Using Abel - Overview
When you're using Abel, you will find that the screen is broadly split into three, with a menu bar and a toolbar above the three panes. It looks something like this:
On the left of the window, you'll see a list of method names (unless a call change composition is selected); these are the methods used by the current composition. Above the list, you'll see a box labelled "Composition", with a down-arrow at the end. Click the arrow and you'll get a list of the compositions that are available. Click on the one called Plain Courses. The list of methods now shows all the methods currently available for ringing plain courses. Double click any of the methods in the list (the name will appear in the box just above the list). Now click on the big 'Start' button in the middle to get Abel to begin ringing rounds. The 'Start' button changes to say 'Go'. Click it, and Abel starts ringing the method. Or, if you selected a call change composition, Abel starts to call it: Abel can call bells up (2 to 3) or down (3 to 1), depending on how you set the Ringing Options.
Notice that there's a Peal Time box on the left: you can use the up/down arrows next to it to alter the speed of the ringing. The number of bells ringing is shown above the Peal Time. You can't change this whilst the bells are ringing, so stop the bells either by pressing Escape (the button at the top left hand side of the keyboard), or by clicking on the Stand button in the toolbar. It looks like this: . You'll find that you can increase the number of bells (adding tenors behind), but if you've got a method selected Abel will tell you if you try to reduce the number below the number you need for the current method.
In the middle of the screen are pictures of the bells as they ring. For pictures of handbells, or small pictures of sallies and tail ends, they are arranged as a circle. If you click on one of the bells in the circle, you'll find that the circle rotates so that bell is now at the bottom right. Alternatively, for "moving" rope or ringer pictures, the pictures may be arranged in a line (with the treble at the left), or in a crescent. If you click one of the bells in a line, you'll see that an underline mark moves to this bell; if you click one in a crescent, it moves to the right (and other bells move to match). You can also make this happen without using the mouse, by typing Ctrl+B; a small dialog appears in which you can type the number of the bell you would have clicked. When you ring a bell yourself (in Abel terminology, a Manual bell), by pressing keyboard keys, the one you clicked, as described above, is always the first manual bell, rung by the "j" key (unless you have changed the keyboard mappings). If you ring with external bells connected to Abel, the bell mapped as the treble (in Options>External Bells) corresponds to the one you clicked.
Abel provides a range of bell pictures: you can change to different ones via the Screen/Print Options. The pictures you see when you've just installed Abel flip between handstroke and backstroke positions exactly as Abel rings each bell, and the bell sounds simultaneously. If you change to one of the "moving" sets of pictures provided, you will get smoothly moving pictures of ringers, ropes or handbells, with the bell sounding at an appropriate point in the movement. When you're going to ring one or more bells yourself, you can choose (in the Ringing menu) whether pressing a key starts the bell movement or causes the bell to sound immediately. Note, however, that for tower bell practice using the keyboard it is much much easier to ring with good rhythm if the key makes the bell sound immediately! If you want to try using the key to start the bell movement, you may also want to turn on Highlight Bell To Follow in the View menu.
If you have the Striking Display turned on, it appears at the bottom of this section of the screen: a line of dashes with bell numbers above them, which represent the striking visually. With the striking display turned on, you also get feedback on your striking in the title of any bell you ring with the simulator, and a score out of ten when you stop. You can also review your striking after you have finished ringing, replay the ringing, and save striking data for later analysis: click the button.
Without going to the striking review window, you can quickly save data on the striking for analysis by the CAS striking analysis software (as used in the National 12-bell Striking Competition). Just press Ctrl-L to save a striking file; it is saved in an "AbelSim\Striking" folder in My Documents. It will contain all the data since you last saved a striking file or pressed Start or Reset Connections or Reset Striking Records, or changed the number of bells ringing.
On the right hand side of the screen is the Blue Line display. As Abel rings, the changes appear here with certain bells picked out in colour. You can choose which ones Abel highlights, and what colours it uses, from the Screen/Print Options. Initially the treble will be in red and the tenor in blue. When you ring a bell yourself, Abel always traces that one.
If you want to study the line of the current method or touch before ringing it, click the blue button and Abel will display all the rows. You can scroll through the rows using the scroll bar on the right of the window, or the keys for PgUp/PgDn or cursor up/down or Home/End. You can also print the rows in the blue line window, or use print preview.
Though you normally start ringing from rounds, you can also start ringing a method or composition from any backstroke row in the blue line display: just double click the row, then start the bells ringing. This can be useful if you go wrong in a method, and want to go back a few rows to try again - or if you want to practise something in the middle of a peal composition. You can also ring a method or composition starting from a row other than rounds. See Selecting a Start Row for more information.
At the bottom of the screen, Abel has a status bar, which you can turn on and off from the View menu. The status bar displays useful messages and the place notation for the current change, if you choose to turn this option on.
Click on one of the buttons below to find out more about how to use the Abel simulator: