WordPerfect 5.1 hasn’t existed as a product since the late 1980′s. But this venerable and venerated word processor is remarkably tenacious. I am continually surprised by the number of people I know who run it, clandestinely, on modern PC systems. Personally (and I know techno.pal Monica Bay of Law Technology News fame, will roll her eyes at this as she does every single time I mention WordPerfect – she just doesn’t believe me when I talk about the number of SSF practices that use WP Office at least part time), I have kept WP 5.1 loaded on every primary laptop Iâ€™ve ever had – it works remarkably well under XP and in one of the oddest pairings of all techno.time, under Vista).
WordPerfect 5.1 has a serious cult following these days and is supported by a number of folks who create patches for running it under XP and MOPH (a/k/a/ Vista). Take a look at â€œWordPerfect for DOS Updatedâ€ for all this kind of info: http://www.columbia.edu/~em36/wpdos/.
There is something very pure and still elegantly simple about seeing that blank blue screen beckoning your prose. No menus, no widgets, no “click me! click me!” shortcuts and toolbars to steal your all too short attention span. Just a digital piece of paper onto which your words can flow. It’s not just nostalgia . . . there’s some method to the madness. For me, I actually turn to it when I’m having a bad case of writer’s block. Something about the soothing blue background and bright white text triggers something deep within me … and the words usually flow.
If you consider that the modern Word, WordPerfect, OpenOffice genre of word processing tools are so feature-bloated that much of their functionality seems like an obtuse and obscure mystery to most people, maybe this really makes sense. In a world where everything has become just too damned complicated … can a return to simplicity be a big part of the answer? I like to run technology through a simple practicality test by asking the question, “What would Ben Franklin” think?
In a new â€œless is moreâ€ world, the smartest thing Corel could do would be to make a PR splash and release WP 5.1 code into the public domain and then include links for cheap WP Office X4 upgrades. Am I advocating we all dump our current contemporary word processors and regress back to WP 5.1? Of course not, that’s absurd. But might it merit inclusion in your creative writing arsenal? THAT I would encourage. What do you have to lose? Find it on eBay or pull it off the shelf, but a $20 USBÂ 3.5″ floppy drive to load it – click here to see ).
Then if you do, let me know what you think. Is it just a dumbass thing to do, or is it a breath of fresh digital air?Â Is it about being current or being relevant? Is it about using well-crafted tools that work or just using tools that are newest?