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Interpreter, Authoring system
Link Download
Developers Graeme Yeandle, Tim Gilberts, Phil Wade
Format Other
Interaction style Parser
Systems MS-DOS, CP/M, BBC Micro/Acorn Electron, Amstrad CPC, Amstrad PCW, Sinclair ZX Spectrum
System details The CP/M version of PAW was officially made available for the Amstrad CPC, Amstrad PCW, and BBC Micro (with Z80 co-processor). Games produced using this version of the PAW can easily be transferred to other CP/M-compatible computers; usually only requiring a manual adjustment of the "clear screen" code.
Latest version A17, B03 (Spanish)
Status Stable
Uses interpreter

License Commercial
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The PAW (a.k.a. Professional Adventure Writer) or PAWS (a.k.a. Professional Adventure Writing System) was an adventure writing system created by Tim Gilberts, Graeme Yeandle and Phil Wade, and released for the Sinclair Spectrum, and CP/M computer systems in the 1980s by Gilsoft.

The CP/M version of PAW was officially made available for the Amstrad CPC, Amstrad PCW, and BBC Micro (with Z80 co-processor). Games produced using this version of the PAW can easily be transferred to other CP/M-compatible computers; usually only requiring a manual adjustment of the "clear screen" code.

PAWS was an evolution of Gilsoft's earlier The Quill and features a similar structure and adventure language. It fused together much of the functionality of The Quill and its companion programs (such as The Press and The Illustrator) and added more powerful features, such as a greatly improved multi-word parser. Elements of the CP/M version of the system would later go on to be incorporated in SWAN and DAAD.

Over 600 text adventures have been produced using the authoring system. PAWS was popular not only in the UK, but also in Spain (where a Spanish-language variant was available); it had a significant influence on Spanish IF.

Graeme Yeandle later produced a version of the PAW for MS-DOS, dubbed the PC Adventure Writer that was based on the CP/M version of the system.

The Authoring System

PAWS could produce games for both 48K and 128K computers. There was support for multi-part games, through shared save files.

The two variants of PAWS, Spectrum & CP/M, operate in different ways but the database code is broadly compatible. In many cases, games can be relatively easily ported between the two editions; however there are notable differences in the CP/M version (such as the lack of multi-parse support and database entry matching) that would need to be addressed.

Working similarly to The Quill, the Spectrum version was based around a database editor; features included "line and fill" graphics, complex screen layout features, text compression, and multiple-character sets. A later Spectrum version featured support for user overlays; small snippets of code that allowed programmers to create their own additional menu functionality. The user overlays package, Phosis Tel Mega (PTM), produced by Gerald T. Kellett of Kelsoft, was officially released by Gilsoft.

The CP/M version was compiler based. It was originally text-only but a later release allowed bitmap graphics to be loaded from disk.

PAWS supported the execution of EXTERNS (external programs) which allowed authors to incorporate additional BASIC and/or machine-code routines. This was sometimes used to add special screen effects, extra text & images, animation, sound & music, or even arcade-game elements to adventures.


The Spectrum version of the PAWS exported a finished game database, together with a suitable bundled interpreter, to tape, disk or microdrive. Game databases remained as distinct files and could easily be reloaded back into the PAWS editor.

The CP/M version of the PAWS required the source text file (.SCE) to be compiled into a database. This database was then loaded by the bundled interpreter program which included an option to export a standalone, integrated game file. There was no easy way to extract the original database from the compiled game.

A version of the PAWS interpreter was created for the Commodore 64, but this was only made available to commercial clients. To produce a Commodore 64 version of a ZX Spectrum game, Gilsoft would take the Spectrum PAWed database running under the C64 interpreter and combine it with Commodore 64 graphics (created using The Quill's Illustrator program).

Some end-users have hacked the official interpreters for the Spectrum version of the system (both in English and Spanish) to support 40/42 character screen displays.

Kambre has written a version of the Spanish PAWS parser in C; for C64, Spectrum and Amstrad CPC; called zminif.


Databases for the CP/M version of the PAWS can be produced using any suitable text editor.

A later, third-party system, InPAWS (for DOS) allows users to write a specially formatted text file (.paw) which can generate Spectrum, Amstrad CPC and MS-DOS versions of adventures. There is a syntax highlighter by Chris Ainsley for InPAWS file editing in Visual Studio Code. The initial release of InPAWS is restricted to 48K games on the Spectrum, but a later iteration (from another author) generates 128K-compatible files.


There were different releases of both editions of the PAWS, which added additional functionality and bug-fixes not present in the initial release.

On the Spectrum, versions A16 and above included the introduction of user-overlay support, disk/cassette/microdrive device settings & changes, and improved multiple command support for non-player characters.

Later CP/M releases included a "graphics patch" that allowed the use of Mode 1 graphics on the Amstrad CPC.


Although Spectrum game databases can easily be loaded back into the authoring system, there is also a third-party dissembler unPAWS which will extract and present a game database as a text file. Later versions of unPAWS offer the functionality to partially convert the game code to a source file that can be adapted for use with other systems, such as DAAD.

See also

  • The Quill, by Gilsoft; PAW's predecessor.
  • SWAN, by Infinite Imaginations; a further evolution of the PAW, exclusively developed for Abstract Concepts.
  • DAAD, by Infinite Imaginations; originally exclusively developed for Spanish company Aventuras AD.
  • WinPAW, by Douglas Harter, is a Windows version of PAW.
  • Inpaws, a third-party companion system for the PAW; allowing users to create PAWS games for the Spectrum, CP/M and MS-DOS, from a common text-based source file.
  • ngPAWS by Uto is an english/spanish authoring system generating html/javascript games
  • Spanish authoring systems descended from PAW:



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