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Printing and PDF output from ChiWriter

ChiWriter is a DOS-based multifont word processor. Like (La)TeX, it is very suitable for the preparation of scientific manuscripts containing mathematical equations. Unlike (La)TeX, ChiWriter has a WYSIWYG environment:

Unfortunately, the development and distribution of this nice piece of software ceased about two decades ago. I started using ChiWriter in 1988 and I still use it sometimes in the case I have to write documents with mathematical equations.

Nowadays, scientific documents are supposed to be spreadable in electronic format. As the ChiWriter file format is not compatible with any contemporary word processor and it is a huge job to rewrite documents with mathematical equations, I made ChiWriter produce PDF output. For that purpose, I took an old cw.exe from ChiWriter 2.53 (compatible with CW3 but not with CW4), combined it with the screen fonts and elite PostScript fonts made by Joop van den Eijnde, and programmed a shell program to let ChiWriter interact easily with GhostScript. This solution, however, being a mixture of 16-bit and 32-bit software, only ran properly in real DOS (FreeDOS, OpenDOS, DRDOS, MSDOS) - not widely used anymore either. To keep the program alive, that is, usable in a Linux and Windows world, I compiled an alternative version (in fact, a stripped-down version of the original solution), named CWDOSBOX. CWDOSBOX is intended to be used in the DOSBox MSDOS emulator (tested using Version 0.74 on Ubuntu 16.04).

There are two versions of CWDOSBOX: Version 2.0 based on CW 2.53 using Joop van den Eijnde's fonts (see above) and Version 3.0 based on CW 3.11 using the original ChiWriter *.PSF fonts. A major advantage of the latter is that you can use Ctrl-F (search) and mark text (for copy-paste purposes) in the resulting pdf.

In Linux, first make a subdirectory in your home folder named DOS. Next, after installing DOSBox, edit dosbox-0.74.conf (gedit ~/.dosbox/dosbox-0.74.conf) by adding some lines at the bottom ([autoexec] section):

  mount c ~/DOS

Now, drive c: in DOSBox corresponds to ~/DOS in Linux (if you change something in ~/DOS from Linux, you have to restart DOSBox to make the change visible in c:). Something similar can be done in Windows. All files from the downloaded zip file should be placed in c:\cw2 (or c:\cw3); your own documents are supposed to be in c:\cw2\doc (or c:\cw3\doc) - don't forget to create this subdirectory. Edit cwdosbox.cfg for non-default paths; if you change the document path, don't forget to change it in config.par as well. Now you are ready to start CWDOSBOX by typing CWDOSBOX from c:\cw2 (or c:\cw3):

Within ChiWriter, printing should be "to file", and the output file should be called chi.bin. No other name or extension allowed! Next, don't forget the "go", otherwise nothing will be printed! After leaving ChiWriter, select Option 2 (convert chi.bin to output.ps). The resulting PostScript file, OUTPUT.PS, is located in the document path and can be viewed and printed by using your default Linux or Windows PostScript software.

Note: the Evince document viewer as found in, e.g., Ubuntu only displays the last page of OUTPUT.PS, suggesting that it is the only page (1 of 1) in the file (a known bug). You may view the file using gs in a linux terminal:


or you may convert it to pdf first using ps2pdf (again, in a linux terminal):

  ps2pdf OUTPUT.PS output.pdf

and view the resulting output.pdf with any pdf viewer. This is a screenshot from a PDF file created with Version 2.0 (CW 2.53):

The same document processed with Version 3.0 (CW 3.11) using the default settings from config.par looks like this. Another example of PDF output (Version 2.0) can be found here. A PDF (Version 3.0) of the original tutorial.chi can be found here.

Some final notes

The solution is limited to the original scientific ChiWriter fonts.

CWDOSBOX can be considered freeware. As stated on the site of Joop van den Eijnde, his fonts and printer drivers can be considered freeware as well. The original packages, v3screen.zip and v3laspsf.zip, can be found here. ChiWriter itself might still be copyright protected, although Horstmann's website suggests that you may nowadays use the program without being a registered ChiWriter user.

latest update: 7-6-2020