The proliferation of volumes on personal computing began legitimately enough as an extension of the technology, which was supposed to render paper-based text obsolete.
But its real impetus, as soon became apparent, stemmed from the simple fact that the presumably explanatory material accompanying both the hardware and the software tools of the new trade was usually impenetrable by anyone who had spent less than a lifetime in the digital world.
From these beginnings a plethora of volumes grew, in a trend similar to the release of a bevy of cookbooks following the mass acceptance of the "crock pot" and the cuisinart. As people collect cookbooks, so they collect computer books, although the latter are certainly less mouth-watering. They acquire shelves full of titles, some not very useful, others gold mines of ideas.
Into the latter category falls ``LaserJet Unlimited,'' by Ted Nace and Michael Gardner ($24.95 from Peachpit Press, Berkeley, Calif.), an introduction to and overview of the popular printer named in the title.
The book was typeset on the printer, providing an example of the kind of document that can be produced using a LaserJet with the appropriate software. It employs a broad range of typefaces including Russian, Hebrew, Greek, various fancy fonts and, for the real esoterica fanciers among us, rune gothic and hieroglyphics.
I only wish that in implementing a visual approach the authors had chosen to right-justify their text margins. No book short of a volume of poetry looks truly like a book to me when it has ragged right page margins.
``LaserJet Unlimited'' covers the typographical essenam of electronic fonts to symbol sets - foreign characters, mathematical symbols, musical notation and graphic shapes - as well as the command language used by the printer and, of course, word processing. The emphasis in the word processing section is on Microsoft Word, arguably the best text package presently available for formatting complex page layouts on the LaserJet. The book also contains a useful chapter on adapting dBase II and III reports for laser printing in order to effect the kind of quality end product that burning the midnight video screen deserves.
A large portion of the book is devoted to the various specialized software packages designed expressly to harness the exceptional power of the LaserJet and similar printers, programs such as Fancy Font, Fontasy, Fontrix, Laser Control and LaserEase. None of these programs is covered in detail sufficient to enable one to take advantage of their full potential. But for anyone contemplating the purchase of this Hewlett-Packard printer, ``LaserJet Unlimited'' is definitely a good volume to peruse beforehand, offering as it does an appreciation of what the machine can add to one's personal computing power.
A more basic mystery for many beginning personal computer users dealing with printers is that of serial versus parallel communications ports, those strange sockets at the back of a computer by means of which a printer and various other peripherals such as modems are plugged into the machine. Two seemingly identical printers, for instance, may deal with a computer's output, the stream of electronic information destined to activate the print head, in a quite different fashion. Yet there seems to be no volume dealing satisfactorily with the rudiments of this complex subject. …