domingo, 8 de março de 2015

Europress Software & Mini Office Amiga Review - It's a Pixel THING - Ep.#41




Microsoft Word 1.0, that would later be part of the most successful business suite for multi-tasking in a windows type of environment, was introduced, firstly, on a Macintosh computer, in 1984, the first year of the Macintosh. Word was soon followed by Excel 1.0 and Powerpoint 1.0.

A few years later, the first Microsoft Office package, featuring Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Microsoft Mail, was finally presented to the public: Microsoft Office 89 for Mac.

Office for Windows was only introduced in 1990 for Microsoft’s own powerful and improved Windows 3.0 Operating system. My first contact with Microsoft’s new environment and Office applications was in ‘92, with the upgraded Windows 3.1.

In this same year, the Amiga family also got a business suite of their own: Mini Office, from Europress Software, a company that I only knew for being the publisher of the awesome Network Q RAC Rally game for DOS, released a year later.

During the 80s the Europress group consisted of several other companies, including software development, and, with the boom of personal computers, quickly reached, in the early 90s, the top 5 largest British software houses.
It all started in 1965, year when Derek Meakin formed Europress to publish magazines and newspapers. During the eighties, with the growth of the British computer industry, Europress expanded its own publishing business and became involved in software development. Later in the decade, Europress Software was separated from the main company and inside it a new brand for video games was created – Mandarin Software – and presented to the press in, you guessed it, a Chinese restaurant in London.

In the eighties, and under the label Database Educational Software, Europress was responsible for a series of educational packages in the UK that were sold only by mail order. Then, in 1989, the Fun School 2 range of software was packaged more professionally and also placed in store shelves all around the place. These packages were available for the Zed X Spectrum, BBC Micro, Commodore 64, Acorn Electron, Amstrad CPC, Amiga, Atari ST and DOS, and went on through 1998 with the very last Fun School 7 CD-Rom set of education software. The Fun School range went on to sell more than 500,000 copies.

Also, in 1991, Europress bought Newsfield, a highly reputed publishing company responsible for the awesome, and much respected, computer and video games magazines Zzap!64 and Crash. This new branch of the Europress empire, branded Europress Impact, went on for three more years with five new publications (Sega Force, Mega Machines, N-Force, SNES Force, Amiga Force), ‘till it all collapsed in 1994.

In 2012, and under distribution by this company which name I refuse to pronounce (KOCH MEDIA), Europress developed a puzzle adventure game inspired by Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride & Prejudice that also had its debiu in movie theaters back in 2005 with academy award nominee Keira Knightley leading the cast.

Other great video game titles published under Europress Software’s label were:
• in 1992, Dojo Dan, for Commodore Amiga and with an awesome soundtrack by Allister Brimble;
• in 1996, Titanic: Adventure Out Of Time, for Windows and Macintosh;
• in 1997, Rally Championship: The X-Miles add-on, for Windows;
• in 1999, Mobil 1 Rally Championship, for Windows and PS One, and now under Actualize, the re-branded Europress.
But, in 1992, came this weird title that was bundled in a coverdisk of Amiga Action magazine #43): Unsensible Soccer, where we get to play with a team of oranges!


In 1992 came, as well, this business suite of professional software to take advantage of all the multi-tasking and graphical capabilities of the Commodore Amiga. This way, the Amiga could also be seen as a workstation rather than a simple, but powerful, games console. The usual Commodore customers would stick with the brand and potential ones would consider the Amiga platform as a serious contender of the IBM PC and Macintosh in this area, now that the more appealing and highly anticipated A1200 and A4000 were being released. Besides the price of Amiga computers being much more attractive, also this package of office software was hugely affordable compared to its Microsoft’s counterpart! Europress Mini Office’s starting price was only 59 pounds! And you could do just the same stuff and probably more with this one!

Looking at the box, its white background automatically tells us that we’re facing a set of serious software stuff for the Amiga computers. At that time there weren’t many options in this area, just some old and obsolete packages or shareware that no longer suited the need for more modern and thoughtful work.

So, let’s take a deeper look into this Mini Office. In the first of the three application disks there’s the Database, a very important tool for companies. Compared to other database programs on the market, it’s really simple to use and the manual bundled with this suite is clear and highly understandable.
The graphical environment is really good to look at, and, in the bottom, there’s some VCR style buttons for searching and saving, along with other normal functions.

In the same disk there’s a useful set of utilities application allowing users to manipulate information, format disks, delete files, rename, copy and even install Mini Office on the hard drive, if you have one on your Amiga.

As for the spreadsheet application, it works pretty much like all the others with those standard pull-down menus, but it can import ASCII files and can manage binary code, something unusual in this kind of thing back then. To scroll through the sheet we just need to use those VCR style buttons at the bottom.

Jumping right into the word processor, it’s a simple and handy tool that, unfortunately doesn’t support postscript, so, there’s only 7 different fonts to choose from, but it does, however, let us import photos and pictures into the text. All usual utilities in a word processor are present, so it does the job very well.

The graphical utility present in this package is a pretty useful way of representing boring mathematical data. It is way more attractive than just showing a bunch of numbers, right? We just need to import the data from the spreadsheet and we can now draw the graphic. There are various types to choose from and everything is displayed by icons that we can easily understand and identify. Finally, after we’re satisfied with our pretty looking graphic, we can place it into the text in the word processor, just like a picture.

Besides sharing similar design, all applications work together as one which is extremely convenient ‘cause it helps understanding, really quickly, how everything works.


To conclude, Mini Office Amiga is a really friendly package and, back then, would certainly make PC and Macintosh users blush with shame!


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