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kelli217

Adventures in WordPerfect

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This is just a continuation of the discussion on WordPerfect that started as a tangent to the "Commander X16 Deluxe Keyboard -- SysReq/PrtSc, Scroll Lock and Pause/Break" thread in the X16 General Chat subforum.

@Michael Parson, I don't currently have any of my Amigas up and running, and I can't quite lay my hands on the installation floppies. Thanks for your offer of help, though.

@EMwhite, it isn't the Windows version. It's the DOS version... but it's 5.1. 😛

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I'll bite.  And yes, that.  My memory is as bad as, well..., my memories; each are about 60% reliable and I creatively fill in the missing bits.

WordPerfect was an essential tool, not just for general Word Processing at the company I worked at during those years (late 80s / early 90s), but we used it to process our billing feed from an SEC Database Product that we published and had hosted on a VAX up in Massachusetts (@Ziff Davis).  

Everything my company did revolved around monetizing of data entry and value added to ASCII data.  It was a thrill to see content that we created from S-1, 10K, 8K SEC filings (paper documents shipped to the Philippines) received on 9-track magnetic tape w/embedded SGML, processed in-house with our own text editor then shipped on mag-tape to our customers.  Our X.25 online system generated a usage file which, thanks to WP Macros, was transformed into laser printed billing that turned into revenue for my company.

Since reading the thread here, I've been searching for a CP/M version but have come up empty.  To me, IBM PCs are not retro, so I don't own one unless you count the low powered Pentium III that runs my Ultracade : ) but some of the software such as Turbo C and Pascal, Epsilon, ProKey, XTree, Quatro Pro, Word Perfect are on that list.  I suppose there might be a DOS emulator that I can run but it wouldn't be as fun.

 

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I remember using the VMS version of WordPerfect in college. This was Google Docs before Google Docs! Running a word processor on a mainframe is far from a new concept, but just another trend cycling back. Once the advent of cheap student licenses for Microsoft Word arrived, it spelled the end of both mainframe-based word processing and using basically anything else on your PC. Right before then, I got the Corel WordPerfect Office suite (including Quattro Pro and a bunch of other tools) for Windows 95 and that's what I used as much as I could until the complete MS Office hegemony was complete. Thankfully, that's finally starting to break apart thanks to open source alternatives like LibreOffice becoming more mature.

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WordPerfect started out life as a Data General minicomputer application, and was ported to / adapted for many platforms over the years, including the Apple II. It was never a CP/M application. WordPerfect became a major player in much the same way as Microsoft did with DOS. They provided the application under contract to third parties, but retained ownership that allowed them to sell it to other people / port it to other platforms / etc.

The Wikipedia article lists some of the platforms supported at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WordPerfect#Version_history. It came out for DOS in 1982 but took years to supplant WordStar, which has been ported quickly from CP/M to DOS.

I read a free ebook version of the history of WordPerfect (the company, not the software) from one of the early executives. It can be found at http://www.wordplace.com/ap/index.shtml if anyone is interested. I found it an interesting read, but I had friends who worked for WordPerfect, it started at my university, and I even interviewed at WordPerfect in the late 80s / early 90s.

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16 minutes ago, SlithyMatt said:

Thankfully, that's finally starting to break apart thanks to open source alternatives like LibreOffice becoming more mature.

It ought to be mature, being based on a product that was first released in 1985! 😄

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5 hours ago, Scott Robison said:

WordPerfect started out life as a Data General minicomputer application, and was ported to / adapted for many platforms over the years, including the Apple II. It was never a CP/M application. WordPerfect became a major player in much the same way as Microsoft did with DOS. They provided the application under contract to third parties, but retained ownership that allowed them to sell it to other people / port it to other platforms / etc.

The Wikipedia article lists some of the platforms supported at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WordPerfect#Version_history. It came out for DOS in 1982 but took years to supplant WordStar, which has been ported quickly from CP/M to DOS.

I read a free ebook version of the history of WordPerfect (the company, not the software) from one of the early executives. It can be found at http://www.wordplace.com/ap/index.shtml if anyone is interested. I found it an interesting read, but I had friends who worked for WordPerfect, it started at my university, and I even interviewed at WordPerfect in the late 80s / early 90s.

Didn't realize it started out on DG systems.  Neat. 

WP 5.1 is the word processor I have used the most.  By the time Windows started getting steam, I was working as a sysadmin and had little need/use for a word processor, and when I did need fancy formatted documents, I used traditional Unix tools (dabbled with TeX, but settled on troff, now groff), or HTML for displaying in a browser.  These days, most of my documentation is in Markdown, edited with vim, though my resume is troff/groff with -me macros.  I've written the odd document in various releases of MS-Word over the years, but since leaving school, I've not really had a need for a word processor, and if I'd had a Unix system when I was in school, I probably would have used troff back then too. :-)

Thanks for the pointer to the ebook history of WP, added to my reading list.  It having started on a Data General system, it will go nicely with my copy of The Soul of a New Machine.

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31 minutes ago, Michael Parson said:

Didn't realize it started out on DG systems.  Neat. 

WP 5.1 is the word processor I have used the most.  By the time Windows started getting steam, I was working as a sysadmin and had little need/use for a word processor, and when I did need fancy formatted documents, I used traditional Unix tools (dabbled with TeX, but settled on troff, now groff), or HTML for displaying in a browser.  These days, most of my documentation is in Markdown, edited with vim, though my resume is troff/groff with -me macros.  I've written the odd document in various releases of MS-Word over the years, but since leaving school, I've not really had a need for a word processor, and if I'd had a Unix system when I was in school, I probably would have used troff back then too. :-)

Thanks for the pointer to the ebook history of WP, added to my reading list.  It having started on a Data General system, it will go nicely with my copy of The Soul of a New Machine.

My preferred pretty printing format at this point is Asciidoctor for similar reasons. I like being able to use an arbitrary text editor then convert it to HTML or PDF if needed (such as for my resume).

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Posted (edited)
10 hours ago, Scott Robison said:

WordPerfect started out life as a Data General minicomputer application, and was ported to / adapted for many platforms over the years, including the Apple II. It was never a CP/M application.

Many still confuse WordPerfect with WordStar.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WordStar

Edited by codewar65

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I've used WordStar. I've used an early PC version that didn't even support subdirectories, and I've also used WordStar 2000, which was what I will diplomatically call 'quite different from the standard WordStar.'

I have a version of it. It's an early version, for an obscure MS-DOS machine that isn't an IBM PC clone. I have the machine, a Sanyo MBC-555, but I've booted it maybe twice since I got it in around 1997. The capacitors are probably dead.

Anyway, the machine came with all the office productivity software that MicroPro offered at the time. WordStar, CalcStar, DataStar. And I have the original disks and manuals, much like I do for WordPerfect for Amiga.

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5 hours ago, kelli217 said:

I've used WordStar. I've used an early PC version that didn't even support subdirectories, and I've also used WordStar 2000, which was what I will diplomatically call 'quite different from the standard WordStar.'

I have a version of it. It's an early version, for an obscure MS-DOS machine that isn't an IBM PC clone. I have the machine, a Sanyo MBC-555, but I've booted it maybe twice since I got it in around 1997. The capacitors are probably dead.

Anyway, the machine came with all the office productivity software that MicroPro offered at the time. WordStar, CalcStar, DataStar. And I have the original disks and manuals, much like I do for WordPerfect for Amiga.

The story I linked to above, written by a one time WordPerfect executive, basically credits WordStar 2000 with their eventual domination of the word processing market. Until that point a large number of people stuck with WordStar, warts and all, because it was what they knew. Once WordStar 2000 came out, completely different, people didn't have incentive to stick with it any more.

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3 hours ago, Scott Robison said:

The story I linked to above, written by a one time WordPerfect executive, basically credits WordStar 2000 with their eventual domination of the word processing market. Until that point a large number of people stuck with WordStar, warts and all, because it was what they knew. Once WordStar 2000 came out, completely different, people didn't have incentive to stick with it any more.

I know that tendency to stick with things pretty well. When you find something that works, even if it's a little clunky, it's difficult to switch. WS2K rather forced that switch on their users.

When I first found a word processor that was powerful enough, fast enough, and usable enough, I stuck with it for quite a while. Anybody else remember Write from the Gold Disk Amiga Appetizer? Yeah, you weren't going to write a doctoral thesis with it or create a manuscript ready for publishing, but it had all the basic features and could handle fairly large documents.

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1 hour ago, kelli217 said:

I know that tendency to stick with things pretty well. When you find something that works, even if it's a little clunky, it's difficult to switch. WS2K rather forced that switch on their users.

When I first found a word processor that was powerful enough, fast enough, and usable enough, I stuck with it for quite a while. Anybody else remember Write from the Gold Disk Amiga Appetizer? Yeah, you weren't going to write a doctoral thesis with it or create a manuscript ready for publishing, but it had all the basic features and could handle fairly large documents.

I used SpeedScript from Compute's Gazette for my C=64, later with some updates to use the 80 column C=128 functionality in C=64 mode, for many years. Even wrote my high school graduation speech with it! 🙂

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When I had my 64, I went from Bank Street Writer, which was short on features but responsive, to geoWrite, which had lots of features but they came at the cost of speed.

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9 minutes ago, kelli217 said:

When I had my 64, I went from Bank Street Writer, which was short on features but responsive, to geoWrite, which had lots of features but they came at the cost of speed.

I did use geoWrite for some tasks when I wanted to "pretty print" a document (though given the available dot matrix printers I had access to, it wasn't really very pretty based on modern standards). Having an 8-bit pseudo-Macintosh was kind of cool from a nerd / geek perspective...

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6 hours ago, Scott Robison said:

I did use geoWrite for some tasks when I wanted to "pretty print" a document (though given the available dot matrix printers I had access to, it wasn't really very pretty based on modern standards). Having an 8-bit pseudo-Macintosh was kind of cool from a nerd / geek perspective...

Yeah, when I first got GEOS, my printer was a Commodore MPS-803, and you could see the gaps between dots. Later I got a printer that was more or less a clone of an Epson *X (Nakajima AR-30, sold by Sears as an 'SR-2000' brand), but with both IEC and Centronics ports on the back, and that worked much better. I kept that printer when I upgraded to the Amiga.

The MPS-803 was what I had back when I was using Bank Street Writer, and the lack of enough pins on the printhead to make a descender in text mode meant that I was always playing with fire when using it for anything scholastic, as the teachers couldn't easily tell whether I'd typed an uppercase or lowercase P — and the rubric was that if they couldn't tell, it was wrong.

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Posted (edited)
On 4/2/2021 at 4:46 AM, kelli217 said:

I know that tendency to stick with things pretty well. When you find something that works, even if it's a little clunky, it's difficult to switch. WS2K rather forced that switch on their users.

When I first found a word processor that was powerful enough, fast enough, and usable enough, I stuck with it for quite a while. Anybody else remember Write from the Gold Disk Amiga Appetizer? Yeah, you weren't going to write a doctoral thesis with it or create a manuscript ready for publishing, but it had all the basic features and could handle fairly large documents.

If that Write was the same as the WRITE for CP/M, it was programmed with heavy user input from Jerry Pournelle, who wrote a long running computer user column in Byte magazine but whose primary job was being a science fiction writer ... the CP/M WRITE (Writer's Really Incredible Text Editor) was known for productivity at not getting in your way and letting you write.

My first use of WordPerfect was on DOS machines in my Econ department's grad student lab in the early 90's ... but when I ran out of time as a teaching assistant/associate at the department, I landed a class at a two year community college in Knoxville, whose Econ course was, unsurprisingly, basically the same as UT's Econ course, since many of their students were aiming to transfer to UT after they got their Associate degree. There was a gang office and at the back was a terminal to a DEC minicomputer ... and we wrote our tests, quizzes and handouts on WordPerfect on the time share minicomputer system.

But the main word processor I used for my first couple of years at grad school was my C64 with a daisywheel printer, 1571 and 1581 disk drives and a compact color TV, writing on TheWriteStuff from Busy Bee software. It had all the formatting I needed to turn out a research essay, and a straightforward nextfile function for papers that were too big to fit into the C64's RAM, a good preview function, and I turned in papers that looked much nicer than the papers done by my classmates, written on a PC and printed on a dot matrix printer.

Edited by BruceMcF
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It... might have been. I don't know anything about the history of the program, and I've never used the CP/M app by that name. It used commands inserted onto a separate line to do stuff like changing line spacing or margins or justification, sort of like WordStar's dot commands. It had all the hallmarks of a text-screen-oriented word processor that had been ported over to a GUI-based platform.

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3 hours ago, kelli217 said:

It... might have been. I don't know anything about the history of the program, and I've never used the CP/M app by that name. It used commands inserted onto a separate line to do stuff like changing line spacing or margins or justification, sort of like WordStar's dot commands. It had all the hallmarks of a text-screen-oriented word processor that had been ported over to a GUI-based platform.

That could be. I recall that at around the time Pournelle referred to WYSIWYG as something like WYSIAYG, "What You See Is All You Get", and contrasted it with something like DWITY, "Do What I Tell You".

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I still have old college papers produced on a C64 (actually a 128 in C64 mode) using Word Writer 6 (or 5, I forget) and an MPS1200 -- actually a really nice rebadged letter quality high pin dot matrix.   It really worked nice and was half the weight of my old DPS 1101 daisy wheel monster.    Of course, I think like everyone I also did plenty in years prior using Speedscript after typing the damn thing in myownself!  

 

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I purchased several copies of Compute, and Compute's Gazette, but I wasn't what one would call diligent about it, and didn't subscribe. I never managed to get one of the issues that had a version of SpeedScript in it.

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1 hour ago, kelli217 said:

I purchased several copies of Compute, and Compute's Gazette, but I wasn't what one would call diligent about it, and didn't subscribe. I never managed to get one of the issues that had a version of SpeedScript in it.

Most if not all of them are available via archive.org today... https://archive.org/details/compute-gazette

That page ostensibly includes a link to D64 disk images as well.

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Cool. Noted for future use. 😄 

I seem to recall that someone in this community was working on a port of SpeedScript to the X16.

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