RIPscrip 3.0™ Technical White Paper
Copyright © 1992-1997 TeleGrafix Communications, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
Document Date: 12/06/96
Written by: Jeff Reeder
A technical summary of the Remote Imaging Protocol Scripting
Language, covering overall scope, architecture and future goals.

1. Introduction
1.1 Scope of Use
1.2 Widespread Standard in the Online Industry
1.3 Open Standards vs. Closed-End Proprietary Interfaces
1.4 Available Platforms
2. Applications of RIPscrip
2.1 General Online Services
2.2 Media Presentation Services
2.3 Publication Services
2.4 Internet Applications
2.4.1 Internet Service Providers
2.4.2 World-Wide Web Services - RIPweb
2.4.3 WWW Browser Plug-Ins - The RIPscrip Browser
3. Overview of the Technology
3.1 What RIPscrip Is and Is Not
3.1.1 What It Is - A Graphical Presentation Environment
3.1.2 What It Is Not - A Graphical User Interface
3.2 Text Nature of the Language
3.2.1 Numeric Encoding
3.2.2 Structure of the Protocol
3.2.3 Command Levels
3.2.4 Command Parameters
3.2.5 Command Structure Philosophy
3.3 Design Goals
3.3.1 Resolution Independence - The World Coordinate System
3.3.2 Color-Palette Independence
3.4 Broad Range of Graphical Primitives
3.4.1 Font Systems
3.4.2 Vector Graphics Primitives
3.4.3 Color Palettes
3.4.4 Fill Patterns
3.4.5 Line Dash-Styles
3.4.6 Raster-Operators
3.5 User-Interface Objects
3.5.1 Mouse Fields
3.5.2 Buttons
3.5.3 Query Expressions
3.6 Integrated Graphical and TTY Interfaces
3.6.1 Viewports
3.6.2 Text Windows
3.7 Supported Image Formats
3.7.1 BMP
3.7.2 JPEG
3.7.3 GIF
3.7.4 PNG
3.8 Data Tables
3.8.1 Switching Data Tables - Context Swapping
3.8.2 Protected Data Tables
3.9 Data Backup System
3.9.1 Base Data Save Area
3.9.2 Data Save Slots
3.9.3 Stack Save Area
3.10 Host Command Language
3.10.1 Control Characters
3.10.2 Pop-Up Picklists
3.10.3 Local File Playback Directives
3.10.4 Template Directives
3.10.5 Text Variables User-Defined Text Variables Pre-Defined Text Variables
3.11 Putting It All Together
4. Future Goals of RIPscrip
4.1 International Language Support
4.2 Full-Motion Video
4.3 Compressed, Streaming Audio
4.4 Integrated GUI Environment
4.5 Forms and Tables
4.6 Document Oriented Interface
4.7 Hyper-Text Markup Language (HTML)
5. Conclusion


In today's ever-changing world of online technology, power, flexibility and non-obsolescence are the key issues in the success of a technology. Using a technology that can't meet the needs of a changing world will only result in dead-ends, development problems, lost customers, and hence, lost revenues. Since a successful online service is important to both the end-user and the service provider alike, the correct choice into the presentation technology for a service is critical.

RIPscrip graphics were designed for just such a purpose. It is fast, flexible, and powerful enough to meet your needs today, and in the years to come. Designed with the philosophy that "faster is better", RIPscrip graphics do not require that you have a very high-speed online connection like some other graphical technologies do. RIPscrip was designed to work over low-speed modems and network connections where performance is critical. A slow presentation will only bore your customers, and they will look for other services which provide them with the desired information in a more rapid manner! Let's face it, customers are looking for immediate gratification.

The other requirement for a presentation technology is quality. You could have a very fast presentation, but if the quality of the presentation is poor, your customers won't be impressed enough with your service to continue using it.

What you need is a presentation technology that provides both speed and quality. RIPscrip graphics offers you both of these capabilities, and much more.

Scope of Use

This technical summary is primarily directed toward engineers and developers of online services. Sections 1 and 2 of this document are more marketing-oriented than technical, and are considered more informational. For the developer interested in the technical aspects of RIPscrip, sections 3 and 4 will provide more detailed information on the architecture of the language in general.

This document is not intended to be a complete technical definition of the RIPscrip language. The complete reference for the RIPscrip is contained in the "Remote Imaging Protocol Scripting Language 3.0 Language Reference" document available from TeleGrafix Communications, Inc. The information contained herein is for general information and for the understanding of the overall structure and design paradigms of RIPscrip.

Widespread Standard in the Online Industry

Another important aspect of choosing the right technology is market acceptance. Unlike some other technologies which have existed for only a few months, RIPscrip has been used throughout the computer bulletin board industry for nearly four years. This means that it has undergone a large volume of customer experience - fine tuning the technology to suit the needs of small services and large.

There are literally hundreds of third-party products available which are designed with RIPscrip graphics built-in. Products ranging from file library systems, message readers, games, to high-end newspaper publishing environments are available for purchase.

With RIPscrip graphics, you won't suffer from a lack of products, or tools. With an ever-increasing list of supporting vendors, the technology grows to benefit everybody.

Open Standards vs. Closed-End Proprietary Interfaces

No matter what graphical presentation technology you choose for your online service, the issue of open standards vs. proprietary interfaces will come up. Over the last couple of years, several proprietary graphical user interface systems for online services have emerged. With these types of technologies, your customers have to use separate software packages to access different online services. This is very much like having to have different kinds of television sets to watch different TV stations.

With RIPscrip graphics, you are working with an "industry-standard" technology, supported by a wide variety of software packages. This has the added advantage that your customers will be able to use the same dial-up communications software package to access many different online services, giving value added to the software that they purchase. Nothing is worse than purchasing a software package that you can only use in a very limited environment. Usability and versatility are the key points here. What you get with RIPscrip graphics is wide-ranging compatibility with other online services. Only RIPscrip graphics makes it possible to navigate seamlessly from one online service to another, maintaining a consistent graphical interface, without having to switch software packages. You don't have that luxury with other proprietary user interfaces.

Available Platforms

Currently, RIPscrip graphics is supported in the vast majority of terminal software packages, and bulletin board products. Here is a list of some of the existing companies with RIPscrip capabilities in their product(s):

Terminals PlatformBBS Software
RIPterm ProMS-DOSThe MajorBBS/WorldGroup
Qmodem Pro MS-DOSWildcat!
Qmodem ProWindowsTBBS
SmartCom WindowsPC-Board
Telix WindowsSearchlight BBS
SoftTermWindowsKitten BBS
WinCom WindowsSpitfire BBS
ProComm WindowsRemote Access
HyperTermOS/2 Warp PowerBBS
SoftTerm OS/2 WarpSolaris BBS
A.R.G.U.S.MacintoshRenegade BBS
PowerConnectMacintosh NovaLink Pro
UserTermAmiga Osiris BBS

Applications of RIPscrip

Since RIPscrip is a general-purpose graphical scripting language, it lends itself to many different applications in the online world. In fact, there have been many customers who have used RIPscrip graphics for non-online oriented purposes (e.g., document distribution, graphical presentations, etc.).

This section attempts to illustrate some of the uses of RIPscrip in today's high-tech online world. This is by no means a complete listing of the applications of RIPscrip - it is only meant to give you an idea what it can be (and has been) used for.

General Online Services

One of the most common uses of RIPscrip is to make an existing online service graphical in nature. ANSI interfaces to online services, however common in the past, are quickly becoming obsolete. They are being replaced with elegant, high-quality graphical presentations of the online service. This was not possible until the advent of online graphical presentation technologies like RIPscrip. Currently, there are thousands of online services throughout the world that utilize RIPscrip graphics to provide their users with high-quality, rapid graphical interfaces to their online services.

Experience has shown that making your online service graphical not only increases your users' acceptability of the service, but also has the beneficial side effect of attracting novice users to your service. This is due in part to the fact that a graphical online service is considerably easier to use than the ANSI/VT-102 counterpart - simply click on what you want to do, and it happens. With a graphical interface, cryptic commands, and text-based menus are a thing of the past.

Media Presentation Services

A rapidly growing industry in today's online world, are media presentation services. Online services that present real estate information, catalogs of goods and services, dating systems, online multimedia databases, and even multi-user multimedia games are just the tip of the iceberg. New media presentation services are emerging daily, and the imagination and diverse nature of new services is possible only due to the availability of graphical presentation technologies like RIPscrip.

This kind of an online service was simply not feasible under the ANSI text nature of older services. For example, it is impossible to show the picture of a house in a real estate online service using a text-based menuing system. What you need are photos, high-quality database screens and digitized sound to get the impact of your presentation across to your customers.

Publication Services

Another area of the online industry which has undergone a rapid amount of growth is the emergence of printed media. Newspaper and magazine publications are rapidly jumping on the Information Superhighway bandwagon in staggering numbers. Only two years ago, there were less than a dozen publications that were maintaining any kind of online service for their printed material. Today, hundreds of publications have online services presenting their content to the mass market.

A large number of these publications have chosen RIPscrip as their presentation technology for the reasons mentioned earlier. Companies like Hearst Media, The New York Times, and many others have adopted RIPscrip for their online services because of its speed, quality and wide-spread acceptance in the online community.

Internet Applications

Over the last two years, the computer industry has watched as the long-standing Internet has exploded in growth. Every month, record numbers of users are jumping onto the Information Superhighway, bringing more and more people together into one, giant online community. This is an area of potentially unlimited applications for RIPscrip graphics technology.

Internet Service Providers

With the increasing number of Telnet'able applications on the Internet, graphical presentations of information are becoming more and more important. What is needed here though, is a standardized mechanism for the presentation of graphics over the Internet. RIPscrip's text-based architecture (see below) is perfectly suited to the nature of the Internet because everything is text, sent over the network. Many Internet software developers have already designed RIPscrip graphical software packages for FTP, Email, Newsgroups, Gopher, Archie and even some Telnet systems. This is only the beginning.

World-Wide Web Services - RIPweb

Nobody can deny that the World Wide Web has taken the industry by storm. More and more information services are becoming available on the Web daily, and it doesn't look like it's going to slow down anytime soon. The major problems with the Web though are how difficult it can be to use. In the past, experience has shown time and time again that modem users constitute a very slim minority of the computer users in the world. Granted, the percentage is increasing year by year, but the trend is still quite slow. Couple this with the fact that modems aren't very standardized, with compatibility problems, hardware configuration problems and the like, getting online can be quite a daunting task even for the experienced computer user. Beginning computer users simply don't know where to begin when it comes to getting online. It is becoming easier for them to do so, but it's still not all that easy to get online.

Now factor in World Wide Web access. Not only does the user have to worry about getting his modem working, but he also has to get an Internet connection in the form of a SLIP or PPP connection to their Internet Service Provider. Potentially frustrating issues about IP addresses, domain names, name servers and gateway addresses have caused many users to simply give up, leaving a sour taste in their mouth about the Internet. What is needed is an easy way to get those users on the Web without the hassles of getting their Internet connection working.

Enter RIPweb.

RIPweb is a server-based technology that utilizes RIPscrip graphics to display information on the World Wide Web to the consumer, without the complex hassles of establishing SLIP or PPP accounts! This means that your customers can browse the Web with the same RIPscrip compatible terminal software that they use to access other online services.

RIPweb accomplishes this by translating the HTML information used by the Web into RIPscrip graphics "on-the-fly" as the user browses the Web. This eliminates the need for an actual Web Browser software package, and lets customers use the software they're already familiar with. Additionally, this provides opportunities for Internet Service Providers to offer new services to their customers, with less technical complications, and even fewer customer service calls - keep in mind, RIPweb is easier to use for the novice user, and consequently, there are fewer questions about how to get online.

WWW Browser Plug-Ins - The RIPscrip Browser

If that wasn't enough, RIPscrip graphics are now starting to show up in World Wide Web Browsers. Add-in modules, or plug-ins as they're commonly being called are under development so that you can link RIPscrip graphics directly into your favorite Web Browser.

TeleGrafix is even developing a native RIPscrip Web browser allowing you to utilize RIPscrip graphics directly on the Web without HTML! Unlike current Web technology where doing basic graphics is difficult or nearly impossible, RIPscrip offers the ability to show state-of-the-art graphics on the Web using a standardized technology. Additionally, RIPscrip is typically smaller than similar HTML documents; in some cases the size differences are staggering! This benefits the Web, and to a greater extent, the Internet as a whole because content will be smaller, and can be delivered at a much faster rate than you could expect with HTML. This could be the exact thing that the Internet needs to stop choking up the network, and allowing information to flow quickly through the system.

As a side note, RIPscrip even allows your Web pages to include ANSI text. No other browser or browser technology offers you that kind of integration of text and graphics. This even allows for the possibility of integrated telnet login capabilities in your browser - with RIPscrip, you don't need to use an external telnet client to login to other services - RIPscrip allows you to integrate those services directly into your existing Web documents seamlessly.

Overview of the Technology

RIPscrip is a very comprehensive scripting language. It contains many hundreds of commands and features that give you the flexibility to do just about whatever your imagination would like. The actual protocol definition is a document approximately 300 printed pages in length, covering every aspect of the language including its syntax and capabilities.

Earlier versions of this language specification have been publicized widely, via freely distributable documents. The current RIPscrip 3.0 protocol definition is in the final stages of finalization and will be published very shortly.

What RIPscrip Is and Is Not

With all of this discussion about online services, graphical presentation technologies and graphical user interfaces, it would be useful to explain what RIPscrip is, and what it is not. In the past, much confusion has existed about what the technology really is, and as such, a better explanation is needed.

What It Is - A Graphical Presentation Environment

RIPscrip is a graphical presentation language. It contains many commands and features for the display of fast, high-quality online graphics. It allows you to mix graphics and text, from a variety of sources, into one integrated presentation medium (i.e., the computer screen). You can mix vector graphics, bitmapped graphics, photos and text in a variety of fonts and colors on the screen to create just about any style of presentation you could imagine. You can even integrate ANSI text into your presentation so that you can interface with older online applications. With RIPscrip, you get the best of both worlds.

What It Is Not - A Graphical User Interface

RIPscrip is not a graphical user interface (GUI), per se. Yes, it contains many of the necessary features to display a GUI, but it is not, in and of itself, a GUI. You can display dialog boxes, menus and other window-like objects that are commonly available in existing GUI's, but you draw them!

For example, if you want to display a dialog box on the screen, RIPscrip provides you with the necessary tools to construct your own dialog box - showing clickable buttons, radio buttons, checkboxes, and other such controls. In order to do this though, you have to draw what you want on the screen. This is because RIPscrip is a graphical presentation language. You have to present your users with exactly what you want to show them. This gives you the flexibility to show them whatever you want, in whatever appearance you want. Again, flexibility is the goal with RIPscrip.

RIPscrip's fundamental design and philosophy is geared toward allowing you, the service provider, the ability to display information in any manner that you want. This is simply not possible in most traditional GUI environments. For example, Microsoft Windows applications typically look very similar, and are quite different than Macintosh applications. Using RIPscrip, you can make your applications look like Windows, Macintosh, X-Windows, OS/2 Warp, or just about anything else you can imagine. The choice is entirely yours!

Text Nature of the Language

As previously described, RIPscrip is a text-based graphical language. It is designed around a parameterized command structure, where each command in the language accepts zero or more parameters to alter the functionality of the command. Each command is a set of tightly compacted sequence of character, numeric and text parameters.

In order to make RIPscrip as fast as possible over slower network connections, some sacrifices naturally had to be made. The first was that the language was not readable in normal English. English representation of commands is too bulky for any kind of realistic encoding of graphics data. Encoding the information in English or some other suitably readable language would have made the efficiency of the language terrible, and never would have gained any kind of industry support. Again, it had to be fast, therefore readability had to be thrown out the window.

The second aspect of the language is that it had to be transmittable over normal 7-bit ASCII text connections. This requires that the language be printable text. Transmitting binary information over a modem connection requires special binary protocols and other special environments, which makes it all that much harder to implement on various software and hardware environments. Since everything in the online world can transmit text, using a text-based encoding scheme makes sense, since it is supported by all systems.

An additional level of efficiency could have been gained by making the protocol binary in nature, but it would have been at the sacrifice of significantly reduced compatibility with online environments, and that custom designed software would be required for just about every operating system and platform used in the online world. For these reasons, binary encoding in RIPscrip was out of the question.

Numeric Encoding

Unlike many other script languages, RIPscrip doesn't use decimal values for its numbering system. Decimal representations of numbers are too bulky for efficient transmission of information. Since transmission efficiency is of paramount importance in the structure of the language, the encoding of numbers in as efficient a manner as possible became the most fundamental concept.

RIPscrip uses two different numbering systems to encode its numeric values. The first method, adopted in the 1.0 edition of RIPscrip, utilizes a base-36 encoding scheme. In this system, numbers are stored as sequences of numeric digits '0' through '9', and capital letters 'A' through 'Z'. Using this encoding scheme, a single character can store a much larger number than could normally be represented in decimal. This system of numeric encoding has been called MegaNum in RIPscrip.

The second method of numeric encoding was introduced in RIPscrip 2.0. It has been called UltraNum, and is based around a base-64 encoding scheme. Similar to MegaNums, UltraNums use the same 36 characters for the lower part of the encoding spectrum. The next sequences of encoded values are the lowercase letters 'a' through 'z' and the symbols '#' and '&'. This provides for 64 separate values that can be encoded into a single byte of data. This allows you to store even larger numbers in a smaller space than MegaNums permitted.

Here is a table detailing the sizes of numbers that can be stored in various numbers of bytes, showing comparisons to decimal and hexadecimal encoding schemes:

Total Digits DecimalHexa-Decimal MegaNums  UltraNums 
15 35  63 
99 255 1,295  4,095  
999 4,095 46,655 262,143 
9,999 65,535  1,679,615 16,777,215 
99,999 1,048,575 60,466,175 1,073,741,823 
999,999 16,777,215 2,176,782,335 68,719,476,735 

In practice, using a higher-base numeric encoding scheme improves efficiency of transmission and provides for a higher-degree of expansion capability. For example, since many numeric parameters in RIPscrip are two-bytes in length (see below), this gives a fundamental limit of 1295 in MegaNum, or 4095 in UltraNums. When working with graphical coordinates, a value in the range of 0-640 is quite possible - typically it will be three digits in length, but if you can store that information in only two bytes of data, that gives you an overall savings of 50%. In a transmitted data stream, this kind of efficiency becomes extremely important.

Structure of the Protocol

RIPscrip is structured around a hierarchical, command-based architecture. Each command is part of a tree-like substructure of command levels, and is assigned a particular command-character. The command-level, and the command character uniquely identify the command as a particular RIPscrip command.

RIPscrip commands can be intermixed with normal, TTY or ANSI text information so that you can mix and match graphics and text information inside of a single document. To distinguish between RIPscrip commands, special RIPscrip introducer codes are necessary to indicate when a graphical command is about to start. Normally, this introducer sequence is the ASCII text sequence "!|" (exclamation mark, followed by a vertical bar character) starting in column one of a line of text. If this sequence doesn't appear at the beginning of a line of text, then the line is assumed to be raw, TTY/ANSI text and is displayed as such.

There are other ways to introduce a RIPscrip sequence in the middle of a line, but the details of which go beyond the scope of this discussion. Suffice to say that RIPscrip commands need not start at the beginning of a line of text, but are more often than not, used this way.

Each RIPscrip command is separated by a command delimiter character sequence. This sequence is the vertical bar character in ASCII, or the value 124. In this way, you can separate multiple RIPscrip commands on a single line of text following the RIPscrip introducer sequence.

Command Levels

RIPscrip is organized in a hierarchical system of commands. Each command is part of a particular "level" of RIPscrip, where each level is a conceptual "type" of command. Currently, there are ten separate levels of commands, each one of which can be further subdivided into deeper and deeper levels of commands. This tree-like structure allows RIPscrip to utilize potentially billions of commands.

Command levels are organized into ten basic levels, which are assigned command-level digits. The lowest command level, level-0, has no command level digit associated with it. It is designated for the most primitive commands in the RIPscrip language (e.g., line, rectangle, circle, font, color, etc.). Each level of RIPscrip, may be divided into further sub-levels of commands in a tree-like arrangement, using more level digits to define the actual depth and position of the sequence.

For example, the RIPscrip command for a simple line is "!|L". This stands for level-0, command character "L". A hypothetical command defined at level 3, sub-level 2 would be defined as "!|32L". You may have commands up to maximum of 9 levels deep, where each command sub-level can accommodate up to 79 separate command characters. This gives the RIPscrip language the capacity to utilize literally billions of commands. This should give the language plenty of room for growth in the future.

Command Parameters

Command parameters always follow the command character. There are two kinds of parameters in RIPscrip - the numeric parameter, and the text parameter. If a text parameter is available for a particular RIPscrip command, it is always the very last parameter and has a maximum length of 1024 bytes.

Numerical parameters on the other hand can be varied in their number, size and encoding methods. Different RIPscrip commands allow for a different number of parameters to be specified. In fact, some RIPscrip commands allow for a variable number of numeric parameters (e.g., polygons, headers, palettes, etc.). Numeric parameters can also be encoded using different numeric encoding schemes (i.e., MegaNum or UltraNum) based on the requirements of a particular command, or a global protocol setting.

An example of a basic RIPscrip command is the RIP_LINE command. This command utilizes four separate parameters which define the two end-points of a line in (X,Y) coordinates. The basic syntax of this command is:

!|L x0:2 y0:2 x1:2 y1:2

Note that spaces are not permitted in this command, and are only provided for readability. The sequence ":2" indicate that the parameter is two bytes long. An example of a RIP_LINE command which draws a line from (5,4) to (130,99), encoded using MegaNums, would appear like this:


Another example, showing both numeric and text parameters, would be the RIPscrip command that outputs the phrase "Hello World" at the location (35,71) on the screen. This example, encoded in MegaNums would appear like this:

!|@0Z1ZHello World

Command Structure Philosophy

The basic design goal of the command-level structure in RIPscrip, is for the possibility of third-party add-on products utilizing RIPscrip. With a large command capacity, ranges of commands and command-levels can be authorized for use by developers in their own products, and those developers can add their own commands to the language as they see fit. This philosophy has not yet been introduced to the developer community, but the capability is present should the need arise.

This kind of a system might allow a particular developer to implement an entire suite of 3D graphics primitives in RIPscrip, included as part of a RIPscrip add-on module. He can design graphics using his command-set, and customers using his add-on module with the basic RIPscrip engine, could view the 3D graphics the way that they were intended to be viewed. This has the potential to open up a vast third-party developer market for products and services.

Design Goals

RIPscrip 3.0 differs substantially from its earlier 1.0 version in a number of areas. The older editions of RIPscrip were designed around a fixed environment of 16 color displays at a resolution of 640x350. RIPscrip 3.0 is not like that - it is designed around a hardware independent display environment, capable of being implemented on a broad variety of display environments and operating systems.

To accomplish this task, the language became considerably more complex. Not only did the number of basic commands in the language grow, but the structure and relationships between the commands grew as well. What resulted is a highly-defined, broad-reaching graphics presentation technology that can be used in just about any display environment.

The two fundamental precepts of RIPscrip 3.0 are the concepts of resolution independence, and also color independence. These are the two areas where graphical environments vary greatly, and consequently, where the largest source of compatibility problems arises. This is why so much time and effort was put into RIPscrip 3.0 in these areas, making sure that the language encompassed as many environments as possible. This was to ensure its future growth and compatibility with new equipment and environments.

Resolution Independence - The World Coordinate System

One of the most important improvements in RIPscrip, is the concept of a resolution independent drawing environment. Without a resolution independent environment, a drawing on one computer monitor, might appear tiny when viewed on another monitor running at a higher resolution. RIPscrip 3.0 overcomes this with the addition of a world coordinate system.

The world coordinate system in RIPscrip can be considered a "virtual coordinate system", superimposed on the actual drawing surface of the monitor. For example, consider that your monitor is running at 640x480 resolution right now. If you drew graphics at this resolution, then took that graphical information over to another computer running say, at 1280x1024, your image would only appear on the upper-left portion of the monitor. With the diverse kinds of video hardware in the computer industry, resolution independence is critically important to preserving the look and feel of information from one computer environment to another.

The world coordinate system adds a new coordinate system on-top of your video display, logically mapping physical pixels on the screen to new coordinates in the world coordinate system. For example, if you were running at 640x480 resolution, and your world coordinate system were defined to a size of 6400x4800, then every pixel on your screen would correspond to 10 logical pixels wide and tall. When working with a high-scale coordinate system like this, viewing graphics on another video device is simply a matter of "re-mapping" the logical coordinates in the world coordinate system, to the actual physical device pixel coordinates used by your computer monitor.

RIPscrip 3.0 allows you to define a world coordinate system to a maximum size of 32,767 by 32,767, giving you plenty of room to accommodate video hardware over the next several decades.

Color-Palette Independence

The second area of hardware independence is color palette independence. This is an important issue, because the number of colors available on one video device can vary widely from those of another device. It is not uncommon to have people in the same office using video displays running at 16 colors, while other people in the same office are using 256 color display modes. With new video hardware, video devices supporting 32,767 colors, 65,636 colors, 16.7 million colors, and even higher are becoming affordable, and quite commonplace. With this in mind, proper thought needed to be put into a color system for RIPscrip which accommodates the needs of yesterday's technology, and tomorrow's.

RIPscrip handles color palette independence in two ways - it provides for an indexed color palette system, where you have a table of 256 colors all referred to by a particular index number. The RIPscrip engine itself is in charge of mapping these individual color numbers to actual hardware colors available in the video device. The developer has the ability to change these colors at will, forcing the RIPscrip engine to re-map the colors at the low-level, to the proper display colors. Using color palette indexes allows for fast, efficient specification of color values with only a single number. Color palettes can also be used to change all occurrences of a particular color on the screen to another actual color in the blink of an eye, allowing for color palette animation techniques commonly used in video games, and other special effects.

The second area of color palette independence used in RIPscrip, is the concept of RGB encoding. With RGB encoding, you can specify color values as a set of Red, Green and Blue values. These values are combined by the RIPscrip display engine, and the closest available color in the video hardware is used to display the graphics. In this mode, the RIPscrip system is entirely in charge of determining which color is the closest available color, and should be used for the requested RGB value. Leaving RIPscrip in charge of mapping the colors, makes your graphics flexible and capable of being displayed on just about any kind of video hardware.

Broad Range of Graphical Primitives

RIPscrip possesses a comprehensive set of built-in graphical primitive commands. With them, you can visually display just about anything you can imagine. With nearly 100 predefined commands, and over 150 separate "text variable" commands (see below), RIPscrip gives you a serious arsenal to design your online service.

Font Systems

Probably one of the most important aspects of RIPscrip graphics, is the availability of a flexible font system. RIPscrip actually gives you access to two different kinds of font systems!

The original font system, based around a vector font technology, is called the System Font. There are currently 11 separate fonts in this system of RIPscrip. New fonts may not be added to this system, as it is an older font engine, with moderate appearance. These fonts are however, very fast and are quite suitable for many environments. These fonts are designed around line-based vectors, which when assembled together, create a complete font glyph, or character. Microsoft Windows and many other GUI environments provided this kind of vector font technology in their early stages of development. RIPscrip is no different in this regard. The System Font engine of RIPscrip was part of the 1.x edition of RIPscrip.

With version 2.0 of RIPscrip, high-tech outline font technology was introduced as the second font engine in the graphical technology. This outline font technology, similar to TrueType™ or Adobe Postscript™ style fonts, gives you the ability to place fonts on the screen in a variety of orientations, at any point size you want. You have full control over bold, italic, underline and strikethrough attributes, and can even control the rotation and orientation of characters on even 90( increments. Unlike the System Font engine of RIPscrip, the Outline Font engine (otherwise known as the extended font system), allows you to incorporate new fonts into RIPscrip to enhance your documents.

Vector Graphics Primitives

RIPscrip offers the developer a wide variety of vector graphics primitives to achieve just about any kind of geometric drawings you could ever want. Similar to many high-end drawing packages only available for many hundreds of dollars, RIPscrip gives you the same drawing flexibility as you would come to expect from a quality presentation graphics system.

Of the many drawing primitives in RIPscrip, you'll find commands to perform the following drawing functions:

Command  Borders only Filled-only  Filled/Border 
Lines Yes  No  No
Points and pixels  Yes  No No
Graphical text Yes  No No
Bezier curves Yes  No No
Circular arcs Yes  No No
Oval arcs Yes  No No
Poly-lines Yes  No No
Circles Yes Yes  Yes 
Ovals Yes Yes Yes 
Rectangles Yes Yes Yes 
Rounded rectangles Yes Yes Yes 
Poly-Bezier curves Yes Yes Yes 
Polygons Yes Yes Yes 
Circular pie slices  NoYes Yes 
Oval pie slices  NoYes Yes 

Color Palettes

RIPscrip offers a number of commands to alter the existing color palette. RIPscrip has two different methods of working with color information: using indexed color palettes, or with direct hard-coded RGB values. Using color palettes, allows you to quickly switch between one color set and another, giving you the ability to perform basic color palette animation techniques, or to change the color sets of a particular screen on-the-fly.

RGB encoding modes allow you to encode your graphical data in raw RGB values, making the RIPscrip engine do the hard part of locating the proper color that most closely resembles the desired color, and using that one to draw with.

RIPscrip provides the best of both worlds when it comes to color. You can use the flexibility of a color palette system, or the more robust, platform independent method of using RGB color values for your artwork.

Fill Patterns

RIPscrip provides a set of twelve predefined fill-patterns which you may use with filled-in objects like filled-rectangles, circles, or the like. The basic standard patterns give you a place to start from, but it doesn't stop there. You may define your own 8x8 fill patterns for use in your content. The choice of pattern selection is entirely up to you, and you can even use two-tone colored patterns to provide dithering effects, or halftoning patterns for your information. Using fill patterns gives your artwork "texture", and gives things a more appealing look.

Of the available predefined patterns, you have numerous cross-hatch patterns, dotted patterns and others to work with. If a pattern isn't in the predefined list, you can define your own.

Fill patterns only apply to filled-in objects like circles, rectangles, polygons, and ovals, etc. They do not apply for non-closed objects like lines, pixels, text or poly-lines.

Line Dash-Styles

It doesn't stop there. You also have both predefined and custom line dash styles to work with. If you want to change the appearance of a line from a solid line, to a dotted line, you can. There are five separately defined dash styles, ranging from a solid line, to dotted and dashed lines. If that's not enough, you can define your own dash styles using a 16-pixel dash style definition. This gives you the ability to define any kind of dash style you could want.

You also have control over the thickness of lines. The thickness of lines governs the weight of a line, or how heavy it appears. This allows you to define pencil-thin, or very fat lines. Line thickness is used for any outline object (e.g., lines, ovals, circles, pie-slices, Bezier curves, polygons, etc.).

Dash sequences may be used for any "straight-line" RIPscrip oriented commands. This covers lines, poly-lines and polygons because they're all based on straight-line segments. It also covers rectangles. It does not cover circles, ovals, rounded rectangles or the Bezier-curve family of commands because these are based on curves. These commands only utilize the thickness of lines.


One final aspect of the graphics primitive area of RIPscrip, is the use of raster operators. A raster operator, or raster-op, governs how a graphical object is drawn onto the screen. Typically, the standard Raster-Op mode of COPY is used. When COPY mode is used, graphics are drawn onto the screen "as-is", overwriting whatever graphics were underneath them. Other raster-ops exist which permit you to change this drawing mode. This lets you "merge" a graphical command with the information already on the screen. For example, one of the raster-ops is OR mode. This allows the RIPscrip engine to effectively merge the operation of drawing a circle, with the graphics already on the screen underneath the circle, giving a rather translucent effect. There are five separate Raster-Ops available which provide a number of Boolean drawing modes (i.e., COPY, AND, OR, NOT, and XOR).

User-Interface Objects

Up until now, we've only been discussing the drawing, or presentation capabilities of RIPscrip. RIPscrip offers much more than just simple drawing capabilities. It has many built-in user-interface objects which can be used to control the sequence of events in an online environment.

For example, on a traditional online service, you have a text menu that instructs the user what command to type to activate a particular operation. Under RIPscrip, this scheme is still possible, but you probably wouldn't want to use it. What would be better would be to display a menu with buttons on the screen that the user can click. Clicking on one of the buttons will activate that function, causing the host system to perform the desired operation. In this kind of environment, the user doesn't have to know what the command is in order to activate an option; all he has to know is that he clicks on a picture of an envelope to activate the Email option. This is the essence of RIPscrip user-interface objects.

There are three user-interface objects in RIPscrip: the mouse field, the button and the query expression. We will cover each of these separately.

Mouse Fields

Mouse fields are the most generic of user-interface objects in RIPscrip. They allow you to perform hyper-links from one area of an online service to another. You can even perform a large number of operations that don't even affect the host system with mouse fields. Suffice to say, that mouse fields are a versatile mechanism to perform numerous functions when the user clicks his mouse on the screen.

A mouse field is an invisible rectangle that you can place on the screen. When the user clicks the left mouse button inside this screen area, it activates a particular host command sequence defined for that mouse field.

For example, let's say that you have the image of a mailbox on the screen, and that your host system expects the user to type the letter "E" followed by a carriage return to enter the Email system. You could make the mailbox image "clickable", forcing the user into the Email system by placing a mouse field over the mailbox. Define the mouse field on top of the mail box (remember, a mouse field is invisible so it won't obstruct the image of the mailbox), and define a host command of "E^M" for that mouse field. This transmits the character "E" to the host system, followed by a CTRL-M sequence (i.e., a carriage return). When the user clicks on the mailbox, the user will be placed into Email on the host system.

You can do many more things with mouse fields beyond this example. You can assign hotkeys to mouse fields, change what happens to the screen when the user clicks on them, and even utilize the extensive host command language of RIPscrip from inside the host command of the mouse field (see below).


Buttons are perhaps the most common user-interface object in RIPscrip. They combine two distinctly different concepts into a more powerful command. Specifically a button combines the concepts of a mouse field, with a visible image. This not only creates a clickable object, but also gives it a specific image in one basic command.

There are three types of button objects. The first is the plain button. A plain button is a button that uses built-in drawing effects in RIPscrip to display the button. An example of a plain button might be a gray beveled button with the phrase "Email" embossed in dropshadowed text.

The second, more flexible style of button is the bitmapped button, or icon button as it's commonly known. This allows you to design a button to look like anything you want. You use one, or possibly two pictures for the image of your button. One picture is the image that is displayed for the button in its normal, un-selected state. The optional second image is used to display the button when it is selected, or clicked.

The third, and perhaps least frequently used style of buttons is called a snapshot button. A snapshot button uses an image contained on the RIPscrip image snapshot to display the button. A snapshot is a rectangular image "snapshot" of a piece of graphical information from the screen the can be used to "stamp" onto the screen in one or more locations to save graphical operations. For example, you could take twenty or so RIPscrip commands to draw the image of a brick on the screen, take a snapshot of that brick, then paste the snapshot image on the screen to make a brick wall.

You have the ability to display bevels, chisels, recessed and sunken special effects on all types of buttons, giving them the appearance of being 3D. TeleGrafix uses the special effects of buttons to achieve a "chiseled steel" appearance to its menus, but this is only one particular color scheme and it can be changed to achieve a wide variety of 3D special effects for button objects.

Buttons utilize host commands in exactly the same manner as mouse fields do (see above). You can even define hotkeys for a button, allowing the button to be selected when the user chooses a particular keystroke from the keyboard.

Buttons may also have a descriptive text label associated with them. Labels may be placed in a number of orientations around the button. Labels can be visually centered in the middle of the button, displayed above or below it, or even on the right or left sides of the button.

Query Expressions

A query expression is similar in concept to a mouse field or a button object, but only loosely. A query expression is designed to instruct the RIPscrip client software to perform some operation at a particular moment in time. In effect, it is similar to an alarm clock that triggers when a certain kind of event occurs. Mouse fields and buttons trigger whenever the user clicks the mouse inside the rectangular area defined for the object. Query expressions go beyond that - you can assign them to other kinds of objects like graphical viewports or text windows (see below), or even instruct the RIPscrip software to process them immediately.

Immediate-mode query expressions are probably the most common. When the RIPscrip software encounters an immediate-mode query expression, the host command portion of the command is immediately processed, executing every option defined in it right after the command is received from the host. This acts like a mouse field that is clicked the very instant that it is received from the host system, except that the query expression doesn't remain defined - it is typically deleted immediately after it's executed. In this manner, query expressions are temporary in nature, unlike mouse fields and buttons which can remain active on the screen for quite some time.

Some query expressions can be defined as "resident" query expressions. A resident query expression is a background operation that remains active until it's turned off, much like mouse fields. For example, an Email editor might define a text window on the screen so that the user can enter text information. You could define a resident query expression over that text window, that would report back to the host which (X,Y) location the user clicked on inside the text window if the user clicks his left mouse button in the text window. This could easily be used to re-position the cursor to a new location, mark text for deletion, or a variety of other operations.

There are also some new resident query expressions that allow certain events to occur if the mouse moves into our out of a mouse/button field. This doesn't mean that the user actually clicks inside the mouse field - but rather, the query expression activates when the mouse moves over a mouse field. These commands are frequently used to change the mouse cursor whenever the mouse moves over a particular region of the screen.

Integrated Graphical and TTY Interfaces

RIPscrip allows you to intermix graphical information with old-style TTY and ANSI information, giving you the best of both worlds. This lets you add graphics to your online system in stages, link-out to another text-based online service from your graphical system, or simply display lists of text information to your users. This is accomplished by mixing graphics inside graphical viewports, with text information shown in text windows.


A graphical viewport, is a "window" inside which graphics may be drawn. In nearly all circumstances, graphical information can only be drawn inside viewports. Viewports are like a cookie-cutter window - anything that would extend beyond the boundary of the viewport will be clipped, or cut-off at the boundary. Viewports, otherwise known as clipping rectangles, allow you to place graphics at particular locations on the screen, making it so that the graphics cannot extend beyond that designated area.

RIPscrip even allows you to define multiple drawing "ports". A drawing port is like a virtual canvas or video screen in that you can switch to it, and draw to it as you want. You are allowed up to 36 separate drawing ports, each one may have its own unique viewport drawing sub-area. Drawing ports may be on-screen video drawing ports, or offscreen memory drawing environments. Offscreen drawing ports are frequently used to prepare some graphics data off the screen, then copy them to the screen when they're finished. This gives the appearance of extremely fast drawing of graphics. Other uses of offscreen drawing ports might be in game environments - load all of the icons or images used in a game board onto an offscreen drawing port, and copy them to the screen as needed. This makes it so RIPscrip doesn't have to constantly access the hard disk every time a new image needs to be displayed. In this situation, the image(s) are already loaded in memory.

Text Windows

TTY and ANSI information will appear only in text windows. A text window is much like a normal MS-DOS screen, where you see rows and columns of ASCII text information displayed. In RIPscrip, all raw text data is displayed in a customizable text window object. In this manner, you can place a text window anywhere on the screen that you want. Subsequent TTY or ANSI text that is received by the software will be routed (i.e., displayed) to that text window.

For example, you might have a file library system on your online service. When the user chooses the "Display files" option, the host system could open up a text window and display a listing of all of the available files in it. You could still have buttons, display fields and graphical information visible outside the text window. This would give the user the ability to view additional information and even perform many operations while the list of files is being displayed.

You are allowed to have up to 36 separate text windows defined at any one moment in time. Although you can have a large number of them defined simultaneously, only one of them may be active at any particular moment in time. In order to display ANSI or TTY information to a text window that is not the current one, you would need to switch text windows to make the desired text window the current one. Multiple text windows are typically used to implement multi-field database entry forms, where each field is a different text window.

Note, text windows and graphical viewports may overlap.

Supported Image Formats

Not only does RIPscrip support a wide variety of vector graphics commands, but it also supports a number of bitmapped image formats for the display of various kinds of images. Numerous options are available to control the appearance of images, like options to control aspect ratio, dithering, transparency and color palettes. Currently, two actual bitmapped file formats are supported: BMP and JPEG.


The high-speed bitmapped file format supported by RIPscrip is the device-independent BMP format used commonly under Microsoft Windows. RIPscrip fully supports the monochrome, 16 color, 256 color and the 24-bit uncompressed variations of the BMP file format. Other features of the bitmap display system are dithering, color palette manipulation, transparency and wallpapering.

BMP files are uncompressed normally, and as such, are very fast to display. RIPscrip does not support compressed versions of BMP or OS/2-style BMP files that have a slightly different internal file format. RIPscrip has the ability to stretch a BMP to any desired size on the screen.


RIPscrip 2.0 introduced JPEG image format into the language to enhance the normal, uncompressed BMP file formats used for high-speed image display. While JPEG images are slower to display, the significantly smaller file sizes justify the tradeoffs in performance. JPEG images have an adjustable compression ratio that allows the artist to custom-tailor the compression versus quality issues for a given image by adjusting this compression factor.

JPEG compressed images obtain such a high-degree of compression because it is considered "lossey" compression. Lossey compressed images suffer minor image degradation as a result of the compression process. Under many situations, the loss in quality of the image is barely noticeable (if at all).

All JPEG images are 24-bit in nature, and RIPscrip supports even the GrayPEG variations of JPEG that display gray images (i.e., black and white with gray-scales).


Early on in the development of RIPscrip version 2.0, the Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) was incorporated into the design to supplement the compressed image format JPEG. It was added because JPEG is a "lossey" compression, that loses some image quality for higher compression ratios. GIF on the other hand, got lower compression ratios, but didn't lose any quality as a result of compression. As a result, GIF images decode considerably faster than JPEG does.

Unfortunately, due to outrageous licensing conditions for the compression algorithm LZW used with GIF formats, the technology had to be dropped from RIPscrip 2.0. This leaves only JPEG images available for compressed images.


As a result of the licensing problems that arose in 1995 with GIF, a new file format was born known as Portable Network Graphics (PNG). This format is not based on any patented compression technology and is designed to be freely distributable in all formats with no licensing restrictions of any kind. In addition, it supports all of the same functions and features as did the older GIF format, and even has some extra capabilities built-in that make it a superior technology.

Like GIF, PNG is a "loss-less" image compression method where image quality doesn't suffer from compression like it does with JPEG. What you get back after decompressing an image is exactly the same as the original image. PNG decompression is as fast as GIF is, making it comparable in both performance and features.

TeleGrafix is currently implementing PNG for its next release of the RIPscrip graphics technology. Soon, you will have both JPEG and PNG compressed images.

Data Tables

A fundamental concept in RIPscrip 3.0 is the idea of data tables. A data table is a list of data objects. There are a eight different types of data tables in RIPscrip, each serving a unique purpose. To the left, is a listing of the available data tables:

Port Type Entries 
Graphics style 36 
Button style 36 
Drawing port 36 
Text window 36 
Color palette 36 
Environment 36 
Mouse field 128 
Graphics screen 

One such data table, the graphics style table, is for the storage of drawing attribute information. Parts of a graphics style are the settings for current drawing color, fill pattern, font style, raster-op, line pattern and more. In effect, it stores all of the graphical drawing attributes, or the "style" for graphics drawing in one central location.

The mouse field and graphics screen data tables in the preceding list are special and require further discussion. The mouse field data table is a collection of up to 128 separate mouse field definitions, where each mouse field is considered an individual data table entry. There is no such thing as a "current mouse field", and as such, there is no current Mouse Field data table entry. You can't switch from one mouse field to another either.

The other special data table is the graphics screen data table. The graphics screen data table is not actually a real data table. You cannot switch from one graphics screen to another like you can with other data table entries, because you only have one computer monitor, and as such, only one graphics screen. The graphics screen is formally defined as a data table so that it can interface with the data backup system (see below).

Switching Data Tables - Context Swapping

As you may notice, most of the data tables have more than one entry, allowing you to have multiple defined data table entries simultaneously. Using these multiple entries, you can quickly move from one drawing environment to another with a simple data table "switch context" command. There are commands to switch from one data table to another for each type of table in the preceding list (e.g., RIP_SWITCH_STYLE, RIP_SWITCH_TEXT_WINDOW, etc.).

Switching data tables can be extremely useful in the efficient use of transmission speeds. For example, a graphics style data table could be used to store different kinds of drawing environments for different menus, and all you need to do when you go to another menu is switch to the desired graphics style - you don't need to re-transmit all of the RIPscrip commands to configure all of the correct drawing attributes before you actually start drawing. This can result in substantial space savings in RIPscrip data files.

Protected Data Tables

Having data tables at your disposal has quite a bit of usefulness in the overall design of efficient RIPscrip content. However, for the service provider who is designing a large-scale online service, using data table entries effectively requires the ability of defining data tables that can stay defined permanently throughout the duration of a user's online session.

This is where "protection" comes into play. Each data table entry can be protected, so that it cannot be deleted or altered by some kind of environment reset operation. This is perfectly suited for an online service that needs to use the same data table configurations throughout the service, and only needs to define them once. By protecting the entries immediately after they're defined, you are guarding them, making them so that they will remain defined until you want them removed.

Nearly all data table entries can be protected except for the first one, entry number 0. Entry 0 in every data table is always considered a "scratch pad" entry, and is always modifiable. This ensures that you will always have a valid, usable entry that you can change to suit your needs. In this manner, entry 0 is typically referred to as the "common table entry".

It should be noted that graphics screen data tables and mouse field data tables cannot be protected.

Data Backup System

Data tables, by themselves, are quite powerful in nature. But in larger scale online services, where many areas of the system may be made by different manufacturers (as in the case of BBS systems), the operator of the service doesn't necessarily have complete control over each module. This can cause problems with data tables that you may have defined.

For example, let's say you defined all of your graphics style data table entries the way that you need for your basic service, then your customer links from your system to another server. In this situation, the other server could entirely redefine the graphics styles in RIPscrip, overwriting yours. When the customer returns to your system, the graphics styles aren't defined to what you expected them to be.

This is where the RIPscrip data backup system comes in. The data backup system allows you to effectively "backup" an entire data table to some alternate storage area, making a "safe copy" of it that you can restore from. It is much like making a tape backup of a hard disk. You make backup copies of your data before you go to an area that will change them, then restore the information when you need it.

There are multiple data backup areas - one for each type of data table. This is why the graphics screen and mouse fields are formally defined as data tables - so that they can be backed up. Each data backup area (for each type of data table), has multiple storage sub-areas. This allows you to have multiple copies of each data table stored separately. Using data backup areas effectively can open up an enormous amount of flexibility when it comes to working with online software packages.

The data table system can be visually broken down into three distinct areas: The Base Data Save Area, the Data Save Slots and the Stack Save Area. Visually, it can be described as follows:

Base Data Save Area

The Base Save Area is perhaps one of the more commonly used save areas. It is a common "scratch pad" storage area, designated for temporary storage only. It cannot be protected, and should not be used to hold long-term backup information. It can hold one entire data table, and can hold it indefinitely (until deleted, or overwritten).

Data Save Slots

The Data Save Slots are one of the more useful, and most flexible storage mechanisms in a data backup area. You have up to 10 separate slots available to you, each one of which can store an entire data table. You access Save Slots by slot number (0-9), and these slots can be protected - this means that can put some information in a backup slot and make sure that it can't be overwritten or deleted by some other application!

Unlike the Base Area, Save Slots do not hold their information indefinitely. Save Slots are deleted (i.e., cleared) of their data immediately after you restore from them (unless they're protected). In this manner, the data backup system automatically cleans up after itself when you restore information.

You may use up to 10 of the Save Slots, but keep in mind that the 10 Save Slots are "shared" with the Stack Save Area (see below), so you may not have 10 actual slots to work with - some of them might be in use by the stack!

Stack Save Area

The last and most useful area of the data backup system is the Stack Save Area. The Stack Area "borrows" slots from the Save Slot system when information is stored on the stack, and those slots are returned when a data table is removed from the top of the stack. In this manner, the stack can be considered a chronological storage mechanism. When you store a data table onto the stack, you are "pushing" it onto the stack, making any other data tables already on the stack appear below the one you're storing. When you restore from the stack (i.e., "pop"), you are removing the top-most data table from the stack. Subsequent restore operations from the stack will remove the top entries, thus reducing the size of the stack by one with each restore operation.

The Save Stack Area is ideally suited for an overlapping dialog box/windowing system. If you want to display a dialog box on the screen, overlaying an existing menu, simply push all of the data tables in use onto the stack, then when you want to close the dialog box (and return to the previous menu), you pop the data tables off of the stack, thus making the old settings active again. The same method can also apply to the menu that was in the background - there could have been another menu behind that one which could have been stored on the stack, which can be restored just as easily.

Since the Save Stack borrows "slots" from the Save Slot system, you can only have a maximum of 10 data tables stored on the stack at any one point in time (assuming that no slots are actually in use in the Save Slot system).

Host Command Language

Up until now, we've been covering the basic architecture of RIPscrip in general - discussing the types of commands available, data areas, and structure of the language. In this section, we'll discuss another, extremely powerful area of RIPscrip: the Host Command Language.

The Host Command Language (HCL) is used in mouse fields, buttons and query expressions to control what information is sent to the host, and also to control different kinds of processing that may occur. In fact, some areas of the HCL may even be used in other RIPscrip commands like graphical text operations, loading bitmap files, etc., but the descriptions of their usefulness goes beyond the scope of this document.

Normally a host command contains raw text that is to be sent to the host system. This information is usually in the form of a command that the host understands, but can also be just about anything you want. Using raw commands like this makes up the bulk of RIPscrip host commands. In order to take accommodate the needs of most host systems, some portions of the HCL will inevitably be needed. For example, to go into Email on a particular BBS, you might have to send the letter "E" followed by a carriage return. The "E" would be considered the raw host command, but the carriage return would have to be handled by a control character directive in the HCL (e.g., "^M").

There are five different areas of the HCL: control characters, pop-up picklists, local playback directives, template directives and text variables. Each of these are distinctly different in purpose, but when used in combination, give you a great deal of flexibility in whatever you want to do in a host command.

Control Characters

Control characters are perhaps one of the most basic aspects of the HCL. In fact, they are the most commonly used feature of the HCL as well. With control characters, you can insert a code into a host command that, when processed, will be converted into a single-byte ASCII control character sequence (e.g., ASCII values 0-31). You specify control characters as a caret symbol (^) followed by the character code designated for the control character sequence. For example, "^M" is used for carriage return and "^G" is used for a beep. You may also use the backquote (`) character instead of the caret if your host software uses the caret for its own purposes.

Pop-Up Picklists

Pop-up picklists are a very useful way of presenting the user with a list of choices. Typically used in a host command of a mouse field or button, picklists are used to display a listing of choices to the user. When the user makes a choice, the result of that choice is inserted into the host command in place of the picklist command itself.

For example, the host command "order ((apples,oranges,cherries))" will send the sequence "order " to the host system, then display a listing of three different kinds of fruits for the user to choose. Once the user chooses one of them, the appropriate value is transmitted to the host system. If the user chose "apples", then the sequence "order apples" will be sent to the host system.

There are a number of formatting options and extra features available for picklists to control the placement, prompt, and display of each item of the list, giving you considerable flexibility in how your list should be displayed.

Local File Playback Directives

Another commonly used feature of the HCL are local file playback directives. A local playback directive instructs the RIPscrip software to process a file located on its local hard disk in a client/server fashion. An example of this might be to play the file BEEP.WAV when the user clicks on a particular button. The file BEEP.WAV would have to be located on the user's hard disk for the option to work.

There are four basic playback directives: display a JPEG image, play an audio file, display a RIPscrip file, and show a BMP image. Using local playback directives, you can make quite a number of things happen directly from inside a mouse field or button command, activated when the user clicks on the object. In fact, it is entirely possible that local playback directives be used to simulate menus on an online service locally, thus making it so that you don't have to transmit hardly anything over the modem (if at all). Many software packages use this feature extensively to provide the customer with lightning fast menu displays at the expense of a little bit of disk space on the user's hard disk.

Template Directives

Template directives constitute perhaps one of the more complex areas of the HCL, but also one of the most powerful. Templates are used in the RIPscrip HCL as a way of "building" more complex host commands based on specific conditions. In this manner, you can think of templates as a cookie-cutter approach to host commands, using templates to construct host commands based on which buttons are selected and which ones are not.

Typically, templates are used with radio buttons and checkbox buttons which have a distinct on/off status. When one of these buttons is turned on, it defines a template sequence. That template sequence is used by some other host command to "import" the currently defined template value.

Taking the fruit ordering example described previously, you could make the selection of fruits a list of three radio buttons instead of a picklist. Each radio button, when clicked, will define a particular template number to a specific text sequence (e.g., defines template #1 to the values "apples", "oranges" or "cherries"). Depending on which radio button is clicked by the user, the selected fruit can be referenced in an "order" button by the host command sequence "order $?1$". When the user clicks on the order button, it sends "order " to the host system, then sends template number 1 to the host system, whichever value it happens to be set to at the moment (e.g., apples, oranges or cherries).

Templates can perform many complex tasks well beyond the one described in this example. The methods that templates can be defined are diverse, and the ways that they can be called upon to perform operations are equally diverse.

Text Variables

Probably the most common use of the HCL in RIPscrip, is the usage of text variables. Text variables are, as the name implies, a variable containing some piece of text information. In actuality, text variables are much more extensive than simple data variables. Some text variables can store a piece of text information, whereas other text variables don't store any text information, but rather perform some kind of action or processing.

There are two distinctly different kinds of text variables in RIPscrip. There are user-defined text variables, which are designed to store user-defined text information that the user (or the host system) specifies. The other kind of text variables are pre-defined RIPscrip text variables. Pre-defined variables typically store a particular type of text information, or perform a specific action that the host specifies.

User-Defined Text Variables

User-defined text variables are variables that store a piece of information that the host system, or the user specifies. There are two types of user-defined text variables: memory variables or database variables.

Memory text variables are temporary in nature, and store the designated information until the RIPscrip software is shutdown, they are deleted or overwritten with new information.

Database text variables are essentially permanent. They are stored in a database file on the user's hard disk and can be retrieved at any time. Database variables can be deleted or overwritten just like memory variables can.

User-defined text variables can be used for a variety of purposes. A typical example of a user variable might be $FIRST_NAME$ which contains the customer's first name. Another application of user variables could be address information, allowing for automated signup to new online services.

User-defined variables can also be created by the host system, without the user's intervention. These variables are defined "transparently" to the user, and are typically used by the host system for various configuration information that needs to be stored on the client terminal. An example of this is the RIPmaster software package running under TBBS which can be installed on many different online services. This package implements a complete RIPscrip 3.0 multimedia presentation system for your BBS, and as such, uses a great many files on the user's local hard disk. To distinguish the files of one online service from another, a user-defined text variable named $EXTENSION$ is used to define a file extension for the system (e.g., ".TG" for TeleGrafix's BBS), and whenever a filename parameter in RIPscrip is entered, the text variable $EXTENSION$ is used where the file's extension would normally appear, forcing RIPscrip to lookup the variable and replace it with ".TG". In this example, the sequence "FILENAME$EXTENSION$" becomes "FILENAME.TG".

Pre-Defined Text Variables

Pre-defined text variables in RIPscrip are a very powerful, very broad subject. Essentially there are two types of pre-defined text variables: data variables, and action variables. There are over 160 different pre-defined text variables in RIPscrip 3.0, some of which are data variables, and others are action variables.

Data variables are basic text variables that contain a specific piece of information. An example of one of these variables is $DATE$ which inserts the current date into the host command (e.g., "03/07/96"). Other variables return configuration information about various aspects of RIPscrip in the form of text information (e.g., what is the current graphics style number, etc.).

Action text variables perform some kind of action on the RIPscrip software package. An example of this might be the $CLS$ text variable which clears the screen. There are a great many action variables in RIPscrip which can do things ranging from simple beeps and sounds, to complex data copying operations. Just about all operations with switching data table entries and data backup slots can be handled efficiently with action variables. Effective use of RIPscrip to provide some kind of GUI interface to the user can only be accomplished with the use of action text variables.

Some pre-defined text variables are a combination of both data variables and action variables. For example, the text variable sequence $CUR(TW)$ by itself, reports the current Text Window data table entry number as a number from 0-35. In this configuration, this text variable acts like a data text variable, inserting a piece of text into the host command. The sequence $CUR(TW,5)$ on the other hand, changes the current text window to text window number 5. In this example, this text variable performs an action and hence, is an action variable. When a variable performs an action, it never contains any data and always evaluates to nothing (e.g., the sequence "Hello $CUR(TW,5)$world" would send "Hello " to the host system, switch to text window number 5, then send "world" to the host system.

Putting It All Together

With RIPscrip 3.0, you can use as little or as much of the language in the creation of your online service as you want. At the very minimum, you might opt to use just the drawing capabilities to show nice pictures and images to your customers. On the other side, you could build a full-fledged graphical online service, utilizing the full range of RIPscrip's capabilities to present a robust, feature-rich service similar to the largest online services. With RIPscrip, the capability is there to do just about whatever you want. The more you want to do though, the more aspects of RIPscrip you'll naturally need to use.

For example, if you want to present dialog boxes and menus which can overlap each other, that can be removed with a click of a button, you'll need to get a pretty good grasp of the basics of action text variables and the data backup system.

To make your online connection as fast as possible, you would need to take advantage of data tables and local playback directives to create a truly client/server architecture.

If you wish to display high-quality documents like those you would normally find in magazines or newspapers, then you'd need to familiarize yourself with the capabilities of the font systems of RIPscrip, and the multi-column system for extensive layout control.

Future Goals of RIPscrip

No matter what your needs are, RIPscrip probably has a feature or set of commands that will help you accomplish your goals. If it doesn't, contact TeleGrafix and request the feature for future versions of the technology. The reason RIPscrip has so many features is because of its users asking for them. RIPscrip is truly customer-driven technology, where the needs of the customer are built into the technology.

There are a number of areas that are currently under design and/or development for RIPscrip. Many of these areas were based on customer requests, or future TeleGrafix ideas for the technology.

International Language Support

Currently in development, international languages are an important aspect of the next edition of RIPscrip technology. Enhancements to the language for international character set encoding are currently underway, with specific emphasis being placed on Japanese encoding of information using JIS, Shift-JIS and EUC encoding formats. Additional language support will be added after this first phase of internationalization is complete (e.g., Hebrew, Cyrillic, Chinese, Korean, etc.).

Full-Motion Video

A popular request has been for full-motion video animation within the framework of RIPscrip. Currently, the MPEG video standard is under serious consideration for implementation because it is an industry standard for video, with a large variety of third-party hardware and software support, and has a great deal of existing content available already in MPEG format. With today's high-speed computers becoming more and more available, MPEG video is quickly becoming a far more widely accepted method of doing compressed, full-motion video.

Compressed, Streaming Audio

Another popular request for RIPscrip is a formal, compressed audio format that is suitable for playing voice or music-grade audio over a streaming network connection (e.g., 14.4 modem, ethernet, TCP/IP, etc.). Currently, a number of audio formats are under consideration for possible implementation including APEG, CELP and several others.

Integrated GUI Environment

As RIPscrip evolves, and is being used for more GUI-based applications, more and more people are requesting that built-in GUI primitives be added to RIPscrip (e.g., real dialog boxes, multiple window objects, slider controls, spin buttons, combo-boxes, list boxes, edit boxes, etc.). This would make it so that the system developer wouldn't have to draw every single control object for use in a user-defined dialog box. A lot of thought is being put into this subject, considering not only the look and feel issues, but also implementing a powerful, yet generic GUI system that can be flexible enough to meet anybody's needs.

Forms and Tables

Pre-defined forms support is another popular request. A form object would allow you to define multiple fields on the screen that could be filled in by the user, without the host system having to actually do the work of implementing the form itself.

Tables are another area that is being requested a lot. Tables would allow you to display information in a formatted table of information similar to the tables shown elsewhere in this document.

Document Oriented Interface

Another important area of improvement in RIPscrip is a document-oriented interface. Such an interface would integrate RIPscrip information in a way suitable for the display of actual printed documents. Information would be based around the concept of a "page" of information, with pages grouped into a larger document. This would involve a virtual screen layout, where the screen could be larger than the actual graphics screen, allowing the user to scroll around on the document to view the desired information.

Hyper-Text Markup Language (HTML)

As RIPscrip is being implemented in more and more World Wide Web environments, the ability to have the Hyper-Text Markup Language as a native sub-set of RIPscrip is important. Having this ability would allow you to display HTML Web documents inside RIPscrip documents, giving you access to the huge base of existing HTML information available on the Web today.


When creating your own graphical online service, you can effectively do whatever your imagination wants. You can make it look like just about anything, and make it do nearly anything. You are limited only by your imagination, and the capabilities of your graphical presentation technology. RIPscrip offers you a wide range of features to bring your imagination to the computer screen, and thus your customers.

Without a flexible technology at your disposal, your dreams for a graphical online service simply cannot happen the way that you want. What is needed is an industry-standard, utterly flexible technology that meets the needs of today, and tomorrow. With RIPscrip from TeleGrafix, you can be assured that your choice in presentation technologies has broad reaching implications, and an eye constantly on the future.

Copyright © 1997 TeleGrafix Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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Trademarks: RIPmaster and the RIPmaster logo are registered trademarks of Advanced Systems Research. RIPscrip is a trademark of TeleGrafix Communications. Other products named here may be trademarks of their respective manufacturers.

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