word processor history -- interesting article (Evan Koblentz)

Liam Proven lproven at gmail.com
Fri Jul 8 12:27:00 CDT 2016

On 8 July 2016 at 19:08, Chuck Guzis <cclist at sydex.com> wrote:
> Wordstar allowed for "user routines" for various keyboard and display
> functions.  I suspect you could have made any key or combination of keys
> do all sorts of strange things.

Ah, yes, I vaguely recall looking at that. But it was too much like
hard work for me.

The ultimate customisable WP was arguably Borland Sprint, I believe.
It sounded great, but I only tried it very briefly and for me, it
didn't offer enough to tempt me away from MS Word.

MS Word 5.5 is available as freeware from Microsoft now, as a
one-size-suits-all Year 2000 fix for all DOS versions of Word. I don't
know why they didn't just bit the bullet and give out Word 6, which
was the last ever version for DOS and is pretty much
feature-equivalent and UI-equivalent to MS Word 6 for Windows 3 and
classic MacOS too.

> After WS on the PC, I moved to Wordstar 2000.  A great product, but
> utterly incompatible with WordStar (MicroPro provided a "Star Exchange"
> utility with WS2K to handle conversions).  Different key combinations,
> options, displays entirely.  But it did handle prop spacing fonts quite
> nicely.   I still have the instructions from a third-party outfit on how
> to make WS 3.3 handle prop spacing, but it's a real kludge.

Yes, I remember it. It sorted out a lot of the idiosyncrasies of
classic WordStar, but it was no easier for a WordStar user to
transition to W*2K than it was to a rival WP -- such as the more
widely-used, widely-supported, and on the whole more powerful

Always risky to try such a big transition.

I presume folk here know of the excellent history of the app family?

There was also the now-nearly-forgotten WordStar Express, another
totally new app, written I believe in Modula-2.  I never heard of
anyone using the normal version, but it was bundled with certain
Amstrad PCs as WordStar 1512, and I saw quite a few people using that.

(Mainly the Amstrad PC1512, I guess, from the name! It was the first
'Strad PC clone, and a weirdly nonstandard one at that.)

Also neither file- nor keystroke-compatible, and a bit sluggish, too.

Weird weird move, given WordStar's main selling points were its
keyboard commands and its speed!

> Different WP packages had their own peculiar advantages.  North Star
> Memorite, for example, had great footnoting.

I never saw that one.

Only hardcore IBM customers used DisplayWrite. It had, naturally,
great support for IBM's (rather expensive but very solid) laser
printers, which were slightly competitive and popular around the end
of the 1980s/beginning of the 1990s. Odd spindly fonts, as I recall.

My first employers sold a lot of copies of Ashton-Tate MultiMate, as
it was the only mainstream network-aware WP for DOS LANs -- it
supported both Netware and 3Com 3+Share, which was also popular around
that time. It may have done file locking and network-drive shared
templates, but as you say, proportionally-spaced fonts were a problem.

Bad old days.

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