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back to article Victory for Microsoft as Supremes decline to hear Novell's WordPerfect whine

The decade-long legal fight over the reasons WordPerfect failed has ended in victory for Microsoft after the US Supreme Court declined to hear Novell's appeal and shut the door on a potential billion-dollar settlement for the company. "We're happy this case is now over for good and think it shows we'll persistently defend …

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Good

Wordperfect For Windows was dead before win95, fact was it was a bad attempt at a windows program. Windows 95 was irrelevant. Word & Excel very successful before Win95. And on Mac actually before windows even worked properly (3.1 was first decently working version).

Mind you MS did add Gratuitous APIs to Win95 (which they then had to retrofit to NT 3.5 as NT3.51). This prevented no-one writing good Windows applications. It was to stop new applications "for Win95" working on Win3.11 / WFWG3.11 which actually could run many NT applications via Win32s add-on.

This was not at all about stopping 3rd party programs but so Office 95 couldn't run on WFW3.11, otherwise it would have. So of course NT users got a free upgrade 3.5 to 3.51 as Office 95 wouldn't otherwise run on NT!

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Re: Good

It took a while to get properly accustomed to Windows - the first versions were distinctly CA-Textor-ish in look and feel. However by the time Novell had done a proper rework it was actually quite nice - in fact I'd have to say that 6.1 is probably still my all-time favourite word processor - it did everything you wanted in an uncluttered way. When Word 6 was still taking over half the screen with at least three toolbars and various other clutter in the status area, WP6.1 presented you with a single context-sensitive toolbar (that actually showed what you wanted) and a skinny "powerbar" underneath for formatting operations.

What killed it is that it wasn't an attractive bundling option. OEM Office was heavily discounted in the early 90s, much more than now, to the point even most home systems seemed to have it bundled. If there wasn't enough in the budget for that there was Works or SmartSuite. WordPerfect was caught in the middle making it a £300 purchase on top of the machine.

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Re: Good

^ This.

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LDS
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Re: Good

I got WordPerfect Suite bundled with an Epson printer. WordPerfect didn't run on NT4 (my OS then, I never used the 9x line) - it kept on crashing, while Quattro Pro worked without issues, but it was already behind Excel. I guess it was a matter of developers - those from Borland understood Windows far better than those from WordPerfect. After all Borland C++ was for a (little) while the best C++ compiler for Windows.

Lotus had the same issues, it wasn't never able to understand Windows. It spent a long time trying to enforce its own Notes UI on Windows users in its SmartSuite, who happily despised and ignored it.

What made the Mac first and then Windows platforms users liked was exactly a uniform UI among applications letting you to start easily even with a new, unknown one. The days of "I will design my own UI and you have to use it" under DOS were gone, but not everybody understood it.

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Re: Good

At one time Office was bundled with Dell computers for free and the company I worked for at that time simply dumped all their copies of WP on DOS, Windows and VMS to use the free Office. Of course there's no such thing as a free lunch and they have paid thousands since to keep upgrading Office as the company expanded.

It's true that the early version of WP for Windows was bad - but then so was Word too - productivity at the company after the switch to Office was measured in crashes per day.

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Anonymous Coward

Excuse me?

"...but then withheld key software support that would have enabled the word processing package to work..."

It was only a word processor. All I/O was standard stuff. Wordperfect for Windows could have been entirely written in Visual Basic. Maybe it was. Visual Basic 1.0 was released in 1991, Visual Basic 4.0 in August 1995 about when Windows 95 was released, and the next release (5.0) was not until two years later. There should have been no need for "key software support" from Microsoft.

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Re: Good

Excel and Word were dead in the water before Windows 3.95. Excel 4.0 was a pretty but uselss Supercalc for Windows. Mind you Redmond fixed the market through its OS deals and fixed its product by hiring talent from its competitors.

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Re: Good

Having worked with a few ex-WordPerfect employees in my time, I can vouch for them HATING Novell and feeling like they were a pawn for Ray Noorda to play out his hatred for Gates. If he invested as much in employees and the product rather than litigation then things might be a bit different. However there were a lot of overpaid egos around at that time who resisted Microsoft's invitations to develop for the new platform: Noorda, Kahn, Manzi. Go back to the newspapers of the late 80s, early 90s and see where they were spending their money.

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LDS
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Re: Good

Sorry, but it was Excel getting MS Office on most PCs, bringing Word with him. Under Windows, Excel was much better than trying to use 1-2-3 under DOS. It looked better, it had more customization options, it had far better chart capabilities (you had to buy add-ons for 1-2-3, even Quattro was far better). Bean counter loved it. Excel was the first to include Visual Basic For Applications, and it made its programming capabilities far more advanced than simple "macros".

Excel was the *killer application* for Windows, and was what made many office workers ask for Windows.

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Windows

Re: Good

"What made the Mac first and then Windows platforms users liked was exactly a uniform UI among applications letting you to start easily even with a new, unknown one. The days of "I will design my own UI and you have to use it" under DOS were gone, but not everybody understood it."

Ah! Those were the days. We used to have UI standards, you know. Everyone had to follow the rules or face ridicule. Applications that maximised themselves on startup were just rude. Putting a green tick on your "OK" buttons was considered poor taste. Failing to define keyboard shortcuts and a sane tab order for all your dialogs was shoddy workmanship.

Nowadays, of course, the youngsters don't even *have* keyboards, or even "OK" buttons in some cases and applications don't run in any mode *except* maximised.

TIFCAM they call it. Disgusting, I call it. Wouldn't have happened in my day.

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Re: Good

"Sorry, but it was Excel getting MS Office on most PCs, bringing Word with him"

That's Excel 5.0 you are talking about, not 4.0. They are worlds apart.

Which makes both assessments correct - 5.0 was indeed a killer, but 4.0 was very much a dead duck.

"Excel was the first to include Visual Basic For Applications, and it made its programming capabilities far more advanced than simple "macros"."

Here's a little refresher:

blogs.office.com/2010/02/16/migrating-excel-4-macros-to-vba/

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It was the best DOS word processor

Novell might have hoped to keep it alive when Windows 95 arrived. The rest of the world ditched it already when Windows 3.1 arrived

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Re: It was the best DOS word processor

A neighbouring lawyer was still using WP for DOS in 2000 (and may still be for all I know) - at the time she said she could hammer out menacing letters and entwining contracts larded with boilerplate paragraphs far faster than with the "upgrade" of the Windows version (better macros, snappier responses, and of course a big dose of muscle memory)

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LDS
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Re: It was the best DOS word processor

Lawyers are not usually among "edge" users. If they could, they would still use a quill and parchment. Jokes aside, IIRC there was a version of WordPerfect with special features for lawyers, which were not in Word and other word processors.

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Re: It was the best DOS word processor

My impression was that it was the footnoting that lawyers love. And I'm pretty sure there's an attorney in my organization who still uses WordPerfect--his secretary, since retired, was still using it last spring.

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LDS
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Guess noone wanted to kill the renumerative "walled gardens" of today...

Any ruling in favor of Novell could be used today against Apple, Google, etc. - which with they closed stores and reserved APIs can refuse any application they like to run on their OSes.

What MS maybe did then is nothing compared to what is done today to cut competitors off.

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Re: Guess noone wanted to kill the renumerative "walled gardens" of today...

Would those be walled gardens in which things are renumbered?

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Confict of Interest?

The irony here is that WordPerfect remains one of the most popular word processing applications for lawyers.

We continue to use WP (running X6) for all applications that don't actually require Word and have always considered WP to be a far superior program for those situations where you really care about the final output. I use Word if I have to but don't really like it and find it's paragraph based formatting to be unwieldy and a pain to use.

I think it's common knowledge and a proven fact that MS did not completely document the Windows API initially while using the undocumented functions to their advantage in their Office suite - but proving this was done out of deliberate, anti-competitive, malice after all these years appears to be impossible in spite of the various judgements that MS has lost over this type of behavior in the past.

To my mind, what doomed WP in the end was their insistence on slavishly following the Office "Suite" approach in an attempt to maintain a high price for the program - had they simple sold WP at $59 a copy they would have left Word in the dust. Bad marketing is the real culprit - Microsoft is just the mud that we all walk in.

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Re: Confict of Interest?

Mostly good but you ended badly. WordPerfect DID try that tactic, but they couldn't compete with MS's revenue stream from the OS. When WP was at it's peak both Office and it retailed for around $500 US. Then MS started the monopoly war by offering a $100 competitive upgrade if you turned in your WP disk 1. WP followed by offering a $100 upgrade if you had a valid license for Office (photocopy of the license was sufficient IIRC). At which point WP was bleeding money all over the place while MS continued to generate healthy revenue because of the OS.

It was a textbook case of illegally extending their OS monopoly into a competing market. But somehow or another, nobody is ever able to prove it in court.

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LDS
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Re: Confict of Interest?

"I think it's common knowledge and a proven fact that MS did not completely document the Windows API "

That was true for DOS as well - books like "Undocumented DOS" and Peter Norton's ones sold very well - and WordPerfect never complained about it - just used the undocumented calls like everybody else did.

Windows brought some issues: first, developers had to learn new APIs, work in a more restrictive environment than DOS (where you could do whatever you like with the HW) look for the undocumented ones (or wait for someone discover them for you), and especially Windows leveled the field when it came to WYSIWYG display and printing. Especially the latter meant that the collection of carefully written proprietary drivers of some word processor were now useless because any application could access the OS drivers and obtain good results.

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LDS
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Re: Confict of Interest?

Just like Google extending its monopoly on online advertising through its search engine into the mobile OS market?

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I've spent most of my working life either in house with law firms, or as a contractor.

WordPerfect was the WP of choice when I started out in the late 90's and continued to be so (along with SoftSolutions and GroupWise) well into the 00's.

Speak to any secretary from that era still working and they will still talk glowingly of WordPerfect, and I don't blame them! Thankfully I don't often have to delve into the nastiness that is Word, but when I do it's to try and tidy up horrific formatting errors etc.

The Y2K bug killed SoftSolutions but there are still plenty of us out there using GroupWise!

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Re: it's to try and tidy up horrific formatting errors

Yep. More than 20 years later and Word still can't format a document as well as WP (5.0) could in DOS.

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LDS
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Re: it's to try and tidy up horrific formatting errors

Maybe some people should stop to use Word as if it was an on-screen typewriter and really learn how to use it...

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Anonymous Coward

Sad

That MS got away and still get away with this sort of behavior.

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Our country has become the Land of the Powerful, and the Home of the Corporate. I never expected the USSC would let the failed little Novel have it's day in court. They were screwed by MS and MS is the big winner. Winners and losers are defined by money, campaign contributions, politics and worse. Look for the same outcome in the Aereo deliberations and especially the Comcast merger. Too much money, too much influence. Our values are shot to he11. America is becoming a second rate country. No justice from old men. It's a joke.

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Linux

""We're happy this case is now over for good and think it shows we'll persistently defend ourselves from lawsuits we think are meritless," a Microsoft spokesperson told El Reg."

But yet, they will wear you out if they even think you have a single character of their code in your stuff.

Fucking hypocrites. I can wait for MS to die.

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But yet, they will wear you out if they even think you have a single character of their code in your stuff.

Fucking hypocrites. I can wait for MS to die.

In the Satya Nadella "Mobile-first.... Cloud-first" World of MicroSoft... This shouldn't hopefully take long before they fall into irrelevance. me thinks that they forgot which side their Bread was buttered on....

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to paraphrase Richard Pryor...

I went to court to find Justice. And that's what I found - Just Us!

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Re: to paraphrase Richard Pryor...

I went to court to find Justice. And that's what I found - Just Us!

Here's to all the past Masters of Comedy!

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Took a while, but I see Microsoft finally managed to buy the entire U.S. "justice" (so-called) system. From getting away with its anti-competitive actions to this latest saga, Microsoft is a prime example of "money trumps justice", the true American achievement. Ethics? Morality? Law? Who cares, so long as you have MONEY! That's the true "American Way".

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FAIL

Novell paid $1.4bn for WordDEFECT?????

I would not have paid 1.4 PENCE for it.

Having worked with WordDEFECT for DOS, then Word for Windows, WordDEFECT for Windows was, frankly, APPALLING. I worked at a firm of solicitors who were trying to implement it - DEE-AAAS-TER!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Novell paid $1.4bn for WordDEFECT?????

Did you read this article?

Are you Real?

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Anonymous Coward

The reasons WordPerfect failed ..

"Bill Gates .. said that certain software .. had been taken out of Windows 95, but only because Microsoft was worried it would crash the operating system"

"I have decided that we should not publish these extensions .. We can't compete with Lotus and Wordperfect/Novell without this", Bill Gates ..

http://edge-op.org/iowa/www.iowaconsumercase.org/122106/PLEX0_5673.pdf"

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I'm still trying

to find anything positive to say about MS Word.

I've been word-processing since 1969 (IBM MT/ST) and have used a great many word processors over the years.

WordStar and its derivatives and clones such as NewWord worked well with the technology of the day. They did an excellent job but didn't move into the WYSIWYG era.

WordStar 2000 was a disaster area

WordPerfect 6.1 was an excellent program and successive versions have built on that foundation. Perfect it isn't, but exceptionally good and very well suited to legal documents. It can handle extensive and repeated redrafting exceptionally well and reformatting is child's play. For me, it's pretty-well replaced any need for a publishing program. The only thing I haven't been able to make it do is switch marginal indices to the outer edge of each page automatically.

As for MS Word, I've used it since v1 and I still dislike it intensely. It has workable review capabilities which are useful, but it's ability to make a mess of formatting when a document is edited repeatedly is horrendous as is its ability to get paragraph numbering mixed up on repeated edits. All too often I have to pull a Word document into WordPerfect to clean it up for some hapless Word user.

The success of Word is, I'm convinced, not based on the merit of the program, but rather on the unscrupulous use of power by Microsoft and major marketing blunders on the part of the various owners of WordPerfect.

Yes, the latest version of MS Word is on my computer and is used for reviewing documents on which I may be collaborating, but it's the current version of WordPerfect which gets used for all production of my own documents.

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Re: I'm still trying

I concur with everything except the marketing blunders comment. They all did the best they could with marketing. But you can't compete against somebody who can afford to release every copy of their competing software at a loss to drive you out of business.

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Re: I'm still trying

"The success of Word is, I'm convinced, not based on the merit of the program, but rather on the unscrupulous use of power by Microsoft and major marketing blunders on the part of the various owners of WordPerfect."

Certainly true for the spreadsheet. 123 was always the craftsman's tool, easier and more intuitive to use than Excel, but now Excel (and its ghastly macros and pivot tables) rule supreme.

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LDS
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Re: I'm still trying

As long as you try to use Word as a typewriter and insist on using manual formatting for complex documents, the document will soon become unmanageable. That's not the way to use Word - you should use templates and styles instead, but most user stubbornly refuse to learn how to use things - it was what was written in those "stupid" manuals nobody cared to read and learn...

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Re: "you should use templates"

One of my big gripes with Word is that if you use the template method (and many people do) then ever single bloody document looks like something formatted by the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation marketing department.

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Re: I'm still trying

The other way to keep documents from going pear-shaped is to turn off "Automatically generate new styles". That feature destroys document formatting.

Phil.

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LDS
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Re: "you should use templates"

You should design your own template - the standard ones may suit your tastes or may not, anyway using it means everybody uses the same "look & feel" for documents. Just, learning how to properly design a document style and its template is not easy, it requires some knowledge of typography, graphical layouts, etc. etc.

Sure, in the old days of daisy or matrix printers that was not an issue - everything looked like a typewritten document, very little to learn and be aware of. Laser printers (and inkjets) put into untrained people powerful instruments once in the real of trained professionals only, and often we see the results :)

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Unhappy

WordPerfect

I still miss WP 5.1 for DOS. Reveal Codes is/was brilliant!

I wonder if it's still around somewhere, for old times sake...?

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Re: WordPerfect

6.1 for Windows was a smidge better after you updated your macros. I don't do document production work anymore so I haven't kept up with the current version, but I expect Corel didn't change much after they bought it. They certainly would have kept Reveal Codes, which was one of the key reasons I used the product. The other was that I got to choose where to place the formatting codes, which could be critically important for our Ventura Publishing package. That "[italics][blank space][/end superscript]." wasn't a typo, it was a necessary spacer to keep my document formatted correctly.

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Re: WordPerfect

Ah yes, Wordperfect 5.1. I used it from 1989 to 1995/96. Seem to recall spendling a lot of time at college showing other students how to use reveal codes to sort out formatting errors. I used to work with reveal codes on almost all the time.

Damn good Wordprocessor. I don't recall Word and the MS Office package becoming ubiquitous until 1997/1998 with the advent of Windows 95/98/NT. Before that, most offices I worked in still used Wordperfect and Lotus123.

Before my conversion to linux though, I used Lotus Amipro, 'cause I got it with a laptop. It was good enough, and certainly better than the cut down suit Ms used to peddle with 95/98 versions of windows.

Did spend a lot of time doing my project documentation in Mindreader (the shareware wordprocessor) as it's predictive text was just fun. I dug that up recently and gave it a spin, its predictive text still remembers all the common IT words I used a lot back then.

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Was word perfect 32 bit?

I seem to recall that at least one of the major competitors to MS Office was 16 bit.

(Was it Lotus or WPOffice or both?)

16 bit programs generally turned Windows 95 from a nice OS to a hideous pile of cack. (Office 4.3 didn't seem to for some strange reason.) And the program I'm thinking of was no exception.

DOS programs however, generally worked really well under 95. WP 5.1 generally was great on it.

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LDS
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Re: Was word perfect 32 bit?

The first wave was 16 bit. Word 6/Excel 5 were still 16 bit. I never had issues running 16 bit programs under Win95 (although I used NT4 myself, which were pickier than 95), I had some issues running them under OS/2 3.0 which made them a lot faster (and truly "multitasking"), but sometime was not 100% compatible.

I tried Lotus WordPro as a cheaper alternative to Word, but in the last 16 bit days, but it was a nightmare, really buggy and poorly usable. Then I tried what IIRC was one of the first 32 bit releases of WordPerfect (7, maybe?), but it had big issue running on NT4, it crashed often, guess Novell didn't test it enough under NT probably thinking it was a far less used OS, but I guess it caught some bad bugs that went unnoticed under 95.

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This topic is closed for new posts.