AtariWriter Tricks Null Modem Transfer to ST

by George Iken of the Houston Atari Computer Enthusiasts

    One of our Atari club members in Houston asked for help in transfer of AtariWriter 8-bit files to WordPerfect 5.1 format.  This was no minor task, as the files in question were a 290 page manuscript to be sent to an academic publisher and consisted of eight Atari DOS 3 (enhanced density) disks of data.  The transfer ultimately consisted of three steps:
  1. a null modem ASCII transfer from Atari DOS 3 5.25" media to Atari ST double density 3.5" disks
  2. a FIND and REPLACE reformatting of the ASCII files with EditPlus on the ST to replace AtariWriters ESC characters with carriage return and line feed characters
  3. cleaning up AtariWriter printer codes in WordPerfect on a PC.
    The first phase of the transfer used the AtariWriter program itself as the terminal program on the 8-bit side.  This technique used the R: (serial port RS-232) device on the Atari 8-bit as the save destination of the AtariWriter file, and works with either the cartridge version of AtariWriter or the disk version of AtariWriter Plus.  AtariWriter sends data to the R: device at 300 baud (at least that was the only speed I could get to work).  An Atari 850 interface or ICD P:R: interface is needed along with a null modem cable to connect to the ST.  The ST modem program can be the same one normally used to call a BBS (Flash II was used).  Once the data was in the ST modem program capture buffer, it was saved to disk on the ST and all further manipulation of the file was carried out on that new
file.  By saving the AtariWriter file to R1:, the technique would work with both the cartridge version of AtariWriter and the disk version of AW Plus.
Alternatively (with AtariWriter Plus only), you could also PRINT to the R: device, however this gives hard carriage returns, margins, etc in the output which are sometimes a pain to remove (also in this case all DOS 3 files would have to be converted to DOS 2.5 disks first as AtariWriter Plus does not work with DOS 3 files).

The technique used for conversion was as follows:

  1. Connect the R1: port of the Atari 850 interface to the modem port of the ST using a NULL MODEM CABLE.
  2. Load the AtariWriter (cartridge) or AtariWriter Plus (disk) program into the Atari 8-bit computer.
  3. Load Flash II into the ST and set terminal options as Half Duplex and XL/XE conversion, and set RS-232 options to 300 baud (unfortunately, that is the default R: speed from AtariWriter).  Make sure your Flash II editor buffer is large enough to hold the entire AtariWriter file (my buffer is set for 720Kb (ie enough for one double density disk), but 30 Kb should be sufficient for individual files from AtariWriter and 100Kb should be sufficient for AtariWriter Plus files).  Toggle FlashII to "terminal mode" before starting the data transfer (a right mouse click will toggle between "terminal" and "editor" mode).
  4. LOAD the 8-bit data file into AtariWriter.
  5. SAVE the data file from AtariWriter to: R1: (just enter the device name, no file name is needed)
  6. After the transfer is complete (you may monitor progress in the Flash II terminal screen, but it's easier to wait for AtariWriter to indicate the file save is complete by returning with a menu prompt), Flash II should be toggled to "editor mode" and from the FILE SAVE menu, save the file to disk on the ST (or you can CLEAR the buffer and save to disk at the Flash II prompt).  If you wish to transfer a second file, you will need to CLEAR the buffer, then return to step 4 and repeat the process til all files are transferred.
  7. Load EditPlus or EdHak on the ST (or access it as a desk accessory), and load the just saved transfer file.  The entire file displays as a single extemely long line.  Delete the header characters of AtariWriter (leave only "real" text).  Then do a find/replace search of the file, and replace all Esc characters (hold down ALT and then press 27 on the keypad) with two CR characters (hold down ALT and then press 13, and then repeat it so the replacement for the ESC character is two carriage return characters) and execute the find/replace on the entire file.  Return to the start of the file (press HOME), and do a find/replace this time, replacing each CR with a CR and LF (CR is ALT and 13, while CR and LF is ALT and 13 and then ALT and 10).  Note that at this point in EditPlus or EdHak if there are several paragraphs in the file, the single line will become several lines, each one being a separate paragraph.  Save the file at this point (keep the file name, but use a new extension name such as SEP which might mean Saved (from AtariWriter), Edited (in EditPlus), and in Paragraph (hard return between paragraphs) ASCII format.  Printer codes were not changed during editing in EditPlus, as each wordprocessor uses different codes to set font style (underline, bold, etc), but if you know the codes, it may be easier to change them in EditPlus than in the wordprocessor (step 9).
  8. Load an ST or PC wordprocessor and FILE OPEN the ASCII files on the 3.5" disk (I use Calligrapher on the ST, and the procedure is acutally FIND, OPEN PAK, IMPORT/EXPORT, IMPORT ASCII PARA BASED to bring the file into the word processor).  The ST or PC wordprocessor does the word wrapping. Note: word wrap could be done in Edit Plus/EdHak, and the file imported as line based ASCII, but it is harder to discern paragraphs because there is not a blank line between paragraphs with that procedure.
  9. A FIND and REPLACE is used in the wordprocessor to change any printer codes to the desired font style.

George Iken is a member of the Houston Atari Computer Enthusiasts, an active Atari user group in Houston.  He can be contacted at HACE, PO Box 820335, Houston TX 77282-0335.