SINCE the hurried launch of the QL, Sinclair Research has been promising a package of routines and programs which will provide a better interface between SuperBasic and QDOS. At the same time this would add commands and functions which are useful but which are not included on the basic machine.
QL Toolkit, written by Tony Tebby, is the result and provides a host of software extensions which are split into functions in the form of SuperBasic commands, machine code programs, SuperBasic programs, filters and founts. The extensions can be booted into memory on power-up, using the function keys as usual. Once loaded a digital clock is displayed in window #0 the time on which can be altered using other functions provided within the package.
Once loaded it is possible to toggle between command entry, performed in window #0 and a SuperBasic full screen editor which highlights SuperBasic lines containing errors.
Other SuperBasic extensions include commands to check, on QDOS, jobs currently running. Those allow the user to multitask machine code jobs from SuperBasic and to alter their priorities. A set of demonstration routines is available for those who do not know how to use 68000 code but who want to see QDOS multitasking in action.
Other extensions deal with files and microdrives. One command gives a flexible 'read device directory' function which can be used to page through lists of files on microdrive rather than watching them go scrolling by at high speed.
It is also possible to use a form of random access storage with files on microdrive. Those react in a similar way to disc random access but recall of data is, of course, significantly slower.
Filters, if you did not know, are programs which perform single operations on input data before passing it to another program for output. QL Toolkit has seven of those including a conversion to upper case routine, and routines to copy, concatenate and split files into pages.
The machine code programs within the package are mainly examples for the multitasking extensions. They include a clock with hands, an alarm clock and some graphics demonstrations.
The SuperBasic routines, for the large part, consist of file copiers using one or two microdrives. It is possible to make a full copy of all files on a microdrive in less than two minutes or to select files for one or multiple copies. The last two programs rely on the user putting the names of the files to be copied into data statements within the routine.
No toolkit package would be complete without its copy routines and these do their work with efficiency. As it is possible to trap software copying programs you will find that you cannot make a master copy of such products as Psion's QL Chess but that the copiers come in handy when you have a lot of raw data to duplicate.
Despite its heady price the Toolkit does the QL justice and should find a place in any QL owner's library because it accomplishes a variety of involved tasks quickly and efficiently.
Unfortunately, if you intend purchasing it you should also buy the QL Technical Manual. The documentation provided with QL Toolkit is excellent but if you want to exploit it to the full the technical manual should be at your side. Another first class product from Sinclair Research.
|Publisher Sinclair Research Price £24.95|