WordPerfect 7 for Linux

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WordPerfect 7 for Linux, I'm pleased to say, is very good—certainly good enough for me to finally abandon Windows as a word processing environment.
The Need for Speed

I'd like to be able to say that WordPerfect is a complete speed demon, but it's not quite. Many operations are fast, to be certain (spell-check, for example, is quite speedy), but some others seem slow, at least on my laptop (a Pentium 120, 16MB, Xfree86 and later Accelerated X LX 4.1). Just typing seemed to lag under Xfree86, although it's much improved under Accelerated X. Even under that server, however, typing is sometimes sluggish, especially when inserting into the middle of a paragraph. No characters are actually lost, but it's not quite as fast as I would expect.

I found there were certain things I could do to speed it up. Turning off Spell-As-You-Go was a big help. Also, reconfiguring the status bar at the bottom of the window to not display full position information helped by eliminating a redraw for every character.

I've also found that plugging in my laptop, rather than running off the battery, speeds things up; this is not surprising, since most portables have an automatic “slow down” mode for saving power. This, of course, is not WordPerfect's problem. Even so, word processors have been keeping up with people since long before the Pentium era, so I wouldn't necessarily expect the slight power-saving slow down to be so noticeable.

My speed problems were not entirely consistent, and I did not do a very scientific examination of exactly what was going on when the program became slow.

Even when WordPerfect is feeling sluggish, however, it's still thoroughly usable. In fact, if you are the sort of typist who has been trained not to look at the keyboard or screen while typing but rather at your source material or some other neutral point, you probably won't even notice.

Clunkers

Although I find the program mostly satisfactory, with all the features I might want and quite a few I can take or leave, I have found a few problems that I can only call “clunkers”. None of them prevent the successful use of the program as a whole, but they do make certain features difficult or impossible to use, and that, of course, detracts from the overall attractiveness of the product.

The first problem I noticed was that the on-line help system did not seem to work on my portable, although it had worked fine on another system I'd tried it on. It turned out that my locale information was set to “us” rather than C, which is the usual default. The on-line help seems to crash when faced with a locale it doesn't know about. This is arguably a case of user error, but it seems to me that the help program could simply fall back to a reasonable default rather than crashing.

The second problem I had is that the HTML export feature does not seem to work consistently. When I tried exporting this document to HTML, it worked just fine. However, when I begin by importing some (but not all) existing HTML documents, I find that I absolutely cannot export them—the file comes up blank. I've reported this problem, and hopefully it will be tracked down soon.

The Last Word

WordPerfect 7 for Linux is an excellent effort, fairly stable, reasonably fast and contains everything people have come to expect in a word processing program. It works fine in relatively low memory conditions (a rarity in commercial applications these days) and on relatively low-end hardware. In fact, from the low-end standpoint, the only thing that would make it better would be to include the character-based version, so that low-end users would not have to use the X Window System at all.

While it does have its problems, WordPerfect successfully proves that it is possible to write commercial software for a free operating system and also provides one more excellent weapon in the struggle for freedom from the Microsoft Empire. I'm pleased to say that, with WordPerfect now installed on my Linux partition, I have only two reasons to use That Other Operating System at all: Dramatica (an excellent program for working out the details of a story, which I am trying to convince Screenplay Systems to port to Linux), and Jedi Knight.

Software Development Corporation and Corel: my hat's off to you. Good work.

Michael Scott Shappe is a senior programmer for AetherWorks Corporation, a technology startup in St. Paul, MN. He has spent the last 10 years hammering on Unix systems of various stripes and addicting the unsuspecting to the Internet. You can peruse his personal web page at http://www.publiccom.com/web/mikey/ or send him e-mail at mshapp19@idt.net.

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