Classic Computer Magazine Archive CREATIVE COMPUTING VOL. 9, NO. 11 / NOVEMBER 1983 / PAGE 74

WordPerfect: not quite perfect, but certainly superb. (evaluation) L.L. Beavers.

Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time there was a fellow educated in psychology who found himself writing a statistical newsletter for te oil industry. We'll call him Mr. Allthumbs, because he was a lousy typist. Unfortunately, Allthumbs was the only typist he had. So when someone found an error on the final draft of the newsletter, Allthumbs muttered some very unprintable things as he went back for another session with his Selectric.

Eventually his employer replaced the typewriter with a dedicated word processor, and things became considerably easier. Correcting typos took two minutes, instead of 20 minutes of retyping. As the newsletter grew, so did the editing demands. Graphs had to be inserted into the text, so holes of a specific size and shape had to be left. Tables became more numerous and had to be carefully formed to give the proper appearance. The work processor worked fine--at a cost of $12,000 per work station.

Finally it came to pass that Allthumbs left hs employer to become a freelance writer in another industry, the newsletter continued successfully under the leadership of another editor, and everyone lived happily ever after.

But I wouldn't have lived happily and I been forced to go back to a typewriter, because I'm still all thumbs. Fortunately, I have found a sophisticated word processing program for my Compag portable computer: Satellite Software International's WordPerfect. All Business

I wouldn't recommend this program to anyone whose most sophisticated word processing application is an occasional business letter or simple report. For home or most small business use, a simpler program with a price tag lower than $495 would probably be fine. But if you need to do things like tables of numbers, boilerplating text, forom letters, sophisticated layout, footnoting, or equations, then I suggest a long look at WordPerfect. This is a fast, flexible, all-business program. Flexible

I think that the greatest asset of WordPerfect is its flexibility. I am a great believer in flexibility, and I will put up with a great deal of inconvenience to get it. We shall discuss the price to flexibility later; for the moment, let's just revel in it.

Of course you can't revel if you are with the wrong group. People who process words aren't all alike, so flexibility will mean different things depending on your needs. I think you will find one of the following groups congenial. For General Business Use

In a general business setting, word processing mostly means correspondence and reports. These appliications make few special demands of a word processor. Your reports may need some tables of numbers in them, and you may want to send a personalized form letter to your customers, but you will rarely find a use for more sophisticated capabilities. What you really want is the ability to draft and revise text quickly and easily.

You're covered. In fact, WordPerfect may be slightly overqualified for some of you.

The first thing you need is a good editor. The WordPerfect editor is screen oriented, which means that you move the cursor to the exact spot in your text that you want to change, and simply type the change. You can position the cursor manually, using an extensive array of cursor-control options, or you can have WordPerfect "search" for the text you want to change. The search function can also be used to replace all occurrences of the search text with any other text you specify. this "global search and replace" feature can be invoked with or without operator approval of each replacement.

When you have the cursor where you want it, editing is simply. WordPerfect inserts any text you type, while smoothly and quickly pushing aside any succeeding text to make room. If you prefer to replace existing text, you can do that too. You can delete single characters, words, the remainder of a line, or the remainder of the page (the program asks for confirmation of page deletes).

WordPerfect also offers "cut and paste" editing. These features let you define blocks of text (even columns in a table), which you can then save, delete, copy, or move to another place in the document. These capabilities take a little practice to master, but their usefulness repays the effort.

Although your layout needs may not be extensive, you probably would like to preview and control the general appearance of the document. With WordPerfect the text on the screen has the same essential form as the printed version. You control, page by page if you wish, all four margins, headers and footers, page numbers (and where they appear), character spacing (10 pitch, 12 pitch, or just about any other spacing you can coax out of your printer), and line spacing. Underlined, boldface, and even overstruck text are also available. With a single keystroke you can center text on a line, and with a slightly more complicated procedure you can center a body of text vertically on the page.

For those tables I said you might want to stick in your reports, there are several handy features. First, tab positions can easily be set and reset. Second, those same tab settings can be used as decimal tabs when you are typing numeric information. This means that the numbers you type are automatically aligned on the decimal point (or on any other character you select--a comma for instance). Third, WordPerfect will do simple calculations on the numeric table entries, including row and column totals and subtotals. You can even specify formulas for these calculations, so that this "math" facility has some of the features of a spreadsheet program. Finally, you can protect your table so that a page break will never appear in the middle of it.

Having compiled, edited, and tidied up your report, perhaps you would like to send the results, with appropriate variations, to your ten sales reps. Although some word processing systems offer "mail merge" capabilities as extracost options, WordPerfect has them built in. First you type the body of the document with simple codes inserted where you want the variable information to appear. Then you type a file containing the variations (name, address, "Dear Joe," Joe's sales total, etc.), tell WordPerfect to execute a merge, answer a couple of questions, and it happens.

As I said, the general business user is covered--and neatly. For Writers

If you writer for a living, the chances are that you are more sensitive to format and style than the average business user. WordPerfect has some features that you might particularly like.

For example, I sometimes like to indent a block of text for appearance or emphasis. WordPerfect makes this easy by allowing me to specify a temporary left margin, or even temporary left and right margins, with one keystroke.

WordPerfect also offers hyphenation prompting if a line of text would extend more than a fixed distance into the right margin. This distance, called the "hotzone," can be adjusted to your taste, depending on how much hypenation you want to do.

Writers in the newsletter business might want to look at three other WordPerfect features. The first is a text (or "newspaper") columns feature, which allows you to print up to five columns of text across the width of the page, with the margins for each column under your control. This feature can be turned on or off in the middle of a document.

The second feature right-justifies the text. It isn't clear from the documentation whether or not this is done by proportional spacing.

The third feature is called "printer commands." It could be used to embed typesetter's control codes in your text. For Academics And Professionals

People writing for their academic or professional colleagues have a special set of needs. WordPerfect covers several of them.

First, it does footnotes. The footnote numbers appear in the printed text as superscripts, and the note appears at the bottom of the same page. Footnotes are automatically numbered, and, if you insert a new footnote, automatically renumbered.

Second, if does equations. The WordPerfect subscripting, superscripting, overstrike, and underlining capabilities can be combined to produce quite complicated mathematical statements. With the same set of capabilities, you could also produce chemical formulae. It is not particularly easy, but then it is not particularly easy on a typewriter either.

Finally, it does boilerplating. The term "boilerplating" describes a process in which a document is assembled from a collection of standard chunks of text. Attorneys use boilerplating to prepare many of their document. Although most word processing programs allow you to merge a file from the disk into one that you are working on, WordPerfect offers some very extensive facilities for planning and automating the process. These facilities even include allowing the user to write prompt messages telling the operator what file to merge at each point. The Price

Now you know what I meant when I said that WordPerfect was flexible. I also said that we would count the cost. It is time.

The program lists for $495, but that's not the cost I mean. If you intend to make full use of the capabilities of WordPerfect, plan to spend a good deal of time learning it, and plan to tolerate a few operational inconveniences while using it. those are hidden costs, but they are no less real than the price of the program.

I find the bargain more than equitable, but to help you decide for yourself I have listed a few specific annoyances in the Nuisance Table below. For You?

If the price seems right, WordPerfect may well be the word processor for you. The program is flexible and fast. It offers decent documentation (in the form of a good tutorial), very good on-line help, and a very nice set of System Commands to help with disk file handling and other useful things.

WordPerfect supports Epson (with Graftrax, Diable (1650, 3515, and 7715), Qume (Sprint 5 or 9), Spinwriter (5515, 3515, and 7715), and NEC 3550 printers. Printers not compatible with any of those can be used, but some of the capabilities of WordPerfect will be lost. WordPerfect also supports some cutsheet feeders with these printers.

I suggest you experiment before you decide whether your printer is, or is not, compatible. I had some problems setting up my "Diablo compatible" printer with WordPerfect, so I called Satellite Software International's toll-free customer support number. The man I talked to suggested than I tell WordPerfect that my printer was a Qume. It now works perfectly. I don't know why, and neither did he.

I have called the customer support number twice. I talked to two different people, and both were knowledgeable and helpful. The one who helped with the printer problem stayed on the telephone with me while I tried the solution he had recommended. Neither person could have known I was a reviewer, so I must assume that they offer the same excellent support to all of their customers.

All things considered, I think WordPerfect is a superb package. The sophisticated functions take some time to learn, but the ones needed most often tend to be the simplest ot use. I recommend WordPerfect to anyone needing more than minimal word processing capabilities and not allergic to learning some details. I especially recommend it to those of you who are all thumbs.

Products: WordPerfect, version 2.24-L (Computer program)