BANK STREET WRITER III: Word Processing for Almost Everyone
Marlys M. Styne
BANK STREET WRITER III, for IBM and Apple microcomputers, is an excellent beginning word-processing program. Not to be confused with the original forty-column Apple and Commodore versions which don't support underlining or boldfacing, this program offers everything a first-year word-processing novice needs and enough advanced features for everyone who does not need automatic footnoting and indexing, windows, or blinding speed.
Although BANK STREET WRITER has been almost unknown at the college level, version III deserves to find a place in two-year colleges. This version should also provide an alternative to more complex word-processing programs for remedial-developmental and first-year students everywhere, as well as for occasional users at all levels.
The two-disk program includes a 60,000 word spelling checker and thesaurus, as well as a calculator and an instantly available word count. Unlike the older version, BANK STREET WRITER III permits filename extensions. It can be used on a hard disk. Best of
all, it is extremely easy to learn and use, requiring neither a manual nor a long training session. Beginners can be "up and writing" in a few minutes.
BANK STREET WRITER III (IBM version) opens to a writing screen, a large rectangle (white on blue on a color monitor) with only five necessary bits of information surrounding it. "TYPE IN TEXT AT CURSOR," "MOVE WITH left, up, down, or right arrows" (these are pictured), "PRESS ESC FOR MENU," "DATA FILES IN DRIVE B:" (or A or C), and "PRESS ALT-H FOR HELP" are the only instructions a beginner is likely to need. Pressing ALT-H brings up a list of ALT combinations for larger cursor moves and sixteen functions, including boldface, center, indent, and underline. The commands are easy to remember; as you might expect, ALT-B is for boldface and ALT-C is for center.
ESCape brings up the one-line function menu to the screen: File, Edit, Spell, Options, Disk, and Quit. Each option, with its short pulldown menu, can be highlighted by using an arrow key or selected by typing F, E, S, O, D, or Q.
File includes the save, retrieve, clear, and print functions, all selectable by their first letters or the up-down arrows; edit includes block erasing, moving, and copying of up to fifteen lines at a time, as well as find and replace.
Spell permits a word count at any time and a spelling check of the whole document, or the portion following the cursor if the dictionary disk has been loaded.
Options are to change formats (margins, line spacing, page numbers, headers, location of data files, printer settings, etc.), to set tabs, and to define the function keys.
Disk permits renaming or deleting files on disk, printing a disk catalog, or formatting a data disk.
Quit reminds you if you haven't saved a file and asks if you're sure you want to quit.
Pressing ESCape from the functions menu brings back the writing screen.
From the writing screen, printer codes may be entered between ALT-F markers. A long quotation can be indented and single-spaced within double-spaced text with ALT-Q. ALT-S will check
the spelling of the word at the cursor. ALT-W will produce three kinds of word searches: a wildcard search, a phonetic search, or an anagram search. Text reformatting is automatic.
Although BANK STREET WRITER III is not a "what you see is what you get" program, printing to the screen makes it possible to see how a document will look. Only special features such as underlining and boldface do not show. It is also possible to see page breaks before printing. File size is apparently limited only by computer memory, and printing of multiple files makes papers of any length possible.
For experienced users slowed down by even the brief pulldown menus, there are programmable function keys. Forty keyboard macros of up to sixty-five characters each are possible, using the function keys alone and with CONTROL, ALT, and SHIFT. One keystroke can retrieve a file and insert it in the text at the cursor; another can save a file; still another can print, bypassing the series of questions and prompts which ordinarily precede printing. It is also possible to attach such commands as "delete word" or "delete line" to function keys.
BANK STREET WRITER III includes an excellent, short tutorial, and an adequate manual, as well as a separate utility program for copying or backing up files and disks, printing multiple files, copying a file with line feeds added, and displaying a disk catalog.
BANK STREET WRITER III has a few limitations and problems. It is relatively slow, but not too slow for a deliberate, reflective writer. Still, marking a block of text to move, copy, or erase can be tedious. The spelling checker is rather slow, but this built-in checker has an advantage: only one disk change, from program to dictionary disk as soon as the program is loaded, is necessary during a writing or editing session. The suggested spelling corrections are occasionally wrong or inappropriate; the most annoying problem that I've found is the suggestion of "al right" as a correction for "alright." The spelling checker sometimes stops on correctly spelled words, but this problem sends students to a printed dictionary and may make them feel good about outsmarting a machine.
I consider BANK STREET WRITER III ideal for my community college first-year students for several reasons. First, I am teaching writing, not word processing. I cannot afford class time to teach a word-processing program, and with BANK STREET WRITER III, my students
can write, save, print, and hand in a short first draft during their first computer lab session. Second, BANK STREET WRITER III is non-threatening. There are no dense menus or cryptic command lines to puzzle beginners. Students gain control of the whole program in a short time. Simple pulldown menus are self-explanatory, screen warnings make it nearly impossible to lose one's work, and advanced users can bypass both menus and warnings by using the function keys.
Also, BANK STREET WRITER III is not only easy to learn and use, but it is nearly impossible to forget. There are absolutely no commands to memorize; everything is on the screen. A student may be away from the computer for months or years and still be able to come back to write a paper almost immediately. Finally, since so little time is invested in learning BANK STREET WRITER, anyone who wants to move to a faster, full-featured program may do so without a sense of wasted time. BANK STREET WRITER can always be kept handy until a more complex program begins to make sense.
The original IBM version of BANK STREET WRITER worked very well for my English composition students. BANK STREET WRITER III, with its added features, works better and faster. It really is a word-processing program for almost everyone.
TITLE: BANK STREET WRITER III MARKETING ORGANIZATION: Scholastic, Inc. P.O. Box 7502 2931 East McCarty Street Jefferson City, MO 65102 (800) 325-6149 SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS: (IBM version) 128 K, DOS 2.0 or higher) (Apple version) 128 K Both versions not copy protected. PRICE: IBM, $99.95; five-copy lab pack, $159.95 Apple, $79.95; five-copy pack, $129.95(This program, with a different manual for home use, is sold by Broderbund Software and called BANK STREET WRITER PLUS.)