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ASCII Tools Documentation

  1. 1. General

ASCII Tools was initially created in 1988 by D. Karalis and developped until the end of 2004. Its virgin name was CPCWRITE. The main idea was to create a set of Tools for the CPC range machines similar to those for the MS-DOS computers.

For many years, CPCWRITE was left unfinished. In 2004, the grow of interest for the CPC machines in the internet pushed the development of ASCII Tools. The main task was to create a set of tools to deal with big source code files like C, Fortran, Turbo Pascal, transferred from Windows or MS-DOS Systems to Amstrad machines. Code was developed on an upgraded Amstrad CPC6128 that is still working properly after 17 years.


  1. 2. Requirements (CPC range)
  1. 2.1 Minimum Configuration

>CPC computer

                > 1 floppy drive
                > CP/M plus
                > 57k TPA
  1. 2.2 Installation

Tools can be directly executed by editing A>TOOLS under CP/M plus.

If you decide to boot from ASCII TOOLS original disk then insert disk in drive A of your CPC and

   -load CP/M plus by typing |CPM.
   -If a memory expansion is present this will be automatically verified. 
    The amount of free RAM will appear on screen assigned as drive C:
   -type A>MODE 2 to shift to 640x200 (320x200,160x200 are also available)
   -type A>FAST to activate fast CRT I/O
   -type A>MEMCHK to check that you have the required amount of TPA (464/664)
   -type SETB xx to load drive B drivers (if present)
    where xx:
   80 DS for a 80 track double head drive (720k)
   80 SS for a 80 track single head drive (360k)
   40 DS for a 40 track double head drive (360k)
   40 SS for a 40 track single head drive (default - 180k)
   -type A>palette 0,23 or 0,63 to set colours in case of a color monitor
   -type A>TOOLS

Any other drive B driver can also be installed prior ASCII TOOLS execution, instead of SETB, eg. RamDos (800k) or MS800 drivers (360k).

  1. 2.3 Expansions and peripherals

Tools support most of Amstrad peripherals such as:

a) RAM expansion b) second floppy disk drive c) Hard disk d) Audio drive (Tape or Audio CD) e) RS232C Amstrad Serial Interface f) Centronics Parallel Printer

User can use the above peripherals after their drivers have been installed. Peripherals topology is shown below.

                               ASCII Tools
       |               |           |           |               |
    Drive A         Drive B       RAM      Hard Disk         Audio
                                |      |
                            Internal  Expansion

  1. 3. Drive Definitions

Drives can be defined when entering filenames. The following can be used:

A: Internal FD B: External FD C: Memory Expansion D: Dobbertin HD20 hard disc ...

Drive Definitions are assigned with the current CP/M plus version.

  1. 4. Commands
  1. 4.1 Getting Started

- Verify.

 If a new file is imported from other operating systems or Word Processors,
 then it should be Verified before any further processing.
 This is mainly to check if text is suitable for an 80-column screen size.
 The following tasks will be performed:
 > Counting of Lines
 > CPC-80x25 CRT conversion warning
 > Length Check (k).

- Convert.

 Converts any text file that exceeds 80 columns width into a 80 column file.
 Such texts can be imported from other Systems (Windows) or can be created
 using other word processors (ProWort, Borland Editors etc).

- View.

 Prints on screen an ASCII text file. CNTRL+S pauses scrolling. Line numbering
 option available in Overwrite mode.

- View RAM data

 Shows data stored in cache RAM.
  1. 4.2 Large Text File Support (LTFS)

All ASCII Tools commands Support Large Text files.

To transfer MSDOS or Windows ASCII files on an Amstrad, the internal drive A is normally used. That means that the user has to split the virgin file into pieces of 178k (max) before transfer.

- Build.

 Merges two or more text files. This is to re-build source files that were
 transfered to the CPC 3" drive from other Systems.

- Demolish.

 The opposite of Build command. A text file is divided into smaller files 
 of 30k each that CPC can easily deal with using commercial Word Processors.

- Blocks.

 Text between two horizontal blank lines is named block (Paragraph). Block 
 routine splits the source file into blank lines and blocks of text.
 Results are text files named *.BLK in ascending order 
    1.BLK      (30 lines of text, paragraph 1)
    2.BLK      (1 blank line)
    3.BLK      (1 blank line)
    40.BLK     (100 lines of text, pargraph i)

User can post process each block separetely and build the initial source file when task has been finished. Blocks can be also appended in Cache Memory. Block routine is drive-demanding. Source file, Destination drive (C:, B: A:), temporary file (B:temp) and maximum directory entries (64/128/other) are required as an input. If during blocking directory becomes full, user will be asked to insert a new disk in Destination drive. If a memory expansion is present, job is less time consuming.

CP/M TYPE command can also be used (A>Type C:*.BLK) to check all block files.

In case of source codes, block routine can split procedures, functions, and main code modules into seperate blocks.

  1. 4.3 Peripherals

- Print.

 Sends text file to the parallel Centronics printer port. No specific printer is assigned.
 Printers used for Windows Systems worked properly.

- Transfer

 Copies a text file from one CPC disk drive to one other.

- Export.

 Sends a text file to AUX physical device (optional serial interface RS232C) 

- Copy to RAM.

 Copies a text file to cache memory. Data can be appended to cache memory
 contents (Append) or not (Restart). A memory index will appear on screen
 that shows current cache memory contents size. If needed, the files are
 automatically converted to a 80 column file. TOOLS.HLP help file can be
 copied to cache RAM for on board help.

- Paste from RAM.

 Paste cache memory contents to a specific destination (FDs, memory expansion).      

- Reserve.

 Reserves disk space on a specific drive. Average reservation size is
 required (k). There is an option for on board progress index but the total
 processing time will be increased. Note that files that exceed 64k can only
 be accessed by special Word Processors, in blocks of 64k.
 In case of a second floppy drive (3.5 or 5.25"), the maximum file that can
 be created is 796k (RamDos drivers). 
  1. 4.4 Typing

- Create

 A very simple Editor just to be used as a simple Notepad. 80 charachters per
 line can be edited then Return should be pressed for the next line.

 To Quit: >S and then RETURN on a new line
 To paste cache memory contents: >P and then RETURN on an new line. There is
 no size limit.
  1. 4.5 Commands and Modifications

- Crypt.

 Converts a text file to a cryptogram. The  file is then impossible to be read
 by normal humans. 

- Revert.

 Converts a cryptogram to a normal text file.      

- Capitals.

 Converts a text file to a new one that contains only capital letters.

- Small.

 Converts a text file to a new one that contains only small letters.

- Delete.

 Deletes lines from a text file.  Start and End address (line Number) is 

- Insert.

 Inserts a text file into one other at a predefined location (line number).

- Shrink.

 Shrinks and modifies text width to a specified value (1-79).

- Search.

 Searches a string through a text file. On board and Disk results.

- Columns.

 Merges two shrinked text files (Newspaper or Journal format).
 Total width 80 charachters per line. 

- Numbering.

 Create a text with ascending numbers plus 2 chars.
 eg. {01}
  1. 4.6 Other

- Logbook

 On board Logbook. There is space for 30 entries. If it runs out of space,
 a quit warning will appear on screen. Reloading resets Logbook as beyond
 30 entries system may crash.

- Help.

 On board Help. System will load Help file from disk.

- Quit

 Quit to CP/M plus. This updates logbook and resets cache memory.
  1. 4.7 Advanced

- Out.

 Translates the specified source text file to an ASCII code numbers file.
 Each number is written followed by <RETURN>.
 . .
 Note that - Out - command may export a lot amount of data.

- In

 Translates the specified source ASCII code numbers file to the equivalent
 text file. The source file must follow the form described previously.

- SuperPen

 Direct single line editing through ASCII code numbers. SuperPen can be used
 to import special charachters in a line. Charachters in ranges 0-31 and 128
 to 255 may appear different if accessed by other Word Processors, Printers
 or even CP/M plus. A 40 charachters preview and a total view of the
 supported ASCII charachters will appear on screen. For the advanced user,
 SuperPen supports multi line editing by controlling ASCII 13 & 10 code
 See Amstrad Manual, Chapter 7, page 8 & 54 for more details.
  1. 5. Comments

I/O errors are not taken into account. If an I/O error happens then system returns to CP/M plus. In this case user has to reload.

The disk contains:

1 - TOOLS.COM - CP/M plus executable 2 - TOOLS.HLP - Help file

3 - DEMO.TXT - An ASCII file as imported from Windows Systems and Internet.

4 - DIR.COM - CP/M plus command 5 - SHOW.COM - CP/M plus command 6 - PALETTE.COM - CP/M plus command

7 - MODE.COM - CRT adapter resolution tuner 8 - FAST.COM - CRT adapter I/O accelerator 9 - MEMCHK.COM - TPA check in order to run ASCII Tools 10- SETB.COM - Drive B drivers

  1. 6. Software updates

- February 2004 -

ASCII Tools v.1 was presented at the CPC Meeting II organized by TFM

Software Updates:

- April 2004

1. Shrink command modified for robust shrinking 2. Modified Help text 3. Code checked with 512k of RAM expansion 4. User Interface modified and simplified 5. Code checked at maximum external drive capacity of 796k (RamDos)

ASCII Tools v.2 published for free download at PCW king Internet site

- May 2004 - Developing v.3

1. Print command checked with EPSON Stylus 640 ink Jet Printer and

  Hewlett Packard 420 Laser Printer

2. On board Help moved to disk 3. Software Updates history placed on disk 4. Left side Margin Option added on Print command 5. Reservation Command tuned 6. Reservation Progress-Index Option 7. Improved build command, 50% less time when building files 8. Size calculation tuned during Verification 9. Cache RAM modified for multi file loading, appending and restart. 10. A Powerful Paragraph/Block split Routine added 11. FAST.COM and MODE.COM commands included in the original disk taken from

   Dobbertin RAM expansion installation disk.

- July 2004

1. Routine added to translate text files to equivalent ASCII code numbers 2. Routine added to translate ASCII code numbers to text file 3. SuperPen developed to create single text lines of any ASCII code supported by the system 4. MEMCHK.COM, a TPA check routine included in disk taken from Janus/ADA installation disk. 5. SETB.COM included in the original disk taken from XEXOR disk 6. CP/M plus loader with RAM expansion recognition placed in original disc for fast boot. 7. Several CP/M plus commands included in the disk.

- August 2004

Project terminated and v.3 was published in PCW king Internet site