About Our Computers

A few notes about your computer and mine, and the screen settings which I have used in developing Templot. (These notes were written 5 years ago, so are now a little dated - 25-Sep-2005.)

Screen Resolution:

Templot has been developed while using the following screen settings for my computer:

1024 x 768 Resolution.
Large Fonts (120 pixels per inch).
16-bit Colour Depth.

If your monitor/video-card can be set to the same (click Start / Settings / Control Panel / Display / Settings to find out), you will get the best user-friendliness from Templot, and see on your screen exactly what I am seeing as I write these notes.

I am aware, of course, that not everyone will be able to do this, or want to. Windows is supposed to take care of the differences between our computers - how well it does this with Templot we shall never know, since only you can see your computer and only I can see mine! I have tested Templot on as many friends computers as possible, and remedied all the obvious problems. The friends should be out and about again soon.

Apart from the main drawing pad, which normally uses the full available screen area, I have kept all the windows and dialogs to less than 640 x 480 pixels, but left them unscaled. So providing you are using 640 x 480 or better, you should see the full window exactly as designed. But because it is unscaled it may appear rather large and chunky on lower resolution screens - the functionality will be unaffected. Most of the windows include re-scaling buttons (in the top-left corner), so that when you are familiar with Templot you can experiment with the window sizes to suit your screen.

As for fonts, I used the following settings for the screenshots:

Menus: Arial Narrow 11pt Bold, size 25 pixels.
Main title bars: Arial 11pt Regular, size 25 pixels.
Dialog box titles: Arial 9pt Bold, size 22 pixels.
Scrollbars: size 23 pixels.

I know that many people use much smaller text than this, but I find these sizes comfortable for my eyes (which are half a century old).

Screen Colours:

For professional engineering drawing work a high-resolution monochrome monitor is usually preferable, but because Templot is for occasional recreation and hobby use, rather than everyday work, I have made it quite colourful. A problem then arises if your video card is set to 16 (4-bit) colours or 256 (8-bit) colours, in which case some of Templot's colours would show as annoying dither patterns.

So Templot checks your colour depth on startup, and uses only the basic colours if you are using less than 16-bit colour. But if you can possibly change to 16-bit (Hi-Color) or better you will find working with Templot much easier on the eyes - or at least it is on mine. Using 16-bit colour or better can also significantly improve the rendering of (TrueType) text fonts by filling in the corners with gradations of colour (assuming this option is switched on in your Windows setup - Start / Settings / Folder Options.. / View / Smooth Edges  setting).

Wherever I have used a non-standard colour, I have also provided a means to change it. Which brings me to the colour of the "paper" on the main drawing pad. A pastel green colour is usually recommended as a background for detail work (hence the traditional colour of music-ruled computer printout), but I prefer a blue-grey background, and this is the paper colour you will see when Templot starts up. Change it as you wish, but I recommend that you also change the colour of the grid lines to a just slightly darker shade of the same colour, otherwise they become obtrusive.

This is quite tricky to do with 256 colours, and impossible with only 16 colours - a grey grid on light grey (silver) paper is probably the best option. This is available as one of the pre-set colour schemes, or the grid can be turned off if you prefer to work without it. If you like to work in inverse video, there are two pre-set schemes with bright colours on a dark background.

Speed:

The speed of your processor/video-card combination will determine the speed of screen re-draws as you adjust your templates with the mouse, or zoom in and out of a complete track plan. Even with a fast 250MHz-plus processor there is a slight delay in re-drawing long sweeping transitions (with the amount of calculation involved this is inevitable), but simple short turnouts usually re-draw virtually instantly. If your processor is significantly slower than this you will have to be patient and wait for Templot to catch up with your mouse, or make your adjustments by entering figures directly.

As soon as you start adding background templates as part of a complete track plan, re-draw times lengthen noticeably. There are numerous drawing options to reduce the amount of on-screen detail with the aim of improving re-draw speed - the trick is always to avoid displaying more than is actually needed at the time. Lower resolutions and colour-depths obviously re-draw more quickly, so finding the optimum trade-off between the settings on your computer is a matter of trial and error. I am working on some optimisations to speed up future versions a little.

It also appears that some early Pentium processors contain a flawed FDIV (floating-point divide) instruction. The compiler I am using knows about this, and will take avoiding action if necessary, but Templot will run significantly slower as a result if you are one of the unlucky ones.

Bear in mind that however old or slow your computer, if it's running Windows 95 or later (and you won't be running Templot otherwise), the final printed output will be identical in every case, with the print quality determined only by that of your printer.

More waffle:

When using Templot's mouse actions you will be using your mouse to make some precise adjustments. It might be a good idea to open the bottom of it and clean out any fluff which has accumulated on the spindles and rollers. The difference this can make to the ease and precision of use is amazing. 

Finally, if you are not using a flat-screen or laptop, and happen to have a choice of monitors, go for one with a DiamondTron or Trinitron tube. These have a cylindrical screen (curved one-way only), which gives noticeably less distortion to drawn geometric shapes. It is also possible to tape a piece of tracing-paper or thin graph-paper to the screen, which is a handy trick if you are trying to match a template to an existing plan or rail-rubbing, so avoiding the need to do numerous trial printouts. Unless you have won a Nobel prize for origami, this is next to impossible to do with a conventional spherical tube (which is curved both ways).

If there is anything about the way Templot works on your computer which is annoying or awkward, please let me know - I am keen that Templot should be easy to use and what people actually want, not just a programming exercise on my part. So all or any feedback will always be gratefully received - many thanks to everyone who has been in touch.

Martin.


more notes here soon

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page revised  © 25-April-2000