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Doug's Mailbag: WordPerfect

In a recent blog entry, Doug asked readers if the world is a better place without WordPerfect. Here's some responses and general thoughts on the software:

Odd question. The use of the present tense 'is' seems to imply that WordPerfect no longer exists. In fact, it's very much alive and well.

Perhaps you meant to say: 'Would the world be a less perfect place without WordPerfect?'
- Wayne

WordPerfect was the original successor to WordStar. As such, it claimed a broad market share and had a clearly superior cross platform product. In the office environment I championed standardization on the use of WordPerfect and had installations running...well...perfectly on DOS, Apple, Unix and Windows. And that was a long time ago and well before Office was released.

Office very quickly overtook WordPerfect in the marketplace. In the early releases, WordPerfect was clearly a superior product, so I was surprised at the rapid success of Office and long suspected that the quick ramp up of sales was due more to Microsoft pressure on channel partners than product superiority.

WordPerfect went through some hard times due to changes in ownership and certainly languished under the ownership of Novell, which neglected the product. I still keep a copy of WordPerfect running, along with Office, OpenOffice and LibreOffice. For the average small- to medium-size business office, these products have approximately equal utility, and I continue to be amazed at the size of the market penetration of Office, especially when you consider the hefty price charged to use it.

Long ago I was employed at a firm that used WordPerfect. So long ago, in fact, that one of my primary job functions was to make edits on extensive (200+ pages) reports as well as IT and desktop support. It was imperative that I understand WordPerfect backwards and forwards, just as I must know Word now. THE BEST feature that WordPerfect had was 'Reveal Codes.' The editor could see why the text was doing what it was doing.  With Word even now the best answer I can give people sometimes is 'because Word thinks that's how it should be' and find a work-around to format the text how the user wants it. I still think longingly for the days when I could actually fix a document. Microsoft still hasn't caught up to WordPerfect  on that front!

Is the world a less perfect place without WordPerfect? The short answer, IMO, is yes. Competition always makes for a healthier, more robust marketplace! There is no viable alternative to Office Suite for businesses. Microsoft's 'best' innovation for Office in years has been the Ribbon. Who knows what they would have pushed or inspired to do with real competition? Or what they would have been 'forced' to integrate into their own products (i.e. Reveal Codes) because of demand from consumers?

Used WordPerfect a long time ago -- good basic word processing program.

Word was not much different, along with Apple's ClarisWorks (later becoming AppleWorks) and others (Lotus 1-2-3?) Was glad they had spreadsheet, tables, templates, etc. with an easy-to-understand item menu, submenus and tools.

There were good competition for these kinds of programs. I also feel that Microsoft Works was underappreciated, because it's nice and basic. Glad that one was free.

Now, Microsoft Word is so bloated and menus so complicated that you need to be a computer programmer to figure out the logic.

I have Word 2007 and hate it. There really does need to be some competition for this -- or get Microsoft to clarify the application and make it more user friendly. I wasted more time just looking for the basic buttons of Save, Save As, Print, etc.! I found these things were CHOICES that you have to manually ADD to your window. Stupid.

I used WordPerfect exclusively up until around the turn of the century. There were things that I could do with a document in WordPerfect with just a few keystrokes that I just could not do with Word -- no matter what I tried. The ability to view and manipulate the source formatting codes was extremely useful. This was especially true if I was having trouble getting the formatting just right. Those codes were somewhat XML-like (Hmm -- OOXML law suit in the works maybe?).

The switch to Word wasn't because it was better but because everyone else had jumped on the MS bandwagon, and distributing a document required conversion to Word format anyway. Sometimes that export process came up short because, like I said, MS Word just wasn't as capable as WordPerfect. That incompatibility with Word's DOC du jour seemed to get worse as time went by. I was finally forced to adopt MS Word exclusively to avoid extensive 'correction' in the export. I still have a copy at home (don't remember which version) but I haven't re-installed it since I upgraded to Win 7. I think I'll install it tonight and see how it behaves.

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Posted by Doug Barney on 05/13/2011 at 1:18 PM


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