S2E41 Atari ST Writer – Supplement

This episode features ST Writer, originally released in 1985 by Atari.  It was developed by Dan Oliver and John Feagans in 2 weeks as a direct port of AtariWriter from the Atari’s 8 bit computer line.

Podcast: Download

If you like this episode, or the Atari ST, you may like my other work “1632 ATARI podcaST” found here: https://1632podcast.info

Box and Supplement Scans

ST Writer was free software from Atari.  It was distributed in electronic form only via the Atari BBS and magazine disk inserts.


ST Writer in Action

For Atari 8 bit readers, the ST machine must first be booted to the operating system before launching a program:

STWriter Boot 1


The GEM desktop (hard drive as device C).  I prefer a Little Blue Desktop rather than the Little Green Desktop:

STWriter Boot 2


TOS version:

STWriter TOS and GEM


Open the drive, navigate to the folder holding the ST Writer program, and double click STWRITER.PRG to launch:

STWriter Load


Main menu (without GEM enabled, pre version 2)

STWriter Main Menu


Main menu with colors switched via Transform.  Colors carry over into the editor as well:

STWriter Transform


Enabling GEM from the main menu via mouse left click (in version 3, but works the same in all all versions above 2):

STWriter Enabling GEM


Main menu (with GEM enabled, version 3, with About displayed):

STWriter Main Menu V3 GEM On


Main menu (with GEM enabled, version 4):

STWriter Main Menu V4 GEM On


About version 4:




The edit screen as it appears when creating a new document (version 1).  The other versions are similar, but include additional information in the inverse display window:

STWriter Create



Without GEM

Enter the filename:

STWriter Delete T1


Confirm the delete:

STWriter Delete T2


File deleted confirmation:

STWriter Delete T3


With GEM

Selecting the filename:

STWriter Delete G1


Confirm the delete:

STWriter Delete G2


File deleted confirmation:

STWriter Delete G3



This is what editing an original AtariWriter document looks like when editing with AtariWriter:

STWriter AtariWriter Editing


Thought ST Writer is AtariWriter compatible, if you do not import it through the “RECEIVE” or “AtariWriter” menu options, it is completely useless without extensive manual reformatting.  This shows editing a non-imported AtariWriter (original) file (same as above).  It needs extensive reformatting:

STWriter Edit Imported AW


This shows editing a properly imported AtariWriter (original) file (same as above).  No reformatting is needed:

STWriter Edit AtariWriter File Imported Good


The first version of ST Writer won’t import AtariWriter Plus or AtariWriter 80 files properly, though later versions of ST Writer do.  These two screen shots show the very top and bottom of an non imported AtariWriter Plus document.  Extensive formatting is required for it to be useful:

STWriter Edit AWP File 1

STWriter Edit AWP File 2



Confirmation when GEM is not enabled:

STWriter Format 1


Confirmation with GEM enabled:

STWriter Format 2


INDEX of Files

First select the screen or printer:

STWriter Index 1


Then enter the directory to display:

STWriter Index 2


Files are displayed, with ST Writer files tagged.  And you are given the opportunity to print:

STWriter Index 3


Files are tagged with TM (trademark) in the latest versions of ST Writer:

STWrtier Index 4



Enter the name of the file to load (non GEM):

ST Writer Load 1


If there is an unsaved file in memory you will be prompted to erase it:

STWriter Load 2


Loading with GEM enabled is a much simpler affair:

STWriter Load GEM



First select output to Printer, Disk, or Screen:

STWriter Print 1


Enter the number of copies:

STWriter Print 2


Select if you want to print the whole document or not.  If not you will also enter the start and end pages:

STWriter Print 3


Printing with GEM is much simpler.  All the options are presented at once:

STWriter Print Gem


While printing to either screen or printer, you can press control-s to pause printing:

STWriter Print 4


Printing to the screen with the output paused.  Any key resumes:

STWriter Print 5


When printing to disk file, nothing is output to the screen except the message “Printing to disk file.”:

STWriter Print 6



Enter the filename to save to:

STWriter Save 1


If the file exists, you will be prompted to overwrite it:

STWriter Save 2


Again, saving with GEM is much easier:

STWriter Save GEM


RECEIVE File from 850 / AtariWriter

Without GEM Enabled

With version 1 the only option is to receive via null serial connection to an Atari 850 interface connected to the Atari 8 bit computer:

STWriter Receive 1


With later versions, you can choose to receive from null modem connection or not:

STWriter Receive V3 1


If choosing not to receive from null mode, you are asked if you want to load from disk:

STWriter Receive V3 2


When loading from file, you need to enter the filename to load from:

STWriter Receive V3 3


With GEM Enabled

With GEM enabled, you select the receive method via dialog prompt:

STWriter Receive GEM 1


If receiving via file, you select it via standard GEM file picker:

STWriter Receive GEM 2


After import the name is displayed under the GEM menu:

STWriter Receive GEM 3



Trying to quit without saving the document in memory:

STWriter Quit


GEM Extras

With GEM enabled you get a few extra menu options and dialogs to make things easier.

Global Format dialog:

STWriter Global Format


The next set of screen shots steps through the Configure STWE menu option.  Each of these dialogs are accessible as separate menu options as well.  First select the number of spaces a TAB represents (on file import).

STWriter Config 1


Next, select the default file extension for the file picker dialogs:

STWriter Config 2


Then, select the default background color:

STWriter Config 3


Then you select the default global format options (as above).  Last you are prompted to continue after being warned that the disk and ST Writer program file must not be write protected.  The binary is modified:

STWriter Config 4



Distribution Contents

ST Writer uses Atari TOS formatted diskettes.  The contents of the distribution is as follows:

  • STWRITER.PRG is the main program file.
  • XYZZX.DAT is the the printer configuration data. This is read each
    time you print a file to the printer. By default STWriter supports
    Epson printers.
  • CONFIG.TXT is the english readable version of the printer
    configuration file.
  • CONFIG.TOS is the program which converts the printer configuration
    found in CONFIG.TXT into the format needed in the file XYZZX.DAT.
  • XYZZX.TXT is merely a copy of CONFIG.TXT and is not always present.


File Dump

Here is a dump of an ST Writer file.  Notice the “DO RUN RUN” at the start:

STWriter File Dump




Before printing, unless you have an Epson printer, you need to configure the ST Writer for your printer.  This is a complex process of editing a configuring file, running a program, then launching ST Writer.

Editing the CONFIG.TXT file in ST Writer to add the required printer control codes for each printer function (have your printer manual handy):

STWriter Print Config 1


Running the TOS program CONFIG.TOS to convert CONFIG.TXT to the required internal format for the file XYZZX.DAT:

STWriter Print Config 2


Sample Output

The output here is plain ascii.  No printer emulation was used.

Test file from AtariWriter printed to Atari 825 printer:


Test file from AtariWriter Plus printed to Epson FX-80 printer:


Test file from ST Writer printed to Epson printer:


Printing the file Index:




Printed Manual download (pdf): https://inverseatascii.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/s2e41-prt-stwritermanual.pdf

Printed Help download (pdf): https://inverseatascii.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/s2e41-prt-stwriterhelp.pdf



Using ST Writer to write Pascal code:

STWriter Programming


After compiling the Pascal code (IA.PRG) with OSS Personal Pascal, this is the result of my effort.  Not bad for my first GEM program since 1987.  A variation of this (BITS.PRG seen above) was then used to generate the dialog for the bit rating as seen at the bottom of this post:

STWriter Programming Result


Show Links:


Bit Rating ST 14


Intro music is an excerpt from a chip tune by Wizwars named 8 Bit Raceway.  It is used under Creative Common license Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.

6 thoughts on “S2E41 Atari ST Writer – Supplement

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