Worth Keeping: WordPerfect for Mac

Worth Keeping is an occasional glance at technology that has been upgraded, replaced or phased out but still has a valuable place within the user community.

With Corel Corp.’s decision in May of 2000 to stop updating the Macintosh version of WordPerfect, many users have been left with the choice of either switching to another program or living without updates.

The Charlatan, Ottawa-based Carleton University’s student newspaper, is a long-time WordPerfect user, back to the days when it ran the DOS version of the program on 286 machines. When the paper updated its lab to PowerMacs and iMacs in 1999, they stayed with WordPerfect for Mac because of the competitive price and ease of use the program offers. Nearly three years later, despite the lack of updates, WordPerfect is still getting the job done for them.

“”We primarily use WordPerfect for basic word processing, before the text is imported into (publishing tool) QuarkXPress for layout, so we don’t really have a wide variety of applications that we use WordPerfect for,”” says editor-in-chief Dan Blouin. “”As long as future editions of QuarkXPress or other layout programs continue to use WordPerfect as one of their supported programs, I don’t foresee a problem for us.””

Blouin says they’ve always been happy with the performance of WordPerfect, which offers all the functionality they need.

“”Personally, I haven’t noticed a difference in the last few editions of WordPerfect,”” says Blouin. “”The changes have generally been fairly cosmetic.””

However, for more advanced users, the new versions of WordPerfect for Windows and Linux offer a tantalizing glimpse of what could be if Corel committed to updating the Mac version.

To that end, Jonathan Mills, a freelance writer and Mac user based in Washington, D.C., has launched the Campaign to Save WordPerfect for Mac with the goal of showing Corel there is a market out there for the program.

“”The Mac version has actually not been substantively updated in six years now,”” says Mills, noting that when Corel bought the program from Novell Inc. in 1996, which had purchased it a year earlier from WordPerfect Corp., only minor changes were made.

“”They did some minor tweaks to make it run on Power PCs, OS 7.5 and above, but it still doesn’t run too smoothly and it doesn’t have the nice interface or any of the advanced features that the Linux and Windows versions have,”” says Mills. “”They have not really made any commitment as to whether they will develop a future Mac version, and they’ve left thousands of people in limbo.””

While some third-party patches have been developed to address some of the issues with 3.5, Mills says the program still has some stability issues and isn’t the program that it could be if Corel made a commitment to it.

“”I’ve worked with recent versions of WordPerfect for Windows in various jobs, and that is far and away the best word processing software I’ve ever seen,”” says Mills. “”I’m not a technical expert, but my understanding is porting a version for Mac OS X from the Linux version would not be a huge ordeal, so I can’t understand why they don’t do it.””

To date, Mills says he hasn’t made too much headway making his case to Corel, meeting a wall of form letters and non-responses. However, he isn’t giving up hope.

“”I think Corel thinks I’m a gadfly, and I’m just out to annoy them,”” says Mills. “”I’ve been extremely careful at every stage not to bash Corel. I’ve tried to give them the benefit of the doubt because they haven’t ruled out making a Mac version, but at the same time they don’t answer any of my questions in a meaningful way.””

For Corel’s part, the company says the Mac version of WordPerfect was discontinued in 2000 because the financial model just didn’t made sense for the company.

“”Corel decided to discontinue WordPerfect for Mac following considerable analysis of the business case for this product,”” says Corel spokeswoman Anne Vis. “”Due to the aging source code of WordPerfect 3.5 for the Macintosh, we determined that it was not feasible for us to continue development.””

Vis says Corel does remain committed to the Mac platform, recently producing new versions of a number of its graphics applications, including CorelDraw, to run on Mac OSX. However, for WordPerfect for Mac, the door seems closed.

Comment: [email protected]

Previously in “”Worth Keeping””:

Oracle 8i
NetWare 3.2
Zip Drives
C++ 3.1 for DOS

Why we created “”Worth Keeping””

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.

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