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March 2000

Papyrus Office 8.05 for OS/2

By: Thomas Gunzelmann thomas.gunzelmann@ggeo.uni-bamberg.de

On OS/2 we still have Sun Staroffice 5.1a for free, though it now appears, that we will not be getting version 5.2. According to a Sun announcement at this years CeBIT, this is do to low demand for the existing OS/2 version. We can buy Lotus SmartSuite for Warp 4, now at version 1.5. Why should we spend another $149 US for Papyrus OFFICE, a really small office suite, which consists of a word processor and a little relational database management system. R.O.M logicware, the developers of Papyrus, say that they are close to releasing an English version of Papyrus Office. It can be expected to be released at the time of CeBIT, the computer fair at Hannover, Germany, at the end of February 2000.

Also why should you spend so much money for a program, that comes on three discs (including spell-checker) and the main exe-file, which contains the word processor and the database, has just 1.4 MB? In my opinion the only answers to this question are power, speed and reliability. As an user of Papyrus since 1996 I will try to tell you, on what level this little program has reached these high demands.

My personal point of view is that of an enduser, but an enduser who wants to use the capabilities of his word processor to 95% and not only to 10% like most M$-Word users do. After some obscure CPM word processors, I used WordPerfect from version 4.1 up to 6.1 from 1985 to 1995, I have even tried the terrible version 5.2 for OS/2. I start using OS/2 in 1994 and since then, the decision for the operation system for me is much more important than the decision for the word processor. For the past few months I have been forced to use Windows NT at work. Since then I'm finally convinced, that I never will give away my private OS/2 system (and I have tried and am still trying the really overhyped Linux also).

I'm doing a lot of DTP work. I'm publishing a quarterly printed magazine and from time to time a real printed book. For the magazine, which is printed partly in color, I have to use Ventura Publisher 5.0 for WinOS/2, but for the books, which are printed in gray, I prefer Papyrus. For all the daily purposes like letters, mailing labels and short papers I take also Papyrus. Only for very complicated scientific articles with a lot of endnotes and references, the very fine VTex/Free implementation for OS/2, which produces a great looking PDF-Output, seems to be the best solution.


A review of Papyrus has to be at the same time a review of the little software company called R.O.M logicware in Berlin, Germany (http://www.rom-logicware.com). Their main product is Papyrus and they treat it as a philosophy. Their philosophy follows the old paradigm of "less is more". On the other side their main goal is to let the user standing in the center of their software development. And believe, in all the years I'm using Papyrus, I'm nearly always getting an open ear at R.O.M logicware, when I reported problems or had a wish for a new function. In our present times, when the support for a program is a moving target and new versions are always bringing more new bugs than news functions, such an attitude is very unusual.

Papyrus was first developed for the Atari ST system, and that R.O.M logicware now sells the version 8 even for this outdated system, can tell you something about their attachment to Non-Microsoft operating systems. The first version for OS/2 was version 4 in 1996 and they have a Windows version since 1997. Since version 8 it is called "Office", because it has an integrated database. R.O.M says, that it has an integrated spreadsheet too, but this is exaggerated. It has a very good table function within the word processor, which is better than all that I've seen in other word processors including WordPerfect, but it is not a standalone spreadsheet.

The table design window of Papyrus


I have already said that Papyrus is small. It has no macro language and it has no configurable icon bars (the windows version make a little step in this direction). But it was the first word processor, that had the red underlined spelling correction. Papyrus starts as fast as the onboard EPM-Editor. And it is the fastest of all known word processors under OS/2, when it comes to handling graphics. I have here an 11 MB TIF-Bitmap-File (2106 x 1361 Deep Color). Importing this file into the Starwriter module of Staroffice 5.1a and waiting until it is completely on the screen takes 17 seconds. Papyrus needs for the same task 6 seconds. Meant as a joke I compared this result with the specialized bitmap viewing program PMView 2000 and this naturally fast program needs 4.5 seconds. As a conclusion, you can say that you can use the word processor Papyrus as a bitmap viewer, if you want. You can import the following bitmap-files, even with drag and drop from the WPS: Tif, bmp, gif, pcx, img, iff, jpg and png, (which is used as internal bitmap format of papyrus). Bitmaps are either saved as png within the papyrus-file or externally connected as reference.

Vector formats, however, are the weak side of Papyrus. It can handle OS/2 Metafiles only, but it handles them very well. In the first screenshot of the main window of Papyrus I have imported an OS/2 MET File from Xact (http://www.scilab.de/), another very fine OS/2 vector-graphics and charting program, which English-speaking OS/2 users probably don't know (It now also has a new English version). Many times I've begged R.O.M. Logicware to support encapsulated postscript (EPS) files, but to my knowledge, no decision has been made on this yet.

Importing text-files does not offer so many choices. You can import ASCII, RTF, HTML and Word 6 and 97 files (but only without the quick saving options). In this case Staroffice has far more option, even the Word filter from Staroffice is better. Export is possible in the same formats. But you will never have codepage problems in Papyrus. It handles seamlessly Unix, Mac, Windows and foreign language codepages. But this is a problem mainly for non-English speaking people.

Concerning HTML, Papyrus follows a different concept than other word processors. In Papyrus you can define character styles, paragraph styles and page layout styles. To produce HTML-output, you have to connect a papyrus style to free definable HTML-tag or style. That means, you would not get a WYSIWYG web layout, but you can have a highly customizable control over your HTML output. This concept can be used in principle for all other markup language like SGML, Tex, XML and programs, which have their own tag language like QuarkExpress or Ventura Publisher. This concept is convincing, but development in this direction is a little bit stagnating at this time.

Papyrus has all the common word processing functions that you need for business and for scientific writing. It even has an equation editor, which produces the equation as MET-File. Personally, I'm only missing endnotes. It has direct Voice Type support, the killer feature of version 5, but nowadays it seems, nobody talks about Voice Type anymore.

Papyrus has one real big disadvantage: it cannot administrate master documents and subdocuments as other Desktop Publishing programs and word processors can. You have to order the page numbers, footnote numbers and outline levels manually, if you work with different files in a large project. But on the other side, you can handle real big files in papyrus. One other thing in Papyrus is uncommon, but if you are used to it, you never want to live without it. All Papyrus-Files are opened in separate, full featured Papyrus-windows with the menus, icon bars and status bar.

The DTP features are just fine. There is the excellent feature of the helplines as in QuarkExpress. These helplines are magnetic, can be set vertically and horizontally, and for pasteboard layouts this can be a great help. Also, the zoom controls in Papyrus are fast and flexible. You can zoom with the mouse over a certain region, or by number. The biggest factor depends on the resolution of the selected printer, but you can easily go to 1000% and more. You can even see -- and edit -- 32 pages on the screen. Fine adjustments are easy: you can use pair kerning, and with the microspacing function you can move frames, words and even single characters on the level of printer pixels. Imagine this using the 2540 dpi of a linotronic typesetter.

The Papyrus Font-Selection Window shows the look of the font.

The printing function is sophisticated like in no other program under OS/2. You can print posters on a normal desktop printer via cut markers and booklets in the right page order. Predefined page layout for labels let you do very fast and fine formatted mailing actions.

Papyrus BASE

This point leads me to the new Papyrus BASE. This is a relational database management system. Its greatest advantage is the very close connection to Papyrus WORD, which acts as the report generator of BASE and lets you use all the sophisticated DTP-options for your database needs. The second advantage is its speed, the third are its full text search capabilities. Its a very fine and relatively mighty database, but when you work with it, you will discover very soon, that PapyrusBASE is a very young program, which needs still some time to mature. That does not mean, that it is not stable, on the contrary, up to now, I couldn't produce a single crash with it. The data itself is saved in an XML-Format, therefore you can view and edit your data even with a simple ASCII-Editor. PapyrusBASE actually supports only a small number of column types. These are "standard (text or number)", "text", "number (with 6 digits after the decimal point maximum)", "image", "date", "time", "time-point (date with time)", "duration of time (more then 24 hours)". The "text"-column type holds 64KB, which is too small in my opinion. The "image"-column type is saved externally, the database itself holds only a file-reference. Like in many other enduser database management system, in PapyrusBASE you have a table view and a form view.

The form view is nothing other than a normal Papyrus text file and therefore you have all the possibilities to design a sophisticated layout for your forms. But this is a disadvantage too. The form is limited to one page. If you have a database with relative long text data, the room of your box soon will be full and you don't have a possibility to scroll inside the text box.

You have the possibility to define complicated queries visually. This doesn't follow the SQL-language standard, but it is contemplated with SQL in mind. You can do a global search and replace over the whole database. And you can calculate within tables and between different tables of a database. A really unique function is called the "hyperlink" between a Papyrus text-file and a PayprusBASE table. With this function it is possible, to set a link in a text, from which one can jump to a certain row in the database table. This is a great feature, but it only makes sense if everyone in the world uses Papyrus. This can only be useful, if this feature could be translated in a HTML or PDF-File, which at this time is not possible.

The PapyrusBASE window for composing queries

PapyrusBASE has some drawbacks. The major one is the missing connectivity. It would be great, if it had ODBC or JDBC-drivers. PapyrusBASE could be a great frontend for the free MySQL for OS/2 with its web-capabilities and its Apache and PHP modules. And it could be a frontend for DB2/2, but in this area we still have alternatives. The import of other database formats is very limited, it has only the old Atari 1stBASE format and ASCII-CSV import. The last is very good. You can even preview the import if it will work correct, without importing a hole big database.

Final thoughts:

Papyrus seems to be software from the good old times in the late eighties. You do have a printed handbook, written for computer novices, you have a very intensive online help system, but no wizards and assistants, who are knowing all better than you. The program doesn't crash and I have never seen a corrupted text file in Papyrus.

The feature set is limited, but still evolving. Just today, I received via E-Mail the beta of 8.06, which allows one to calculate with strings and date and time within the table part of the word processor. The support is fast and good. It is not up-to-date in connectivity, the web function could be better. But on OS/2 we have no alternative for such a stable and fast office program. For serious work it is worth every single dollar (or euro).

Here is a screen shot of the English Pre-release version released March 13, 2000

Corel Ventura Publisher 5.0 for Windows - http://www.corel.com/products/graphicsandpublishing/ventura5/
Papyrus Office 8.05 for OS/2 - http://www.rom-logicware.com
PMView 2000 - http://www.pmview.com
Sun Microsystems Staroffice 5.1a - http://www.sun.com/products/staroffice/get.cgi
VTEX - ftp://ftp.cdrom.com/.1/tex/ctan/systems/vtex/os2/vtex2.zip
Xact - http://www.scilab.de/

DTP - Desk Top Publishing

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