RISC World

In Business with RISC OS

David Bradforth continues our series of case studies, looking at how more companies makes use of RISC OS in a business sense.

Jeremy Brayshaw runs two businesses from home, each with their own computer requirements.

The first, a design and print business, doesn't involve creations of art as, by his own admission, Jeremy isn't an artist. What it does involve is the production of stationary designs, book covers and so on and the ability to output them to film. Key considerations for this business are invoicing, accountancy and the maintenance of customer details and records although as the business is largely service-based stock maintenance is not a requirement.

Jeremy's print business - - meets the needs of those looking for a prompt professional service with the personal touch

For the home-brew business - - Jeremy has a lot to offer

The second is a home-brew business, operating more like a shop. With a requirement to maintain accurate stock levels, allowing for the re-ordering of stock when required and accountancy, invoicing is less important as most sales are of a 'shop' type rather than 'mail order' type. Being able to produce catalogues is important, as is the construction and maintenance of a website with shop facilities.

Meeting the software requirements

For accountancy purposes, Prophet 3+ is the mainstay of both businesses. With two different data files (one for each business), the different strengths of the package can be deployed. For the printing business, the invoicing; book keeping and VAT accountancy side of Prophet is perfect; whereas the shop sales, stock maintenance and automatic ordering side of the package is ideal for the home brew shop.

VAT returns are a piece of cake - whereas Windows users seem to struggle on for hours or days with their VAT return, for Jeremy it's two clicks, copy six figures from screen to form and it's done.

To cater for his design needs, Jeremy relies heavily on Ovation Pro, with some help from ArtWorks, for his limited graphic design needs. Frequently, photos are added to designs (especially for book covers, but also magazines and advertising leaflets), and for that he makes use of several items of software including Variations, CleanJPEG/JClean and JCut. Scanning and OCR'ing are very important too, and that involves DPSS and Sleuth 3.

Like many of us, Jeremy finds the need to occasionally print from Word documents; which can cause a problem.

There are many who find that Microsoft Word meets all their needs for desktop publishing; but it's not a desktop publishing program - and can cause problems for those of us using RISC OS when we try to read files from people who have tried to make use of it in a desktop publishing sense.

EasiWriter is able to read most Word documents, but is not 100% reliable and often formats differently to the original. Whether it's due to a lack of similar fonts on the RISC OS side of things; or graphics issues (although it's worth pointing out that EasiWriter will work with ImageFS when installed to help with displaying any graphic formats it doesn't properly understand - Ed) there can be problems. Often they are solved through discussion with the author, and asking for the pictures to be sent separately.

Jeremy then, like many of us, extracts the text using EasiWriter and re-designs the document in Ovation; dropping in the supplied graphics where appropriate and making use of external tools to convert them where necessary. One nice feature of EasiWriter, the 'save as HTML' option, saves the document with graphics as separate files; allowing access to any errant graphics.

It's not very often that customers want the finished product to look exactly as the Word version they've supplied, allowing Jeremy the versatility to put his own interpretation of design into it; also allowing less reliance on the precise layout and fonts from the PC-originated work. It does however cause serious problems when they insist upon it, although for Jeremy it's only happened once in ten years.

The thorny question of PDFs

In common with many designers, Jeremy often receives PDF files for printing. This is a well-documented problem for RISC OS, as both PDF and RiScript have issues with clipping of graphics and without accurate clipping of graphics the whole effectiveness of RiScript is compromised and could be considered rendered useless.

The authors of RiScript are shortly to release RiScript 4, through which they aim to address many long-standing issues for viewing PDF files on RISC OS. RiScript also allows you to view postscript files and convert them easily to other formats (such as Draw) which can then be dealt with in most RISC OS applications. We'll have a review in RISC World as and when it's released.

One problem Jeremy has come across causes issues for home designers using a PC or Mac as well - 'Even using a PC, I can't find any way to 'reflect' the PDF image when printing, using the Acrobat Reader software, which makes using a PC equally useless unless you buy the several-hundred-pounds full 'acrobat' software (a reflected image is essential in order to make the film required to create a printing plate). Even then, I'm not sure it would work!'

There are cheaper alternatives on the PC, including the JAWS PDF software which may help; or you can make use of the various bitmap graphics packages (such as Corel Paint Shop Pro or Adobe Photoshop) to open the PDF then reflect it yourself as necessary before resaving it as a PDF.

With all the work that's gone into professional publishing software for RISC OS over the years, Jeremy finds that he has no trouble producing the CMYK separations necessary for full colour work - anything that loads into Ovation can easily be separated into CMYK images using a few clicks of the mouse. As he observes, 'I think it is a bit of an illusion that the colours may not appear correct when converting an RGB image into CMYK - if the printer (person, not machine!) knows what he's doing, it is easily corrected on the press, provided an original copy is available to compare with!'

My own experience is very simple - when producing colour separations I end up producing PDF files through Acrobat on a Mac; and at that stage CMYK the PDF files graphic content as a whole. Although this works 90% of the time, there have still been some peculiar results in the final printed page.

Designs on the Web

For the production of web pages, Jeremy makes use of HTML3 by Richard Goodwin. While it takes a long time to create a complete website, it allows him to ensure it looks just as he expects without any delays to the end user in downloading the site content. ArtWorks is used to create the graphics, buttons and so on; with StrongEd assisting in the preparation of the HTML. Uploading the site is via FTPc via NetFetch from RComp; with emails received via Messenger Pro.

CallerID, from Octopus Systems, is invaluable to Jeremy, bringing onto screen the details of the person calling just as the phone begins to ring. In a practical sense, this allows Jeremy to answer any query that the caller may throw at him professionally as the details are all on the screen in front of him.

For short run colour work, Jeremy uses the PostScript drivers to print to the HP2500L laser printer; and to create film for printing Jeremy again uses the PostScript PDF to the HP2100M mono laser printer onto laser film.

Over the next few years, RISC OS users are likely to find themselves increasingly isolated unless we get a means of producing professional PDF files. An increasing number of printers are doing away with the traditional means of printing; preferring instead to opt for a digital pre-press solution. The reasons are simple - cost; but some native RISC OS software solutions allowing us to meet the digital pre-press needs would help.

To cater for his banking needs, Jeremy uses an early version of Oregano2; finding that the current version doesn't provide all the functionality for a Nationwide account that the previous version did. Unfortunately, Jeremy is forced to use FireFox in the PC to make any headway in managing his Bank of Scotland business account.

With Peter Naull's recent announcement that FireFox should be making an appearance on RISC OS, and Genesys Developments announcement that Oregano3 should be forthcoming, we've got two potential solutions for handling the Internet both of which have a strong heritage.

FireFox, with its open source community offerings, may be the better choice as it was designed from the outset to be used on a computer; whereas the heart of Oregano was designed for use as part of a set top box (or the PlayStation 2 where it is the TV interactor web browser).

The last application Jeremy makes regular use of is Organizer. It's easy to forget this program as it just sits on the iconbar popping up every now and again with details of appointments that have been forgotten, birthdays and all the other useful features it's got packed in.


In common with many we've featured in case studies, Jeremy finds that there are problems primarily with web access and the lack of cross-platform compatibility. But there are ways to get around these issues, which are really just minor inconveniences. Jeremy finds RISC OS the ideal system upon which to run his business - and, as you'll see next time, so do many others.

Dave Bradforth