Novell, WP

Evan Leibovitch evan-ieNeDk6JonTYtjvyW6yDsg at
Fri Nov 18 17:53:56 UTC 2005

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.)

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.

>>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.

>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.

TeX was phenomenally good at doing things like working with databases to 
produce completely automated reports that used proportional type and 
nice formatting. But it wasn't very good at making an arbitrary one-off 
document, though I'm sure its edit->compile->print->examine->(repeat) 
process appealed to programmers.

> 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. So does multi-OS capability, which nobody has done well since 
WordPerfect abandoned Unix/Linux. They've never used talking paper clips 
to belittle their users. Also, in a free (as in beer) project there's 
less incentive to gratuitously feature-creep just to drive upgrade sales.

It's amazing how far they've come. When I first used StarOffice, many 
years before Sun bought it in 1999, it was a horrible piece of work 
whose only feature was being the only reasonably stable multi-app office 
suite for Unix/Motif.

- Evan

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