Novell, WP

Christopher Browne cbbrowne-Re5JQEeQqe8AvxtiuMwx3w at
Fri Nov 18 23:09:54 UTC 2005

On 11/18/05, Evan Leibovitch <evan-ieNeDk6JonTYtjvyW6yDsg at> wrote:
> Christopher Browne wrote:
> >>In my opinion WP never survived the transition to a GUI.  The 5.x
> >>versions for windows were awful, the 6.x series in general were awful,
> >>and the 7.x series (once Corel took over) were only slightly better.

> WP was agonizingly slow in realizing what MS-Windows was going to do to
> the PC desktop world. They were many years behind Microsoft, in part
> because the character-based version continued to be popular for a long
> time while MS-Windows was gaining momentum. Meanwhile, MS-Word (which
> itself started as a CUI product that was pretty awful) became a
> strategic application in MS's drive to popularize Windows over just
> using DOS. So MS closely tied Word to Windows very early on, long before
> there was a demonstrated market -- by the time WP caught on, Word was
> already multiple generations ahead and never looked back.
> (Arguably one could say that Excel did the same thing to Lotus 1-2-3.)

The difference is that we didn't hear rumours for Lotus 123 to the
effect that "You haven't finished the next release of Windows until
you make Lotus 123 stop working."

That was just manifestly clearly the case for WordPerfect...

I'm not quite sure where Lotus went awry; it wasn't quite the same as
what happened with WP, but it never was clear to me when Excel took
over in terms of mindshare.  Actually, that seemed to take place quite
differently, with Borland, Lotus, and Microsoft leapfrogging one
another with respective versions.  It sorta looked like Borland and
Lotus "got tired out."

> WP was the darling of Unix people because it was supported on so many
> platforms, and was clearly the best desktop app for Unix. It could run
> very nicely on dumb terminals (such as the ubiquitous Wyse 60) at 9600
> baud, though they had to totally dispense with the traditional Unix
> termcap/terminfo mechanisms to do it. But WordPerfect for XWin never
> really caught on.

Well, when they tried a Unix port, they started with a port by the
Gallium folks (next door to Corel, who, no surprise, did the Unix port
of CorelDraw), who produced something that worked, but that was quite
badly out of date by the time it was released, which seemed pretty
irrelevant in the days when Steve Ballmer was sweating and shouting
"Microsoft!  Microsoft!  Microsoft!"  Being four versions out of date
sucks, even with the pretty considerable interversion compatibility
that WP offered.

That was then followed by Corel taking it over and trying to build
something atop WINE.  The results sucked so bad that it could have
drawn matter out of a black hole.

> >>The 4.x versions for Amiga were not exactly successful either and the
> >>users there looked at the text program in a window and wondered why
> >>someone wanted over $500 for that, when for under $200 they could buy a
> >>nice WYSIWYG word processor, although one with a lot less lawyer
> >>features than wordperfect (although not being lawyers, most users didn't
> >>care about the missing features, and prefered the features they gained
> >>and actually used).

> To this day, WP appears to be the choice of the legal (and in some cases
> government) sectors. I've come across a number  of instances where lack
> of WP support quickly eliminated OpenOfficeV1 from consideration.

They still have a presence in the Canadian government; I was always a
bit surprised how badly Corel fell down there, when there should have
been a touch of a "patriotic good fit" there...

> >I was never particularly keen on WP; its means of operations never agreed with me, as I had learned LaTeX instead.

> I saw it differently. The "reveal codes" function of WP (which none of
> the other word processors have really done right) comes reasonably close
> to letting you explicitly manipulate formatting tags as you can with TeX.

I agree on the merits of the "reveal codes" function; that's the prime
thing I had in mind when suggesting that all the other "graphical"
word processors suck pretty incredibly in comparison with WP.

> > doesn't strike me as being fundamentally better than Word in any manner other than licensing and, I suppose, "lack of producers' evilness" ;-).
> I'd say that using open, standards-compliant document formats counts for
> a lot.

The loss of the equivalent to "reveal codes" is a significant loss. 
While it may not have the *focused* braindamage of Word's thing of
serializing binary forms of COM objects, it still gives me the
impression of being something where functionality was thrown into a
blender rather than being designed to do any sorts of things well.

I just don't trust OO with big documents.  Contrast with my example of
feeling comfortable with doing *stunningly huge* things with LaTeX on
hardware with less RAM than we'd hope to have L2 cache :-).

WP format may not have been "totally open," but it was stable for a
very long time, and that included extensibility to modern versions. 
You could take recent documents and throw them at WP5 and while it
wouldn't be able to do anything about *some* of the modern stuff, you
could hope to see it load and display something...  There's good to be
said about that...
"The true  measure of a  man is how he treats  someone who can  do him
absolutely no good." -- Samuel Johnson, lexicographer (1709-1784)
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