back to article Tavis Ormandy ports WordPerfect for UNIX to Linux

Just months after getting Lotus 1-2-3 for UNIX running on modern Linux, Tavis Ormandy – a white-hat hacker and member of Google's Project Zero team – has conjured the same trick with classic text-mode WordPerfect 7. Immaculately complementing his port of Lotus 1-2-3 to Linux, Ormandy has now released a Linux version of the …

  1. Lon24

    Who needs it when ... ?

    WordTsar for Linux gives you a almost authentic screen editing experience. Should have channelled their efforts into vi for CPM-86.

    After all the past two days were only a truncated 1976 experience when personal computing was truly personal. No MS-DOS, nor even systemd and hacking was called phone-freaking. Bliss!

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Who needs it when ... ?

      "hacking was called phone-freaking"

      The phone phreaks were a minor subset of the hacking community, more specifically it was a subset of the cracking subset of hacking.

      Note that I'm talking about logical grouping ... neither begat the other.

      Now where did I put my crunch whistle ...

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Who needs it when ... ?

      Anybody who has a copy of EMACS can make it work exactly like WP. Likewise, you can setup vi to use WP keybindings.

      1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

        Re: Who needs it when ... ?

        I am sure you can.

        OTOH, some people could write an entire novel in the time it'll take you to do it...

        And it'll still only edit plain text.

        1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: Who needs it when ... ?

          Au contraire.

          With emacs, you could load electric nroff mode or one of the electric LaTeX modes, so you could format more than just plain text from directly in emacs.

          People sometimes forget that the justification for the purchase of the first PDP/11s at Bell Labs. UNIX team (they started by borrowing a mainly unused system) was as a document processor. for patent preparation. Not WordPerfect or Wordstar, but still high quality document preparation for it's time. And Documenters Work Bench remained an important feature of UNIX well into the SystemV days.

          Emacs was a bit later, of course.

          I wrote my first year university project write-up using roff on UNIX edition 6.

          1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

            Re: Who needs it when ... ?

            Fair point. I am not dead set against plain-text editors at all; most of my Reg copy is in plain text.

            I do really like qqWYSIWYG, though. I use little more than *bold,* /italics,/ _underline,_ `literal` and the occasional [link] so if it supports that, I am good. Markdown or ASCIIdoc do this fine.

            But as a writer, I _need_ a wordcount function. I have lost count of how many otherwise-capable editors I've seen over the decades that don't do this. No, shelling out and running `wc` is *not* an acceptable solution. A live one in the status bar is ideal, and *very* few apps provide that.

            The snag for me is that most Linux editors are programmers' editors, and they try to do a whole shopping list of stuff I DO NOT WANT:

            * syntax highlighting

            * line numbers

            * maybe fancy indentation management

            * autocomplete (only if it's misspelled English words)

            Programmers tend to think that "an editor is an editor" and the stuff that they find useful is stuff everyone finds useful. This is not the case, and in fact, most programmers-editor features get in my way as a writer.

            I would love some very simple writers' tools that provided the stuff I needed and dispensed with all that... but I find very, very few of them in the FOSS world.

            On top of that, I really prize outliner functionality, and I have yet to find a FOSS program that gives me that without a ton of useless cruft in the way. (Incidentally, Org-mode does not count, no.)

            So, yes, what you are saying is eminently doable, but I'm not aware of anyone actually doing it.

            So far, the best I have found is Panwriter. It does the job and it works well, but it's an Electron app, so it's huge and takes a lot of RAM. Right now, with a single file open containing a few lines, it's allocated about 36GB of RAM, with about 175MB resident, across some 50 processes.

            And that's the smallest, simplest tool I can find.

            Which is why, I think, there's interest in apps such as WordPerfect today. The GUI version allocates 10MB (8MB resident); the command-line version, 1.5MB (300kB resident).

            Panwriter does a *lot* less, and it takes 3500 times more memory to do it.

            1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

              Re: Who needs it when ... ?

              No wordcount? Gee, even Tasword Two displays a word count.

            2. jake Silver badge

              Re: Who needs it when ... ?

              "But as a writer, I _need_ a wordcount function. I have lost count of how many otherwise-capable editors I've seen over the decades that don't do this. No, shelling out and running `wc` is *not* an acceptable solution. A live one in the status bar is ideal, and *very* few apps provide that."

              Me, too. Fortunately, this is fairly easy to do in Vim ...

              :set laststatus=2

              :set statusline+=%{wordcount().words}\ words

              I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure out how to add it to .vimrc

              For more Vim interface customization than you can shake a stick at, try vim-airline ... I personally do not use it, but I know a few people who do similar work to Mr. Proven who swear by it (as opposed to at it). Available on github et alia.

        2. jake Silver badge

          Re: Who needs it when ... ?

          "OTOH, some people could write an entire novel in the time it'll take you to do it..."

          Unless you use TehIntraWebTubes to find out if somebody else has done it and copy their method. Seems easy enough to me ...

          "And it'll still only edit plain text."

          Fair enough (although THAT can be worked around, too ...). But you went on to say here that "I am not dead set against plain-text editors at all; most of my Reg copy is in plain text."

          ::shrugs:: Whatever. Maybe someone will find this useful.

    3. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Who needs it when ... ?

      [Author here]

      TBPH I am not, personally, a huge fan of WordPerfect. But hey, I used WordStar in its prime, both on CP/M, (briefly -- I'm not *that* old) and on DOS.

      I'd rather have WordPerfect than WordStar *any* day.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Who needs it when ... ?

        Been there, done that.

        One thing I've discovered over the years is to first put my thoughts into ASCII (I use a dumb terminal with a model M running vi ... your mileage may vary). Once that's done, I'll import the resulting text into whatever program I need to use to pretty it up for publication. Or, if I'm lucky, my editor does.

        WordStar wasn't all that bad in its day, but I still used vi & a dumb terminal. Perhaps sadly, I discovered LaTeX before I discovered WordStar, probably by no more than a couple weeks ... Scarred me for life, I'm sure :-)

  2. Ian 55

    Preferably with some bug fixing

    When is the port of the *ix version of Borland's Sprint happening?

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Preferably with some bug fixing

      No real need for a port ... Last time I needed it, Sprint ran quite nicely in DOSBox.

      1. Ian 55

        Re: Preferably with some bug fixing

        That had some bugs too.

        Print enough copies of something, and the alphanumeric characters disappear in ASCII order one by one.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Preferably with some bug fixing

          That's not a bug, that's a feature!

          Simply distribute the pages missing bits to the people least likely to bother reading it. Saves ink, and, if the document (and print-run) is long enough, paper.

          One might say that folks lacking character get pages lacking characters.

    2. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Preferably with some bug fixing

      I do have disk images of Sprint 1 knocking around somewhere.

      Sadly for Borland, its amazing emulate-any-other-UI feature came out just around the same time that CUA came along and forced all the DOS apps to harmonize their UIs onto a common standard.

      The other killer feature of Sprint was the continuous background saving -- also foxed by DOS getting disk-caching as standard right around the same time.

      Saying that, it remains an important app.

      AIUI underneath, Sprint was based on an EMACS clone.

      Mark of the Unicorn -- still trading, remarkably -- wrote MINCE (MINCE Is Not Complete Emacs) and the separate SCRIBBLE text formatter.

      MINCE + Scribble evolved into PerfectWriter. That did quite well in its day; I tried it on a BBC Micro with a Torch Z80 2nd processor.

      PerfectWriter evolved into FinalWord, again quite a success in its day. I've read several books written entirely in FinalWord.

      Borland bought FinalWord 2 and renamed it Sprint.

      ISTM that if the text-formatting part were outsourced to Pandoc or something, or some monstrous Electron thing, the UI and continuous-save parts of Sprint could be re-implemented in GNU Emacs if someone had the will to do it.

      ErgoEmacs is a good start on the UI front: forget emulating WordPerfect etc. today. (Maybe provide WordStar keystrokes for the grumpy old gits.) Just put a _good_ CUA UI on Emacs, and give it the ability to handle basic, Markdown-style formatting, and a continuous save and live wordcount feature, and I suspect a lot of people would be interested.

      But that isn't what the Emacs folks want.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Preferably with some bug fixing

        "But that isn't what the Emacs folks want."

        The problem with the EMACS folks is that they don't want anything.

        What they want is everything.

  3. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Time passes

    And I can remember when the womenfolk in my neck of the woods were told they absolutely must learn WP to get a worthwhile office job.

  4. Goatshadow

    I remember WordPerfect 5 was critical for paralegals and legal secretaries in the 90s. The option to view the codes ensured that they could see their documents were formatted correctly for the excruciatingly picky courts. And they all had the key command templates stuck to their keyboards.

    Edit: And they weren't always legit copies in those law offices.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      The option to view the codes

      I loved that in WordPerfect. It was the only word processor to show you how the file was really structured under the bonnet and allowed yout to fix many errors simply. Something I don't think any modern word processor has copied.

      1. david 12 Silver badge

        WordStar also had the 'show codes' feature.

        WordStar was a more popular programming editor than WordPerfect.

        So then Borland licensed the WordStar keyboard commands for Turbo Pascal, and then MS silently implemented the WordStar keyboard in Visual Basic, then Visual Studio (dunno about the earlier Programmers WorkBench). For more than a decade my fingers used the (undocumented) WordStar commands in the the MS programming environment.

      2. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

        MS Word has the option to show/hide formatting symbols. I use it regularly to bash documents into shape, especially OCR documents from magazines and newspapers where section breaks and column breaks have to be removed, and multiple or absent spaces must be corrected.

        1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

          [Author here]

          Not even slightly the same thing.

          Approximate comparison: a park-lake rowing boat versus the QE2.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > show you how the file was really structured under the bonnet and allowed yout to fix many errors simply.

        Technically, ODF files are just a bunch of XMLs in a ZIP. You can (and it has been done) open them in a text editor and make any alterations you might need.

        Which met your requirements in stellar fashion right up until you said “simply” :(

      4. BobChip

        Reveal Codes

        I was "brought up" on WP5, back in the days of DOS....

        Before then, we had to write out all our business letters and reports, in long hand, on red lined drafting paper, and then submit the result to the company typing pool for 'presentation' on offical letterheaded paper... It paid to have half ways decent handwriting back then - I no longer do, and I still blame WP for that. Of course, the typists went, and we were told to get on with it ourselves. We were NOT trained typists, hence the frequent need to correct....

        Call me old fashioned if you like, but I have no idea just how many formatting messes "reveal codes" got me out of, before "real" WYSIWYG came along. Not just the ability to see what was going on behind the page, but the ability to correct it where necessary. Shame this function is not replicated in ANY modern word processor, so far as I am aware. You got a clarity of process which is now burried invisibly behind a wall of inacessible code. I still miss the control it gave you.

        P.S. I'm almost 80 now, so you can guess how long I've been using word processors for...... icon for what I use today.

    2. Kobus Botes

      Re: Tavis Ormandy ports WordPerfect for UNIX to Linux


      "I remember WordPerfect 5 was critical..."

      I remember (almost) open revolt among the typists when our company introduced Word for Windows (on Windows 3.11) (Office, actually, meaning that Lotus-123 was also destined for the scrap-heap, to my frustration), ditching WordPerfect 5.

      And the most vocal opponent acted upon her word, resigning a month or three later.

      I most liked the yellow on blue screen; made for less eye fatigue. The proficient typists (those who did not need the templates anymore) had the hardest time converting to Word and complained bitterly for months afterwards.

      WordPerfect 5 on DOS, even on an IBM XT, ran rings around Word, which meant some of the die-hards were able to cling to WordPerfect for some years, until the old XT's were finally phased out (networking being the pressure point, specially after DHCP was implemented around 1997).

      Once PC's came into general use, the typing pools were disbanded and typists were re-deployed and the battle was over.

      Fun days!

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Tavis Ormandy ports WordPerfect for UNIX to Linux

        An aging Aunt and Uncle of mine found it faster and easier to use Netware, MS-DOS 3.3 with WordStar, dBase III+ and Lotus on an airgapped 25 year old network than it was to use the latest offerings from Redmond. I finally converted them over to a Slackware+LibreOffice based solution[0][1] ... Their final year of using the legacy system brought them a tick over 1.5 million in sales, in 2015 US dollars. Not too bad for a small mom&pop family business!

        [0] It was becoming quite spendy to get parts ...

        [1] Yes, they required a little hand-holding at first, as would be expected, but now they have been using it for seven and a half years, support calls are nonexistent. As is downtime. No user support at all for about the last 5 years, and the only downtime has been during kernel upgrades, which take a couple minutes at worst, and then only when the system is not active. Try to emulate THAT with your Windows/Office/Web/Cloud solution ...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Netscape Communicator 4.x

    Aren't we going to need Netscape Communicator 4.x porting to "modern" operating systems too - to be able to talk to the EU in accordance with the Brexit Trade Agreement?

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Netscape Communicator 4.x

      Netscape Communications (under Jim Barksdale) released the source for Communicator back in the '90s. In theory, you could find a copy and do what you like to it. Perhaps start looking at Failing that, will have a copy ... but good luck getting a response out of them.

      Happy hacking!

    2. RAMChYLD

      Re: Netscape Communicator 4.x

      Pretty sure that's the same as Seamonkey.

      But if you need it, I'm sure the binary tarball for Communicator 4.8 for Linux is still widely available from somewhere. Just not sure if it'll run on modern distros- last time I saw Communicator, it was on RedHat Linux 7.


      Knock yourself out.

    3. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Netscape Communicator 4.x

      As @RAMChYLD points out: that is basically Seamonkey.

  6. steelpillow Silver badge

    Well do I remember some very big users standardising on WordPerfect because it had native versions for both UNIX and Windows, so the engine room and the "computer says no" droids could exchange files. Thank you Ballsup and Gates for foisting the one name and closing the other on a lot of powerful people. Without your greedy shortsightedness (OK, and without Oracle's ditto in screwing over Solaris), RedHat Linux would have had much more of an uphill struggle to gain a client base.

    [Where's the nostalgia-for-the-middle-ages-icon?]

    1. Dinanziame Silver badge

      I think it's this one

  7. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    IIRC Wordperfect was powerful enough to handle writing the Boeing manual sets for their aircraft

    Where structure and consistency are quite important.

    I'd be interesting to see what Boeing (or Airbus) use today.

    Has Word really got that much better at really big documents?

    And if so how serious is the hardware it needs to run on.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: IIRC Wordperfect was powerful enough to handle writing the Boeing manual sets for their aircraft

      I thought they'd moved to things such as SGML based documentation?

    2. steelpillow Silver badge

      Re: IIRC Wordperfect was powerful enough to handle writing the Boeing manual sets for their aircraft

      Text processing is a pretty simple and low-memory thing to do. The illustrations are what take up the compute resources. These would usually still be prepared separately, with smaller ones cut out and and pasted onto the more-or-less blank page before photocopying (or, at a pinch, offset litho printing). Bigger drawings were printed separately and then collated during the binding process. Direct digital printing of anything but the text master copy was still a long way off.

      Nowadays you just drag your laptop with you into every dark corner that needs a bit of love.

  8. g21115

    > as drop-down menus, although oddly accessed via Esc+= rather than Alt or F10 or any DOS-standard keystroke.

    Often you can't send F10 through modern terminal emulators, because it's used for... opening the drop-down menu *of the terminal emulator.* (It has a keycode though, so it'll work in some terminal apps but not others.)

    As for the other one, Unix-style terminals cannot grab Alt alone (nor other modifiers). They *could* send a keycode for Alt+= (which would in fact be ESC followed by a "="), but some modern terminal emulators also handle that internally, as a "zoom in" hotkey (together with Alt+- zooming out).

    So I kinda suspect the intention might have been Alt+= but due to the other usage you have to type the Alt+= keycode "manually" instead?

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Excellent point, well made.

      1. RAMChYLD

        Thankfully a number of emulators allows turning that off. That's the first thing to go whenever I distrohop and have a new env. If the terminal emulator doesn't support disabling that, I switch to one that does.

        Because I'm quite dependent on Midnight Commander when on a bash prompt. Midnight Commander hooks F10 for exit.

  9. Joe Cincotta

    Wordgrinder anyone?

    Wordgrinder is a terminal based word processor available for pretty much every distro and has been for years. It gets updated, has not-stupid keystrokes and dropdown menu to boot. WP7 is cute, but as a real solution for a terminal/byobu experience - nope.

    Almost Perfect is worth a read btw.

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Wordgrinder anyone?

      I did consider putting in a link to WordGrinder, yes. As you may have seen, in the recent CP/M story I did give a big tip of the hat to David Given and his work.

      But WordGrinder to WordPerfect is... well, see my earlier rowboat/QE2 comparison.


      My original copy did have a link to "Almost Perfect" -- let me see if I can get that put back in...

      1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

        Re: Wordgrinder anyone?

        Yes, it's still there. Phew! :-)

    2. David Given

      Re: Wordgrinder anyone?

      Wordgrinder's okay. I'd probably recommend it. is, BTW, inspired more by vague memories of Interword for the BBC Micro than WordPerfect. That's where the menu system came from. Oh, and Word for DOS (one of the best programs Microsoft ever made).

      There'll be a new version coming out soon, BTW, so if anyone has any feature requests now is the time to make them.

      1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

        Re: Wordgrinder anyone?

        > Wordgrinder's okay. I'd probably recommend it.

        <3 :-)

        I don't know where to begin, TBH. It's so very close to what I personally need, but not quite... I think that as the name implies, it's aimed at a slightly different demographic: a prospective novelist or book-length author, while I just knock out relatively short articles, blog posts and so on.

        I'd be happy to drop you an email if you really would like that, but I am worried about sounding ungrateful or overly-demanding. :-(

  10. VicMortimer

    Oh good, WordPutrid.

    Yes, it deserves that name. WordPutrid was the absolute worst word processor ever developed. WordStar was FAR better. Apple Writer was infinitely better.

    I never want to see that BSOD abomination again. I still occasionally have to deal with the remnants of it, fortunately LibreOffice can liberate the documents of at least the more recent versions, I've not encountered the ancient BSOD documents in a long time.

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Oh good, WordPutrid.

      I wasn't and am not a huge fan of WP, to be honest, but as I said above, I will take it over WordStar any day.

      Supporting proportional-width fonts has been _quite_ important and useful since 1979, you know...

  11. Blackjack Silver badge

    Does the Web Archive has any version of WordPerfect to run online from the web browser?

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      I am sure that it probably does.

      But good luck getting your files out and onto your real computer.

      Also, anything running in a web browser doesn't fix the "distraction free environment" issue...

  12. osxtra


    The DOS version of v5.1 was great. Much better than the M$ offering at the time, and who needs a GUI or a mouse, anyway?

    One could - and often did - go a little overboard customizing what commands were tied to the various keyboard button choices.

    I still miss Reveal Codes, an invaluable window into why your formatting was going wonky. Too bad LO Writer doesn't have that.

    These days, like many, it's either VS Code for GUI work, or VIM when dialed in somewhere...

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: F11

      [Author here]

      It's funny, I find, how time changes our perceptions.

      I was not a hardcore WP user, but I did support people with v4.2, which many considered _the_ classic version in the DOS era.

      But I found 5.1 much easier to use, thanks to the menus. The F-keys became, instead of the essential core of the UI, handy shortcuts for the most-used functions. For everything else I just used the menus.

      When it came out, my later colleague and then friend, the late great Guy Kewney, was _scathing_ about it in PCW. I think he wrote something like:

      "I can only imagine the meeting at which WordPerfect 5 was designed. They looked at version 4, and someone must have said: look, what we have here is a great bicycle. Everyone agrees it's the best bicycle around. So what we're going to do is, we're going to put 11 more wheels on it."

      At the time, 5.1 was considered bloated and wasteful. (Version 5.x was also rewritten from assembly language into C.)

      V6 was considered just too big and slow to use at all.

      Now, on DOS, WordPerfect 6.2, the last-ever DOS version, is fast and sleek and efficient, compared to even the smallest and lightest Windows apps.

      And WordPerfect for Windows is fast and snappy.

      Unusually for writers, I actually *like* MS Word. Word 97 at launch was considered bloated and slow and they didn't even notice that it couldn't save .DOC files and saved RTF instead.

      Today, it runs great on WINE, is fast and snappy, and it can install all 3 Service Releases meaning that it's pretty much bug-free. I've been using it for a decade on Linux and it's very solid.

    2. Diogenes

      Re: F11

      Writing macros for wp 4.2 or 5 (can't remember which) was good fun as you had IIRC 10 variables , helpfully named something like var0, var2 etc. I managed to write a macro which converted our WP docs into insert statements to feed into the appropriate tables to create help for a system we wrote in LANSA (AS400 RPG3 builder).

      5 or 5.1 took away this limit and allowed you to use your own variables and as many as you need.

  13. disgruntled yank Silver badge

    not originally a DOS app

    Indeed. I used it on DG minicomputers before encountering 5.1 on DOS. I confess that F3 is about the only command I remember.

  14. gfx


    We had WP5.1 at work and a copy at home, but the template for the function keys was not really a problem. You could make one yourself. There were books available about it. When Words reached version 6 they switched.

    1. Anomalous Cowturd

      Re: WP5.1

      Word didn't so much "reach" version 6 as leap there, straight from version 2, IIRC.

      Something to do with having a higher version number than WP 5.1, which was kicking its arse, sales wise.

      1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

        Re: WP5.1

        Not really, no.

        There were three products all called MS Word, only peripherally related:

        Word for DOS, which I first saw at version 3, and of which I used 3, 4, 5, 5.5 (when it suddenly switched to CUA menus), and 6 (like WordPerfect, the last and best version).

        Word for Mac, which I first saw at version 4, and which in generally-held opinion peaked at v5.1.

        Word for Windows, AKA WinWord, which went v1, v2, v6.

        But there were legit reasons.

        MS was making an effort to harmonise and coordinate its versions.

        IIRC the story is that Gates met Paul Brainerd (founder of Aldus) at some event, and Brainerd told him that Aldus (creators of PageMaker, the ultimate DTP app in its day and the product that made the Mac a big success) was working on a wordprocessor for Windows, because there wasn't a good one. The product was codenamed "Flintstone" and was nearly ready for alpha test.

        Gates panicked, lied to Brainerd that they shouldn't waste their time because MS was almost ready to launch its and it'd be a killer app.

        Brainerd went back to base and cancelled Flintstone. Gates went back to base and told his team to write a Windows word-processor ASAP because Aldus was about to kill them.

        So, WinWord 1 was a rush job and was rather sketchy.

        WinWord 2 fixed a lot of issues and had a much better layout of menus, dialogs, toolbars etc.

        Then MS decided to put out an Office suite and make the version numbers match across platforms.

        So, the native Mac Word was killed.

        The Windows codebase was ported to the Mac, and got the next consecutive version number. Mac users hated it at first: it was much bigger, much slower and buggier, and felt Windows-like rather than Mac-like.

        The Windows version was bumped to match the Mac one, which is sort of fair: there was a common codebase, and the Mac version couldn't jump backwards to v3.

        The DOS version got a minor rejig to reorganize its menus and dialogs to have the same layout as the new v6 product, and the version number was bumped.

        Word 6 for Windows is the classic version, IMHO. It looks much like all the later versions, works like them, etc.

        The snags with it in the 21st century are twofold:

        [1] The 16-bit version works fine in emulators and things but only does short 8.3 filenames, which is a PITA today.

        [2] The very rare 32-bit version for NT is out there, and handles long filenames fine, but it's a port of a Windows 3 app. So, no proportional scrollbar thumbs, so you can't see how big the document is, something I use a lot. And no mouse scroll-wheel support, because they hadn't been invented yet, but makes it feel very broken on a modern OS.

        Otherwise, I would use it now, TBH. It's tiny and fast and has 100× the functions I need.

        Word 95 fixes all that, but the snag with Word 95 is that it uses the old DOS version file format. Modern apps don't support the file format.

        Word 97 uses a new file format, which remained the same until 2003. Office 2007 introduced new Zip-compressed XML files, and the Ribbon, and broke everything.

        But it's a lot easier to load Word 97 .DOC files into any other modern app than Word 95 ones, or else I'd still use Word 95.

        But yes, Word 6 harmonized the UI, the file format, and the version number across Win, Mac and DOS. And it *did* come after Word 5.5 for DOS and Word 5.1 for Mac.

        DOS Word 5.5 is freeware now, but the differences from the Word 6 UI are annoying.

        Word 6 for DOS fixes that and is a nice app to use, but it's not free. I wish MS made it freeware too, but I think the company knows that for a lot of professional writers, Word 6 for DOS is adequate to the task and it might actually hurt sales of Office.

        OTOH Corel could free WordPerfect 6 for DOS and it might actually _help_ sales of the Windows version. It also should re-enter the Mac market, IMHO. But it's too late now.

  15. Daniel M

    No text mode in WordPerfect 8 for Linux?

    To the best of my knowledge, text mode -- similar to WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS -- has been available in WordPerfect for Windows for some time. It is not the same in the current version, but close in "WordPerfect Classic Mode (version 5.1)."

    Was this not true for WordPerfect 8 for Linux?

    Oh, and Make It Fit for all the doubters. Word formatting can be extremely difficult to tame.

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: No text mode in WordPerfect 8 for Linux?

      [Author here]

      Sadly, as far as I can see, no. There is a thing called Draft Mode, but it just hides some formatting. It's still a WYSIWYG, black-on-white view with scaled proportional fonts.

      WinWord used to have 3 comparable features:

      * a draft mode that showed the proportional but non-scalable system font, which was very fast even on a low-end mid-1990s PC;

      * a WordPerfect-like view. Not called that, obviously, but white text on blue.

      * a "full screen" view which hid everything. But idiots kept getting stuck in it because they were too stupid to press Esc, so it got a non-hidable non-removable "exit" toolbar, destroying the entire point of the exercise.

  16. Barry Rueger

    Thank you Karen Acerson.

    Her big fat bible is still on the shelf above my head.

  17. gw0udm

    Wordpefect = the year of Linux on the desktop... or maybe not

    I remember thinking that the key thing that was needed for me to use Linux exclusively on the desktop was a really good word processor which I didn't think existed back in the day. I was dead excited about Wordperfect for Linux... rushed home with it from the University computer cluster with the archive spread across a few floppies... but it was a disappointment. Blocky text, generally clunky feel... and straight to Word Pro on Windows for me.

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Wordpefect = the year of Linux on the desktop... or maybe not

      That is fair. It was a disappointing product in its day, with neither the speed and efficiency of text-mode WordPerfect, nor the rich friendly interface of a full-GUIfied WP.

      But now, when it's free and by modern standards unbelievably tiny and fast... Now, it looks pretty good by comparison. :-)

  18. MarkMLl

    OK, but just what /is/ this?

    Well, I remember people running WordPerfect multiuser on CCP/M-86.

    But just what are we looking at here? Is this a fairly straighforward compilation of available sources, or is there some sort of shim involved in the same way that Linux used to offer shims to support the APIs of some of the established unix flavours? And how's the UI handled: curses/termcap or something more esoteric?

    Confirmation that a modern Linux distro remains compatible with legacy software is at least as big news as the availability of Lotus or Wp for a current OS.

  19. ShortLegs

    Happy Days

    WP5.1 probably the best WP I ever used, including many of the Amiga (true WYSIWYG) word processors... when Amiga WYSIWYG word processors finally became available, about 8 years after the GUI based Amiga launched. Prowrite was good, excellent printer support, but... text mode based. And no preview mode. WP4.2 on the Amiga was frankly beta-ware.

    But WP5.1 DOS was awesome. IMHO, nothing on the the PC came close until Word 2 Windows: which imho had all the functionality 95% of word processor users ever needed. AmiPro may have been a contender, it sure looked nice, but crashed an awful lot. I have vague memories of Word Perfect for Windows doing the same, and it took a long time before what was long suspected to be confirmed; MS apps programmers were using secret API calls, and Windows was playing nasty with non-MS apps.

    Shame, as WP for Windows may have been a killer app.

    Never did get to try WP6.

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