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COLUMN: Looking Glass


Ed reviews Video Display Editor (VDE), a popular freeware word processor modified to run on the 95LX.

By Ed Keefe


The word processing program, Video Display Editor (VDE) *, first came to my attention in December of 1988. It had been around for several years before that. I just hadn't paid any attention to what other users told me about the program.

When I first tried an early version of the program, I was not impressed. It seemed to be another send-up, or maybe a rip-off, of my favorite word processor, WordStar.

What caught my attention was that the program could be made to run on my HP Portable Plus and HP 110 laptop computers.

Not only did it work on these computers, it actually worked better than WordStar. It had all the Control-key commands of WordStar, and then some. It would let me edit two files at once and move text from one document to another. It also let me add new commands, attached to the function keys. This was something unheard of with WordStar.


Better still, the price of VDE is just right: free for individual users.

Eric Meyer, the author of VDE, requires no fee for individuals to use his program, although a $30 registration fee is encouraged.

Eric has been most gracious to users of HP portable computers. He went out of his way to customize VDE and optimize it for use on the HP Portable Plus. The enhanced VDE program ran faster on the Portable Plus than it did on my desktop computer.

It Just Gets Better

Over the past three years, Eric has continued to upgrade the VDE program. VDE is now able to edit up to eight documents at once instead of just two. It can import documents from other word processors such as WordStar 5.5, WordPerfect 5.1, and XyWrite. It can also create documents that are usable by these word processing programs.

For those who never used WordStar, or didn't like it, Eric added a method of running the program completely from a menu system.

He has also included a feature that makes VDE usable by those who are visually impaired. (This feature requires a desktop computer with an EGA or VGA monitor.)

Most recently, Eric has upgraded VDE so that it will run on the HP 95LX. The version number of the program is 1.62b. It is available in the HPSYS forum on CompuServe. It was also included in the Fall 1991 issue of The HP Palmtop Paper On Disk.

With this one product, word processing on the HP 95LX takes on a whole new dimension.


VDE has all of the standard features of most word processors. It will let you edit more than one document at a time. On the HP 95 LX it is possible to see parts of two documents at the same time and to flip from one to the other. There is even a way to compare two documents, a feature that is sometimes useful when you've made minor revisions to a letter or document, and want to see what the differences look like.

For those of us who have "grown up" using WordStar, VDE looks and feels like our favorite text editor. If you know WordStar, you should be able to use VDE immediately, without reading the documentation file. If you can twist your fingers around <CTRL>-kb and <CTRL>-kk, you'll be able to create blocks of text and move, copy, and delete them or write them to disk files.

For those who don't want to learn WordStar commands, VDE offers a 1-2-3 style menu. You can start the menu mode by pressing <ESC> and ?. From that point on, you can activate the menu by pressing <ESC>. You trigger any of the commands in the menu by pressing the first letter in the command word. There is no sliding highlighter.

If you prefer the menu type of operation, there is even a way to make that the default mode of operation. You can get this to happen by running a separate installation program called VINST.COM.


You need to run VINST before VDE will work on the HP 95LX.

I'd recommend running VINST on a desktop computer. Make any modifications you wish. Then copy the modified version of VDE to the 95LX. In VINST, pick Install by pressing I, then press E to Edit the installation and choose the 95LX option. Then press <ESC> to get back to the main menu in VINST. From there you can install other Options, Printer drivers, Macro and Function key assignments.

The list of options is mind boggling. And here is where some people get turned off. There just isn't enough time in the week to figure out how to get VDE to work in the way you want it to work.

VDE is not a "plug-n-go" program. It is more like a programmable text editor that allows you to make it into your word processor. That takes time, experimentation, and patience. It also requires reading the documentation files: no small task for a busy person. If you want more word processing power on the HP 95LX, count on spending several hours playing with VDE to make it "just right" for you. I think your time will be well spent.


On the downside, VDE is not yet System Manager compliant. If you want to run VDE on the 95LX, you must close all of the built-in applications and start VDE with FILER. That can get to be a nuisance. (See the article in this issue by Ed Keefe and Mark Scardina entitled "Run DOS Commands From One APNAME.LST Hotkey," page 19. It tells how to get VDE or any other DOS program to pop-up on top of most built-in applications.)


Since VDE is not yet System Manager compliant, it doesn't let you cut and paste from one application into another. However, VDE has its own built-in cut and paste commands (<ALT>-C and <ALT>-P) which let you copy and paste blocks of text from one document to another. See the documentation file for more details about making this feature work. The <ALT>-C command behaves like the Mark and Copy operation in MEMO. It does not delete the original text.

If you ever need help in VDE, press <CTRL>-<ENTER> to get one of several, abbreviated help screens. Press <Right Arrow> to view the right-most part of the help screen. You don't need to use the <ALT>-Arrow Key combination to scroll horizontally when using VDE: a single key moves you back and forth across the full screen. The up and down arrow keys will let you page through the help screens.


For those who are more familiar with WordPerfect commands, Eric Meyer has provided a set of macros that will redefine the function keys to make them perform some of the same operations as they do in Word Perfect. The macro definitions are contained in a file called WP.VDF (WordPerfect Video Display Function keys).

I have added to Eric's WP.VDF file to make VDE behave even more like WordPerfect. Since I do not use WordPerfect every day, I also created a small help file that pops up in VDE whenever I press the Help key (F3). I've posted this on the HPSYS forum of CompuServe. The file is called VDE-LX.ZIP *. It will also be available on this issue of The HP Palmtop Paper on Disk.

When you unzip the file, you will find instructions on how to install the function key file in your copy of VDE. If you like WordPerfect, I'd recommend that you take a look at my small offering. Let me know what you think.


The VDE.COM file weighs in at almost 60K bytes. If you want to compress the file before copying it to the HP 95LX, I'd recommend using the PKLite * program rather than DIET. I've tried both compression programs and found that VDE pops up more quickly when it has been compressed with PKLite. The compressed program still occupies almost 40K bytes on the 95LX's C drive.

One final note. Be sure to try VDE on a desktop computer with an EGA (or better) monitor. Issue the DOS command "MODE 40" to put the monitor in 40 column mode and then run VDE. If you have the VDEOPT.DAT file in the current directory, you can press <ALT>-e and a and you'll see a sight for your sore and tired eyes. Neat!

Until next time, Happy Porting.

iPhone Life magazine

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