EZ as a Word Processor

In this article, Terry Gliedt introduces us to the Andrew project, and gives us a taste of one aspect of it: the ez editor, which can edit text and graphics, and can be used as a word processor.

AUIS had its roots in 1982 when Carnegie Mellon University and the IBM Corporation decided to jointly develop a campus computing facility based on personal computers to replace the time-sharing system then on campus. IBM provided not only generous funding, but also some talented individuals and access to IBM development programs.

The result was a graphical user interface we know as the Andrew User Interface System and a file system, the Andrew File System. The file system formed the basis of Transarc Corporation's Distributed File System (DFS) and is offered as part of the Open System Foundation software.

The Andrew Consortium, composed of a number of corporations and universities, funds the current development of AUIS. AUIS is available on a wide variety of platforms including Linux, AIX, Solaris, Ultrix and HP UX, as well as others.

In June, version 6.3 of the Andrew User Interface System (AUIS) was released by the Andrew Consortium. This release provided support for Linux and shortly thereafter, the package auis63L0-wp.tgz was made available at sunsite.unc.edu in /pub/Linux/X11/andrew. This particular package contains just a small portion of AUIS that is suitable as a word processor. This article will describe some of the word processing aspects of AUIS. Future articles in Linux Journal will describe other pieces of AUIS.

EZ is Easy

ez is the simplest, most general AUIS application possible. It loads a document (or creates a new one) and displays it in a window. That's all. Everything else that happens is controlled by the document itself. For example, if you are editing a text document, you get all the text-editing commands. If you're editing a picture, you get picture-editing commands. If you're editing a text document with pictures, you get both, depending on which piece you are working on at the time. The application, ez, doesn't care (as if any software really cares).

Figure 1. Sample ez Window


At an initial glance, the document you see displayed by ez appears to be What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG). Upon further investigation, however, you'll see that it really is not. While the document appears with various fonts and pictures as you might see on paper, the application does not enforce any concept of a “page”. If you make the screen extra wide or narrow, the text will re-flow to fit the window, not some notation of a page. Documents are printed in PostScript™ (well, not precisely, but that is what comes out in the end), and of course the X fonts do not quite match those used when printing. So ez might better be said to be a WYSIWYG-almost editor. One pundit calls this “WYSLRN” (What You See Looks Really Neat).

The Basic Layout

In Figure 1 you can see a sample of a tiny document. The application and name of the file appear in the title bar. A small message area appears at the bottom of the document. Notice there is a menubar for pull-down menus at the top of the document. You can select these menus as you'd normally expect. As a shortcut AUIS applications will pop-up the menus when you press the middle mouse button (or both buttons simultaneously for a two-button mouse).

The scroll bar looks rather Motif-like, but behaves differently. You can scroll forward by pressing the left mouse button, as usual, but unlike some scrollbars, you can scroll back by pressing the right mouse button. In larger documents you can “grab” the “box” in the scroll bar to quickly scroll through the document.

Most commonly used functions have been assigned to a sequence of keys. Many of the common Emacs keybindings apply to ez (e.g. ^x^c). Several function keys have been assigned useful bindings. F1-3 will invoke the Copy, Cut and Paste functions. AUIS applications will remember the past few Copy/Cut buffers and F4 will allow you to Paste them in your document and then cycle through them. This allows you to Paste two or three objects by simply pressing 4 a few times without needing to repeat the select-copy-paste sequences. I use this feature all the time and feel crippled when I work with other systems that do not have this capability.

F5 will italicize the selected text and F6 will make it bold. F7 (Plainer) will remove the last style applied against an area. For instance, if you press F5, F6 and then F7, your text will be left in italics because the Plainer function removed the bold style. F8 (Plainest) will remove all nested styles applied to the area.

AUIS applications are highly tailorable. Almost everything described thus far can be made to behave differently. The look and feel I describe here reflects the auis63L0-wp distribution. A future article will describe the various configuration files and settings and how you can control these.

This distribution of AUIS has over 800KB of help text (and this is about one-third of the total). There is extensive help information on how to use all the aspects of the system, including its configuration and personalization files. After installing AUIS, probably the first command a novice would enter is auishelp.

Figure 2 shows a second window of the same file. You can, of course, edit more than one file at a time. You can also have two windows on the same data. If you enter data or make changes in either window, the other is immediately updated (if the changes are in a part of the document that is visible).

Figure 2. Sample Split Window