I had an odd question come up the other day: Who still uses Wordperfect? It’s a fair question. Wordperfect, as you may know, is still very much in production. Corel releases new versions every year or two. It’s the #2 word processor in the market, still. Someone is still using it, then.
Wordperfect is a software classic, especially the old version 5.1 that ran under DOS. For a time, Wordperfect 5.1 was one of the two most famous programs for IBM compatible PCs. The other was Lotus 1-2-3.
Not all law offices use Wordperfect, but it’s more popular there than anywhere else. Wordperfect was a staple in law offices for decades and that momentum was hard for Microsoft Word to overcome. It doesn’t hurt that Wordperfect has bundled functionality for legal documents. The time this saves is worth a lot of money, especially to small law firms.
Administrative assistants who type and edit a lot of documents often prefer Wordperfect over Word. I can personally attest to Word doing strange things to document formatting sometimes. I was in charge of a huge documentation project, and the people who had final approval of the work didn’t understand a word of it, so instead they looked for formatting errors. If they found something, they rejected the document. Sometimes I would spend more hours fixing one or two formatting issues than I spent writing or correcting the content.
If I’d stayed in that role and had the option to use Wordperfect, I would have become a convert very quickly. I didn’t have the option and I didn’t stay in the role. I’ll bet whoever does my old job now can’t fix some of those old issues either.
With Word, to correct a formatting issue, you have to highlight the text, hit a button, and hope the formatting that’s messing you up goes away. Usually it does. It’s that one time out of 10, or 100, that it doesn’t that makes you want to throw a chair at your computer.
With Wordperfect, you don’t worry about it. You just turn on a feature called reveal codes, find the offending formatting code, delete it, and carry on. If you can’t find the offending code, delete all of them, then start over and carry on. All hiccups are minor.
Wordperfect also does a better job of handling long documents. I’ve seen Word do strange and unpredictable things to long documents. Not every time, mind you, but when it does, it can slow you down. Or force you to start over.
The user interface
The other thing about Wordperfect is the user interface. Some people find it clunky and old fashioned, because it still uses the old-style interface with menus and a toolbar, like Microsoft Office did before Office 2007. For others, that’s a feature. The nice thing about the menu structure is that you learn keyboard shortcuts as you navigate the menus. Eventually you learn that CTRL-F is find and CTRL-P is print. Microsoft’s ribbon treats you like a beginner forever. The only way to learn those shortcuts anymore is to talk to dudes like me who’ve been using Microsoft Office since the early 90s, but I won’t know all of them. Just the ones I frequently use.
If you don’t want to learn the keyboard shortcuts, you can still customize the toolbar, taking out stuff you don’t use to make room for stuff you do. Personalizing the toolbar can increase productivity significantly.
It’s really difficult to become a Word power user these days. To become a Wordperfect power user, all you have to do is spend some time with it and pay attention to that text on the right-hand side of the menus.
Why people still use Wordperfect, and why I sympathize
Back when I started doing desktop support in 1995, the staff wanted us to support Microsoft Powerpoint and Excel, Lotus 1-2-3, and Wordperfect. We didn’t have the budget to buy those software packages individually, so Microsoft Office won since people wanted 2/3 of its suite and only 1/3 of the two competing suites. I also didn’t want to have to master three office suites. Learning one suite was enough. Also, “support” meant installing, troubleshooting, and teaching staff how to use it.
Today, I sympathize. I’m not a Wordperfect user myself. I’m just a sympathizer. I know the binds it can get you out of. I don’t answer questions about word processors anymore, at least not for a living. But I also figure if someone wants to use Wordperfect in 2017, I’m not going to have to answer any questions for that person either.
Some people know how to make Wordperfect really sing, and accomplish complex tasks in a short period of time with it. Not everyone, but some people. We call them power users. So that’s who still uses Wordperfect.