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WordPerfect

WordPerfect is a proprietary word processing application. At the height of its popularity in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was the de facto standard word processor, but has since been eclipsed in sales by Microsoft Word. Although the MS-DOS and Microsoft Windows versions are best known, its popularity was based in part on the fact that it was available for a wide variety of computers and operating systems, including Mac OS, Linux, the Apple IIe, a separate version for the Apple IIgs, most popular versions of Unix, VMS, Data General, System/370, AmigaOS, Atari ST, OS/2, and NeXTSTEP.

WordPerfect for DOS

WordPerfect was originally produced by Bruce Bastian and Dr. Alan Ashton who founded Satellite Software International, Inc. of Orem, Utah, which later renamed itself WordPerfect Corporation. Originally written for Data General minicomputers, in 1982 the developers ported the program to the IBM PC as WordPerfect 2.20, continuing the version numbering of the Data General series.

The program's popularity took off with the introduction of WordPerfect 4.2 in 1986, with automatic paragraph numbering (important to the law office market), and the splitting of a lengthy footnote and its partial overflow to the bottom of the next page, as if it had been professionally typeset (valuable to both the law office and academic markets). WordPerfect 4.2 became the first program to overtake the original microcomputer word processor market leader, WordStar, in a major application category on the DOS platform.

In 1989, WordPerfect Corporation released the program's most successful version ever, WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS, which was the first version to include Macintosh style pull-down menus to supplement the traditional F-key combinations, as well as support for tables, a spreadsheet-like feature. The data format used by WordPerfect 5.1 was, for years, the most portable format in the world. All word processors could read (and convert) that format. Many conferences and magazines insisted that you shipped your documents in 5.1 format. Unlike previous DOS versions, WordPerfect 6.0 for DOS could switch between its traditional text-based editing mode and a graphical editing mode that showed the document as it would print out, including fonts and text effects like bold, underline, and italics. The previous text-based versions used different colors or text color inversions to indicate various markups, and (starting with version 5.0) used a graphic mode only for an uneditable print preview that used generic fonts rather than the actual fonts that appeared on the printed page.

Key characteristics

To this day, WordPerfect's three major characteristics that have differentiated from other market-leading word processors are its streaming code architecture, its Reveal Codes feature, and its unusually user-friendly macro/scripting language, PerfectScript.

Streaming code architecture

A key to WordPerfect's design is its streaming code architecture that parallels the formatting features of HTML and Cascading Style Sheets. Documents are created much the same way that raw HTML pages are written, with text interspersed by tags that trigger treatment of data until a corresponding closing tag is encountered, at which point the settings active to the point of the opening tag resume control. As with HTML, tags can be nested. Some data structures are treated as objects within the stream as with HTML's treatment of graphic images, e.g., footnotes and styles, but the bulk of a WordPerfect document's data and formatting codes appear as a single continuous stream.

Styles and style libraries

The addition of styles and style libraries in WP 5.0 provided greatly increased power and flexibility in formatting documents, while maintaining the streaming-code architecture of earlier versions. Prior to that, WordPerfect's only use of styles (a particular type of programming object) is the Opening Style, which contains the default settings for a document.

Reveal codes

The Reveal Codes feature is a second editing screen that can be toggled open and closed at the bottom of the main editing screen. Text is displayed in Reveal Codes interspersed with tags and the occasional objects, with the tags and objects represented by named tokens. The scheme makes it far easier to untangle coding messes than with styles-based word processors, and object tokens can be clicked with a pointing device to directly open the configuration editor for the particular object type, e.g. clicking on a style token brings up the style editor with the particular style type displayed. WordPerfect users forced to change word processors by employers frequently complain on WordPerfect online forums that they are lost without Reveal Codes. Because of their style dependencies, efforts to create the equivalent of Reveal Codes in other word processors have produced dissimilar results. Note that WordPerfect had this feature already in its DOS incarnations: it could be brought forward by pressing the keys 'Alt' and 'F3' together.

Macro languages

WordPerfect for DOS was notable for its Alt-keystroke macro facility, which was expanded with the addition of macro libraries in WP 5.0 that also allowed for Ctrl-keystroke macros, and remapping of any key as a macro. This enabled any sequence of keystrokes to be recorded, saved, edited, and recalled. Macros could examine system data, make decisions, be chained together, and operate recursively until a defined 'stop' condition was met. This capability provided an amazingly powerful way to rearrange data and formatting codes within a document, where the same sequence of actions needed to be performed repetitively e.g. for tabular data. Macros can also be edited using WordPerfect Program Editor. This facility, however, could not be ported easily to the subsequent Windows versions.

A new and even more powerful interpreted token-based macro recording and scripting language was introduced for both DOS and Windows 6.0 versions, and that became the basis of the language named PerfectScript in later versions. PerfectScript has remained the mainstay scripting language for WordPerfect users ever since. PerfectScript was designed specifically to be user-friendly, thus avoiding far less user-friendly methods of scripting languages implemented on other word processing programs that require education in advanced programming concepts such as Object Oriented Programming in order to produce useful yet sophisticated and powerful macros.

An important property of WordPerfect macros is that they are not embedded in a document. They are macros resident on and executed on the user's computer, in order to expedite editing of documents. Those documents are no different from those produced by manual input; the macros simply improve efficiency or automate repetitive tasks. As a result, WordPerfect is not prone to macro viruses or malware, unlike MS Word.

Function keys

Like its mid-1980s competitor, MultiMate, WordPerfect used almost every possible combination of function keys with Ctrl, Alt, and Shift modifiers. (See example help screen on this page.) This was in contrast to WordStar, which used only Ctrl, in conjunction with traditional typing keys. Many people still know and use the function key combinations from the DOS version, which were originally designed for Data General Dasher VDUs that supported 2 groups of 5 plain, shift, control, and control shift function keys. This was translated to the layout of the 1981 IBM PC keyboard, with two columns of function keys at the left end of the keyboard, but worked even better with the 1984 PC AT keyboard with 3 groups of 4 function keys across the top of the keyboard. With the 1981 PC keyboard, the Tab key and the related F4 (Indent) functions were adjacent. This plethora of keystroke possibilities, combined with the developers' wish to keep the user interface free of "clutter" such as on-screen menus, made it necessary for most users to use a keyboard template showing each function. Infamously, WordPerfect used F3 instead of F1 for Help, F1 instead of Esc for Cancel, and Esc for Repeat (though a configuration option in later versions allowed these functions to be rotated to locations that later became more standard).

Printer drivers

WordPerfect for DOS shipped with an impressive array of printer drivers - a feature that played an important role in its adoption - and also shipped with a printer driver editor called PTR, which features a flexible macro language and allows technically-inclined users to customize and create printer drivers.

Internally, WordPerfect used an extensive WordPerfect character set as its internal code. The precise meaning of the characters, although clearly defined and documented, can be overridden in its customizable printer drivers with PTR.

The relationship between different type faces and styles, and between them and the various sections in the WordPerfect character set, were also described in the printer drivers and can be customized through PTR.

WordPerfect Library/Office

WordPerfect Corporation produced a variety of ancillary and spin-off products. WordPerfect Library (introduced in 1986 and later renamed WordPerfect Office) was a package of network and stand-alone utilities for use with WordPerfect, primarily developed for offices running Novell NetWare. WordPerfect Library/Office included the DOS antecedents of what is now known as Novell GroupWise, a shareable package of contact management, calendaring, and related word processing utilities. WordPerfect Library/Office a brand name later revived by Corel after it acquired ownership of WordPerfect and other programs still bundled under that product name as of this writing – included amongst other utilities a local area network (LAN) email facility and was the most popular such package in its day.

WordPerfect Shell

The Library/Office bundle also included a noteworthy task-switching program that ran as a shell atop DOS, branded as WordPerfect Shell. Task-switchers were a popular application type for the DOS operating system because of its lack of multi-tasking, making it impractical to have many applications running at once. Task-switchers were programs that allocated available memory between open applications, allowing fast switching between open applications whose actions were suspended when the user switched to a different program. WordPerfect Shell 4.0, which was also bundled with the WordPerfect 6.x versions, had most functionality of the Windows 3.x shell but was far more versatile. Its automated memory management was superior to that of the Microsoft Windows shell, and Microsoft's product generally performed with far fewer frequent memory glitches when Windows was run as a program under Shell 4.0.

The user interface for Shell is based on a hierarchical menu metaphor rather than the windows/folders/icons metaphor used by Microsoft. Shell 4.0's menu structures could be individually hot-keyed as pop-ups and its powerful menu editor allowed fast creation and editing of menu structures and menu items, with each menu item quickly configurable for entry of command lines and menu names. Shell 4.0 included 80 programmable clipboards, and the menu structures and menu items were also programmable using a scripting language whose scripts could themselves be chained to and from WordPerfect macros. The scripting language also included a keyboard buffer stuffing tool for control and operation of non-WordPerfect applications. Microsoft Windows had no answer to such powerful features other than a glitz of windows, icons, pointing devices, and an overwhelming marketing strategy. WordPerfect Shell was laid to rest along with many other popular DOS character-based tools inundated by Microsoft's marketing of Windows 95. Novell later licensed Shell 3.0 and 4.0 for free distribution. As of this writing it is still downloadable from the DataPerfect Users Group.

WordPerfect Library/Office also included a Calculator, a flat-file database called Notebook that could be used by itself or in WordPerfect document merges, an exceptionally powerful relational database - DataPerfect - that retains a small but dedicated following despite having been dropped by WordPerfect Corporation in favour of Borland's Paradox as a companion of WP for Windows. Additional features continue to be added from time to time by DataPerfect's author, Lew Bastian - Bruce Bastian's older brother - a programmer who had written some of IBM's earliest disk-caching patents, and DataPerfect can now run as web server. LetterPerfect was a scaled down version of WordPerfect with the more advanced features removed but with file and (for the most part) keystroke compatibility.

An implementation of Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), introduced with WordPerfect for Windows 9.0, provides a full-featured development environment for building advanced custom WordPerfect solutions. These solutions are often created by corporate developers or programmers and may not be easily accessible to the typical WordPerfect user. For these users, PerfectScript is the better option.

People who code scripts for WordPerfect use the Macros & Merges forum at WordPerfect Universe as their primary meeting ground. That site is a collaboration among other WordPerfect-related web site operators and others and functions as a portal to WordPerfect resources on the web. The site also maintains an extensive clip library for use in PerfectScript programming, has the Web's largest metalink library for locating online WordPerfect resources, and has the only peer-to-peer forum on the Web for DOS WordPerfect.

The WordPerfect template and document file formats have remained remarkably stable since the WordPerfect 6.x DOS and Windows versions. Complete backward compatibility has been maintained and all WordPerfect versions since 6.0 have included a feature that stores any unrecognized codes in stream location represented in Reveal Codes by an "Unknown" token. Documents generated on newer versions can thus be edited in older versions with the codes retained. Then, upon being reopened in a newer version of WordPerfect, the "unknown" tokens regain their functionality. None of the newer WordPerfect features reflected in the file formats cause data loss when opened in older versions.

WordPerfect for Windows

History

WordPerfect was late in coming to market with a Windows version. The first mature version, WordPerfect 5.2 for Windows, was released in November 1992. Prior to that, there was a WordPerfect 5.1 for Windows, introduced a year earlier. That version had to be installed from DOS and was largely unpopular due to serious stability issues. By the time WordPerfect 5.2 for Windows was introduced, Microsoft Word for Windows version 2 had been on the market for over a year and had received its third interim release, v2.0c. WordPerfect's function-key-centered user interface did not adapt well to the new paradigm of mouse and pull-down menus, especially with many of WordPerfect's standard key combinations pre-empted by incompatible keyboard shortcuts that Windows itself used (e.g. Alt-F4 became Exit Program as opposed to WordPerfect's Block Text). The DOS version's impressive arsenal of finely tuned printer drivers was also rendered obsolete by Windows' use of its own printer device drivers.

Internally, WordPerfect for Windows still used the WordPerfect character set as its internal code. This caused WordPerfect for Windows to be unable to support some languages — for example Chinese — that were natively supported by Windows.

WordPerfect became part of an office suite when the company entered into a co-licensing agreement with Borland Software Corporation in 1993. The offerings were marketed as Borland Office, containing Windows versions of WordPerfect, Quattro Pro, Borland Paradox, and a LAN-based groupware package called WordPerfect Office (not to be confused with the complete applications suite of the same name later marketed by Corel) based on the WordPerfect Library for DOS. The WordPerfect product line was sold twice, first to Novell in June 1994, who then sold it to Corel in January 1996. However, Novell kept the WordPerfect Office technology, incorporating it into its GroupWise messaging and collaboration product.

Compounding WordPerfect's troubles were issues associated with the release of the first 32-bit version, WordPerfect 7, intended for use on Windows 95. While it contained notable improvements over the 16-bit WordPerfect for Windows 6.1, it was released in May 1996, nine months after the introduction of Windows 95 and Microsoft Office 95 (including Word 95). The initial release suffered from notable stability problems. WordPerfect 7 also didn't have a Microsoft "Designed for Windows 95" logo. This was important to Windows 95 software purchasers as Microsoft set standards for application design, behavior, and interaction with the operating system. To make matters worse, the original release of WordPerfect 7 was incompatible with Windows NT, hindering its adoption in academia. The "NT Enabled" version of WordPerfect 7, which Corel considered to be Service Pack 2, wasn't available until Q1-1997, over 6 months after the introduction of Windows NT 4.0, a year and a half after the introduction of Office 95 (which supported Windows NT out of the box), and shortly after the introduction of Office 97. Corel charged its customers to receive what amounted to a bug fix.

While WordPerfect retained a majority of the retail shelf sales of word processors, Microsoft gained market share by including Word for Windows in its Windows product on new PCs. Microsoft gave discounts for Windows to OEMs who included Word on their PCs. When new PC buyers found Word installed on their new PC, Word began to dominate market share of desktop word processing. Amongst the remaining avid users of WordPerfect are many law firms and academics who favor the WordPerfect features such as macros and reveal codes. Corel now caters to these markets, with, for example, a major sale to the United States Department of Justice in 2005 . In November 2004, Novell filed an antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft for alleged anticompetitive behavior (viz, tying Word to sales of Windows) that Novell claims led to loss of WordPerfect market share.

Corel WordPerfect

Since its acquisition by Corel, WordPerfect for Windows has officially been known as Corel WordPerfect.

Unicode and Asian language editing

WordPerfect also lacks support for Unicode. The absence of support for Unicode limits its usefulness in many markets outside North America and Western Europe. Despite pleas from longtime users, this feature has not yet been implemented.

For users in WordPerfect's traditional markets, the inability to deal with complex character sets, such as Asian language scripts, can cause difficulty when working on documents containing those characters. However, later versions have provided better compliance with interface conventions, file compatibility, and even Word interface emulation.

"Classic Mode"

Corel added "Classic Mode" in WordPerfect 11.

WordPerfect for Macintosh

Development of WordPerfect for Macintosh did not run parallel to versions for other operating systems, and used version numbers unconnected to contemporary releases for DOS, Windows, etc. The first release reminded users and reviewers of the DOS version, and was not especially successful in the marketplace. Version 2 was a total re-write, adhering more closely to Apple's UI guidelines. Version 3 took this further, making extensive use of the technologies Apple introduced in Systems 7.0–7.5, while remaining fast and capable of running well on older machines. Corel released version 3.5 in 1996, followed by the improved version 3.5e. It was never updated beyond that, and the product was eventually discontinued. As of 2004, Corel has reiterated that the company has no plans to further develop WordPerfect for Macintosh (such as creating a native Mac OS X version).

For several years, Corel allowed Mac users to download version 3.5e from their website free of charge, and some Mac users still use this version. The download is still available, along with the necessary OS 8/9/Classic Updater that slows scroll speed and restores functionality to the Style and Window menus. Like other Mac OS applications of its age, it requires the Classic environment on PowerPC Macs. While Intel Macs do not support Classic, emulators such as SheepShaver, and vMac allow users to run WordPerfect and other Mac OS applications. Users wishing to use an up to date version of WordPerfect can run the Windows version through Boot Camp or a Windows emulator, and through Darwine or CrossOver Mac with mixed results.

WordPerfect for Linux

In 1995, WordPerfect 6.0 was made available for Linux as part of Caldera's internet office package. In late 1997, a newer version was made available for download, but had to be purchased to be activated. Hoping to establish themselves in the nascent commercial Linux market, Corel also developed their own distribution of Linux.

Although the Linux distribution was fairly well-received, the response to WordPerfect for Linux was varied. Some Linux promoters appreciated the availability of a well-known, mainstream application for the OS. Developers of other Linux-compatible word processors questioned the need for another application in the category. Advocates of open-source software scoffed at its proprietary, closed-source nature, and questioned the viability of a commercial application in a market dominated by free software, such as OpenOffice.org and numerous others. The performance and stability of WordPerfect 9.0 (not a native Linux application like WP 6-8, but derived from the Windows version using the Wine compatibility library) was highly criticized.

WordPerfect failed to gain a large user base, and as part of Corel's change of strategic direction following a (non-voting) investment by Microsoft, WordPerfect for Linux was discontinued and their Linux distribution was sold to Xandros. In April 2004, Corel re-released WordPerfect 8.1 (the last Linux-native version) with some updates, as a "proof of concept" and to test the Linux market. As of 2005, WordPerfect for Linux is not available for purchase.

Versions

Year Data General DOS Apple II Amiga VAX/VMS Macintosh NeXT Windows Unix Linux Java
1980 1.0
1981
1982 2.0 2.2
1983 3.0
1984 4.0
1985 4.1 1.0
1986 4.2 1.1 / 2.0
1987 4.1 4.1
1988 4.2 5.0 4.2, Office* 1.0 - 1.0.7 4.2
1989 ?* 5.1 2.1e (final) 5.0
1990 2.0
1991 1.0.1 5.1
1992 2.1 5.2 5.1
1993 6.0 3.0 6.0
1994 5.1+ 3.1 5.2+, 6.1 6.0
1995 6.1 3.5
1996 7.0 (32-bit) 6.0
1997 6.2 3.5e 8.0, 7.0 (16-bit) WordPerfect for Java
1998 7.0
1999 9.0 * 8.1
2000 9.0
2001 10.0 *
2003 11.0 *
2004 12.0 *
2006 X3 *
2008 X4 *

(* - Part of WordPerfect Office)

Known versions for VAX/VMS include 5.1, 5.3 and 7.1 , year of release unknown.

Known versions for SUN include 6.0, requiring SunOS or Solaris 2, year of release unknown.

Known versions for IBM System/370 include 4.2, released 1988.

Known versions for OS/2 include 5.0, released 1989.

Known versions for the DEC Rainbow 100 include version (?), released November 1983.

In addition, versions of WordPerfect have also been available for Apricot, Atari ST, DEC Rainbow, Tandy 2000, TI Professional, Victor 9000, and Zenith Z-100 systems, as well as around 30 flavors of unix, including AT&T, NCR, SCO Xenix, Microport Unix, DEC Ultrix, Pyramid Tech Unix, Tru64, AIX, Motorola 8000, and HP9000 and SUN 3.

Commodore 64 was a significant platform for WordPerfect. More so than Amiga that was added to the version table. This is one of the applications that caused business adoption of the Commodore 64.

Current versions

On January 17, 2006, Corel announced WordPerfect X3, the newest version of this office package. Corel is an original member of the OASIS Technical Committee on the Open Document Format, and Paul Langille, a senior Corel developer, is one of the original four authors of the OpenDocument specification.

In January 2006, subscribers to Corel's electronic newsletter were informed that WordPerfect 13 was scheduled for release later in 2006. The subsequent release of X3 (identified as "13" internally and in registry entries) has been met with generally positive reviews, due to new features including a unique PDF import capability, metadata removal tools, integrated search and online resources and other features.

Version X3 was described by CNET in January, 2006 as a "winner", "a feature-packed productivity suite that's just as easy to use – and in many ways more innovative than – industry-goliath Microsoft Office 2003." CNET went on to describe X3 as "a solid upgrade for longtime users", but that "Die-hard Microsoft fans may want to wait to see what Redmond has up its sleeve with the radical changes expected within the upcoming Microsoft Office 12."

While the notable if incremental enhancements of WordPerfect Office X3 have been well received by reviewers, a number of online forums have voiced concern about the future direction of WordPerfect, with longtime users complaining about certain usability and functionality issues that users have been asking to have fixed for the last few release versions.

Although the released version of X3 does not support the OOXML or OpenDocument formats, a beta has been released that supports both.

Reports surfaced late in January 2006 that Apple's iWork had leapfrogged WordPerfect Office as the leading alternative to Microsoft Office. This claim was soon debunked after industry analyst Joe Wilcox described JupiterResearch usage surveys that showed WordPerfect as the No. 2 office suite behind Microsoft Office in the consumer, small and medium businesses, and enterprise markets with a roughly 15 percent share in each market.

In April 2008 Corel released their WordPerfect Office X4 office suite containing the new X4 version of WordPerfect which includes support for PDF, OpenDocument and Office Open XML.

References

See also

External links

  • Corel home page
  • WordPerfect Universe - a moderated, user-supported community of thousands of dedicated fans of WordPerfect, with forums where visitors can ask questions, read FAQs, tips, news, and more. Free to join.
  • WordPerfect for DOS Updated - New printer drivers, updates, and added features for WordPerfect for DOS 5.1 and 6.x (with pages on WP on the Mac and Linux)
  • WordPerfect Mac - free program download, hundreds of third-party files and links, support and discussion group for the Macintosh version, both PPC and Intel/Leopard (using SheepShaver)
  • WordPerfect vs. Word - a painstaking version by version, feature by feature comparison of Microsoft Word and WordPerfect
  • "Almost Perfect", a book authored by W.E. Pete Peterson and chronicling much of the early history of WordPerfect Corporation and the app itself
  • "How Did WordPerfect Go Wrong?" - An InfoWorld Gripelog article & discussion on WordPerfect

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