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A Week With WordPerfect 5.1

Editor’s Note: For this assignment, one of the writers for the blog was given a daunting assignment – to use WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS for some of his writing assignments for a week.

Below are his thoughts of the experience. Do you still use WordPerfect 5.1? Feel free to discuss this in the comments below.

The first problem was installation.

Frustrated woman

Initially I attempted to run the application downloaded from this very site in a virtual machine installation of Windows Advanced Server 2000. The DOS window here seemed to run the application without any problems until the actual point of tapping Enter to install the software post-setup. Creating a large-size disk image for the application didn’t work either.

While dropping down to Windows 95/98 was an option, it was one that would require a trip into the attic. With this in mind, I opted for a sidestep – I would try installing WordPerfect in DOSbox!

Running through the installation, I was presented with a lot of screens that in a modern day application would be dealt with via a single check-box or radio button. At the end of the installation with mention of printers and restarts, the application gave the impression of needing to be reinstalled; indeed, I attempted this at the first run, realizing when I reached the end the second time that this was either the beginning of a trip into the box room or I would have to try something else.

Typing WP at the prompt got the software running, however. So, how would I use it for the rest of the week?


The first thing was to track down the help function (F1) and try and work out what keys did what. As a keyboard-driven application, the most important thing to appreciate is that all of the functions were on the keyboard – the mouse is almost completely useless.

WordPerfect 5.1

Pleasingly, the array of keys to the right of Enter and Backspace come in very useful – as an “old school” user these have always been a part of my keyboard use, and it is good to be able to rely on these 30 year old legacy options.

The various options and functions available in WordPerfect can be found via the Function keys, presented via Shift, Ctrl, Alt or with no modification.

So with everything ready, I was set to go. My first task would be to introduce this challenge, the results of which you can see above. But would I be able to use the application daily?

I certainly wouldn’t be able to get away with outputting all of my work using WordPerfect – the majority of material that I am involved with requires a pretty quick turnaround, which usually means writing directly into the browser window and submitting.

However there are enough suitable features in WordPerfect to be able to use this application daily…

Day 1

I left WordPerfect running in the DOSBox window overnight, and found that I was unable to restore the document! The whole scenario of saving and closing is a confusing one at best, and discovering that my most recent save file wasn’t being displayed in the “Retrieve” screen was jarring. Fortunately closing the app and restarting “rediscovered” the file.

I have also noticed that the lack of an auto-spellcheck (used in Microsoft Word to resolve common typos) is slightly annoying. Indeed, I’m noticing a lot of errors that I really shouldn’t be making!

Day 2

Something else I have noticed with the application is the difficulty in applying formatting to text.

Via Help (Shift+F1) I discovered that this done by selecting text using the block command, placing the cursor at the start of a word, activating Block (Alt+F4) and then taking the cursor to the end of the word. Once the word or passage is selected, the appropriate formatting can be applied, using the corresponding keyboard shortcut. For instance these bolded words were originally achieved using F6 after selecting the text as a block.

Day 3

Remarkably I found myself up and running with WordPerfect without mistyping DOS commands today. As someone with experience of DOS going back to 1990, installation and running of the application had been somewhat frustrating until now, but it all seems to be coming back to me!

If you’re planning on using WordPerfect – and if you are limited by hardware and budget it is worth considering – then printing out the keymappings for the Function keys is a good idea. In the absence of an on-screen menu system, having a reference for what key does what is going to prove useful. As it is, remember that F7 is for saving documents and F5 for opening!

Day 4

As I approach the end of the week, I’ve found myself wondering just how to transfer this journal into something I can publish at

The obvious option is to open it in Microsoft Word and then paste it into the site – but if I already have Word, why am I using WordPerfect?

Saving options are limited in WordPerfect, so what is the best way of converting the document into a format I can use online?

The WPS format can be opened in apps such as WordPad and Notepad, but sadly there are odd artifacts within the text which need to be edited out. As WordPad and Notepad are built into Windows, you shouldn’t have any problem running them.

Day 5

So what have I learned about using WordPerfect as a word processor?

Well, it certainly wasn’t as easy as I expected. For some reason, even though my writing career has taken place almost exclusively on GUI word processors (with the small exception of an old Amstrad PCW device in the late 1980s) I had expected to find WordPerfect more usable than I did.

However, as the days progressed I found more and more features and I believe that if you need a good, no-frills word processor that doesn’t blind you with formatting options, this is a good way to go.

Running in DOSBox allows you to ALT+Enter to view full screen, presenting you with a pure page of text. Sometimes Microsoft Word and OpenOffice give you too much to look at, which is why the full screen options on those applications are so good to use.

In fact, if you’re the type of writer who prefers more page and less icons, using WordPerfect in full screen mode might be exactly what you’re looking for. It’s an ideal way to get your thoughts onto the screen quickly without worrying about formatting, something which could, for the zen writer, enable and inspire better writing.

Once you’ve got the words down, you can then use other applications to deal with the formatting and redrafting…

Editor Note: Do you still use WordPerfect 5.1? If so, why? Let us know in the comments!


Ahh – yes, iTunes.

I spent over ten hours yesterday cleaning up our Windows iTunes page. It was far too out of date and I apologize — we had some technical glitches supporting the larger file sizes which were just recently worked out. I probably spent half the time cursing Apple for releasing so many versions for me to keep track of. While doing research on specific versions, I noticed some interesting patterns; such as the usual scheduled release of a new iTunes (i.e. 9 to 10) version in the first few weeks of September.

Also, I saved some version numbers for your convenience: iTunes 9.1 was the first version to support iPad syncing, but you may want to take heed at its enormous near-100MB file-size. Version 10 became a bit leaner and dare-I say..better then its 9.0 counterpart with a 20MB cut in file size and no longer a bundling of QuickTime with the releases.

Another version to take note of was iTunes 8.2 as it was the last version to support syncing with Palm Pre devices. Apple decided to take “mimic” players seriously and disable Palm Pre syncing with any version afterward. Boo!

Anyway, what’s your favorite iTunes version?

P.S. Our Mac users: sorry! I will update the Mac section as soon as I find another 10 hours. Leave a comment or send me an email to get me to hurry up if you need a specific version now ;)

Remembering RealPlayer

It used to be so simple..

Back in the formative years of the World Wide Web, RealPlayer dominated as the first choice for displaying media on websites. Just as Flash is ubiquitous in 2012 (with HTML 5 waiting to steal its crown) so RealPlayer was on hand as an embedded player and a desktop application throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s.

It’s hard to appreciate just how widely used certain applications were in the past. RealPlayer turns up these days as the playback option on sites that haven’t been touched for years; they might not even be indexed by Google any longer, but can still be found in bookmarks and archival websites.

With privacy issues among its faults, RealPlayer was a fantastic piece of software, all things considered. Its failure to adapt to a changing web has led to its current low level of usage, but from its launch in 1995 it filled a much needed role as a general multimedia playback application, capable of dealing with standard formats such as AVI as well as its own RM format.

Why Didn’t They Just Listen?

The main problem with RealPlayer, of course, is exemplified in the irony of a company issuing a video and music player who seemed unable to listen to feedback from their users. As the app got fatter with needless and data mining features with each successive version, so users started to look for alternative solutions; compare and contrast this with WinAmp, where unpopular decisions in the design of version 3 were removed for version 5.

RealPlayer started well, but somehow the drive to monetise the application in the days when no one really knew what they were doing  when it came to making money on the web has to this day overshadowed its development.

RealPlayer was initially released on Windows 95. Subsequent releases followed mainly for that platform, although by 2007 versions for Mac OS X and Linux had been made available. Since then, RealPlayer has migrated to mobile, with Android, Symbian and Palm users able to download and use the software for free.

RealAudio Player

The first version of RealPlayer was known as RealAudio Player. It looked astonishing; compared with other media players available at the time, the smooth lines of the chrome and the sensible UI made it an application that everyone wanted. Although there were some file types that couldn’t be played, the software was so successful in promoting the RM format that many websites used it as their de facto standard for streaming audio and video content.

Over the following years several updates were made available, mainly to resolve playback or resource-related issues. The importance of RealAudio Player was such that it was included in Windows 98 as an optional Internet tool, something that helped to increase the use of the media player.

RealPlayer G2

It used to be so simple..

Technically RealPlayer 6, RealPlayer G2 was released in May 2002, and marked the second stage in the software’s history, introducing the RealPlayer name. Curiously the player couldn’t easily be resized but this didn’t matter too much – videos could be watched in your default browser, accessed either by clicking the relevant link or choosing one of the provided Channels.

This was the version that really made RealPlayer popular, with its low 3.1 MB file size and simple user interface. While the advantage of ripping and burning CDs was yet to be introduced, RealPlayer G2 was pleasingly simple.

RealOne Player

Real One Screen Shot

By 2005, the way in which multimedia was accessed had changed enough for a new version of RealPlayer to be released.

A polished, rounded interface with plenty of space provided for the user as opposed to advertising, RealOne Player was a refreshing experience but opinion among loyal users who had bought into the brand was split. Like the original, however, there were clues as to the direction the software would take, with a large browser/online player area in the lower-half of the window. Thankfully, however, this could be closed.

This version also included the features of the previously available satellite application Real Jukebox.

RealPlayer 11

RealPlayer 11

Some disappointing features that failed to impress a Windows user base more interested in Microsoft’s resurgent Media Player. As a result RealPlayer 11 is barely remembered by many,

This version was released in November 2007 and was the first release of the software for Mac OS X in 2008. Over the years the software has been enhanced for Mac users so that it is now quite integrated with the operating system, and RealPlayer 11 was the starting point of this.

By 2007 there were many competitors all offering better support for new formats. Remarkably there was no FLAC audio, or OGG support despite the growing popularity of these formats, an omission that is yet to be addressed.

RealPlayer 15

RealPlayer 15

RealPlayer’s most recent incarnation is version 15, released in February 2011. Sadly only revisions to the user interface mark this out as a noticeably different release, with all of the same issues concerning privacy, poor codec support and system resources being repeated.

One enhancement that is a clear sign of the times, however, is the integration of social networking tools, notably the ability to share RealPlayer videos on Facebook and download videos shared by others on the site to RealPlayer. The wisdom of introducing this feature to an application that has failed to defend itself against privacy concerns in the past, however, is questionable.

While there is now a private folder that allows users to collect videos in a password-protected vault RealPlayer 15 still throws advertisements at the user, and uses tracking cookies for various purposes. Fortunately these can be disabled in the Preferences menu, but the question as to why they’re required (after all VLC Player, The KMP Player and many others don’t need to track their user’s inline behaviour) is yet to be answered.

RealPlayer Privacy Issues

There are several users still employing RealPlayer for viewing current and archive files that prefer to use the UK version of the software, which apparently has improved privacy settings.

Whether true or not, the fact remains that this application has for many years touted controversy by tracking users despite having a premium alternative that offers additional features. Concerns over privacy with this app date back to 1999 when it was discovered that information about users and their music choices were being “phoned home” by the application.

Although dealt with shortly after, the application has been accused of failing to accurately inform users about software installed and left behind after uninstallation, while the Message Center pop-up adverts have proved a particular nuisance for users (as of RealPlayer 11 this can be disabled, however).

As a resource hog, RealPlayer is unparalleled among media players, and should only be used if absolutely necessary. RealAlternative is available, offering support for RM files; if you absolutely need to use RealPlayer, consider employing a virtual machine or installing an old version.

Are you still using RealPlayer? Do you swear by the library management system above all others, or would you gladly forget ever having hard the name?

Is older better when it comes to Firefox?

Husband and wife quarreling over Firefox

At, one of our most downloaded software titles is Firefox.

With rumors flying around that Firefox could possibly embed video chat in its future versions, it begs the question: are newer versions necessarily better when it comes to this web browser? Do we need Firefox 18.5 with video features and Facebook integration? Isn’t simpler better when it comes to web browsing?

Thus, I decided to embark on an experiential journey to test the progression of version iterations and how it affects system performance. In other words, I wanted to see if Firefox 11.0 runs as well on older computers as older versions do.

I did this on Dell Latitude D830, a fairly old system that has often benefited from running older versions.

Continue reading →

Windows SYSInternals Process Explorer 15.04

If you’ve ever had a problem with your computer, perhaps it’s running slowly or a strange, new program has appeared which you don’t recall installing etc, and a search of computer help forums suggests you open Task Manager to see what programs, or processes in particular, are running, you might well be bemused at exactly what you are looking at. Continue reading →