Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 7, NO. 1 / MAY 1988

ST Resource

WordPerfect ST

Proving why it's the IBM PC bestseller

Reviewed By GREGG PEARLMAN, Antic Assistaret Editor


WordPerfect ($395) is now by far the most powerful and complete word processor available for the ST. And we're pleased to report that the latest release (January 29) seems to have cleared up all the bugs from earlier shipments.

WordPerfect, the longtime best-selling word processor for IBM PCs and compatibles, is known for being crammed with high-powered features—-which require an arsenal of commands to master them all. Even WordPerfect's ST quick-reference card runs five text pages. However, you can operate WordPerfect either with keyboard commands or by clicking on menu selections with your mouse.

Throughout 1986-87, WordPerfect Corp. of Utah demonstrated their commitment to the Atari market by showing off beta versions of their ST adaptation at Atari Fairs. This company has earned an enviable reputation for customer service. They constantly upgrade and enhance their main product, instead of spreading themselves thin with a lot of different software like so many other publishers.

When significant bugs turned up in the earlier releases of the ST conversion, WordPerfect Corp. left no doubt that it would keep on providing their customers with free upgrades until the debugging was successfully completed. I also personally found that the customer service people at WordPerfect's toll-free 800 number live up to their reputation for being extremely helpful and friendly. They'll go the extra yard to solve your problem.

The WordPerfect software consists of six non-protected disks. This means you can back up each disk and customize several different versions of the program. And you can copy them to a hard disk for vastly increased convenience and speed. Of course, WordPerfect Corp. doesn't need to worry too much about piracy: WordPerfect is almost unusable without its manual of over 600 pages!

GLOBAL REPLACE

You'd think that such a huge manual would provide adequate documentation about each feature. But unfortunately that's not the case. Too often, you'll read and reread an instruction until the words fall off the page and you still won't know exactly what to do. For example, later on in this review I'll explain the tortuous process I needed to go through before figuring out how to build a personal dictionary and add it to the built-in 115,000 word main dictionary.

In the normal course of my word processing, I often perform search-and-replace functions. Perhaps I downloaded or Linklined a document and must excise all unwanted carriage returns, or I must replace all five-space tabs with paragraph symbols.

To test WordPerfect, I loaded a 2,000-word document that had been printed to disk. Onscreen, most lines started 10 spaces from the left-hand margin. The newest release took 11 seconds for a global delete, replacing nine spaces with "nothing." The same process on a 20,000-word document took 97 seconds. This is an impressive improvement over our older version, which needed one minute for 2,000 words and nine minutes for 20,000. Now if only the marker on the slider bar would descend as the search progressed. . .

It's easy to scroll up or down with the arrow keys, but if you move the slider-bar cursor with the mouse, the screen will take a few seconds (depending on file size) to reposition. You can have as many as five columns of text onscreen.

I was unable to find a way to search-and-replace symbols for turning off boldface, italics, etc. Many other word processors will let you do this. I alerted WordPerfect Corp. about this difficulty--which doesn't exist in the IBM version--and it should be taken care of in the next upgrade. Part of the problem seems to be that WordPerfect ST is virtually a WYSIWYG program. While most other word processors have a Print Preview mode, in WordPerfect ST you're always in Print Preview.

There is a "reveal codes" option that shows the text as well as carriage returns, control codes and the cursor (each taking up at least two spaces). You must highlight a block of text in order to boldface or italicize it.

SPELL CHECKING

Spell-checkers can be fascinating. ("How do they know?") And the scope of the WordPerfect spell-checker is truly astounding.

The 115,000-word dictionary is divided into Common and Main dictionaries. When WordPerfect encounters a suspicious word during a spell-check, it first checks the Common dictionary. It switches to the Main dictionary only after coming up empty. If the Main directory provides no answers, it displays a couple of dozen similarly spelled words to choose from. Just click on the appropriate spelling to replace the document's version. You can even look up a word phonetically.

Spell-checking a document is not a particularly fast process--sometimes you have to click (or press a key) two or three times for the program to accept, skip or let you edit a word. Updating a dictionary takes about five minutes of disk access, even on a hard disk. It's probably a good idea to place the dictionary files on a RAMdisk, if you have one. In fact, it's fun watching the spell-checker use the RAMdisk dictionary to zip through your document.

ADDING WORDS

New user-approved words are saved to a supplementary dictionary which seems to fill up fast. I had all kinds of trouble checking documents when my supplementary dictionary had reached a scant 4K. The answer, which is not documented, is to add the extra words to the main dictionary after the supplementary dictionary fills up about halfway.

This you must do via the Speller Utility disk--also a wise thing to copy to your hard disk--which lets you create an auxiliary dictionary, add or delete words in the Main or Common dictionary either by typing them in or by loading another dictionary file, optimize (compact) a dictionary you've created, display words in the Common list, check which dictionary contains a word, and look up a word in the standard way or phonetically. When it encounters the same word twice in a row (word word), the spell-checker will ask if you want to skip or accept the double word.

WordPerfect has a fine Thesaurus function. Choosing the Thesaurus program brings up a three-column window: the first column shows the word under the cursor in the text, along with several synonyms to choose from. Clicking on one of those words brings up a second column showing its synonyms. Clicking on one of those brings up the third window.

You can replace a word with one you've chosen, look up a word, clear a column, or view your document. Sometimes, however, you'll find that the word you're looking up isn't a "headword" which simply means that it can't be looked up in the thesaurus. Each headword is classified as an adjective, noun or verb.

SETUP AND PRINTING

The setup program lets you set your default drive(s), telling WordPerfect where to find not only your main text files, but your dictionary and thesaurus files as well. The program currently has settings for 259 printers, and you can store drivers for six at a time.

It may be a minute or so before the printer actually starts doing its stuff, because of all the disk access required. I had trouble getting an accurate printout with Antic's Epson RX-80 compatible Panasonic KX-P1080i printer (reviewed in the April, 1988 issue), whether I used the program's built-in Panasonic driver or the Epson FX/RX driver.

It's easy to convert files to WordPerfect format from ST Writer, 1st Word and Word Writer formats. Just run WordPerfect's conversion program, specify the file type and furnish filenames. Conversion of a 100,000-byte ST Writer file took one minute, 38 seconds on a floppy disk, 14.8 seconds on a hard disk and a quick 4.3 seconds on a RAMdisk.

Oddly enough, our newest (January 29) WordPerfect release no longer converts ST Writer files. However, WordPerfect Corp. says a fix is on the way. Meanwhile you should have no trouble using the conversion program from an earlier (January 8) release.

SUMMING UP

If you want to own the most power-packed word processor available for the ST today, and can live with the relative complexity needed for harnessing this power, WordPerfect is what you've been waiting for. The company's excellent track record for supporting its software is also a significant factor. WordPerfect is widely available at substantial discounts below its $395 list price. And for full-time students or educators who can verify their status, there's a special price of only $99.

WORDPERFECT
WordPerfect Corp.
288 West Center Street
Orem, Utah 84057
(800) 321-4566
$395, color or monochrome