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R/Laser 3.3 - David Kates

For those of you who haven't at least heard of R/Laser, let me fill you in. R/Laser is a document creation facility directly interfaced with Advanced Revelation enabling full control over a printed page or pages with direct ties to database files. The system allows you to create typeset quality output utilising a complete markup language. You'll find you can call R/Laser directly, through dictionaries, subroutines, functions, from TCL, or from its own enhanced control level.

Most of the work I do is done within the Workbench. Here I can define the R/Laser code, files, use the MV Data field to enter static information or dictionary references which will be picked up by the R/Laser code, compile, view, and print. To say that R/Laser can handle jobs like mail/merge is an understatement. In addition to the typesetting markup language, R/Laser incorporates powerful graphics commands, raster graphics support, a seamless interface with R/Basic, and user definitions.

The R/Laser commands are very straight forward and are accompanied, in the manual, by examples: very nice. A good example is the "CIRCLE" command. As stated in the manual, "CIRCLE" draws a circle, disk, ellipse, arc, or sector , centred on the current position. The print head returns to the current position when the circle has been drawn. The syntax for "CIRCLE" is :

               CIRCLE V[,w[,x[,y,z]]]

     Where:    V    = Radius, in inches;
               W    = Line weight, in dots; if zero, the figure is solid;
               X    = Aspect  ratio (default - 1.0)
               Y    = Beginning angle for arc or sector
               Z    = Ending angle for arc or sector

The following code will draw a happy face:

  CIRCLE .25,3            ;* outline
  CIRCLE .17,.4,.8,120,240;* mouth
  UP  .09
  LEFT   .09
  CIRCLE .04,0,1.5             ;* left eye
  RIGHT  .18
  CIRCLE .04,0,1.5             ;* right eye

This is typical of the type and power of each command that you'll come to enjoy with R/Laser.

Some commands can be integrated such as TIME12B to get a Times Roman, 12 point, bold font. Other commands are as simple as the CLEAR command which clears R/Laser variables, the keyboard buffer, printer fonts, or any select list in effect, depending upon the argument passed with CLEAR, such as CLEAR DATA to clear the keyboard buffer.

The basic R/Laser package includes an R/List report writer called FORMAT. This facility allows the creation of standard R/List reports with the additional luxury of font, margin, and column control. Also included is IMAGE, a once separate process designed to allow the printing of PCX image files in cooperation with the rest of your R/Laser document.

The development R/Laser system will run you $595.00 US. The only optional module is called R/Video which lets you have a look at what you're doing on-screen; it sells for $295.00 US and I find it well worth it. If you're of the RDK variety, Blackhawk now has an R/Laser RDK available to owners of the R/Laser development version for an additional $595.00 US. If you're not up to the RDK then R/Laser runtimes are available for $150.00 per single user.

On the surface, the most striking aspect of Blackhawk Data's new version of R/Laser, now at version 3.3, is the excellent index included in the appropriate spot -- at the back of the manual (not that it was previously anywhere else, it just wasn't there at all). If you dig a bit further, you'll uncover a wealth of support: support for Pacific Data's 25-In-1 font cartridge; support for the new HP PaintJet XL300 colour printer including the PostScript cartridge; support for the full range of HP LaserJet printers including the PCL5 language; and finally great support from the folks at Blackhawk. In addition, there are 36 fonts over two styles included with R/Laser to get you up and lasering in no time.

With the release of some new versions of products, I get a bit nervous about what's been changed (you know, enhanced) for the good of us users. R/Laser, I'm happy to state, changes and yet stays the same. The language syntax is intact, the installation process remains solid, and the quality of the enhancements runs high.

One program change I'm particularly delighted with is the compiling of R/Laser code from within the Workbench window. The prior version had you guessing as to any errors you may have created. This kept me to a 10 line maximum when creating or editing document programs. Now the compile process is two stage: once for the creation of the R/Laser pseudo code for the dictionary, and a second pass compiling the dictionary item. This second pass catches any and all errors and lets you know where they are. Now I zip through document creation without sweating bullets as to where my problems lie in wait.

To really complete the picture, I couldn't do without Blackhawk's dGT, the Database Graphics Toolkit. Advanced Revelation, R/Laser, R/Video, and dGT; this combination is limited only by the imagination. Not many AREV tools express the same power and flexibility as AREV: these do.

John Brink of Blackhawk Data Corporation can be reached at 7234 W. North Avenue, Suite 411, Elmwood Park, IL, 60635. Telephone 708-453-9590, Fax 708-453-9005.

(Volume 4, Issue 8, Pages 6,7)
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