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Joe Gillespie
Utility: Graphics
ZX Spectrum 48K

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Peter Freebrey
Chris Bourne

LOAD Paintbox and it'll autoRUN to display the main menu. This serves up a choice of three options: UDG Editor, Precision Plotter and Screen Planner.

Opt for UDG Editor and you're given a further menu which allows you to view existing UDGs, create new UDGs (using Paintbox's Drawing Board) or to go to Sketch Pad. Other options allow for LOAD or SAVE of UDGs from/to tape, the final one being to return to the main menu.

Option 1 - View UDG Banks - displays four sets of UDGs already in memory; you can choose one of these for use with further options. The four banks are (a) a submarine, (b) a warship, (c) aircraft and (d) buildings, trees and vehicles. Also displayed are any UDGs you've already created using option 2 - Drawing Board. This gives you an eight by eight box within which to create your own UDG characters; you can call from one of the banks of UDGs, or you can call a keyboard character and alter that. Designs can be drawn using either the cursor keys or a Kempston Joystick. Once you ve opted to call a character to create or alter, there's no return... you must then create something, even if it's only a space; there's no way you can break out of this part of the program.

Having produced your character, you're then given the opportunity of creating an inverse copy, a mirror image - or even of rotating it through 90 degree steps; whatever it is, just file the result in the bank of UDGs you're working with. There are four banks of 21 UDGs, so it's possible to create a total of 84 different graphic designs; the instructions tell you all you need to know about using banks of UDGs within your own Basic programs.

The Sketch Pad option gives you a six by 30 cell (work area) together with a display of existing UDGs. Here you can try various combinations of UDGs (out of any bank of 21) to see what they look like; if you're planning to use several linked together, make sure they're in the same bank!

The next selection from main menu is the Precision Plotter. You're given the choice of keyboard cursor keys or, again, the Kempston Joystick, and from there you can either start from a blank screen or LOAD a previous file from tape. First choose INK and PAPER colours - then the decision is yours whether to create a new picture, or return to one held in memory. The cursor keys give movement in four directions. Key 'Q' PLOTs a single pixel point and 'W' DRAWs a line from the end of a previous line or pixel point plotted; key 'E' will Erase the last command and 'F' will Fill with the current INK colour. Fill often misses out portions of the screen so you may have to recall it to fill in the 'holes'. Paintbox also supports Circle ('H') and Arc ('A'). INK colour can be changed at any time but PAPER has to be chosen at the time you first enter Precision Plotter. Over ('N') can be useful for correcting minor mistakes and there's a choice of cursor size - cross hairs for general use and a much smaller, single pixel, for precision work. Shift plus cursor keys moves the cursor at a much slower rate - again for fine, careful positioning.

As on Melbourne Draw, the bottom two lines are used as an information window, showing the mode and x/y co-ordinates of the cursor. Here, however, the bottom two lines are not accessible. Should you return to the main menu and then back again to Precision Plotter, key '9' restores the current graphics screen to the display. This is stored in permanent memory, while the program is held in RAM, A COPY of the screen can be printed out on a ZX Printer and the display SAVEd to tape for LOADing later.

Final option served up by the main menu is Screen Planner. This gives you the screen display created with Precision Plotter, together with the ability to call from any of the banks of UDGs. These are displayed on the screen with x and y co-ordinates (now for row and column) and INK and PAPER are available at any time; you can experiment with different attributes, although there doesn't appear to be any option to alter BRIGHT and FLASH at this point. Return to Precision Plotter (via the main menu) and you've now got your composite display to work on.

The instruction booklet gives details of how to call on these SAVEd screens from various memory locations within your own programs. Remember, though, that each screen SAVEd under these conditions uses 6912 bytes. Print 'n' Plotter has a program - Screen Machine - that can save bytes on graphics screens; we'll be looking at that in a future issue.

Time Taken: 1hr 30mins. Verdict: Paintbox on the whole is a good product, but it lacks the commands which make picture creation easy, such as 'magnify', 'copy' and independent control of the attributes. Combining Paintbox and Melbourne Draw would probably provide the best drawing program on the market. Peter Shaw.

Not Rated

Screenshot Text

Paintbox's 'radical' mode - allowing line to be drawn from a central point to the cursor - prompted me to choose the Japanese army ensign to draw. The basic construction of the drawing was really quite easy but, as soon as I started to add colour, spurious dots appeared all over the place and I ended up with this mess!

A considerable time later and, although it may not seem drastically different , the dots which shouldn't have been there have been removed. There's no actual 'delete' command in Paintbox, so the only way to take unwanted bits off is via a rather obscure use of the OVER and PLOT commands.

Paintbox is not solely a screen designer, its also a character designer. Here you can see the four character sets included in the package; these can be used within your screen design, as well as SAVEd separately as UDGs for use in other programs.