I grew up on Wordperfect 4.2 (and later, 5.1). I remember the day I started using it. My dad, seeing me struggling with the limited feature set of Bank Street Writer on my Commodore 64, sat me down in front of what was to become my first x86 machine. Piece by piece, he explained WordPerfect... Reveal Codes, the function keys, creating macros... it was a new world of flexibility.

Years later, I still have muscle-memories for WP commands. They're fading, yet sometimes I still reflexively hit F6 to bold, or Shift-F7 to print.

WordPerfect, like vi, offered a purity of interface that today's WYSIWYG word processors cannot match. Working in WordPerfect was a dream of intellectual cleanliness: no toolbars, no fonts, no other tasks... just you and your document, sequestered from the world.

WordPerfect was started in 1984 by Satellite Software International, a company started in Orem, Utah by Mormons. At the time, the champion word processor was WordStar, with countless other smaller potatoes (WordStar being the only true cross-platform word processor at the time. In 1984, people were word processing on anything from Apple IIs and Atari 800s to IBM mainframes and WANG word processors.) SSI changed their name to WordPerfect Corporation around 1986.

WordPerfect quickly gained in popularity, and was the number one word processor throughout the 80's and early 90's. Somewhere along there, a bratty little company called Microsoft developed Microsoft Word and whittled away at WordPerfect's market dominance with a combination of features and monopoly power, as well as beating WordPerfect to the GUI market. WordPerfect was probably the last great keyboard driven program--many of us who were around in the late 1980s can still remember WordPerfect funtion key commands (Shift-F7 is print, of course.) and are fond fans of reveal codes, which let you see all the formatting information of your document.

WordPerfect's peak was probably WordPerfect 5.1, which is still considered a standard for document interchange and if you have any documents at a law firm they're probably saved in this format. WordPerfect 6.0 for DOS was a fully graphical DOS-based program, and never caught on WordPerfect 6.1 for Windows was the most popular Windows 3.1 version of WordPefect. By the mid 1990s WordPerfect had bought Quattro Pro from Borland and was now selling an office suite which consisted of WordPerfect, Quattro Pro, and Presentations.

After that, things get a little fuzzy In 1994, Novell bought WordPerfect under the direction of Bob Frankenberg, who sought to make Novell the next Microsoft. He was not successful, and WordPerfect was sold off to Corel in 1996, not after Novell kept WordPerfect Office which they polished up and made into GroupWise, which is still being made.

Under Corel, WordPerfect has had 4 major releases (WP 7, 8, 9 (also known as 2000) and 10 (WordPerfect Office 2002.) Corel also released a version of WordPerfect Office 2000 for Linux to mixed reviews.)

At this time, WordPerfect is less than 10% of the office suite market, but it has a loyal following, especially still in the legal community, where many court briefs cannot be filed in Microsoft Word due to formatting requirements it does not meet. Corel has had numerous management problems as well as financial ones, and may not survive, which would be a sad day for WordPerfect.

WordPerfect was originally written on, designed and used on Data General's AOS and AOS/VS operating systems for their microcomputers (notably the MV series) by the WordPerfect Corp.

Mostly known for its word processing capabilities, WP, also included a spreadsheet and something like the first commercial groupware/scheduling software, WP Office. The typical user interface at that time would be a DG Dasher dumb terminal, 80/132 columns with something like 25 lines on a monochrome screen - and 16 function keys.

Then, the PC changed the landscape of data processing. Earlier systems, like office machines running CP/M and WordStar just did not come with the blessing of IBM - the IBM PC did. WP was ported to MS-DOS, but while the DG version was still maintained, newer developments like mouse support and graphics made it difficult to continue the product for AOS/VS. Also, CEO (Comprehensive Electronic Office), DG's office package, became more and more powerful, to finally take up most of WPs former market share on AOS/VS.

Wordperfect was later purchased by Novell, which built their groupware solution GroupWise, using features from WP office (and - indirectly, CEO), but failed to sell it successfully against Microsoft Word. Finally, WP was sold off to Corel.

A long-time favorite of writers, WordPerfect is now more or less history.

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