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ATPM 3.03
March 1997

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Review: Scorpio

by Belinda Wagner, bwagner@atpm.com

excellent

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Product Information
Published By: Abbott Systems Inc.
Phone: 1-800-552-9157
Fax: 914-747-9115
E-Mail: AbbottSys@aol.com
Web: http://www.abbottsys.com
List Price: $19.95

Requirements
1.28MB of RAM
800K of hard disk space including app, dictionary and manual

I admit, when Robert Madill asked me to review Scorpio [TM], I was a bit skeptical. I'm a diehard MS Word [TM] 5.1 user. No, I never upgraded to 6.0. I really disliked the "Windows [TM]-like" interface and I felt that a great deal of speed and flexibility were sacrificed - it felt more like a downgrade than an upgrade to me. WordPerfect [TM] seems as onerous to me as the ancient WordStar (I'm really dating myself now, eh?). Simpletext [TM] is far too simple for my text.

The only other word processor I even tolerate is ClarisWorks [TM]. Not that their word processing capabilities are more powerful than Word, but I like the ease with which text, graphics and tables can be integrated and arranged in a WYSIWYG interface. ATPM's editorial staff recently adopted ClarisWorks as our standard format for transferring documents during pre-production. As copy editor, I enjoy ClarisWorks' text color option to adapt standard editing "mark-up" characters to a format suitable for electronic communication.

Here I sit "writing" in Scorpio. I'm impressed. The interface is simple. Standard menus are rarely used. Tools for font, text and document manipulation are arranged in a series of buttons across the toolbar at the top of the window. Most are fairly self-explanatory. However, what impresses me most about Scorpio are its "ergonomic" features. Little things that go beyond "cut and paste" to make composing text on a monitor a little easier, a little more comfortable.

First is the toolbar itself. Although the default "grey" background still has the same low contrast that I find so annoying in Windows applications, Abbott Systems has incorporated a simple fix—you can change the background color of the toolbar!!

Here's the standard:

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Via the toolbar color button, you can change the background color and significantly enhance the contrast and visibility.

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Of the standard options, my personal favorite is purple:

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But, my true favorite is a custom color:

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Second is the eyestrain that staring at black text on a white background causes. Again, Abbott comes up with a simple, elegant fix - with a single click, you can change the color of the screen window. Here are some examples:

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Notice that these standard colors are muted and transparent. They don't overwhelm the text (like some Web pages which are NOT bookmarked in my browser). Like the toolbar color option, Scorpio lets you pick a custom background color, but I like the standard options. I particularly like changing the color from time to time as I work on text. It saves headaches. (Note: the background color does not print, it's just for screen use.)

If you prefer dark backgrounds with light text, that option is easily implemented in Scorpio. It's also easily changed by the next person who reads it (especially if your options cause them a splitting headache – one of my collaborators and myself have this particular incompatibility and I'm encouraging him to purchase Scorpio to work on our jointly-authored documents).

Third is the ability to speak text using Apple's Speech Manager. I know it is not unique to Scorpio, but the ease and flexibility of implementing this feature is unique in my experience. Choose a voice from the "Special" menu (or use the default). Select the text you want spoken, and click the tool button.

When I write, I mostly gather lots of little pieces: files, e-mails, papers, magazine or journal references, etc. They get shuffled around in my small home office or spread out over three desktops at work. In other words, my workspace soon looks as though a cyclone hit. Now, when I want to step back and see how the document flows, I can use the speak text feature to listen to what I've written, take a break from staring at the monitor and restore a bit of order to my workspace.

I'm impressed with the quality of the speech. Most of the words sound as they should. One noticeable exception in listening to this review was the word "headaches." It came out in synthesized speech as "head-etches."

The only downside to Scorpio is that its document spelling check brings up many correctly spelled, common words. So many in fact, that I think the default option should be "add" instead of "replace." However, this is a minor criticism in light of the overall utility of this program.

My personal opinion is that Apple should trash SimpleText and offer Scorpio as its default word processor. Scorpio is simple enough for younger writers (like my six-year old daughter). However, it is a useful investment even for the most sophisticated writers. I intend to use Scorpio a lot. Why? Because Scorpio utilizes the ClarisWorks/MacLink translators to import and export files. I can import files from any high-end word processing application and use the ergonomic aspects of Scorpio for composing/revamping the text content. Using the same translators to export files after the content is finalized, I can then apply the enhanced formatting capabilities of Word or ClarisWorks to generate even sophisticated documents.

Scorpio makes the most time-consuming aspect of writing — content development — more pleasant. At the same time, Abbott Systems acknowledges users' needs for more sophisticated formatting. The import and export file options facilitate that process. In my opinion, Scorpio is more than worth the purchase price and will fill a useful niche on any Macintosh, at home or work.

Buy it, you won't get stung (despite the scorpion logo)!!

This review was written in Scorpio and exported to ClarisWorks on a Performa 636CD running System 7.5.3 Update 2.0.

[apple graphic] © 1997 Belinda Wagner, bwagner@atpm.com. Belinda J. Wagner, Ph.D. is a molecular biologist and a faculty member of Bowman Gray School of Medicine in North Carolina. She studies how cells respond to their environment during wound healing.

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