LaserWriter Users' Notes

Source: Chuck Walker, "LaserWriter Users' Notes," SMUG Newsletter, 2:3 (August 1985), p. 3.
Location: M1007, Apple Computer Inc. Papers, Series 12, Box 44, Folder 10.

While Apple's LaserWriter brings the Macintosh a quantum leap forward in the realm of quality visual communication (this newsletter was produced in its entirety on a Mac 512 with a LaserWriter) there are some serious omissions, quirks and drawbacks one must come to grips with. The Mac's ability to generate expressive typography and graphics on the screen and translate these directly to the lmageWriter is its major advantage over any other personal computer. Part of this ability is the idea of fonts as interchangeable resources. With a modicum of taste and an eye for esthetic sensibilities, amazing results can be achieved by anyone, regardless of their level of computer literacy (forget all of those Mac flyers with headlines of 24 point, bold, italic, outline, shadow Chicago; bordered in 24 point New York robots). Reducing the choice of fonts to two-- and the two most over used fonts in the world-- has sapped much of the unique character of Mac generated communication. At present, the LaserWriter will not even do a halfway decent job of printing Macintosh fonts: they are printed at a poorly scaled and badly spaced 60% of the size they appear on the screen. Apple has, however, shown an incredible amount of foresight in choosing to use fonts designed and encoded to ROM by Merganthaller, the premiere font designer in both the digital and analog typesetting world. This allows for the possibility of adding thousands of professional quality fonts to the LaserWriter at some future point in time. However, this has not even reached the rumor stage, much less been elevated to airware status.

The first surprise is the LaserWriter will not run on a 128K Mac. (I could have sworn I saw a thin Mac hooked into the net in those Mac Office ads Apple runs.) This means there is no way to use even a small ram disk with the printer.

The next exercise is making enough room in the System folder for all of the new files necessary to run the printer. The Printer Install program offers the option of installing either the LaserWriter (24K), the ImageWriter (25K) or both printer drivers. One also has three options for how many sizes of laser fonts (Times, Helvetica, Courier and Symbol, all available in point sizes from 9 to 24 point) to install in the System file. It also installs a Laser Prep file (26K) and the Choose Printer desk accessory (8K). With all of this additional software, a System folder can easily exceed 30OK; which leaves no room for an average size application along with its temporary files. Also, the Choose Printer desk accessory installed is version 1. 1. By running the System Update program on the Laser Install disk I was able to get the Printer Installer to install version 1.5.

The LaserWriter will reduce or enlarge a document from 25% to 400%. This range is not mentioned anywhere in the documentation -which adds some zoom-in abilities to programs such as MacDraw. If one chooses to fill a 16 page document (4x4) with an illustration and print it at 25%, one gets a one page document with the ability to view it at 4 times enlargement for detail work. Also, all text (laser fonts only) is reduced proportionally. This does present some potential difficulty as the largest size type one may have at25% is 12 point. Conversely, it is possible to get clean 192 point display type by printing 48 point type at 400%. The Drawing Size dialog boxes in MacDraw and Mac Project automatically adjust to the selected percentage of enlargement or reduction. The application which would benefit the most from the ability to print at a reduced size is MacPaint. However, since the percentage of reduction is chosen in the Page Setup dialog box, and since MacPaint has none, there is no way to use this ability. When one tries to use the Page Setup command in the Finder, and print directly from the Finder, MacPaint will default to 100%.

There are numerous other delightful features, such as MacDraws ability to print perfect screen tints; and hideous drawbacks, such as MacProject's inability to print anything other than outline style text in a resource chart. I would be interested in hearing from anyone who finds additional features and most interested in finding out how to circumvent some of the quirks. After all, it might just be me.

Document created on 5 June 2000;