Lasting Impressions: Bitstream Makeup Helps you look good

by Alan Zisman (c) 1992. Originally published in Our Computer Player, November 1992

Even though you might not know it to look at the typical printed output, software running under DOS has supported fancy fonts for years. Before the scalable type managers (ATM and TrueType) that came along with Windows 3.x, fonts on a PC meant Bitstream soft fonts. DOS word processors of the late '80's, like Word Perfect and MS-Word, and even Borland's Quattro-Pro spreadsheet came with a free Bitstream Fontware font installer, and a sample font or two.

While many people did purchase and use these fonts, laser printers were expensive and rare. And PC font technology meant bit-mapped fonts. Seperate fonts for each size desired, for bold and italic, for portrait and landscape printing. Many megs of hard drive space (at a time when a 40 meg hard drive was considered reasonably large) were required, and it seemed to take forever to generate and install a range of font styles and sizes. As a result, Mac users used lots of fonts. PC users mostly printed in Courier.

When Windows 3.0 brought in the possibility of scalable fonts (one font for all sizes, portrait and landscape, screen and printer), Bitstream tried to keep up, releasing FaceLift, to support its new Speedo font format. Although a perfectly fine product, it lost the marketing battle to Adobe's Type Manager (ATM), while Hewlett Packard released Intellifonts bundled with its newer LaserJet and Deskjet printers, and Microsoft bundled TrueType support with its Windows 3.1 update.

Scalable fonts are great, but once these fonts are installed on a system, they can be used for much more than simply displaying straight lines of text--- letters and words can be turned into little works of art, into designs and logos. Microsoft has included a little utility, WordArt with the newest versions of Word for Windows and Publisher, while high-priced illustration programs like Corel Draw give users tremendous power to integrate type into designs.

Coming right up the middle is Bitstream's new program, MakeUp, which they describe as "the most fun, easy-to-use, and powerful program available for producing graphic creations with text and shapes". MakeUp combines much more power than the simple WordArt, while being much easier to use (and cheaper) than the high-end illustration packages.

Opening MakeUp gives a page view, with another of those tool bars, which seem to be in every new Windows program these days, running along the top. At first glance, some of the icons seem mysterious, but an hour or so running through the manual's tutorials, and their uses will seem obvious.

Like AmiPro and many publishing programs, MakeUp works with frames... make a text frame, select a font and type in some text (only a line at a time). MakeUp supports Windows scalable fonts installed with ATM, TrueType, or Bitstream's Speedo format for FaceLift, and includes five fonts, which are shipped in all three of those formats. Text is entered into a dialog box, appearing on your page when you click Okay.

Once your text appears on screen, you can resize it, rotate it (to any angle, accurate to 0.1 degree), or apply any of a wide variety of special effects. You can curve your text to any of the 44 shapes included, or use the Bezier tools to create your own shape. You can make the letters 3-D or embossed, and add colors, patterns, or a range of gradient fills. (It supports up to 16.7 million colours, even if your card and monitor can't display that many). You can wrap text around a full or half circle. With a simple click, you can alter the text's perspective, add shadows, or mask it, to create white text on a dark background.

MakeUp is not a full fledged draw program. It doesn't let you draw complex shapes right on your page. You can, however, add lines, boxes, circles, rectangles, polygons, and squares right from the tool bar. Like all tools, these are easily configurable, with Control-click bringing up a dialogue box. As well, you can import clip-art onto your page in a wide range of bitmap and vector formats. To get you started, the program includes about 3 1/2 meg of clipart, along with a built in viewer. And as a frivolous extra, when the program is minimized, the icon winks at you!

As their quote suggests, the program is powerful, fun and easy to use. My 11-year old daughter, Kate, quickly used it to produce a series of fancy "Kate the Great" posters, complete with colourful gradient fills. Even in black and white laser printouts, they looked attractive and professional.

Unfortunately, the program still has some rough edges. Screen redraw time was often slow on my 386-25, and the program had to redraw often, after each dialogue box. Some of the dialogue box options are 'hidden'... for instance, to get a new clipart library into the viewer, a user must learn to look in the window's control menu. And I may be jaded after reviewing Lotus SmartPic's 2000+ graphics, but the 173 graphics included seemed fairly uninteresting (maps of each US state, but no other maps, for instance).

Worst of all, the program has problems relating to other Windows programs, an almost fatal flaw in a program aiming to create logos and designs for inclusion in other program's output. MakeUp will let you export its output in any of 16 bitmap or vector formats, and in this way, your creation can be brought into most word processing, desktop publishing, or graphics programs. It would be more convenient, however, to be able to use the Window's clipboard, Dynamic Data Exchange, or OLE features, and MakeUp claims to support these features.

This support isn't working right at this point, however. BitStream technical support confirmed that it simply is not possible to use the ClipBoard to copy and paste into AmiPro, for example. Trying to use MakeUp to insert an OLE object into both AmiPro and Microsoft Publisher caused MakeUp to crash without inserting the object. Hopefully, version 1.1, which is being released as I write, will solve these problems.

MakeUp successfully takes a middle ground. It won't let you create an entire drawing, like an illustration program. It also won't cost you as much, or take anywhere near the time to learn or use. It excels in letting you use text and simple shapes to produce eye-catching designs. If you want to add logos and unusual headlines to your posters, leaflets, advertisements, and other printed output, and if you are prepared to put up with a few version 1.0 rough edges, give it a try.

PUMA rating
Performance: 3 -- Slow screen redraws could cause frustration
Usability: 2 -- Problems with OLE and sometimes obscure icons and menu structure lowered score
Manual: 4 -- Good division into tutorial and reference sections
Availability: 3 -- At all the usual outlets

Average: 3 -- A useful, though not perfect product

Bitstream Inc.
215 First Street
Cambridge, MA
02142-1270 USA

list price: $149(US)
street price: $129.99(CDN)

req: Windows 3.x, 2 meg+ memory, program requires 4 meg hard drive space, optional clipart requires 3.7 meg space.

(Note from the year 2003): The above article was originally published in 1992, as a review. A decade and more later, I've gotten a series of emails from Bitstream fans hoping that I could sell them a copy of this software or direct them to a place where it is still available. While I have reviewed software since 1991, I am not a vendor of r any products. I suggest to everyone looking for copies of older software to check at eBay or at you check on my Files webpages, you'll find links to a number of (mostly freeware) downloadable software, some of which may be good replacements for older programs.
-- AZ (September 15, 2003)

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan