the production of a new version, Impression X.

At present, the project is believed to still be under development; but it's been a long time in coming and many users are making do with Aemulor as a means of using existing versions. It's not ideal, but if you have an Iyonix PC you really don't have a choice. If the situation should change soon, we'll let you know; but in the meantime you can visit for details.

While Softease have announced there are no plans to develop it further, Textease Studio is still available; and as far as I know it's 32-bit compatible. The premise of Textease is nice: click anywhere on the page and start to type, and everything else stems from there. In practice, things have a habit of being not quite that simple; as you have matters of positioning graphics and flowing text around them making the package more ideal for quick leaflets than large-scale publications.

Softease may be moving away from RISC OS, but Textease is still a capable program - and available to all RISC OS users.

If you're looking for a modern-day equivalent to the classic Mini Office series, Textease may be it - visit for the latest details on the range; but be aware not every program listed on the site is available for users of Acorn computers.

Just as QuarkXPress has recently felt the challenge from InDesign, the RISC OS market had an upstart attempting to overthrow the crown held by Impression. The upstart, Ovation Pro was released by Beebug Limited in 1996 and quickly gained a strong following. What unfortunately let the program down was the lack of colour separation abilities in the first release; a function which was quickly rectified.

David Pilling, the author, took the program over late 1999, and added a number of additional features to constitute a new CD-ROM based release. As a program, it offers the ability to import virtually any major graphics file format (occasionally with a little help), full professional output facilities (comprehensive colour separation abilities), advanced bitmap manipulation tools and - very usefully - the ability to load Impression documents.

David Pilling's website, at, includes details on Ovation Pro; and also on the new Windows version. If you're familiar with the RISC OS version, for £60 you can upgrade to the new version for Windows and retain that familiarity.

It has to be said it achieves the latter with varying degrees of success, but it's certainly impressive - it loaded without too much effort one of the files for the February 1995 Acorn User from the CD supplied with the April 1995 issue. You've got to fiddle about with it to get things right, and currently a lot of styles are imported with the file, but it's a lot more than otherwise we could hope for.

The last year and a half of RISC User was produced using it, DTP Principles was produced using it; and Qercus currently is produced using it - it's not without it's flaws, but it's the best DTP program currently available for RISC OS.

Visit David Pilling's website, at, for details.


Graphics packages cover one of two areas, either the production of bitmap graphics or that of vector graphics. We'll tackle the latter area first, as it's the easier of the two.

If we look back to 1998, before the events of Black Thursday, Acorn World was shaping up to be one of the most interesting shows for years. One key feature was a publishing stand, featuring Acorn Publisher, Spacetech Ltd, Alternative Publishing and Astute Graphics/Nemo.

The collaboration of Astute Graphics and Nemo were to be responsible for the release of Vantage, the most ambitious (and easily the most expensive) graphics package for many years. It promised a lot, but took about three years before anything was released to the public.

Cerilica's site, at, has some very pretty artwork available to view; plus details of Vantage.

Unfortunately, there have been many problems with Vantage, to such a point that many have stopped using it. There's no denying that its colour facilities are impressive, but it would require a market much greater than the RISC OS market to fully expand it to the original proposed specification. The web page is still available, at, but there are difficulties in contacting Cerilica - it makes for interesting reading though.

Not suffering from quite so many problems, MW Software have taken over responsibility for ArtWorks and, with ArtWorks 2.3 now available, continue to make some very admirable advanced to the project. The latest version, 2.30, includes:

  • Graduated transparency with graduation profiles and offset control.
  • CMYK ink simulation (core ink simulation technology kindly provided by David Pilling) for both flat colours and colour graduations
  • The purpose of CMYK ink simulation is to give a better on-screen approximation of CMYK colours as printed using CMYK colour separated printing, so this is a specialist feature mainly useful for professional printers. For example, the simulated CMYK graduation of the rounded rectangle reveals a muddy band that is not shown by the naive RGB rendering. This band would show up in a colour-separated print.
  • Arranger module to make objects magnetic. Editing operations snap to these objects like to the grid.
  • Support in Selector tool for snapping bounding box edges, edge midpoints or the centre of the selection to magnetic objects when moving objects around.
  • Text areas can be converted to shapes
  • Ungroup all feature allowing multiple group objects to be ungrouped in one go.
  • Various bug-fixes and stability improvements

ArtWorks 2 is Martin's regular day job it seems, and he regularly updates it. While it's true that major upgrades are chargeable, in a market the size of ours to have anything as a regular project by any individual has to be admired; particularly when it's of the calibre offered here.

MW Software's ArtWorks 2 pages include a number of stunning examples: the program has been used to produce artwork for Acorn Publisher on more than one occasion.

MW Software's website, at, has further details of ArtWorks 2, plus details of Martin's Gimp-Print project.

Of course, we can't forget the latest version of DrawWorks - iSV Product's own answer to graphics design. Featured within DrawWorks XL is virtually anything you could want to do with a Drawfile on an Acorn computer. The latest version, described at, includes everything earlier versions did, plus 32-bit versions of Dr Fonty, Mr Clippy and the Typography 2500 collection.

We're due a detailed review of DrawWorks XL shortly (we've been due it for months, the reviewer seems to be unable to respond to e-mails. So if anyone would like a free copy of DrawWorksXL in exchange for writing a review let me know - ED), so for the moment we'll leave that alone.

In the next issue, we'll cover the bitmap graphics packages available and have any further comments from readers on their own choice for design on RISC OS.

David Bradforth