-WordPerfect On The Commodore Amiga-
-1987, Borland/WorldPerfect Corporation, $395
Link To My WordPerfect Video:
Link To Intric8's WordPerfect Post
Link To Intric8's Original Amiga Word Processing Post:
*This review was overwhelmingly written using WordPerfect 5.0 on my Amiga 500.
^ Loading up WordPerfect from Workbench and looking at the start of the same document you're reading
Inspired by Intric8's quest for his "perfect" word processor I faced an indescribable itch to dive into Amiga word processing myself. Upon reading an article on George R.R. Martin describing his love for simple word processing (using DOS) Intric8 wished to find the Amiga equivalent.
He longed for a simpler time without spell check, where the word processor assumed you knew what you were doing. His idea of the perfect word processor included the following:
1. Must be able to save on the Amiga and transfer easily to modern-day PC with at least page breaks intact.
2. Preferable to have a pleasing font to the eyes.
3. Beyond keeping page breaks intact, it would be great to have other formatting like centering, bold, underlined, and italicized fonts.
Intric8's search was extensive and lasted months. Searching on Ebay he bought many old school Amiga word processors, including several I had experience with as a kid and today. These included Text Craft Plus, Pro Write, Excellence, Words Worth, and Final Copy. He ran into issues with all of these products; Text Craft would not run under Workbench 3.1, Pro Write and Final Copy did not feature pleasing fonts. Excellence and Words Worth had their positives but did not offer the more extensive formatting transfers.
He seemed ready to give up. He heard rumors about Word Perfect being able to offer what he sought, but was unable to find a copy. When he finally did a pure sense of joy burst through his writings as he had found what he was looking for.
-A History - Or One Man's Trash Is Another Man's Treasure-
I read all of Intric8's words intently though quite skeptically; This was not my first run-in with WordPerfect. I've used it on DOS, I've seen reviews of it in Amiga World... Even the magazine was strangely (in my eyes) pumped for the release of WordPerfect on the Amiga. It was something they were after, as if it was needed to give the Amiga credibility.
None of the other major Word Processors on the PC cared enough about the Amiga to even consider porting their software. It was a BIG deal when Borland gave the Amiga market a chance. When they eventually gave up on the Amiga market many wrote in and convinced them to stay a little longer.
^ Can you spot what comes from WordPerfect themselves and what comes from the written review from Amiga World? Answer, top half is a WP advertisement, bottom half (including bible comparisons and liberal use of the word "perfect") is from Amiga World's review.
The thing is I'm always thinking of the big picture. While others may have longed for a product such as WordPerfect on the Amiga in order to feel validated, I feel this comes from the belief that the competition had something better than we did. They did not.
The Amiga was light years ahead of all others in most aspects. The Amiga had the graphics, the Amiga had the sound and music, the Amiga had the games, and dare I say the Amiga had the better business tools too!
TextCraft Plus, possibly the Amiga's very first word processor is not the most fully fledged processor, but it does feature some eye raising stuff for 1986. Most notably it has a graphical interface with the "page view", the screen you're looking at looks an actual piece of paper. Other Amiga word processors like Excellence and Final Copy would go on to give you most of the features you'd come to expect from Microsoft Word for Windows, released in 1990.
Of course the Apple also featured graphical word processors. I'm not sure if they had a similar grasp for DOS word processors to take them seriously, but I know if I was a fan of Apple I wouldn't be one of those begging. Apple found their market, convincing schools to pay for their very expensive yet not the best machines. Many small businesses also found use with Apple computers.
It is my opinion that companies such as Borland should have seen what the Amiga had to offer and changed their product for the machines strengths. For the Amiga users and magazines wishing so hard to be taken seriously, who won?
Of course the Amiga is no longer with us but what about WordPerfect? It might surprise you to know that indeed, they are still around, though a shell of their former self s. The first Windows release of WordPerfect was an utter disaster for Borland. Their Windows version was simply the DOS version. It was installed from DOS and while I can’t find screenshots or video to confirm, based on reviews it was either run in a DOS prompt from Windows (thus, exactly the DOS version) or run in windows but looking exactly like the DOS version.
Magazines reviewing Windows software showed no mercy, unlike the Amiga equivalents. They knew what their machines could do and they expected companies to take advantage of it! At the time, Windows was but a DOS application, why pay good money to run something inside of Windows when they could drop out of Windows easily and run the same program? Hell, they could have just run a DOS shell and ran the DOS version on top of Windows.
Borland never recovered. Their next Windows release of WordPerfect was what Amiga users had come to expect from their word processors many years earlier. It was graphically based with a view of a notebook page, the same thing we get from all word processors today. But the damage was already done. Microsoft Word had released their Windows version a couple years earlier. Besides a G.U.I. it featured extensive spelling and grammatical insight on your writings. Microsoft, always encouraging users of Windows to buy their other products made sure WordPerfect could never return to dominance. They never did.
Today WordPerfect exists as a niche product for the many commercial and government businesses still using the old versions of WordPerfect, or for those who wanted to use a newer product without having to convert their many years worth of old version files. With the new versions of WordPerfect you can just as easily as ever open up a document from 1989 with its intended look preserved. While I do believe their fall was all their own doing, I'm also impressed they now know what their purpose is. They're not trying to uproot Microsoft Word these days, they're just playing to their legacy strengths.
-Shot Sees The Light (sort of) - A.K.A. The Review-
So upon diving into the perfect world of word, what do I think of the program? Much like George R.R. Martin and Intric8 I do sometimes long to write things on these old machines. I have many memories of writing documents for school and printing them up on that unforgettable sounding DOT Matrix printer. When the Amiga was given to me upon my dad buying a PC I continued writing journal entries as well as stories on various word processors. It's great to go back, sit down at the Amiga, and just write.
Beyond writing for the hell of it I also find practical reasons for using the Amiga for word processing. Intric8's look was mostly to go back to simpler times. I believe any Amiga owner or even emulator users have reasons for having at least one Amiga word processor. As good as I am with this old machine I can't say I know everything. Especially when dealing with the command line I find myself writing commands and notes on the machine itself for quick reference. You’re only a gamer? Well how about you cheating bastards write down the various codes right on the machine itself rather than print them or tab out into Windows?
Upon installing the game Pool of Radiance onto my hard drive I found this game did not get the best installation routine. It still offered one, and despite the reference manual claiming the game is entirely run from memory (bullshit!) and thus it runs the same on floppy or hard drive I remember how long it took to save to a floppy... If it can be installed I was going to do it! The thing is there's no icon to launch the program from Workbench. It requires you to open a shell and open up their stupid directory called Pool_Of_Radiance (rather than just Pool). If you typed the DIR command you will notice a file called program there. Type that? Nothing... You need to type execute program for the game to run. Wanting to save to the hard drive as well? Every single time you launch the game you must attempt to load a game, when asked for the save path you must then type /save... Or maybe it was save/... I don't know... Hence the reason why there is modern use for these word processors. I write it down, I open it up, and then I can play the game how I want to play it. Everyone out there can find some use for an Amiga word processor.
So what's my "perfect" word processor and does WordPerfect fit the bill? My wants are very similar to Intric8's. I want to be able to transfer documents without much fuss to modern PCs, I want a pleasant font and environment to stare at while writing, and I would love for as much formatting as possible to make the leap from one platform to another.
^ Performing various formating changes like bold and centering.
Intric8's interest seemed to be focused on just transferring documents from the Amiga to the PC. I, however, would also want to transfer documents from PC to the Amiga. When saving a document in Microsoft Word or most Amiga word processors each has their own format language and the two will unlikely speak to each other. You're most likely to get a garbled digital mess if opening up a Microsoft Word document on the Amiga or an Amiga document in Word.
A common set of standards was developed called ASCII which every word processor can both read and write. This gives the bare basics required from file transfer. The words and the breaks will make the leap but you can say goodbye to your fonts or your bold/underlined words, etc.
To this point I had written this document using WordPerfect on the Amiga. At this point I have saved the Amiga file and transferred it over to Windows. If using a newer version of WordPerfect you don’t even need to save the file on the Amiga as an IBM WordPerfect file, the new WordPerfect reads everything just fine.
However, the same cannot be said for Microsoft Word. Despite having all of the conversion software I could find I was unable to read Amiga WordPerfect files either saved in the Amiga format or saved in IBM format, in contrast to Intric8 who noted no trouble using Open Office. I spent a headache inducing day and night attempting with all my might to get Microsoft Word to open or save WordPerfect files with no success. Since I am a Microsoft Word user I had no desire to download Open Office when I could not be sure it would work either. Instead I went right for the source, a new version of WordPerfect.
^ Try as I might, I was unable to get Microsoft Word to read my WordPerfect docs, despite having conversion software. Everything transfers fine on the newer version of WordPerfect, however.
There are no headaches converting things using a newer version of WordPerfect. I can even copy and paste things from WordPerfect into Microsoft Word and vice versa with all formatting intact. Since I’m not a particular fan of the new versions of WordPerfect I find this to be extremely useful. I can write things using Microsoft Word or transfer writings I’d like to read on the Amiga very easily using the newer WordPerfect as the saving method.
I am now again writing this document on the Amiga. Saving from the newer WordPerfect into an IBM 4.2 file for transfer back to the Amiga did not produce perfect results. While most of the formatting was retained (bold, italics, underlined, breaks, and tabs) I found all of my centered text was now flushed to the left. The time spent dealing with this felt similar to any time I spent on other Amiga word processors reformatting the things ASCII left out.
I'm not a fan of WordPerfect's interface. I don't hate the shell but I would simply rather work in another Amiga word processor. Perhaps, much like I did with WordPerfect and Microsoft Word on Windows, I could copy and paste using the Amiga's clipboard? I could not. Some Amiga word processors use the Amiga's clipboard for copy and pasting. I was able to copy and paste from Final Copy II to Excellence minus complicated formatting.
Attempting to copy from other Amiga word processors into WordPerfect simply pasted the text I had copied earlier from WordPerfect. In other words WordPerfect uses its own clipboard. Borland was yet again not taking advantage of the Amiga. This is the subject of yet another day of headaches as I raided the Fred Fish archive in an attempt to find a program that could copy text from WordPerfect to other Amiga programs and vice-versa. Many of the programs I found that claimed to do such things worked great when working with the Amiga programs (even copy and pasting centering, bold, etc.) but absolutely nothing could dent WordPerfect.
This was my main desire for WordPerfect. I could see great use in it as a transferring method. I wished to use other Amiga word processors to write and then copy and paste to WordPerfect in order to save the formatting for transfer to Windows. It would have also been great to take documents from Windows and use WordPerfect on the Amiga to copy and paste them to my preferred processors. Sadly, despite my best efforts I was unable to accomplish this.
Does this make WordPerfect useless to me? No. Sitting here and writing this I find I have thoroughly enjoyed myself. I honestly get a kick out of finding things to bold and underline and seeing them intact when transferred to the PC. I do believe I will find myself writing and reading on WordPerfect in the future.
^ It felt so cool to see my Amiga written document printed up and stapled together on paper.
But it still has not replaced Excellence or Final Copy II in my eyes. In all honesty, I don't find myself using a great deal of formatting very often. When I do, I find it quite easy to point them out and simply redo them on the Amiga or Windows when saving using ASCII. The complicated formatting is simply not that big a deal to me. If I did care about formatting I wouldn't like that WordPerfect on the Amiga uses ONLY the default system font. I rather enjoy the font, but the lack of options upsets me. Nor can you use larger or smaller fonts. Of all the formatting someone can do to their documents, I find selecting the font and font size to be the thing I do most often. With that in mind, WordPerfect offers little the others don't. I can simply take note of the font and size while writing in another word processor to find an equivalent upon ASCII transfer.
When it comes down to it, what am I writing this for? This review will be posted to a website that will not accept this formatting. All of this is being done for my own satisfaction. AmigaLove will not transfer my formatting upon copy and pasting. In the end, it's the exact same as if I had used Excellence on the Amiga and transferred to the PC using ASCII.
For me, WordPerfect is far from perfect. I also take offense to it being called WordPerfect 5.0, when after extensive testing all Amiga files are saved using WordPerfect 4.2 format and the Amiga will not read 5.0 or 5.1 IBM files. How was this marketed? Was it a full release at over $100 or was it a partial update? Upon doing some heavy research I found a Columbia University archive listing the version history of WordPerfect. It notes 5.0 for the Amiga was an alpha test and never saw release. This is yet another example of the sorry state of our online Amiga collections. They rarely note important things like NTSC/PAL designs, or in this case, if something was an unreleased version. It should be noted that version 5.0 would most likely be an exact copy of the last official Amiga WordPerfect release, which was version 4.1.12 released in January of 1991.
^ Columbia Universities archived WordPerfect version history notes. Nice job there TOSEC.
The interface is a pain in the ass. Every time I wish to bold or un-bold something I must enter the menu systems or remember the function key shortcut (I don't). Upon selecting a block of text to delete a menu pops up asking if I really wish to delete this text...Once you've highlighted text for one thing you must re-highlight it if you wish to do another thing.
For those of you out there that never make mistakes this might be your ticket to a word processor that assumes you're perfect. I, however, am not perfect. I believe I am an excellent story teller but I know I need to re-read my writings to make sure I didn't leave something out. I've never been the greatest speller and spell check has been a great help to me. I'm also a firm lover in the Amiga and what it offered and meant... This command line based word processor is not what the Amiga was about.
It's not my favorite word processor, and it failed in the area that could have provided a great use for me. But what can I say? Intric8 kind of convinced me it has its place. It's pretty ugly in my eyes, but ugly does not mean worthless. I had a complete blast writing this review and I can thoroughly recommend WordPerfect on the Amiga as one of many must own Amiga word processors. You truly can have just as much if not more fun playing around in these old utilities as you can playing a game. Those of you stuck in only a gaming mind set are truly missing out on enormous fun.
As always, a full video review is there for those that wish to see WordPerfect in action.
Thanks to Intric8 for inspiring me to look into a word processor I previously had less than zero interest in. I hope you'll all check out his write ups on his search for his perfect word processor.
^ The End