ChiWriter - Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

The following questions have been actually asked on several occasions by other users, mostly by electronic mail directly to me, and are presumably of interest to a more general audience.

Please check this list before you address me! I cannot keep answering the same questions over and over.


Can you give me information about ChiWriter?

Yes, I can, in principle. However, I will not do so if you keep it as general as that. The general information I want to share with the world can be found on my web pages. If you have one or two questions remaining, after reading my pages, I will do my best to answer them, by e-mail. Note that, although I have considerable experience with ChiWriter, I am not an expert on all topics, and I don't dispose of "inside information". Q

How can I order from you?

You cannot. I don't run a company for commercial software distribution. All stuff that I want to share can be found on this web site. The files can be downloaded via the ChiWriter version 3 and version 4 pages on the web. Occasionally, I will send files not on the web by e-mail. I regret to say I have no time to create or adapt files especially for a single user. Q

Can I run ChiWriter under Windows?

Yes, that is possible. Working under Windows 3.xx you proceed as follows.

Select File New in the Program Manager, after clicking the program group you like your icon to appear in. Select New Program - OK. In the requester that appears choose a name for your icon (1st line), the location, name and parameters of the CW program (e.g. c:\cw4\cw.exe -pmyconfig mydoc.chi, 2nd line), and the working directory for your documents (3rd line). Clicking Change Icon (and browsing) lets you choose from some standard icons, or you can use one of the special ChiWriter icons. After some OK's the icon appears. After this procedure you can simply click the icon to start ChiWriter with the document indicated (if you leave out mydoc.chi in the startup line ChiWriter is started with no document). Note that ChiWriter entirely takes over the screen. Making the program appear in a window is not possible, as far as I know. So, multitasking is difficult (maybe use alt-Tab). Furthermore note that usage of the mouse in ChiWriter is still far more primitive than for the usual Windows programs (if possible at all for the chosen resolution). Moreover, I noticed that the program sometimes crashes the PC, so it may be less stable. But at least you will be able to use ChiWriter in your favourite environment without having to restart Windows every time.

Surprisingly, ChiWriter even seems to run under Windows 95, though I did not succeed there. I tried to run the standard install program, which failed. It turns out, so I am told, that if you copy a successfully completed ChiWriter installation, with all subdirectories, from another computer, you can create a menu item or shortcut to the ChiWriter program (right click on the program, choose "properties", type in the command line as above, and click on "Change icon" to choose one of the ChiWriter icons), and it will run without problem (some people report problems with printing). Multitasking may be possible, but not advisable. Q

How can I get a driver for my new printer?

Please, be more specific if you must ask questions like this. To be of any help, I need at least the following information:

Where can I find a printer driver for my new HP Laserjet xxx?

If it is a new model, probably nowhere. Ever since Horstmann stopped supporting ChiWriter no new drivers have been officially released. Some people report they have no problems printing on a Laserjet 6L using the 1994 Laserjet 4L printer driver. I have designed printer drivers myself, but never for HP Laserjets! The reason is: I don't have the proper documentation (PCL printer language reference manual), and even if I did, I couldn't test whether a driver I wrote worked, as I do not dispose of an HP Laserjet.

However, I advise you the following.

Do you dispose of a driver for my new HP Deskjet xx printer?

Many of the abovementioned remarks, answering the same question for HP Laserjets, also apply to Deskjets. Only, in 1995 I have had a two weeks opportunity to experiment with a HP500+ deskjet printer. Of course I was not satisfied with the standard driver (for one: it did not print my extra characters), so I designed my own. This resulted in the hxs304l1.prn driver, to be found in the package If you have problems with older drivers for your new Deskjet, you may try my version, maybe it works. Its advantage is that it uses less internal printer fonts (getting the scaling and pitch right turned out to be a problem), and more graphic fonts instead. This does make the driver slower, however. Of course, you may try the original drivers for the deskjet 500 or 500+ first (hxq304l1.prn or hgs304l1.prn, in the same package). Q

Is it difficult to write my own printer driver?

The designing of printer drivers is described adequately in the ChiWriter manuals. It does take a lot of time though if your goal is a truly satisfactory driver. There are many pitfalls and traps, due to printer peculiarities as well as ChiWriter's, and you are bound to be frustrated several times. Some omissions in the manual require a lot of experimenting, and so do incomplete printer manuals. Most recent printer manuals assume you work under Windows and use some standard driver coming with the printer. As a result printer commands are no longer (fully) explained.

If you are using ChiWriter V3, and only need minor modifications to an existing driver, your job is relatively easy. Changing a few printer command strings, for turning fonts or styles on and off, or for printing graphics, will probably do the trick. This is because V3 printer drivers are simple ASCII parameter files.

However, if you are using ChiWriter V4, even small modifications can be tricky, because V4 printer drivers are actually procedures in the ChiScript programming language. Maybe you can learn something from my experiences with ChiScript. If you run into specific problems, maybe I can help you with advice by e-mail. Q

What then, if there really is no suitable driver for my modern printer?

Many modern printers support postscript. So you may first try to print to a file in postscript format, using one of the postscript drivers. Then send the file to the printer, in a DOS-box using the copy-command to the line printer device lpt1:. Do not print from Windows, as the file will most probably be treated as being associated with some application, and be escaped, after which, at best, it will be printed with all postscript commands written out litterally.

However, the best solution to keep on using ChiWriter and print to any modern printer you like, is the following. First, generate a postscript output file (*.ps) from ChiWriter, using one of the postscript laser printer drivers. Then download from the internet the freeware applications ghostscript and ghostview. Start the latter application from Windows and open you postscript output file. Miraculously, you will see a perfect typeset copy of your text on screen! Additionally, you can print this image of the file to any printer you have installed on your system, from ghostview.

If you have an Acrobat pdf printer driver installed, you may even print in Acrobat file format. Alternatively, you may print to a fax. If you can get the proper printer driver, anything is possible. Q

Do I need your fonts if I use your printer drivers?

My laser printer and inkjet drivers also work fine with standard ChiWriter lft, djf or psf fonts. My own fonts only differ in styling here, and they contain many extra characters in otherwise empty positions. On the other hand, my (9-pin) matrix printer drivers use fonts with a special (higher) resolution, and a special technique for graphic font printing. These drivers cannot be used with standard (9-pin or other) printer fonts (nor vice versa). Note that you can still print original ChiWriter documents with one of my drivers using my fonts. Q

Can I convert my own fonts for use on my new printer?

That depends. It is not so much the conversion of fonts that is difficult. The standard ChiWriter packages contained several types of converters, like cw2hp or cw2ps (from ChiWriter version 3 font format to HP or postscript format, respectively), whereas the V4 font designer can import and export various font types.

Actually, the problem lies in the fact that you probably moved to a new printer because it has a higher resolution. Sending your old font in a straightforward way to the printer then yields small and frail characters (if it works at all). Exactly how your fonts will appear depends on many factors: the new (and old) printer resolution, the dot size (e.g. ribbon-type matrix printer have comparatively large dots), and the graphic modes in use (does it use double strike, or can horizontally adjacent dots be printed, or is the resolution horizontally and vertically equal).

A rule of thumb is to divide the printer resolution in dots per inch by the width of an average character, say "p". This yields the expected pitch in characters per inch. If the result lies between 12 and 15, the font may be acceptable. If not, you will have to scale it. This may be done using the ChiWriter font designer (fd.exe), or my font operator fontop.exe. Don't expect too much of this, the resulting font may look ugly, and probably needs a lot of manual editing. The latter takes lots of time, but there is no other way.

Finally, the printer driver has to be told where to find your fonts, and how they can be switched on and off. But that is another story ("write your own driver"). Q

Do you know of a converter for ChiWriter documents to my new SuperLaformulaTeXt word processor?

As ChiWriter is no longer supported, many users move to a modern word processor. Conversion of their old documents then turns out to be a problem. You may proceed as follows.

I really need to upgrade to Windows. Can you advise me a worthy replacement for ChiWriter?

Oops, awkward question! Well, all right, I'll do my best. First, if you have been a satisfied user of ChiWriter, I would not advise you to start using WordPerfect or MS-Word for Windows. Sure, they offer amazing possibilities, including those you will never use. In contrast with their MS-DOS predecessors, the Windows versions of these packages even offer amazing on-screen display of formulas, in life-like WYSIWYG style, with an almost unlimited choice of True Type fonts. However, they haven't got the ChiWriter "feel" at all. Numerous formatting conventions act on your document, changing its appearance in an unpredictable and hardly controllable way. To get it just the way you want it, you'll have to work your way through all kinds of menus and requester windows with preset defaults, if it is possible at all. For formulas you must invoke a special editor, but still, formulas do not have the transparent structure of ChiWriter boxes. The designers of these word processors probably never saw the analogy between formulas, tables, matrices, indented computer programs and the like. On the other hand, if you are only interested in getting structured text, formulas, bulleted or numbered lists, and tables on paper, with a pleasant but middle of the road look, you will be quite happy with WP or Word.

LaTeX then? You would never have turned to ChiWriter in the first place if you liked the TeX family. However, if you like to program computer code, it may be just the system for you, because that is exactly what structuring a text in LaTeX comes down to. Don't ever try to change the appearance of the text: according to the LaTeX gurus typesetting is work for experts (of course they are right), so the program does this for you (can a program be an expert?). That is why all LaTeX output looks the same.

True, with modern customizable editors and fast previewers you can simulate some of the ideas of WYSIWYG, and yes, LaTeX output does look very professional. Also, it is widely accepted in the world of science, and increasingly often even required. If these are important considerations for you, you may want to try Scientific Word or Scientific Workplace from TCI Software Research (see MacKichan Software). They, like LaTeX, adhere to a strict philosophy of logical design, rather than visual design. However, contrary to standard LaTeX practise, you can see and manipulate the logical structures on the screen (even calculate with them), though their appearance is not always very pleasing. For instance, the grey rectangles representing LaTeX macros are a nuisance, but unfortunately they are the only way to replace some of the structures we got used to in ChiWriter. For me, the flexibility leaves something to be desired, but maybe you find the standard structures of Scientific Word adequate. Anyway, it produces standard LaTeX, so the output can be sent to scientific papers.

Finally, being a former member of the Mathematics of Programming group at Eindhoven University of Technology, I should promote their local document preparation system MathSPad. It was developed by Richard Verhoeven under supervision of professor Roland Backhouse, and distributed freely through ftp to all corners of the earth. It was very flexible indeed, but the system was still under construction when the group was effectively dissolved and the project aborted, back in 2000. At that time, one still had to put a lot of effort in defining "stencils" that contained ones preferred mathematical notations. It produced LaTeX output, but used a different internal format, and, consequently, left LaTeX input uninterpreted on the screen (no backparsing). One needed to know some LaTeX to define various structures and symbols. Q

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Last updated February 4th, 2011