Word Processors I Have Known and Loved(?)

The God of Small TroublesWord processors I have known and loved: Wordstar. Vi. Emacs. Paperclip. WordPerfect. Pause now for a bit of nostalgia. It may seem odd to some of you, now that the creation of text on a page can be divided into the camps of 1) MS Word and 2) Everything else, but for a good long while in the Great Word Processor Wars, the outcome wasn’t always so clear. MS won. I won’t say that Word actually won, since it was more marketing muscle than merit that got it to where it is today. There were once a lot of contenders, and the heaviest hitter of them all, imo, was WordPerfect.

Ah, WordPerfect. I knew about word processors back in those antideluvian days, but I’d never actually seen one in action until I saw WordPerfect demonstrated on a Kaypro II (how’s that for a blast from before you were born?). The paragraph was created. The bad line was identified, the bad line was deleted. The rest of the paragraph quick like a bunny rearranged itself back into perfect order. Now, bear in mind–at the time I was trying to learn how to write on a manual Tower portable typewriter. My yokel jaw dropped, and all I could think was “WANT THAT!!!!” Finances being what they were, it was several more years before I had a word processor of any kind, and more still till I had my very own copy of WordPerfect (wrote an entire novel on an Atari 130XE with PaperClip. 32K chunks on 5 1/4 disks. And it was STILL better than a typewriter). Once I upgraded to a PC WordPerfect was my workhorse for an awful lot of years. The bulk of everything I’d written up until about ten years ago was on one version or another, from 5.1 of blessed memory through 10.

I’ve long since switched to Word. It’s not a decision I made lightly, but it got to the point that, if I wanted to keep the editors happy and produce files with no loss of formatting, it was Word or…well, Word. (Almost) Everyone used it, especially on the editorial side. It wasn’t so important when stories and books were still submitted and edited on paper, but once everyone started going electronic for edit and markup it was Game Over. If there had been a seamless conversion between WPD and Doc files I’d probably still be using WordPerfect, but there wasn’t. I don’t love Word. Never have, probably never will. No “Reveal Codes” function (and don’t tell me about the “reveal formatting” function. It only shows where the paragraphs start and end. Big woop). Makes bloated files and delights in stuffing them full of extra data that’s no one’s business but your own. Its formatting and layout commands are positively demented by comparison to WP. It’s by Microsoft.

We’ve come to a good working relationship, and it’s still better than a typewriter. I hardly miss WP these days. Except now and then,”now” being one of those times. I remember a paragraph on a screen, revised and rearranged, almost as if by magic, and I get a little misty. It’s a writer thing. Probably an editor and typesetter thing too, but definitely a writer thing.


3 thoughts on “Word Processors I Have Known and Loved(?)

    • As long as it works for you, and I certainly understand the impulse. To me it would add a layer of complication and hey, if you have to dance with the devil, might as well go for the tango.

  1. I too was a reluctantly moved to MS Word – there is quite a funny video about it on YouTube but in relation to people using it as a design and page layout tool – which is certainly is not!

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