Saturday, September 18, 2010

Wordstar

Wordstar 3.x was not the first word processor I used, but it was the first word processor I used to write a book. It was a DOS application, did not have automatic footnoting, and had no WYSYWIG capabilites, but it worked well.[1] I abandoned it for MS-Word after I finished the book because it had these capabilities.

Believe it or not, there are still some people using Wordstar today. One of the best articles singing the praises of Wordstar is Wordstar: A Writer's Word Processor by Robert J. Sawyer. His main reasons for liking it are (i) it's good for touch typists, and (ii) it uses what he calls the "long-hand metaphor." Sawyer argues there are "two basic metaphors for pre-computer writing. One is the long-hand manuscript page. The other is the typewritten page. Most word processors have decided to emulate the second — and, at first glance, that would seem to be the logical one to adopt." Yet, he thinks the long-hand metaphor is better for writing. Instead of having to focus on the next character, you can jump around, mark up and edit the document at will.

The two metaphors are, of course not mutually exclusive, but they certainly do make a difference.

The article repays careful reading—or so I believe.


1. For a description, see this Wikipedia article.

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