Recently my colleagues and I were discussing the history of word processors (that’s just the kind of thing we do here), and a few of them reminisced about using one called WordPerfect many, many years ago. Given that its heyday was in the eighties, 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. What’s more, it’s not one of those cases where a company is still taking money for what’s essentially abandonware — the most recent release is WordPerfect 2021. As in a year ago. And it’s on sale.
Corel, the company that’s been in charge of WordPerfect since before I was born, is running a (horrifically modern) Black Friday in July promotion, which ends at 9 AM ET on Thursday. WordPerfect Office Home and Student, which contains the eponymous word processing software, as well as apps for making slideshows, spreadsheets, and taking notes, is marked down to $59.99 from $100. And the Standard and Professional versions, which include extra software and capabilities, are a full $100 and $200 off, respectively.
So just to sum up here: this software — one of the go-to word processors before graphical user interfaces were widespread — is still around, and the company behind it apparently thinks it’s something that new users are interested in picking up. All I can say is wow.
To be clear, I’m sure there’s some sort of niche use case that people really love WordPerfect for, and that I’m going to hear from pretty much everyone who still uses it why it’s actually the best word processing software out there. (And I welcome that feedback! I’m fascinated to learn what you do with it.) But I’d also assume that anyone who needs WordPerfect for whatever they’re doing... already has it, meaning they won’t get much out of a sale.
I don’t mean to knock WordPerfect, but I’m not really sure I’d recommend it to most people. If you’re already prepared to spend money on a productivity suite, you’d almost certainly be much better served by just going with the Office apps you get through Microsoft 365, which is basically the standard, for better or worse. If you hate paying subscriptions for software, Microsoft even sells a perpetual license for Office 2021. And if you’re looking to WordPerfect as a cheaper alternative, why not just go all the way to free software — LibreOffice is a solid and completely free productivity suite for those who demand to have a full set of features available offline, and Google Docs is totally fine for most people who just want to write some documents and not have to worry about how to save or share them.
With all that said, 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 40-plus years, especially ones that aren’t the top dog in their category. Does it look its age? Sure, I guess — WordPerfect 2021 obviously isn’t using the same UI as it did in the OS/2 or Amiga days, but it does remind me a lot of the early 2000s when I was first learning to use a computer. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Not every app is made better by a flashy, modern UI, or cloud integration.
One last note: if you want to have the most authentically retro word processing experience, you can even order WordPerfect on a disk. Yes, Corel will ship you a DVD with its 2021 productivity suite on it. As someone who understands the value of time far, far away from the internet, I really appreciate this as an option — and as someone whose computers are all less than five or six years old and therefore don’t have any sort of disk drive, I kind of wish it came on a flash drive. Or 5.25-inch floppies, like some of the DOS versions did. Given that the Home and Student edition requires around 2.75 GB of space, it’d only take around 2,300 high-density (read: 1.2 MB) disks.
PS — to answer the question one of my colleagues asked when I discovered WordPerfect 2021: no, you no longer have to hit the enter key like a carriage return at the end of every line to make sure the text doesn’t just run off the screen. How far we’ve come!