Ah, excellence. The main program I worked on while at Micro-Systems Software . There were two previous versions, I was there for 3.0, the last program undertaken by Micro-Systems.
Steve Pagliarulo did most of the coding. I did the manual, some coding (not that much), and helped with the planning, as well as testing. As an amiga enthusiast, I pushed for having an AREXX port, which we did get in there. I made a few joke AREXX scripts messing around with it and these ended up being included in the shipping version. One of them translated text into pig latin. I think the others, one looked up every word and replaced it with a random equivalent from the thesarus. Useful stuff like that.
Anyway the other thing I wanted to see, that we didn't get, was some kind of help with the fonts. The Amiga, as those who new it recall, had only screen fonts. Which looked terrible on paper, screens being much lower resolution than a printer prints on paper. Anyway, excellence did have one way of dealing with this, via postscript fonts, but that only worked if you had a printer that was postscript-enabled, an expensive proposition in those days. Amiga had just come out with a new version of amigados (2.0?) which included a few scalable fonts for the first time, from compugraphic. These took annoyingly long to load but they were scalable. Our main competitor (from New Horizons, the name of their WP eludes me) did some tricks with those to improve the situation... basically taking a font twice the size needed and then shrinking it, which made it look better. I was hoping for something similar, as it was the one key area we fell short next to them (I felt we were better in several other areas). Alas, it was too much to modify in the time frame alotted.
We had a strict deadline and did the 90 hour weeks leading up to the release date. Steve proclaimed it done, then went and opened a window (the windows never opened) and screamed "I'm Done!", aparrently a ritual of his whenever he finished something.
Anyway, other than that it was a very good amiga product. But that didn't mean everything was perfect...
I was tasked with doing a manual supplement - initially we'd offer it as an upgrade to users who had 2.0. Fine, the manual supplement, covering the new features, came in at about 56 pages. We did this (still using an actual film camera to get our screenshots via some gadget), sent if off to the printers, and got it back. This, shrink-wrapped with a manual, was what those who upgraded got. However, we would in theory also want to sell it to new customers. Also, many of the existing customers wanted an altogether new manual. The solution - they stuck my manual supplement on front of the old manual, sent that to the printers, bound it, and shipped that as the new manual (the cover is pictured). Not quite what the users wanted. One thing we did do that new horizons didn't was use the CG italic font and bold font instead of just applying a bolt and italic effect to the normal font. Small consolation though. If you had a postscript printer, though, it was perfect...
A short while after excellence shipped, Jack told me we were going to do a french version. The Amiga was popular in france and a french version would generate sales. I mentioned something about hoping I wasn't going to do tech support for it. No, I was going to translate the program, I was told. And do a manual supplement. "But I don't speak french", I protested. I was told I spoke spanish, which was pretty cose, and they handed me a pocket french-english dictionary and told told to get to work. Apparently the guy who did the translations in the past wanted too much money. So...
The program... . I was mainly redoing the menus, and pop-up windows and prompts and the like. Most were just individual words or phrases. I did the best I could with the dictionary (there was no babelfish in those days (and even that is hardly a substitute for knowing it, especially on what will be released). I voiced concerns repeatedly and was told not to worry.
Well, we shipped it. We got some mighty angry letters from french speakers. One of them angrily pointed out each and every mistake, with the proper word or spelling indicated (most of my mistakes were with the wrong accent mark or such, but others were way off). I dutifully took his letter and made each change he suggested, recompiled the french master and shipped him that (he should have been paid).
Anyway that was the excellence 3.0 story from my end of it. I think it shipped enough units to make the time spent developing it worthwhile for the company (especially with what they got away having to pay for stuff).
At some point afterwards Amigaworld asked if someone from MSS would do a hints and tips article on it, and I obliged. Got like a $40 check from them, which remains the highest paid hour of work I got from excellence...
If you have any further info on excellence and would care to share them, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org