Word Perfect

WordPerfect was for many years the market leader in word processors, and lost that position basically by completely underestimating how successful Microsoft would be in convincing people they "needed" Windows (that is, Windows v.2 or 3) on their systems. Many users, especially people who didn't use a word processor intensively, remember only the need for a template to tell you which button to press to get various functions. Serious word processor users cite other characteristics. WordPerfect presented an almost blank screen, allowing maximum use of the standard 24x80 character displays of the time. The embedded code paradigm, and associated RevealCodes function, was, and still is, dramatically superior to the Word model of "painting" characteristics onto characters. HTML is another well-known embedded codes system, for example. WordPerfect also ran on an astonishing variety of platforms. WordPerfect 4.1 for the Amiga was the first word processor to allow indefinite windowed documents to be open, and versions of WordPerfect for SunOS, Solaris, DataGeneral, Macintosh, Linux, HP-UX, AIX, SCO, SCO OpenServer?, NeXT, OS/2, and DigitalUNIX, among others, were also available. Interplatform file compatibility is very high. A built-in "paging" system allows WordPerfect to gracefully handle extremely large documents, an ability particularly valuable when running on machines with limited memory. Its speed was another feature; it was often cited as the only word processor that could keep up with 100 wpm+ typists.

Broad support was not only reflected in the number of platforms on which WordPerfect ran. It also was revealed in the font support and driver library. The install disks had three floppies dedicated just to the (literally) thousands of supported printers available, and the list of video drivers was also extraordinary, including such esoterica as the Hercules high-res monochrome board that was the first PC system that could show italics and bold on screen as slanty and fatter letters, instead of color-coding or making them brighter.

WordPerfect was also admired for its better-than-average stability.

Lamentably for word processor power users, the early releases of WordPerfect for Windows were late to market, and although one was theoretically supposed to be able to keep using one's DOS products with Windows, WordPerfect for DOS didn't run well at all in that situation. WordPerfect devotees who held off buying a Windows word processor until WP4Win was released received a highly unstable program that lacked many of the features they'd come to depend on. WordPerfect never recovered.

Eventually, WordPerfect Corporation was acquired by Novell, then CorelCorporation. During this time, the file management system that had been WordPerfect Library, then WordPerfect Office, was spun off and renamed GroupWise, still a successful groupware application.


It was the world's leading word processor once.

Err, leading meaning volume, not quality.

Yes, WordPerfect had a dedicated bunch of users who wanted to spend a great deal of time memorizing its arcane key sequences. They missed the GUI bandwagon altogether and people saw MicrosoftWord was much easier and better. I personally never liked this editor. I couldn't stand when I had to use it. But there were a lot of people who did.

-- Anonymous

I liked WordPerfect over MicrosoftWord for many years because you didn't need a mouse to use WordPerfect. Since the primary activity of a word processor is typing, I found moving my hand over to the mouse just to perform some function to be a waste of time and a disruption of my flow. I still hit ctrl-F6 to center text in MicrosoftWord, then wonder why nothing (or something entirely different) has happened. Then I remember to grab my mouse and look for that little button with the lines that seem to be centered. How intuitive!
I had the opportunity to work for the company while it tried to break into the MS Windows World with WordPerfect for Windows 6.0a.

I remember the announcements as plain as it was yesterday.

No more support for NeXT... No more support for OS/2...

I escaped prior to the NovellWordPerfect? days, but returned to the CorelWordPerfect? days, only to leave after 6 weeks.

I was the guy that downloaded the Corel Office Suite for Java... yup... that was me.

-- TylerBye

There had to be one -))
Like Tyler, I escaped prior to the NovellWordPerfect? days and returned to the CorelWordPerfect? days.

-- KayJohansen


WordStar, supposed as the first WordProcessor that succeeded commercially in the microcomputers software market, was supplanted by WordPerfect, but I can't tell which one is better easily.

Emacs is very difficult to learn, but once learned it's easy to use (or do work fast), whereas MicrosoftWord is easy to learn, relatively, but once learned it's difficult to use (or do work fast). -- JuneKim
"Memorizing its arcane key sequence[s]" was a lot easier when you had one of those Function Key Templates that hung out above the function keys. The only command I could remember faithfully was Shift-F7 = "Save Document". Everything else I ended up using the chart for. I recall preferring MicrosoftWord for DOS because of it's 1-2-3-inspired menus (triggered by the "/" key). -- SeanOleary

My favorite 'arcane' WordPerfect key sequence was Esc, which let you enter the repetition count for the next command (presumably, this emulated some even more braindead mainframe WP).


WordPerfect is still the tool of choice for writing legal briefs and the like. (I seem to recall in the recent US vs Microsoft anti-trust trial, MS attempted to file a legal brief in Word and was told to re-submit it in Wordperfect format).

And of course, many folks still miss the RevealCodes feature, which allows you to view and edit the formatting codes/markup within the document.. Word still has nothing like it. Word has an option to show formatting (paragraphs, page breaks, etc.) as symbols. Which is almost nothing compared to RevealCodes. [Indeed. Try this in Word: "Search for end-of-line, tab, start-of-italics. Replace with end-of-line, end-of-line, indent, start-of-italics."]

One other paradigm shift that helped kill off WordPerfect. Before Windows came along, writing printer drivers was the responsibility of application programmers--WP 5.x shipped with drivers for every printer known to man (at the time). Windows moved this nasty chore into the operating system (and onto the shoulders of printer vendors, where it belongs). Word took advantage of this. WordPerfect, by sticking with DOS and eschewing Windows, failed to take advantage.

-- ScottJohnson

It is odd how many people use MSWord simply because they imagine everyone else uses it today. As a long-time Word Perfect user I find WP vastly superior - "reveal codes" is only one of its great advantages over Word. It is interesting to see how Microsoft has sought to destroy Word Perfect. Its conversion programme recognizes only Word Perfect versions up to 5.1., ignoring the six later editions. Speaking recently to a salesman who was selling Microsoft products in the eighties he told me how he had been taught to describe Word Perfect using such terms as "lowly", "primitive" and "old-fashioned". Working with a large publisher ona fifty-author volume I was horrified twenty years ago when Microsoft signed a contract to install MS products throughout the systemn, which led the firm to request all authors to submit manuscripts in MSWord, thereby delivering MS fifty new customers. I myself did switch to Word once, five or six years ago, and tolerated it for three months before going back to Word Perfect. True, WP did from the early nineties adopt many features of Word, but it still retains all its unique advantages. Versions 9 upwards represent the modern WP, and there have been small improvements in versions 10, 11 and 12. But its sad to talk to MSWord users about it - "What! they say, "Are you still using WP?" Inevitably, it turns out that they still think of versions 4 and 5.1. My only reply can be "What! You're still using Word?" Graham Dukes


I wouldn't say WordPerfect is software of the past. New versions and patches keep coming out. My beau has never installed MicrosoftOffice; he's strictly a WordPerfect Office suite person and cannot live without RevealCodes. Me, I haven't installed or used MS Office in years (this is end of 2004), and when I use his PC I'm using WordPerfect. -- ElizabethWiethoff


WP had an oddly primitive feel even before GUIs became widespread. My only significant memory of it is as follows: Sitting in the computer lab, no doubt struggling with some Pascal, a guy next to me asked how to print (? Actually, I don't remember what he wanted to do.) Anyway, I flippantly said, "Shift-F5" (? or something. Who can remember?) Anyway, he pressed that key combination and at the bottom of the screen it asked, "Do you want to save your document?" He, wanting to print or whatever, logically said "N". Then the software asked him, "Do you want to exit WordPerfect?"

Now that would have been dumb. Ha, ha. If he had said, "Y", then he would have exited WordPerfect and lost his document. So, again quite logically, he said "N". And...THE DOCUMENT DISAPPEARED! No warning, no option, "Do you want to destroy all your work?", no nothing. He almost had a fit, I almost died of shame, and we sat there for thirty minutes trying to recover his unsaved text. The "UNDO" command only "UNDID" the last line that he erased. Nothing worked. He had to type the whole thing in again.


WordPerfect Universe: http://www.wpuniverse.com/ (users group)

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