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.

R.I.P. Bruce Bastian, co-developer of WordPerfect.

Like many others brought up on WordPerect as the word processor, I was highly enamoured of its clean interface, its keyboard controlled power and its unique way of getting out of the way of writing. The "clean screen interface" approach has been instrumental in many of my software choices since; I am still a bigger fan of keyboard control than mouse or trackpad, and as someone else mentioned, it informs my decision to use vi and vim above any other text editor. When first introduced to Microsoft Word, I hated it thoroughly; the cluttered screen and lack of control (not to mention, absence of "Reveal Codes"!). WYSIWYG was to me then (and often, now) a mess of clutter that I find distracting. With only a little effort to use keyboard shortcuts, I was far faster in WP5.1 in DOS than any Windows word processor(but I do not want to start another holy war here. As I move more toward using Markdown for my E2 writeups (and even a little LaTeX in other writing), I reckon my workflow will be better than any GUI writing program.

This has all been prompted today by reading in The Register of the death of Bruce Bastian, one of the original developers of the program.

A Little History

What was to become WordPerfect was developed starting in 1979 at the Brigham Young University, the code being written by undergrad student Bruce Bastian and Alan Ashton, one of his professors. Developed for the Data General minicomputer, despite the university contract, the pair nonetheless retained rights to the codebase, and went on to found Satellite Software International to further develop and market the software.

In 1982: The MS-DOS version of WordPerfect was released, and quickly became popular. At the time of the release, there was still no C Compiler available for the PC, and the program was written and continued to be developed using x86 assembly language until the release of WordPerfect 5.1. In 1986: the WordPerfect Corporation was established as a separate entity to manage the software's development and distribution. Over the next decade the software became the dominant word processing software for the PC, displacing the OG WordStar. With the Throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, WordPerfect became the dominant word processing software, known for its "what you write is what you see" (uncluttered anti-WYSIWYG) interface and its well-loved and extensive set of features. After Windows 3.1 came onto the scene and began to rise in popularity, WordPerfect attempted to continue to develop, but was hampered by Microsoft not sharing its API, their initial efforts to develop for Windows were neither fast nor as well featured Microsoft's Word offering. This marked the beginning of he software's decline in popularity. Cynical me believes there was deliberate sabotage by M$ to ensure their software had all the advantages (like total access to Windows' API and certainly a larger budget and developer pool).

By 1994 WordPerfect as a business was seemingly doomed. Novell acquired WordPerfect Corporation, hoping to integrate it into its suite of office software, and having failed to compete with cheating Microsoft, sold it to Corel Corporation in 1996 due to declining sales and the increasingly strong competition from Microsoft Word et al

Corel continued to develop WP, finally attempting to sell it as an office suite with the Quattro Pro spreadsheet software, and some presentation software. Despite everyone's efforts, the software continued to decline in popularity, although it still remains popular in the legal profession.

It's sadly missed; there's a good deal of nostalgia for the program amongst those who used it in the 5.1 heyday. In fact, i owe a good deal to this program; it was through understanding how to use both it and the MS-DOS operating system that I started teaching IT in college, leading to a job in the tech field. Without WordPerfect I'd probably never have become the geek I am, would never have met Christine, in fact may never have discovered E2 when I did.

So thank you, Bruce! Requiescat in Pace, good buddy.

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