Experience - Technology

Why People Pay $400 for WordPerfect Professional

small keyboard imageIt is no secret that many years ago I used WordPerfect to write “Zinc It! Interfacing Third Party Libraries With Cross Platform GUIs” and the follow on book covering UIW_Table. What you may find interesting is that it was WordPerfect under OS/2. Later I got into Lotus WordPro because it was part of the SmartSuite bundled with OS/2. The first version of “The Minimum You Need to Know to Be an OpenVMS Application Developer” was written using WordPro. To this day I find it one of the best word processors ever created for writers. If you poke around you can find it for free, but it has a few issues under Wine. It will install under Windows 7 and Windows 10. IBM abandoned the Lotus SmartSuite many years ago.

Why did I not finish the OpenVMS application developer book with it? Technically I did. What I couldn’t do at the time was create a PDF the print shop could accept, so it had to be ported to WordPerfect to create the PDF file.

Most of my other books were created with OpenOffice then LibreOffice as the project changed hands. Up until this year it was more than possible to create a book (full layout, not just manuscript) with LibreOffice, send it out for external editing, get it back with changes tracked, perform final editing, then generate the PDF to send out. This year the big stinky chunks hit the fan.

The Big Stinky Chunks

Chunk Number 1: Ubuntu

Yeah, you knew it was going to start here. You especially knew it if you read this article on my geek blog. For a long time the default font in Libre/OpenOffice was Linux Libertine. It just was. If you used that font you could pass your .odt file to another system and it would be just fine. Some time around 2014 the powers that be at Canonical decided to bundle “Linux Libertine O” even though the packages from LibreOffice.org come with “Linux Libertine G.” Yes, the default font has changed to the Liberation family, but writers work on projects for years so we stay consistent. I found this out because I sent “The Minimum You Need to Know About the Phallus of AGILE” out for technical editing to an editor who uses Windows. My 598 page document opened as 900+ pages with funky page breaks and ugly fonts. Why? Because the font matching logic couldn’t choose “Linux Libertine G” when it couldn’t find “Linux Libertine O” so it chose some Courier looking font. Read the article. In the end I’m having that editor convert the document to use the Liberation font family.

Chunk Number 2: Stability

The “stable” version of LibreOffice bundled into KDE Neon/Ubuntu 18.04 has some severe memory handling issues. You find this out when you start having quite a few images in your document. I finally filed a bug report. I expected the bug report to be like all other Open Source projects, allowed to rot until the version was no longer supported. I got back an almost immediate reply telling me to test with the latest development version. I argued that I couldn’t break my system because I am in the middle of several major writing projects. I got called a Luddite and other things. Like an idiot I installed the latest development version on my primary system instead of one on the bench running BOINC. Yes, memory management has improved some, but they broke image handling. Now the image cannot be positioned tight at the top of its frame. There is some issue with captions as well. AGILE is not a valid development methodology.

Chunk Number 3: 12 year old boys

They like to call themselves “maintainers.” About all they really do is build something someone else hands them. Maintaining software requires getting your hands dirty. It also requires valuing consistency over a shortcut. Seemingly forever there has been a t1-cyrillic package in the Debian distros. It contained many fonts, but FreeTimes is the one I really liked. Used it to write many books, including books I’ve yet to finish. As part of Chunk Number 2 I’ve been updating a second edition of “The Minimum You Need to Know to Be an OpenVMS Application Developer.” Naturally it was written with FreeTimes, like many of my other books. Some (&)(&*ing 12 year old boy decided to just drop FreeTimes from the t1-cyrillic package!! I don’t care what the “logic” was behind dropping it. The fact is it existed, many things were written using it, now it doesn’t exist and LibreOffice (as well as most other word processors) sucks at guessing what font to use instead. You can download a zip file containing all of the fonts from an older Ubuntu distro by clicking this link: t1-cyrillic

Yes, I could have just installed it, but this leg of the 3-legged stool shouldn’t have been kicked to begin with and for a “test case” I don’t want to tell them to install a non-packaged font, because everyone will point at the font. No, the problem isn’t the font, the problem is you aren’t handling memory properly when it comes to big documents with images. I have 24Gig of RAM in the machine with over 12Gig free yet LibreOffice is running like a 3-legged Chihuahua in deep snow.

Here’s the why

If a person can get over using a Microsoft operating system, and that’s a huge if, WordPerfect doesn’t treat a writer like this. Windows 95, ME, Vista, and 8 were the best marketing campaigns Linux ever had. Some would even put 98 in that group. Adding insult to injury Windows is pretty much a virus by itself and you _still_ have to install antivirus software to protect you from all the other shit.

Back when I used WordPerfect for professional writing I could call or email tech support and it didn’t matter what version, as long as it was a still supported version, they logged the issue against the reported version then tested it against all of the latest versions. X4 was released in 2008 and it went out of support last year. I know because my mom still uses it and it stopped printing last year. Ten years is an LTS in the professional world, not the three or five Linxu and other Open Source projects try to force on us.

You never lose anything.

WordPerfect will add fonts, but I’ve yet to hear of a core font going away. To prove this to myself I installed X8 in a Windows 10 VM. I opened my 2005 WordPerfect file of that OpenVMS Application Developer book and guess what? It was fine. It appears X5 is currently the oldest supported version of WordPerfect which was released in 2010 according to Wikipedia so I expect some time this year it will fall off the end of the supported versions list.

It is said that J.K. Rowling still uses WordPerfect. Some say she uses WordPerfect for DOS. I do remember seeing what looked like the “old blue screen” during a “60 Minutes” segment on her. I believe it simply because George R. R. Martin still uses WordStar.

Roland Hughes is the president of Logikal Solutions, a business applications consulting firm specializing in OpenVMS platforms and Qt on Linux. Hughes serves as a lead consultant with over two decades of experience using computers and operating systems. With a degree in Computer Information Systems, the author's experience is focused on systems across a variety of diverse industries including heavy equipment manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, stock exchanges, tax accounting, and hardware value-added resellers, to name a few. Working throughout these industries has strengthened the author's unique skill set and given him a broad perspective on the role and value of technology in industry.

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