WordPerfect 8 for Linux Redux?

by Leon A. Goldstein

Since late last year, Corel quietly has been offering a WordPerfect 8 Linux program on its eBay Corel Store site. I found out about this only when a Corel WP8/Linux newsgroupie reported finding a curious comment about WP8 while searching the Corel support site for some information.

Screen shot.

I thought the software, like the other surplus applications listed on the Corel Store site, was old WP8 Personal Edition. I already had WP8 Personal Edition and WP8.1, the later version that came with Corel Linux Deluxe, and needed another copy like a hole in the head. After some other newsgroupies reported their conversations with Corel customer service, however, I was curious enough to order one. Apparently, I got the last one too, as the listing disappeared shortly after I ordered, much to the distress of other Corel WP8/Linux newsgroup readers. People interested in getting a copy can check the eBay Corel Store site for availability.

In preparation for testing the "new" WP8, I made a new installation of Libranet 2.8.1 and deliberately left out the WP8 Compatibility Package. Libranet 2.8.1 installs libc5 and some other old libs WP8 needs. SuSE also provides compatibility--shlibs5--but it also is not installed by default. I wanted to see if this mysterious new release had been recompiled. That was wishful thinking, though. The "new" WP8 is still libc5 dependent. It did install, though, and it now runs on my Libranet 2.8.1 without the aforementioned compatibility package.

The installation routine is reminiscent of WP8, by script, and you have to enter a license key. Missing from the installer were language options other than English (UK, US, CA and OZ) and French (CA and National). Dutch, German, Italian and Spanish users seemed to be out of luck, but not entirely, as I found out after some tinkering. More about this later. Also missing is the printer setup step, but there is a reason for that too.

Installation took less than three minutes. The default installation directory is /usr/wplinux, but this can be edited. A nice icon appeared on my desktop. On the root desktop, a second icon to open WP8 in administration mode is posted. A listing also is added to the KDE Start Applications menu.

Browsing the odd-looking wplauncher script in /wpbin revealed the secret: this version provides its own compatibility libraries and installs them as /usr/i386-compat-gnulibc1/lib. It puts a script named xwp in /usr/bin that points to /wpbin/wplauncher, which sets a library path where WP8 can find its needed libs. In all, it's a smooth and fast installation.

Upon starting WP8, which still happens faster than any other Linux word processor with comparable abilities, I noticed the logo graphics were the same as they were for WP8.1. The xwp executable is the same size as for WP8.1, about 0.2 MB bigger than the original. It has the same program release date as WP8.1: 11/1/99. Other file dates are September 2003.

To start my test, I opened a MS Word file. It opened; the Filtrix file conversion utility that died September 9, 2001, from the UNIX one-billion-second bug was functional. Unfortunately, it still is limited to MS Word 97 and earlier files. There are no new MS Word formats more recent than Word 97.

I then printed my document. The printer configuration is set up by default for Passthru Postscript and uses the WPSpool destination. Newbies should find this version ready to print, more or less, and that set up will work for many printers. I noticed no printer drivers are available other than those provided with WP8.1. That is not unpardonable; DOS printer drivers for WP are being updated and posted for download. They can be used with Linux with only an insignificant modification, a file name change. (Acknowledgement and thanks to Edward Mendelson for keeping WP printing up to date, see Resources.) To print WP8 with a specified printer driver, you need to print raw. Either create a raw printer with CUPS or add -oraw in the little LPR Options box in the Select Destinations dialog. I like printing with WP8; it is much faster than CUPS.

The CD includes 130 fonts that can be installed after WP8 is set up. The font installer still is a bit complicated for the uninitiated, but a Readme in ~/wplinux/wpbin explains how to use it. Newcomers to WP8 sometimes are disappointed by the display appearance of WP8's Type1 fonts, but they print beautifully.

This version of WP8 provides language support only for English (US, UK, CA and OZ) and French (CA and National) as previously noted. After a bit of tinkering, I figured out how to install the old WP8 download version's localization packages. These still are available for the missing Dutch, German, Italian and Spanish. See Rick Moen's encyclopedic WPFaq for a detailed discussion.

I have all of the language tarballs. They were included on a CD with Special Edition: Using WordPerfect 8 for Linux, by Rod Smith. This is a shameless plug for Rod's book, now out of print. It is an excellent source of useful wisdom for WP8 users. After untarring the German language package, I ran the Runme script and encountered that old nightmare WP8 users are familiar with. The graphic installer balked for want of libm.so.5.

I knew how to housebreak this puppy. I edited /etc/ld.so.conf and added a line for the compatibility directory:

 /usr/i386-compat-gnulibc1/lib 

and then ran ldconfig, as root, of course. The language module installer ran. I unselected English--it's already there--and selected German. It installed without complaint. I then ran xwp -lang de, und dann schrieb ich auf Deutsch. Erfolg! German spell check and thesaurus worked. The language module changes the start logo to the old WP8 style, but it still is the new version running. Unfortunately, the German dictionary is not compliant with recent orthography changes.

For my last test I tried to make my KDE Address Book open in WP8, but it does not work. This feature seems to work only with KDE 1.x, and it has not been updated. This is a serious hindrance to many users who need quick access to correspondents' particulars.

Now, the only thing Corel needs to do is make this usable version of an old friend available to the public. Even without new features, WP8 still is the only Linux word processor with make-it-fit capabilities. And experienced WP users make good use of its easy-to-create macros. It is hard to see how Corel could test the market interest in this spruced-up version of an old favorite without telling anyone. Anyhow, it's public knowledge now, so if you want this improved version of WordPerfect 8 for Linux, let Corel know.

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