See, that’s why I liked WordPerfect 5.0.

June 28, 2011

I’ve had a web page (as I always defensively remind people who mistake me for a Luddite) since 1996 and the age of 13. Back then, we had recently gotten a new Microsoft Windows machine, which was the latest cool new gadget, so of course I switched to that from our old Amiga 2000.1 One thing I quickly grew to miss, however, was WordPerfect 5.0. We installed it on the DOS side of our new Windows machine and I used that to write my stories, but everyone else was rapidly switching to Microsoft Word.

I hate Word. I really hated it. The 2007 model has finally gained a few words of praise from me, but during the 1990s and most of the 2000s it was my Most Hated Software Ever, even worse than the evil monopolizing Internet Explorer. Most of this was because it kept trying to think for me (like many others, I enjoyed that little Shockwave parody that allowed you to kill the Paper Clip), but it was also because the screen was just full of distractions. Even if I didn’t have Netscape open in another window (which I pretty much always did once we got broadband in 1997), the screen itself was just too distracting.

I don’t want to format while I write. I just want to write. I just want a blank screen. WordPerfect gave me a nice, comforting expanse of deep blue, ready for me to fill with lines and lines of little grey words, with only one line of text at the bottom of the screen that let me know where on the page I was and what file I was working with. That’s all.

I still miss that.

So it’s not because I’m a Luddite that I hearken back to the days of WordPerfect. Even when I was a teenager (already beginning to get sucked into the growing range of digital distractions, but before I even consciously realized it) I valued this.

So I’m thrilled to have read in a New York Times article, Taming Your Digital Distractions, that someone has already come up with a word processor that tries to get back to the pure blank page. This was written in 2009; I wonder what’s out there now. I’m going to have to see what I can get for my Linux machine.

But now I’d best get back to the Microsoft Windows 2007 window I have open, in which I’m trying to write about managing digital distraction.

Step 1: Close the blog window.

  1. Note that the Amiga 2000 is still set up in our basement, because it is awesome. The Windows 95 machine has long since gone to computer heaven. This concludes the obligatory Amiga cult plug.
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2 Responses to “See, that’s why I liked WordPerfect 5.0.”

  1. Ooooh. Well, my go-to is Scrivener (though I doubt there’s a Linux version — they only JUST got around to PCs after years of being Mac-only), which lets you customize darned near everything, including how much stuff you do or don’t want to appear in the basic writing/editing window. It also has an awesome full-screen feature, which will let you black out everything else you’ve got going on and just see your words in a column on the screen (set to whatever width you want, whatever colors you want, etc). It’s designed for people working on long pieces — novels, plays, research papers, etc. It’s an excellent program! I don’t know how I wrote long form before it.

  2. Ooooh. I am going to find a program like that for Linux. It must be out there. Even OpenOffice seems to have a full-screen mode which might be a good first step. Thanks for sharing!

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