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Archive booklets review part two

By Chris Williams. Published: 17th Dec 2005, 05:29:30 | Permalink | Printable

Internet searching, eBay and StrongED

Hot on the heels of their first collection of four booklet titles, Archive magazine have published a further three compilations: Internet searching, and StrongED Volumes 1 and 2. Each are made up of 48 A5 stapled pages of articles and hints'n'tips previously published in the long running monthly magazine.

Two page scan from an Archive magazine booklet'Internet searching'
With the web becoming so vast and expanding at an astonishing rate, our reliance on Internet search engines is approaching near total dependence. To master using the likes of Google will likely unlock a great deal more online content for the user and also help cut through the electronic jungle of nonsense out there. While employers nose through job candidates' websites, usenet posts and blogged opinions with the help of search engines, impish hackers are now using Google's data mining expertise to uncover sensitive and personal information that ought to be better protected. The topic of search engines and how, despite Google's dominance, users can call on a range of webcrawlers to assist them is pretty important in today's world wild web. It's interesting therefore that Archive, a primary bastion of RISC OS-centric information, has put together a booklet covering it.

Initially focusing on search giant Google with a series of pieces written by Paul Beverley for the Society of Editors and Proofreaders, the mini-tome steps through a number of good basic principles for getting the most of the global search engine. These include using site:, intitle: and fine tuning keywords. The booklet then moves onto using Google's many features from its units converter to completing common quotations. There is some overlap here with a couple of articles written by Barry Smith for Archive's sister publication, Living with technology, that follow on from Paul's contributions. Barry's work is, however, accompanied by screenshots and illustrations showing where to click on the Google website to launch searches and how to find all the mildly hidden and ever growing number of features. As well as a few hints and tips, the booklet also describes a few RISC OS utilities such as RiscSearch and Searchy, which both act as user-friendly desktop interfaces to various Internet search engines. The guide finishes on a surprise treat: an introduction to using online auction house eBay to which should act as a helping hand for anyone new to the website. It covers searching and locating items, bidding on auctions and general do's and don't's.

Two page scan from an Archive magazine booklet'StrongED volumes 1 and 2'
These two booklets concentrate on StrongED, a popular and powerful text and source code editor used by writers and programmers alike. Compiled from articles, hints'n'tips and recipes written by a broad range of writers, the guide thankfully skips over the religious debate between StrongED and its rival editor, Zap. Instead, the booklet presents a masterclass in the freeware application package originally developed by Guttorm Vik and later inherited by a number of other programmers. The text editor is a personal favourite of Archive editor Paul Beverley.

Volume 1 begins with a gentle introduction to the software and how to immediately get to grips with its basic features, modes and macros. It then progresses onto performing search and replace operations on text, customising StrongED, and documents a few interesting tricks such as using it as an address book. The guide also includes some editorial arguing on behalf of the StrongED community in order to present a robust justification on why people should use the text editor over its rivals whilst highlighting the software's key features - syntax highlighting, powerful search and replace, macro support, integration with StrongHelp and more. Never again will a StrongED user be caught out when drawn into a text editor war of words with a Zap user.

Volume 2 steps up the pace and launches straight into a tutorial on writing scripts that allow StrongED to process text files dragged onto it, thus enabling the user to automate operations such as search and replace. The guide then moves onto step-by-step instructions on how to write in various languages, such as DrawScript and HTML; how to customise the document toolbar; and how to use the software's spellchecker. These are interspersed with a myriad of brief advice pieces that cover many aspects of StrongED, from obscure mouse and keyboard shortcuts to tidying up files using search and replace.

It's also worth noting that out of all Archive compilations, the StrongED books have a date stamp by each article title, rather than an opaque issue and volume number, to show when a particular article first appeared in print. The contents page shows the republished text spans some nine years, from around mid-1997 to a piece scheduled to be published in early 2006. The two volumes follow on from each other in a seamless manner, although like other Archive titles, the content isn't fully indexed so the reader may be thwarted if she needs to locate some information quickly and can't quite remember where a particular hint'n'tip article is printed in the series.


Each booklet costs a fiver, and the series continues to tap into Archive magazine's wealth of features and content, harvested over the many years the seasoned publication has been informing the RISC OS using public.

Links

Archive magazine website

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Discussion

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Hmm - whilst followers of the 'Dark religion of the fist' now have a couple of holy books to peruse, is there any chance of some tutorials for some of us followers of the true path of text editing? I'm always amazed when I hear how other people use Zap - everyone uses it totally differently, and there seems to be a myriad of things you can do with it.

I would have thought this would be worth a series or two for Archive or any of the RISC OS publications, and probably useful for everyone to learn a few tricks that they hadn't considered earlier.

 is a RISC OS Usermd0u80c9 on 18/12/05 6:05PM
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I would certainly be interested to read an article that did an unbiassed comparison of these two superb applicactions and their features. I have never got to grips with StrongEd, mostly becuse I had Zap first and it does everything I need (which is not a lot more than scratching the surface I am sure). Although the Iyonix comes with both, I don't think i've ever run StrongEd in the three years I've had it (gosh, is the Iyonix really 3 years old?). Zap on the other hand is permanently on my icon bar.

 is a RISC OS Usermrtd on 19/12/05 9:04AM
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mrtd: You could be provoking another editor war with that!

Do people generally use one or the other because they've tried both to begin with, or just the first one they came across? I've always used Zap simply because it was already on a second hand A5000 I once had, I got used to it, and haven't even tried StrongEd, so at least I can admit I'm in no position to say whether or not the one I use is better or not.

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 19/12/05 10:25AM
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SimonC:

I can't speak for other people, but I tried both. My preference for Zap basically comes down (I suspect) to the fact that it's maintained by people who seem to think in much the same way that I do. Some people have put my preference (for Zap) down to the fact that I also use Emacs (on Unix boxen) a fair bit - but various Unix people have suggested that I prefer Emacs (to Vi) because I'm so used to Zap....

I think it's probably a bit of both; some people will generally find one (out of Zap and StrongEd) much easier to use than the other, but some people will do equally well with whichever they happen to pick up first.

 is a RISC OS Userchrisj on 19/12/05 12:24PM
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StrongED was the first editor I tried when looking for a replacement for Edit many years ago and I have used it since - mostly for programming. I have never had a reason to use a different editor on RISC OS. On the PC at work I use jEdit which has a similar functionality.

 is a RISC OS UserGrek1 on 19/12/05 12:50PM
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I did try StrongEd many years ago but didn't like some features (can't remember what). When I made some comments on possible changes, Guttorm Vik was rather rude and offhand. I never used it again. A lesson to all software authors there I think...

 is a RISC OS Userhelpful on 19/12/05 1:56PM
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helpful: If your suggestion was "make it more like Zap" then I wouldn't expect too civil a reply! :-) Seriously, I find it very hard sometimes to decide if something is poor simply because it's not what I'm used to, instead of being genuinely bad.

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 19/12/05 2:41PM
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I've asked many times over the years for articles about Zap, but no-one has ever obliged.

There are a dozen or so hints and tips about Zap, but not enough to fill a 5 quid booklet, I fear.

Sorry.

 is a RISC OS Userpaulbev on 19/12/05 3:07PM
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I prefer Zap to StrongEd primarily because I much prefer the Zap fonts! It sounds trivial, but if I'm gonna spend all day staring at C code, I'd like it to be as easy on the eyes as possible. And if I'm honest, I like them so much I'm prepared to cope with the random crash that Zap seems to suffer from on my Iyonix, which (according to people on the zap discussion lists) hasn't been tracked down yet.

 is a RISC OS Userkrisa on 19/12/05 3:55PM
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I generally use deskedit. (All right, stop laughing!) Sadly though it's not 32 bit so I'm going to have to learn either Zap or StrongEd. STrongEd /looks/ more like deskedit, so that may be my final choice, but zap ends up on the iconbar at the drop of a hat, so for quick things I have to use that.

We'll see. It's a bit like converting to SCEF when all you've ever used is SED, I know I'm going to have to do it eventually, but I just keep putting it off as long as possible. I like SED, and I like deskedit.

 is a RISC OS UserDS1 on 19/12/05 4:03PM
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krisa: Why don't you just use the Zap font with StrongED? I have not tried it nor do I know anything about Zap fonts but: StrongFont converts Zap Fonts to fonts suitable for use with stronged. Zap fonts can be found in the download section of [link] It supports 8x8 and 8x16 bitmaps and Zap link files. link:[link]

 is a RISC OS UserGrek1 on 19/12/05 4:25PM
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+p

 is a RISC OS UserGrek1 on 19/12/05 4:28PM
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In the latest version of Zap (1.47) it is possible to select a different encoding (e.g. latin5 or utf8 instead of latin1). AFAIK this isn't possible yet in SE: are there any plans to add this?

BTW: I haven't found out yet how to change the current font. I guess it is possible...

 is a RISC OS Userscl4c0rn on 19/12/05 11:16PM
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Paul: if you wanted to collect articles on Zap, the best place to start would probably be to put a few postings on the Zap mailing list to see whether it generates any interested authors. You could also ask outright for any useful tips and suggestions when using Zap, to see if you get anything useful there; perhaps starting with the concepts you've picked up for StrongEd, and then asking for their equivalents. I don't normally subscribe myself, but the Zap-Users list looks like a useful start. As you've said, you may well get no response, but it would certainly be a useful thing if something happened.

 is a RISC OS Usermd0u80c9 on 20/12/05 12:20AM
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scl4c0rn: The manual says to put Bitmape <font> in a modefile.

 is a RISC OS UserGrek1 on 20/12/05 6:59AM
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That should be "Bitmap <font>"

 is a RISC OS UserGrek1 on 20/12/05 7:00AM
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In reply to Grek1:

OK It is possible to change the font, but is there really no other way than to edit the modefile inside the SE app dir? (!StrongED.Defaults.Modes)

 is a RISC OS Userscl4c0rn on 20/12/05 9:33PM
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scl4c0rn: Whats so bad about editing the modefile? Hold shift down while selectiong the mode in the adjust menu of the iconbar icon of StrongED to open the modefile.

If you want a GUI way of changing the modefile go to link:sedmodeed.sourceforge.net

 is a RISC OS UserGrek1 on 12/1/06 11:19AM
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