RISC World

DTP Experiences

James Regan gives his his own view on RISC OS desktop publishing

With reference to your article in RISCWorld, I thought you might be interested in my own experiences working with RISC OS.

I first used a computer to produce artwork for publication whilst working in local government in the late 1970s. The machine was an IBM mainframe serving many remote workstations. There were regular crashes, but no one wished to go back to working at a drawing board. The files were plotted on a flat bed ink plotter at twice publication size and then photographically reduced. No fonts were available and annotation was added with rubdown lettering.

Due to political decisions made in the 1980s I found myself working for a national government organisation doing the same work, but using an IBM standalone RISC based computer.

The work produced was of a very high standard and the output considerable, although it must be said, the cost of the equipment and software was eye-watering.

Later, IBM were marketing RISC operating systems as the bees' knees and I remember going to the launch of a new IBM RISC based desktop, but heard no more about it after the launch.

Meanwhile, I had seen a friend playing with a BBC A, and it looked fun. I decided to invest in a computer of some sort and started shopping around. The Archimedes 3000 had just been launched, and was so highly recommended in one shop, even though they didn't sell them, that I scraped enough money together to make the purchase. As suitable software became available I built up my collection. (Techsoft Designer, Artworks, Ovation, ProCad etc.) It soon became apparent that, because of the relative ease with which a file from one application could be ported to another, I had a more flexible system at home than I was using at work, and I could produce better looking documents than those produced at work in-house.

My superiors knew what I was doing, and liked the result. I wonder what Acorn's sales force were doing? Water under the bridge.

At the time I could not see how the DOS based PC was going to survive.

Following Civil Service policy decisions to encourage people of my age to leave, I became self-employed and for over a decade have been doing much the same sort of work on my various RISC OS computers.

"Can RISC OS still stand its ground for professional publishing?"

In my opinion and experience the answer is "yes".

I produce illustrations for books printed by some of the largest publishers in the world.

They have been printed from my files by printers around the globe. To date the quality has been first class and met with all round approval. (They give me more work.).

I know for certain that products and structures designed using RISC OS based applications and hardware are on show throughout the world.

All the above reads like over-puffed conceit. That can't be helped.

The points I wish to make are these.

It's a great system; it's easy to use; it's flexible; it's reliable. Tell the right people.

There's no point in just telling people like me. We know already. Market the system better and target that marketing in the right areas.

Do I have any gripes? Who hasn't? Major gripe - help. With a few exceptions, the user guides are not comprehensive enough. Personally I would pay good money for PRINTED manuals. After a day at the workface I've had enough of screen watching. But I wouldn't object to curling up with a cup of cocoa, a warm wife and, for example, a comprehensive step by step guide to exporting various types of file from an RPC or Iyonix to some poor devil who's stuck with a Windows job and vice versa. I don't mind being considered computerly naive. Just give me the facts in a way that a child of six could understand.

James Regan