I began writing these pieces on a sporadic basis for my local PC user group's news letter back in 1992. The first article was a somewhat humorous review of Quicken. It is online in it's original text format at <http://lgrossman.com/mjnk/quicken.txt>. The articles increased in frequency until sometime in mid-1995, when our fair editor asked me to write on a regular basis for WindoWatch magazine. Her monthly "gentle reminders" have prompted me to produce an article almost every month since then. A look at the Complete Archive <http://lgrossman.com/mjnk/index.html> reveals some 50 articles since then. Still, some months are easier than others. This is one of those harder months.
Perhaps it is because I have promised myself to catch up this month. I thought that by now, I could catch up. Maybe write a gentle piece, touching on a number of things I have neglected during the past few months.
But, after 9 months of gestation our national wet dream is about to end in a non-referendum. By the time you read this, the pundits and soothsayers will be reading the entrails of the November 3rd election, purporting to explain us to ourselves. Maybe the fact that my birthday always comes within a day or two of Election day (I got Eisenhower and Regan as birthday presents) has made elections so significant to me. But this weekend, as I write, listening to Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz on NPR, <http://www.scern.org/pj/> I find myself kind of listless. Writing more by obligation than conviction. I used to think I had an opinion on everything and could spout off endlessly at the drop of a hat. Perhaps it is maturity, but I don't always feel that need anymore. I don't even know everything anymore. Still, I have promised some comments on Word Perfect 8 and a few other things have managed to burble to the surface of my consciousness. So put on some of your favorite music while you read and it won't be a total loss.
COREL WORD PERFECT 8.
"Buy American!!" You remember the exhortation. Gone with the wind. Now the world economy depends on our trade deficit. In the 60's my first car was made in England, the second in Italy, the third and fourth in Germany. In some parts of the country local garages would have refused to work on them even if they could get the parts. Now try to even find a car that is "Made in the USA." My newest car (I haven't bought a really new one since 1973) is a Dodge Intrepid. The one before that, still chugging along at 150 thousand miles, is a Mercury Grand Marquis. Real Detroit Iron. Think again. Look at the doorplates. Both were assembled in Canada. We take it for granted that computers and their components come from beyond our borders. My first machine could seemed to have one component from each of the members of SEATO (The South East Asia Trade Organization).
But the greatest word processor ever made was a fantastic home grown product. Word Perfect from Orem Utah.
WordPerfect. Every lawyer will tell you it is the greatest word processor ever made. (I confess, lawyers don't need lots of fonts and the very simplicity of the DOS version is a special attribute. Windows features can lead to troubles with the court. Using "Make it fit" can actually be illegal and result to an action being dismissed.) It made us put down our yellow pads and learn to type. (Female attorneys could finally reveal that they could type, back when we were in school, women who could type had to do all of our papers and were often tracked into secretarial positions. Serious women frequently had to deny they could type, just to be taken seriously).
WordPerfect. Easy to learn, clear white text on a brilliant blue screen. Almost every centimeter of the screen available for text. Easily created macros simplified many repetitive tasks available quickly at the touch of a couple of keys. The list files popped up easily usable and readable. The whole program flew along, even on a 286.
Wait!! you say. You are talking about WP5.1, the great DOS application. Right you are. And there is no way we could ever go back to DOS. I admit it. The other day I was in an out of town office and had to borrow an old laptop to take some notes. It still had WP 5.1 on the hard drive. It was a struggle to go back. I have gotten used to the rodent and to cutting and pasting. And I still prefer WPWin to other Windows word processors. But WordPerfect's Windows incarnations have been significant disappointments.
WordPerfect stumbled badly in the early days of Windows and finally got into the picture with its kludged together WPWin 5.2 and 6.0. (I won't even talk about the WP graphic version for DOS. Was that WP DOS 6.0?) Still, WP loyalists clung to the DOS version and insisted that their IT departments stick with Word Perfect when the offices upgraded. They were sorely disappointed.
WordPerfect made some big mistakes. They left behind all but one of the features that made WP DOS so valuable, thereby leaving behind most of the reasons for their customer base to come along. I'll talk about that one saving feature later. But first let us moun.
Although they advertised the possibility of configuring the program to utilize the familiar WP 5.1 keyboard commands, many of the improved features of the Windows version were unavailable from the old keyboard setup. Even worse, the new version failed to include any kind of macro conversion utility. Over the years, I had created several dozen macros which made my life easy. There was simply no way to import them in the Windows version. True, many of the functions for which I had created macros had their own keyboard commands already but into the new program, for example [ctrl-d] [ctrl-s] and a number of others. Still, if I have to learn a new set of commands, it is just as easy to learn Word or AmiPro (or whatever it is called now "WordPro?] or something else. WordPerfect, why should I stay with you?
And the Windows versions were slow. I have had WP 6.1 on my office machine for some time right now. And on a P200 with 32 meg of RAM it is not unbearable. But opening macros and waiting for dialog boxes (open files, save files) is like taking a break but not quite long enough for a nap.
In addition, other agencies with whom I must work have been upgrading to MS Word 97. And Office 98. WP 6.1 was simple unable to convert those files. (Actually with privately written viewer in my old DOS application, Magellan, I discovered I could save the new Microsoft files as text and then convert them to WP, with a great loss of formatting.
So I was excited when I got the opportunity to review the New Corel WP Suite 8. Maybe the improvements would justify the wait. Now I like light software (see the Great Lite Software section of my home page at <http://lgrossman.com/>). So the idea of reviewing a complete suite is daunting. I confess, I have not been able to sample all of the features of the Corel Suite in the past couple of months. I will report further as time goes on.
The package arrived. Imagine my shock to seen the return address from a location in Canada. Yes. Corel is located in Ontario now and is closing the Orem Utah facility, if it hasn't already.
(The Corel website <http://www.corel.com> still has a page with a map to Orem.)
Fortunately my new machine had an almost empty hard drive. I have to report that once WP8 is loaded it seems reasonably fast, but waiting for WP to load is still slow. Even on a Pentium with 64 meg of RAM.
WordPerfect has found it necessary to tinker with some of the best features of WP 6.1.
In WP 6.1, the file open dialog box was extremely configurable and robust in appearance. It took mine a few months to get used to it, but I found its features very useful.
Here is a bad screen shot of the WP 6.1 files
Open Files dialogue box. As I set it up there are three main windows: The slot where the file name wild card can be inserted is on the top left. Immediately below it is a window showing the files in my default subdirectory (folder) - in the order I chose (normally most recent first) and limited by the inserted wild card. No further subdirectories are found there. Instead, subdirectories are found in a separate window to the right bottom of the image shown. Another window, just above that contains a "Quick list" of frequently used subdirectories.
I can find what I want quickly and efficiently. Other windows, not visible here, permit changing drives and other functions.
The new file open dialogue box is simply foreign to me. And infinitely less useful (even if I was able to get a better screen shot).
For some reason the file name slot has been moved to the bottom. Subdirectories appear in the same window, instead of
in their own window. There is no quick list. I suppose I will get used to this but for now, I find my self lost when I try to navigate in WP 8.
These are probably the grousings of an old dog who doesn't want to learn new tricks. So I have saved for last one word of praise for WordPerfect. They have retained one of the most useful features of the old DOS program - Reveal Codes. I know that newer typists can't even conceive of reveal codes. They don't want to know. But I simply don't understand how writers can get along without it. How do they find out where an errant font begins or ends? How do they remove unwanted tabs? How many times have I been able to solve seemingly unexplainable problems for others in my office by opening reveal codes and taking a close look at what lies behind the printed page?
Which brings me, of course, to my biggest disappointment in WP 8. WP understands the benefits of revealing the underlying code - at least to some extent. A flick of a hot key [alt-f-3] brings up reveal codes. Another flick and you are back to WYSIWYG screen. Why not do the same thing in WPs HTML editor?
I compose my web pages using Dida Pro (the freeware version is available for download in the Great Lite Software section of my home page <http://lgrossman.com/>. I do the composition in text mode (in effect, revealing the code) but a quick click on a tab and I am in a WYSIWYG mode viewing the page in form somewhat similar to that which the ultimate viewer will see it. What about an editor that would let me import pre written pages and move elements around as in a WYSIWYG editor, but would then let me switch to a reveal codes format and let me cleanup the underlying code. Sorry no go.
This column will be eventually converted to HTML for the online version. It would be nice to save it once as a *.wpd file for transmission to WindoWatch and then to just save it again as an *.html. file. No such luck.
I am going to give it a try. But I know that I'll ultimately save it as *.txt file as well and then import it into Dida and then enter the HTML code.
Would have been nice.
This column is being written is WP 8. I am glad to have a leg up. My office is supposed to upgrade in a few weeks.
Suites are amazing. I hunted all over to put AOL's Instant Messenger on my machine. Only after doing so, did I discover that is was included in the Corel 8 suite, as was a version of Netscape and lots of other stuff. Having missed a few meetings this month, I have installed the Corel Central planner in my system startup but I am getting tired of waiting for it to finish loading so I can get on to other things. But, I have only experimented slightly with the other features in the Corel 8 suite.
A few final thoughts for this month.
I mentioned above that I have included the Corel 8 planner in the start up configuration for my machine. It is slow. This is not a problem when I turn the machine on for the first time when come home at night ( I turn it on and then visit the washroom -- it is almost finished booting when I get back). And it usually stays on until I leave for work the next day. But if I am doing some configuring, or heaven forfend, of the machine should lock up or have to be rebooted, it is a pain. Here is a simple suggestion for Microsoft. How about a start up dialog box that would list all of the programs that have been dragged into the start up folder. The box would include radio buttons in front of each item so they could be turned on or off without having to drag them in and out of the folder. Just an idea).
Isn't it ironic that Janet Reno's Justice Department has chosen to personalize the Microsoft antitrust suit as a battle of personalities. OJ and Monicagate enter the world of antitrust. Is it more ironic that the opening shot was to attempt to show that Bill Gates perjured himself in his deposition. Will he be charged with perjury? I doubt it. Don't hold your breath. His name isn't Clinton.
Perhaps the real battle isn't only between Microsoft and Netscape, but in some ways between the two of them and the rest of us. A new campaign for compatible browsers has begun, but seems more like an advertising campaign than substance. In the meantime, Opera continues to improve its Windows browser. The latest public beta version is available at <http://www.operasoftware.com/download.htm > Sadly, it was announced this week their first attempts to create versions form the MAC and Linux and other operating systems has had to be scrapped and started over. I wish them luck.
Finally, when I wrote the announcement for this month's program at my PC Users group. I promised to discuss the "real villain in the browser wars." Only one problem, as the meeting approaches, I haven't the slightest idea what I meant.
Time to listen to some music.
BTW: When I finished writing this article, I decided to try to save a copy of it in the HTML format, which is one of the options available in WordPerfect. I thought my machine had locked up. The hard drive light was flashing but nothing seemed to be happening. Several times, I pressed [alt-ctrl-delete]. The dialogue box indicated WP was not responding. I shut it down and tried again. Finally, after a reboot, I tried again and went downstairs to make a sandwich. When I came back the hard drive light was still flashing. Then a box appeared with a message indicating that a file conversion was in process. I opened the file in Dida and indeed the WPD file had been converted to HTML. It even rendered fairly reasonably in the previewer. But it had lots of strange code and added some odd characters to the visible text. Still. I am in the process of preparing two hundred handwritten pages of material into a set of web pages. One third has been typed in WordPerfect. This may be the way to convert it. I'll report more later.
Copyright 1998 Leonard Grossman