Recently, my colleagues and I were discussing the history of word processors (that’s exactly the kind of thing we’re doing here), and some of them remembered using a program called WordPerfect many, many years ago. Since its heyday was in the 80’s, I hadn’t heard much about it, so I googled it for fun. And that’s when I discovered that it’s still being sold as a productivity suite. Additionally, it’s not one of those instances where a company is still charging money for something that’s essentially abandonware — the latest release is WordPerfect 2021. As it was a year ago. And be on offer.
Corel, the company that made WordPerfect before I was born, is running a (frighteningly modern) Black Friday promotion in July, ending Thursday at 9:00 am ET. WordPerfect Office Home and Student, which includes word processing software of the same name as well as apps for creating slideshows, spreadsheets, and note-taking, is down from $100 to $59.99. And the Standard and Professional versions, which include additional software and features, are a whopping $100 and $200 cheaper, respectively.
To sum it up here, this software – one of the most popular word processors before graphical user interfaces became widespread – is still around, and the company behind it seems to think new users will be interested in learning about it. I can only say wow.
To be clear, I’m sure there’s some kind of niche use case that people really love WordPerfect for, and I’ll be hearing from pretty much everyone who still uses it why it’s actually the best word processing software out there the market is. (And I appreciate that feedback! I’m intrigued to hear what you make with it.) But I’d also assume that anyone who needs WordPerfect for anything they do already has it, which means that he doesn’t get much from a sale.
I don’t mean to slam WordPerfect, but I’m not sure I would recommend it to most people. If you’re already willing to spend money on a productivity suite, you’re almost certainly much better off just using the Office apps you get through Microsoft 365, which is basically the default, for better or worse. If you hate paying for software subscriptions, Microsoft even sells a perpetual license for Office 2021. And if you’re looking for WordPerfect as a cheaper alternative, why not just go all the way to free software – LibreOffice is a solid piece of productivity, and it’s completely free Suite for those who require all features to be available offline, and Google Docs is perfectly fine for most people who just write some documents and don’t need to worry about how to store or share them.
After all, I’m very happy to hear that WordPerfect is still around. It’s not often that you hear about apps that have been around for over 40 years, especially ones that aren’t top of the class in their category. Does he look his age? Sure, I guess – WordPerfect 2021 obviously doesn’t use the same user interface as it did in the days of OS/2 or Amiga, but it reminds me of a a lot of early 2000s when I first learned to use a computer. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Not every app gets better with a flashy, modern UI or cloud integration.
One last note: If you want to experience the most authentically retro word processing experience, you can even order WordPerfect on a floppy disk. Yes, Corel will send you a DVD with the 2021 Productivity Suite. As someone who understands the value of time far, far away from the internet, I really appreciate this option – and as someone whose computers are all less than five or six years old and therefore don’t have any kind of hard drive, I wish it came on one flash drive. Or 5.25 inch floppy disks like some of the DOS versions did. Since the Home and Student Edition requires around 2.75GB of storage space, it would only require around 2,300 high-density hard drives (read: 1.2MB).
PS – to answer the question a colleague asked me when I discovered WordPerfect 2021: no, you no longer have to hit enter like you would with a carriage return at the end of each line to ensure the text doesn’t just run out of the window Screen. How far we’ve come!