This FAQ addresses common questions about Linux i386-binary releases of the discontinued but enduringly popular, proprietary WordPerfect word processor.
Some FAQs aim to present only impartial fact. Others summarise diverse answers typically given by members of the sponsoring community. This FAQ does neither: It's one author's attempt to paint a coherent picture of WordPerfect for Linux's place in the 21st Century open-source world, from a Linux-centric perspective. Some others' views will undoubtedly differ.
I'd like to gratefully acknowledge the HOWTO documents at http://linux-sxs.org/utilities/wp_index.html, which should be consulted for detailed installation instructions for WP on current Linux distributions. Also, the former linux.astcomm.net and current news://cnews.corel.com/corel.WordPerfect_Linux (older postings at http://groups-beta.google.com/group/corel.wpoffice.wordperfect8-linux/) newsgroups' comments have been invaluable.
I would also like to thank Leon A. Goldstein and Valentijn Sessink specifically for their valuable feedback, Bob Tennent and Jim C. Brown for information on the libsafe problem, and Wade Hampton for maintaining the original but now-obsolete WordPerfect Mini-HOWTO.
Several things. In an era when leading word processors gobble dozens of megs of RAM just launching, WP (v. 8.x) is thrifty -- about 6 MB. By comparison, OpenOffice.org 1.1.3 or Star Office 7.0 takes 113 MB to launch. AbiWord 2.2.1 uses only 16 MB, and KWord 1.3.4 uses 35 MB. It's a stable, fast, polished, full-featured product. It has "reveal codes". It has a nearly unique "shrink to fit" printing feature that quickly becomes indispensable once you've experienced it. WP's high-performance print module uses the MS-DOS version's time-tested, robust printer drivers by default, expanding greatly the range of compatible printers. (WP can alternatively hand off to standard Unix printing subsystems -- lpr / lprng / gnulpr / cups / pdq / etc. -- in "Passthru Postscript" mode, to use the system's own standard print drivers.) It has excellent built-in mathematical, financial, logical, and string-handling functions. It has excellent table support and a useful speed-table-formatting feature. It has a time-tested, easy to use and debug macro language. It has a robust built-in database engine for table sorting and searching.
It's still the best tool available on Linux for reading WordPerfect .wpd files created elsewhere. (AbiWord, Anyware Office, wp2latex, and the OpenOffice.org Writer 2.0 beta also qualify.)
It's a discontinued product (on Linux). The most-long-term-available version, WP 8.0 Download Personal Edition (WP 8.0 DPE), has deliberately crippled font handling and limited (but fixable) multi-language support, and won't function without fairly antique support libraries. The best version, WP 8.1, comes only bundled with the Corel Linux OS (CLOS) Deluxe and Standard Edition boxed sets, v. 1.0 or 1.2 -- likewise discontinued.
WP used to be the best tool on Linux for reading MS-Word (through Word97) files, but always faltered on some, especially those Fast Saved in MS-Word. But now, Star Office, OpenOffice.org Writer, and AbiWord reportedly do better (and, unlike WP for Linux, can read post-Word97 .doc formats).
All 8.x versions (except the 2003-4 "pilot project" re-release) ship with a broken MS-Word import / export module: This third-party code ("Filtrix") fails with the message "Filtrix unable to convert this file" if the local system clock is set to later than September 9, 2001, because an internal time counter overflowed when Linux system time in seconds since January 1, 1970 passed 10^9 seconds. The problem can be fixed using a wrapper by Valentijn Sessink of the Netherlands firm Open Office, http://www.openoffice.nl/ (not to be confused with Sun Microsystems's OpenOffice.org project), available at http://olivier.pk.wau.nl/~valentyn/wp8fix/.
The integration into standard Linux print subsystems was always poor; ditto the typeface support. Screen rendering is a bit below par -- though printed output when using the built-in print engine is uniformly excellent, and very fast. Also, TrueType fonts were never supported, only PostScript Type 1. Menu shortcuts break when Caps Lock or Num Lock are on. And WP's use of the Motif graphics toolkit makes its aesthetics a bit klunky.
Last, though the point may be obvious, WP is proprietary (not open source). Open-source projects die only when nobody cares to maintain them, can be fixed / improved by any motivated party, and can be easily implemented on newer CPU architectures (IA64, PPC). By contrast, supplies of all but one WP version are vanishing, the sole exception occupies a legal grey area, and the difficulty of keeping it running on evolving Linux systems (which can be i386 only) can only increase over time.
It's a measure of just how good WP for Linux is / was that many people consider it still the best word processor for Linux, on balance, despite the above.
Old-timers may recall that WordPerfect originally emerged from Satellite Software, Inc. of Orem, Utah, which later renamed itself to WordPerfect Corporation, which ported it widely from the original x86 assembler version for MS-DOS. (Their initial Unix port occasioned a rewrite to C, which lead to WP for NeXT, which lead to WP 6.0 for MS-Windows, which was the basis for all subsequent versions.) That firm eventually sold WordPerfect's codebase to Novell, Inc., which then sold it to Corel Corporation Limited of Ottawa, Canada. Corel then hired a spinoff firm (Software Development Corporation aka SD Corp., formed by the Unix port's manager and developers) to port WP versions 6, 7, 8.0, and 8.1 to both Linux and several proprietary Unix platforms.
Around 1996-7, the initial SD Corp.-written Linux port of Corel WP, v. 6.0, was marketed solely through through Caldera, Inc. of Orem, Utah, as part of two bundles: the WordPerfect and Motif Bundle, and the Caldera Internet Office Suite bundle (companion CD to Caldera Network Desktop v. 1.0). In 1997, Corel replaced this with a v. 7.0 that it sold directly (after SD Corp.'s open beta), offering greater file compatibility with other platforms and other improvements.
The zenith of WP for Linux's popularity, however, came with the 1998-2000 v. 8.x series, the most wildly popular Linux proprietary software of that era. (During that time period, Corel, acting without help from SD Corp., attempted to port the entire WordPerfect Office (aka Corel Office) suite to Java: Program startup was slow for its time, and some functions had problems. The project was killed after some public betas.)
The intended successor to 8.x shipped some time around 1999: WP 9, better known as WordPerfect Office 2000 (which was technically a brand new, entirely Corel-written MFC/C++ -coded, replacement WordPerfect codebase joined at the hip to several other Corel programs -- Quattro Pro (which Novell bought from Borland in June, 1994, and then passed to Corel), Paradox (which Corel bought around 1997 from Borland), Corel Presentations, Corel Central). WordPerfect Office 2000 was produced by Corel Corporation Limited, alone, Corel having closed down the WordPerfect Corporation unit in Orem, Utah during 1998-9. (Paradox was included only in the Deluxe Edition, and omitted from Standard Edition.)
As will be detailed later, the Linux release of WP9 / WordPerfect Office 2000 came about, not as a real Linux binary, but rather as Win32 code recompiled to run in a Corel-produced custom Winelib environment. (The porting services of SD Corp., experts in the C-based classic portable codebase, were therefore not required for that release.)