Word Processors

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We’ve covered Text Editors in some depth recently, so I thought it might be fun to take a look back at some of the word processors I’ve used…

WordPerfect 5.1

WordPerfect once owned the Word Processing market. You couldn’t get an office job without an encyclopaedic knowledge of WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS. Fortunately help was at hand for those unable to memorise every single function – not an animated paperclip, or a handy-dandy help menu, but a little piece of card that sat over the F keys as a constant reminder of what key did what. Its distinctive blue background/white text interface made sure that anyone who had to use it for any great length of time went home with a migraine.

It was the first proper Word Processing package I ever used, and for the most part I hated it. One feature of WP 5.1 had that I do miss is the reveal codes function, which made it easy to spot the cause of any sudden changes in your work. But, for all its headache-inducing, F-key confusing quirks, WP5.1 was a good “no-frills” word processor that got the job done without any fuss. It was a massive step from typewriters and tipp-ex, and typists around the world were grateful for that alone.

WordPerfect still exists today, after a move from the WordPerfect Corporation to Novell, it is now owned by Corel, and forms part of the WordPerfect Office Suite.

You can still get the original, if you’re in a retro document producing kinda mood. It’s available here. The all-important function key reference card, however, isn’t so easy to come by. If any WP 5.1. fans out there know better, please leave me a note in the comments.

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IBM DisplayWrite

Arg! The horror! This was a word processor used only in IBM mainframe machines, and apparently still exists today. I remember spending a Saturday swotting up on DisplayWrite just so I could get a job that I ended up hating and leaving after 3 months. And one of the reasons for hating the job so much was that bloody DisplayWrite. The other were the people I had to work with. I hope they all still work there and are still wrestling with this wretched thing. It’s the least they deserve.

There’s not much information on DisplayWrite about, and I think this is because everyone who uses just doesn’t want to talk about it.

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AmiPro/Lotus WordPro/Lotus SmartSuite

AmiPro was the first windows-based WYSIWYG word processor I used. I thought it was magical! It was amazing to be able to click on a picture of a disk to save a file, to click on a picture of a printer! I was in awe of the sheer splendour of the technology having come from manual typewriters, to this via electric typewriters that didn’t break your fingers when you wanted to type ‘a’ or ‘;’. Exciting times! And discovering this package meant I had an easier time on my first encounter with Word.

SmartSuite is still around, but Lotus, now part of IBM, are now better known for Lotus Notes.

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Microsoft Word

I have a dysfunctional relationship with Word. Always have done. It causes me more frustration, anxiety, heartburn and tension and is responsible for at least 75% of my daily swearing. But, all things considered, I couldn’t live without it. I can live with its eccentricities and I am happy to admit that there are parts of it I will never understand, but it’s there, and I know its basic functions by heart. As a temp, visiting different organisations and being expected to get on with the work as quickly as possible, knowing Word’s there means I have one less thing to try and master and leaves me free to concentrate on other important office matters, like the coffee machine.

Word might well be a pain in the ass, but it’s a pain in the ass I’ve lived with for many years. The first version I really got to know was Word 6.0, which is thought of by many as the best version. It had all the features it needed with none of the features it didn’t (none of this “It looks like you’re writing a letter! Would you like some help?” nonsense).

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See Also


Gas Mask picture from Modern Mechanix via Boing Boing.

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