Business-like, isn't he?


 

 



WORD PERFECT WINDOWS 6.0... IS IT THE REAL THING?

by ALAN ZISMAN (c) 1993
1 November, 1993
for Computer Player




Last Winter saw the battle of the Windows database programs, with Borland's Paradox and Microsoft's Access and FoxPro coming out within weeks of one another, all aiming for the same buyer's dollars.

This season, we've got the same process, with the other two of software's traditional 'Big 3' categories. The Spreadsheet Wars have given us new versions of Lotus 123, Borland's Quattro Pro, and finally Microsoft Excel. And now, again within a couple of weeks, we've got the releases of version 6 for two of the three major Windows word processors.


WORD PERFECT 6

With nearly 14 million copies sold, Word Perfect has pretty much owned the word processor market... at least under DOS. Surprised by the popularity of the Windows environment, however, they were late releasing software for this market.

While Word Perfect 5.1 for Windows sold well, it was widely criticized as being slow ungainly... taking poor advantage of the Windows environment. Version 5.2, released late last year was better, but still lagged behind Microsoft Word for Windows and Lotus AmiPro.

Version 6, recently released in separate versions for DOS and Windows, is another story. It adds features, speed, and usability, and finally feels like a 'real' Windows product.

Like other 'real' Windows products, however, it makes serious demands on your hardware. In this case, a full install takes 30 mb of hard drive space, for example... with 10.5 the least you can get away with. Four meg RAM is the bare minimum, with 6 or more being desired.

For that investment in hardware, you get a word processor that does more than most. Like the users of old who booted up to the DOS version of Word Perfect and never ran any other programs, this version comes closer to being all things for all users.

If you really wanted to, for example, you could make it your Windows shell, replacing Program Manager. You can easily install any Windows program (or Word Perfect macro) onto its button bar for easy startup. Just drag a file from File Manager, and drop it onto the button bar, for instant one-click program launching.

But why bother with File Manager, for that matter? While earlier versions of Word Perfect-Win had a separate file manager all its own, now, these functions are integrated into the File-Open dialogue box. You can create directories, copy and delete files right there. You can even give directories and groups of files long descriptions.

Many word processors now come with table editors. This one, however, includes over 100 spreadsheet functions... for many users, it may be all the spreadsheet they'll ever need. Similarly, the Word Perfect Draw utility, provides charting, and Bezier curve editing. It can even attach text to curves.

TextArt,  co-developed by Bitstream, resembles a scaled-down version of that company's MakeUp. It lets you stretch and twist text into instant logos, and supports all your TrueType, Type 1, and Speedo fonts. Bitstream has also provided 25 TrueType fonts.

While users have been able to integrate text and graphics in Word Perfect since DOS version 5.1, the current version provides more DTP-like power than ever before. Kerning, four-different sorts of columns, even text wrap around a graphic's shape.

Three-level sorts adds basic data manipulation capabilities, made more powerful by the wide range of database files directly imported.

Add Grammatik 5 grammar checker (recently purchased by Word Perfect), and QuickFinder indexer and text retrieval utility, and you can see how Word Perfect can lay claim to be "the most comprehensive set of tools to easily and automatically create any kind of document".


BUT DOES IT PROCESS WORDS, TOO?

Yes. Word Perfect has always had a reputation of providing all the features anyone could want in a word processor. This version builds on that tradition, while still finding some areas for growth.

The biggest new word processor improvement is with templates. 70 pre-created documents ship with Word Perfect, including common forms, fax sheets, memos, newsletters, and so forth. These ExpressDocs are more than just boilerplate text, however. They can be interactive, prompting the user for information. They may include customized Button Bars, menus, and macros. There are even templates to change the look of the program to resemble DOS versions 5.1 or 6.0.

Having been hampered by DOS Word Perfect's inability to edit text in Page Preview mode, I was pleased that this version is fully editable in views ranging from facing-pages, to 400% magnification.

Of course, Word Perfect's traditionally strong spell checkers and thesaurus are included, and strengthened with a hyphenation dictionary.

Users migrating from other versions of Word Perfect will find that this version has complete file and macro compatibility with DOS version 6.0... Version 5.1 (DOS and Windows) files can be used, but must be converted (which happens automatically). Older macros must also be converted, which may be a less than perfect process.


THE USABILITY BUZZWORD

I never cared for the classic DOS Word Perfect interface. Austere. Blank. Function key hints taped to the keyboard. Lots of power unused because too many users didn't know how to access it.

Thankfully, Word Perfect has put those days far behind. This version happily steals interface ideas from their competitors, and has emerged the most customizable of the bunch.

Right mouse clicks produce context-sensitive QuickMenus. 20 different Feature Bars, varying with the task at hand. Button Bars, (which can be on top, on the side, or a moveable palette), permitting access to any Word Perfect feature or any Windows application. A Power Bar, and status bar on the bottom, each user customizable. Even the keyboard can be customized.

Like Microsoft's Wizards, Word Perfect provides Coaches. Unlike Microsoft's, however, Coaches can be edited by users. In fact, using the macro-language, users can even create their own Coaches.

Taking AmiPro's interactive dialogues one step further, many of Word Perfect's dialogue boxes provide a Preview button, permitting users to view the effect of their proposed changes on their document, before actually committing to the change.

Word Perfect has several nice policies, unusual in the software industry. Registered users can obtain a free license for two additional platforms... so DOS users can also use Windows and Unix versions, for example. As well, upgraders are encouraged to donate their older versions to schools and non-profits, something the Federal government is belatedly following up on. Finally, they continue with their 1-800 customer support, at a time when most other companies are moving to pay-for-support policies.

Word Perfect's Windows versions have been guaranteed a large market by the huge number of users of their DOS product. With this version, Word Perfect becomes a Windows word processor that can be recommended on its own merits.


(Note from the year 2003): The above article was originally published in 1993, as a review. A decade and more later, I've gotten a series of emails from WPWin fans hoping that I could sell them a copy of this software or direct them to a place where it is still available. While I have reviewed software since 1991, I am not a vendor of r any products. I suggest to everyone looking for copies of older software to check at eBay or at OldSoftware.com.If you check on my Files webpages, you'll find links to a number of (mostly freeware) downloadable software, some of which may be good replacements for older programs.
-- AZ (September 15, 2003)
 


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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan