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WordStar: a writer's word processor
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-03-16 22:42:38

Many science fiction writers - including myself, Roger MacBride Allen, Gerald Brandt, Jeffrey A. Carver, Arthur C. Clarke, David Gerrold, Terence M. Green, James Gunn, Matthew Hughes, Donald Kingsbury, Eric Kotani, Paul Levinson, George R. R. Martin, Vonda McIntyre, Kit Reed, Jennifer Roberson, and Edo van Belkom - continue to use WordStar for DOS as our writing tool of choice.

Still, most of us have endured years of mindless criticism of our decision, usually from WordPerfect users, and especially from WordPerfect users who have never tried anything but that program. I've used WordStar, WordPerfect, Word, MultiMate, Sprint, XyWrite, and just about every other MS-DOS and Windows word-processing package, and WordStar is by far my favorite choice for creative composition at the keyboard.

That's the key point: aiding creative composition. To understand how WordStar does that better than other programs, let me start with a little history.

An old article from 1990 and updated in 1996, reprinted, but still a good read.

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Read Comments: 1-10 -- 11-18
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Wordperfect vs wordstar
By Alfman on 2017-03-16 23:14:47
> An old article from 1990 and updated in 1996, reprinted, but still a good read.

Historically interesting, but the DOS software is not exactly relevant anymore. 80x25 monospace characters, no unicode, no copy/paste between apps.

Funny thing about reading this is that it reminded me about the age old unix debate between vim and emacs. Everyone should just use what they like!
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RE: Wordperfect vs wordstar
By Anachronda on 2017-03-16 23:54:33
> 80x25 monospace characters

The 80x25 thing is hardly WordStar's fault. CP/M WordStar (as well as generic MS-DOS WordStar; you know, the version for machines that aren't PCs) can be configured for a variety of terminal sizes. It'll warn you if the screen gets too big, but it'll give it a go.

The Otrona Attache, an early portable CP/M machine, could handle a whole bunch of video attributes, including italics. Using WordStar on that machine was sweet. I suspect they built the video hardware around the desires of WordStar.
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Fundamentals of an user interface
By BlueofRainbow on 2017-03-17 04:26:07
Interesting read.

Having myself used Wordperfect, Wordstar, and XYWrite, I appreciate the argumentation presented. The (keyboard driven) user interface of Wordstar appears to have been designed from the viewpoint of a touch typist with a finger automatism arising months/years of writing using a typewriter.

There were also some dumb mapping of the typewriter interface to the emerging keyboard-screen-storage. I spent the first five years of my graduate studies using exclusively a Philips program called TDT (Traitement de Texte).

The most annoying feature of this word processor was that it replicated the concept of a letter/legal sized page too closely. Any text "going beyond" the bottom of the page due to an insertion of additional text had to be "moved" onto the next page. This led to a cascading suite of similar moves until a page for which there was no excess text was encountered or a blank page had to be created. By the way, deletion of text led to a similar cascade of moves - backwards.

I wonder if any of the Wordstar design briefs still exists somewhere. It would be quite interesting to compare the design intent with the reverse engineering presented in the article.
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In the Beginning... Was the Command Line
By haakin on 2017-03-17 10:07:46
If you like this article, most probably you'll enjoy Neal Stephenson's In the Beginning.. Was the Command Line (1999):

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_...

Neal Stephenson is a well known sf writer. (I think that Snowcrash is by far his best novel.)

In this assay, he defends the superiority of the command line over GUIs. The book is rather old and Neal Stephenson said in 2004 that he liked and used Mac OS X. Anyway, it is available online for free and is an interesting reading.
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Less is more
By Odisej on 2017-03-17 10:22:57
All good points. But I would dare to say that the popularity of Wordstar among writers does not only come from familiar keyboard shortcuts but also from the fact that writing in such environments as DOS or terminal in Linux makes you more productive. When writing you have to sit down, literally mentally teleport into another world of creativity and stay there. And for many writers Wordstar is such a teleportation device.

Being a professional journalist I find it that the combination of Terminal, tmux, emacs, Links with an old VGA or DOS font (in green or yellow letters and black background naturally) and of course a big cup of coffee makes me several times more productive than using full DE, Office and whatever browser. There is just too much clutter. And yes, typewriter sounds help as well. Funny, right?

Wordstar would be a wonderful alternative but due to codepage issues it is almost useless for any non-Western European language.

I wish more developers would have a professional writer in mind when creating/updating a text editor. Soft wordwrap is usually quite an issue.
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RE: Less is more
By ssokolow on 2017-03-17 11:45:28
Take a look at FocusWriter.

Not only is it a distraction-free writing tool that doesn't suffer from WriteRoom's "bad design disguised as a virtue" flaws, it's GPLv3 software, cross-platform, and the Windows version is available in portable form. (The "Tip with download" selector can be set to $0)

https://gottcode.org/focuswriter/

(And, yes, it does support typewriter sounds, though I've always found that sort of thing irritating... ironic given that I migrated from a membrane keyboard to Cherry MX Blue switches to a Unicomp buckling-spring keyboard. IBM-design buckling-spring switches are just about the noisiest thing you can get.)


In case anyone's curious, this blog post covers how FocusWriter gets right what WriteRoom got wrong:

http://writingonlinux.wordpress....

The gist is that FocusWriter is packed full of well-designed features... they just auto-hide until you actually need them.

Edited 2017-03-17 11:46 UTC
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RE: Wordperfect vs wordstar
By Rugxulo on 2017-03-17 18:04:36
(I know this isn't earth-shattering info, and I'll admit I'm old-fashioned with simplistic tastes.)

> Historically interesting, but the DOS software is not exactly relevant anymore.

I wouldn't (normally) suggest writing DOS-only apps these days, but that applies to any other OS, too. Portable code is harder but lives longer. (Although as a FreeDOS aficionado, I still also want a DOS port, but that rarely happens.)

> 80x25 monospace characters

IIRC, you can get up to 130x60 with VESA. Fonts are a different matter, but that can be alleviated with various graphics modes.

> no unicode

There are at least three popular programs that have (partial) direct Unicode support. (I have to disclaim that by saying "partial" since I know someone will still complain that it doesn't do xyz. Hey, you can't have everything.)

> no copy/paste between apps

There's a third-party TSR for that, but also you could (obviously) instead just use a supported DOS-compatible OS that allows that as well. In fact, I think the TSR just mimics the Win 3.x API.

> Funny thing about reading this is that it reminded me about the age old unix debate between vim and emacs. Everyone should just use what they like!

Vim is extremely popular, but there are still dozens of other editors. It's a bit mind-boggling trying to understand all the various different features. I don't think there is truly one-size-fits-all. It seems a common itch to scratch for programmers.
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RE[2]: Less is more
By darknexus on 2017-03-17 18:24:31
> The gist is that FocusWriter is packed full of well-designed features... they just auto-hide until you actually need them.
Isn't that part of Microsoft's logic behind the ribbon? I hate that thing, especially the version in Windows Explorer now. There's no logic behind some of the ways options will or won't appear when I really need them. Computers should not try to guess what I want to do.
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Anyone still use JOE?
By IndigoJo on 2017-03-17 19:56:19
WordStar was my main WP back when I used a DOS-based PC. Lots of people had pirated copies of it back then, but it was really easy to use although when we moved over from the Ability WP, some people didn't like the fact you couldn't just use the cursor keys to move beyond the *end* of the document (i.e. to add more text further down) -- Ability presented you with a sort of neverending document and if you wanted to start a new page, you just hit Pg Down.

Years later, when I started using Linux, I used the JOE editor to edit basic text files and it had a WordStar-like mode which borrowed some of the keystrokes from the old editor (which had a "Nondocument" mode for editing plain text files). I found it much simpler than Vi or Emacs for small files.
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RE[2]: Less is more
By BlueofRainbow on 2017-03-17 20:35:17
I am noticing the "Edited 2017-03-17 11:46 UTC".

I am curious about how one can edit his/her own post.
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