Could Charles Dickens have anticipated this review? WordPerfect 5.1 has become the world's most popular word-processor. Now, with the introduction of WordPerfect 6.0, some 649 features have been added and we have a package that tries to do all things for all people and as a result, has lost some of the simplicity. Over the course of this review, I found that you either loved or hated it. Unfortunately you could jump back and forth between the two several times per day.
Note: that this review was done on the interim release labelled 6.0a. The first release of 6.0 had a lot of bugs. If they annoy you, call Utah and get a replacement. You can read the version number by going to Help and selecting WP Info.
Although 6.0 can do essentially everything that 5.1 does, plus a lot more, I found two 5.1 features that were no longer present and much missed. With 5.1 you can deactivate the auto format and rewrite of the screen (<shift><F1>, D, E, A and select "N"). When you edit a document, it is just too distracting to have the screen continuously rewriting itself each time you add or delete a character ... try cutting a piece of wood with someone sweeping up the sawdust with every single stroke of the blade.
5.1 provided a simple method to use figures from other programs or photocopies. You could set a user box to print blank pages with headers, looters and page numbers following a reference paragraph in the text. When you edited the text, the blank pages would move along with that reference. That feature is gone with 6.0.
The biggest feature is the WYSIWYG display which is fantastic with a SVGA screen. Finally, those silly colors are gone and equations and other graphics are visible.
The display can be slow and if you find it too slow, you can flip back to text mode and keep the graphic modes for final editing. A new watermark feature lets you put a faint figure or text image in the background and is great for placing a" do not photocopy" or similar message on every page.
The spell check will now include case where appropriate, e.g., it doesn't get upset with a pH or kPa and insists that I capitalize people's names. There is a grammar checker, which didn't like my technical text. You can print a document from back to front so that the pages come stacked in order. I could go on, but there are just too many new features to mention them all and I would rather use this space to mention the caveats. After all, the features are described in WordPerfect's promotional literature.
It takes a monumental effort to get used to the dozens of minor differences between the various actions in 6.0 after 5.1, e.g., to move the cursor to the left margin was the number pad <Home> with 5.1 and becomes either <Home> plus <left arrow>. Retrieving a file from the directory was retrieve with 5.1 and is simply <enter> with 6.0.
Translation between 5.1 and 6.0 may not always be correct or complete for fonts in headers/looters, figure blocks, etc. and you may not be able to convert a new 6.0 feature down to 5.1. There is a special utility to translate macros from 5.1. Some of mine translated; others just could not be made to work no matter what I tried.
A word of caution: there are a number of things that can result in an enormous slowdown of the display. Some of those I encountered included widow/orphan protection, the use of the smaller circle 6,34 vs. 4,3 for a bullet at the start of a paragraph and the use of the double harpoon arrow 6,152 vs. a double arrow 6,154 in an equation.
I called WordPerfect technical support and learned how to edit the automatic font changes to ensure that the correct fonts were available. Never assume that hidden I'll do everything for you routines always know what they are doing. To get to the editing menu, press <Ctrl><F8> then <Shift><F1> to go into the setup and select option 5. For my Bitstream Dutch font, I set the Math/Scientific font change to WP MathA (Type 1). That got things up to speed. The only solution for the widow/orphan protection was to switch it off.
6.0 can print in either text or graphics mode depending upon the printer in use. For the latter, a good number of fonts are supplied and an auxiliary disk is available with many more and improved versions of these initially provided. The font installation utility can also load fonts from a variety of available packages, e.g., my Bitstream FaceLift fonts.
Most printers are compatible and the document will look the same on all of them, subject to the limitations of the printer. When I say printer, that also includes the ability to print directly to a Fax machine anywhere in the world. As the text-to-Fax conversion goes through a software rather than a conventional scanning process, the output is far sharper and cleaner than a standard Fax.
I read the documentation and was convinced that I had to go out and get additional FAX software. That was a disappointment as I was eager to test my new ATI 14400 ETC-E FAX modem (this will be discussed in next month's review).
I ran the install program in anticipation of loading another Fax program and, by accident, found that 6.0 actually includes its own Fax software. There is no special formatting of the text as the Fax services are just another printer. You can print a hard copy and send a Fax of the same document Having a Fax machine less than a metre away made it possible to watch both ends of the line simultaneously to optimize the set-up. It wasn't really necessary as everything worked properly the first time around.
An interesting change from 5.1 is in the documentation. Considering that 649 new features have been added, the manual is a bit thinner and with the change from loose leaf to a softcover binding, it takes a lot less space on the shelf. There is a lot more on-line help available.
As with any documentation that is this all-encompassing, there are good and bad parts. I found the sections on Fax services and Appendix "S" on installing most in need of an upgrade. The Speller and printer programs are no longer part of the standard package and come on a separate utility disk that must be requested from Utah. I guess this isn't too unreasonable as most people never got involved with them.
The auto format and rewrite coupled with a sometimes sluggish graphics display and multi-layered menus drive me up the wall. All of these seem to be necessary if you intend to have a WYSIWYG display and do everything for everybody, but they can interfere with the thought process.
I got frustrated from time to time and went back to 5.1. When I did this, I was reminded of an announcer on an FM station in Saskatoon many years ago. A caller had requested a selection by Arnold Schoenberg. At the end of the piece, the announcer commented that listening to Schoenberg was like banging your head against a brick wall; it was so nice when it stopped. Schoenberg was a master composer who was ahead of his time and it took some time and effort to appreciate his work. In a similar way, 6.0 is a master program that possibly does too much. It is not a trivial program; it will take both time and effort to work with it effectively. To speed it up, I hope WordPerfect will get rid of the auto format and rewrite and write an ATI Mach 32 screen driver.
Do I recommend 6.0? I now use it all the time and wrote this review with it. If you have a slow system with only 640k of RAM, the answer is no. If you have a fast 386 or 486 with a good memory manager (see 634.5k Free) and 20 Meg of free hard disk space, you should be able to use it to its fullest.
If you continue to use DOS and want a WYSIWYG display this is the best (if not the only) product on the market. I expect that 6.1 will become the DOS standard if the fools that dictate what happens in the marketplace don't take DOS away from us. There is now a version 6.0 for WINDOWS and there will be one for OS/2 in 1994.
WordPerfect 6.0a: WordPerfect Corporation, 1555 N. Technology Way, Orem, UT, U.S.A.; Tel: 801-225-5000; Fax: 801-222-5077.
6TOOLS: Software by Seidman, 2737 Devonshire Place NW, Washington, DC 20008, U.S.A.; Tel: 202-462-7381; Fax: 202-462-8601.
The names of hardware and software mentioned in this review are trademarks of their respective developers.
6.0 Files Grow and Grow
6.0 files grow even larger than 5.1 files. I contacted David Seidman about his program WPTOOLS (ACCN, March 1992). That package contains a variety of utility programs that give you information about your 5.0/5.1 files and can fix a number of potential problems with them. He has just issued 6TOOLS to work with 6.0. Both the original WPTOOLS and 6TOOLS are available on various bulletin board systems. The cost for a registered copy of 6TOOLS is only US$25 (US$15 if you are a registered owner of WPTOOLS) plus 2$US for S&H. In a few seconds, you can knock anywhere from 5 to 100k from the size of the file without losing any information. The file for this month's input was reduced from 47k to 22k. Take that savings of 25k from a few hundred files and you can save 3 to 4 Megs of disk space. Go out and get one. This package is one you must have unless you have infinite disk space.
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|Title Annotation:||Software Review; includes related article|
|Author:||Silbert, Marvin D.|
|Publication:||Canadian Chemical News|
|Date:||Mar 1, 1994|
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