Liam Proven (liam_on_linux) wrote,
Liam Proven

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Did you know that you can 100% legally get & run WordPerfect for free?

In fact, there are two free versions: one for Classic MacOS, made freeware when WordPerfect discontinued Mac support, and a native Linux version, for which Corel offered a free, fully-working, demo version.

But there is a catch – of course: they're both very old and hard to run on a modern computer. I'm here to tell you how to get them and how to install and run them.

WordPerfect came to totally dominate the DOS wordprocessor market, crushing pretty much all competition before it, and even today, some people consider it to be the ultimate word-processor ever created.

Indeed the author of that piece maintains a fan site that will tell you how to download and run WordPerfect for DOS on various modern computers,  if you have a legal copy of it. And, of course, if you run Windows, then the program is still very much alive and well and you can buy it from Corel Corp.

Sadly, the DOS version has never been made freeware. It still works – I have it running under PC-DOS 7.1 on an old Core 2 Duo Thinkpad, and it's blindingly fast. It also works fine on dosemu. It is still winning new fans today. Even the cut-down LetterPerfect still cost money. The closest thing to a free version is the plain-text-only WordPerfect Editor.

Edit: I do not know if Corel operates a policy like Microsoft, where owning a new version allows you run any older version. It may be worth asking.

But WordPerfect was not, originally, a DOS or a PC program. It was originally developed for a Data General minicomputer, and only later ported to the PC. In its heyday, it also ran on classic MacOS, the Amiga, the Atari ST and more. I recall installing a text-only native Unix version on SCO Xenix 386 for a customer. In theory, this could run on Linux using iBCS2 compatibility.

When Mac OS X loomed on the horizon, WordPerfect Corporation discontinued the Mac version – but when they did so, they made the last ever release, 3.5e, freeware.

WordPerfect 3.5e 
(Image source.)

Of course, this is not a great deal of use unless you have a Mac that can still run Classic – which today means a PowerPC Mac with Mac OS X 10.4 or earlier. However, hope springs eternal: there is a free emulator called SheepShaver that can emulate classic MacOS on Intel-based Macs, and the WPDOS site has a downloadable, ready-to-use instance of the emulator all set up with MacOS 9 and WordPerfect for Mac.

To be legal, of course, you will need to own a copy of MacOS 9 – that, sadly, isn't free. Efforts are afoot to get it to run natively on some of the later PowerMac G4 machines on which Apple disabled booting the classic OS. I must try this on my Mac mini G4 and iBook G4.

The non-Windows version of WordPerfect that lived the longest, though, was the Linux edition. Corel was very keen on Linux. It had its own Linux distro, Corel LinuxOS, which had a very smooth modified KDE and was the first distro to offer graphical screen-resolution setting. Corel made its own ARM-based Linux desktop, the NetWinder, as reviewed in LinuxJournal.

And of course it made WordPerfect available for Linux.

Edit: Sadly, though, Microsoft intervened, as it is wont to do. The programs in WordPerfect Office originally came from different vendors. Some reviews suggested that the slightly different looks and feels of the different apps would be a problem, compared to the more uniform look and feel of MS Office. (The Microsoft apps in Office 4 were very different from one another. Office 95 and Office 97 had a lot of effort put in to make them more alike, and not much new functionality.)

Corel was persuaded to license the MS Office look-and-feel – the button bars and designs – and the macro language (Visual BASIC for Applications) and incorporate them into WordPerfect Office.

But the deal had a cost above the considerable financial one: Corel had to discontinue all its Linux efforts. So it sold off Corel LinuxOS, which became Xandros. It sold its NetWinder hardware, which became independent. It killed off its native Linux app, and ended development of WordPerfect Office for Linux, which was a port of the then-current Windows version using Winelib. In fact, Corel contributed quite a lot of code to the WINE Project at this time in order to bring WINE up to a level where it could completely and stably support all of WordPerfect Office.

I'm not sure if the text-only WordPerfect for Unix ever had a native Linux version – I didn't see it if it did – but a full graphical version of WordPerfect 8 was included with Corel LinuxOS and also sold at retail. Corel offered both a free edition with fewer bundled fonts, as well as a paid version.

This is still out there – although most of its mirrors are long gone, the Linux Documentation Project has it. It's not trivial to install a 20-year-old program on a modern distro, but luckily, help is at hand. The XWP8Users site has offered some guidance for many years, but I confess I never got it to work except by installing a very old version of Linux in a VM. For instance, it's easy enough to get it running on Ubuntu 8.04 or 8.10 – Corel LinuxOS was a Debian-derivative, and so is Ubuntu.

The problem is that even in these days of containers for everything, Ubuntu 8 is older than anything supports. Linux containers came along rather later than 2008. In fact, in 2011 I predicted that containers were going to be the Next Big Thing. (I was right, too.)

So I've not been able to find any easy way to create an Ubuntu 8.04 container on modern Ubuntu. If anyone knows, or is up for the challenge, do please get in touch!

But the "Ex WP8 Users" site folk have not been idle, and a few months ago, they released a big update to their installation instructions. Now, there's a script, and all you need to do is download the script, grab the WordPerfect 8.0 Downloadable Personal Edition (DPE), put them in a folder together and run the script, and voilá. I tried it on Ubuntu 20.04 and it works a treat so long as I run it as root. I have not seen any reports from anyone else about this, so it might be just my installation.

Read about it and get the script here.


For more info, read the WordPerfect for Linux FAQ. This includes instructions on adding new fonts, fixing the MS Word import filter and some other useful info.

From the discussion on Hackernews and the FAQ, I should note that there are terms and conditions attached to the free  WP 8.0 DPE. It is only free for personal, non-commercial use, and some people interpret Corel's licence as meaning that although it was a free download, it is not redistributable. This means that if you did not obtain it from Corel's own Linux site (taken down in 2003) or from an authorised re-distributor (such as bundled with SUSE Linux up to 6.1 and early versions of Mandrake Linux, and the "WordPerfect for Linux Bible" hardcopy book, and a few resellers) then it is not properly licensed.

I dispute this: as multiple vendors did re-distribute it and Corel took no action, I consider it fair play. I also very much doubt that anyone will use this in a commercial setting in 2021.

If you are interested in the more complete WordPerfect 8.1, I note that it was included in Corel LinuxOS Deluxe Edition and that this is readily downloaded today, for example from the Internet Archive or from ArchiveOS. However, unless you bought a licence to this, this is not freeware and does not include a licence for use today.

r/linux - A blast from the past: native WordPerfect 8 for Linux running on Fedora 13. It still works! [pic]
(Image source.)


If you really want a free full-function word-processor for DOS, which runs very well under DOSemu on Linux, I suggest Microsoft Word 5.5. MS made this freeware at the turn of the century as a free Y2K update for all previous versions of Word for DOS.

How to get it:
Microsoft Word for DOS — it’s FREE

Sadly, MS didn't make the last ever version of Word for DOS free. It only got one more major release, Word 6 for DOS. This has the same menu layout and the same file format as Word 6 for Windows and Word 6 for Mac, and also Word 95 in Office 95 (for Win95 and NT4). It's a little more pleasant to use, but it's not freeware — although if you own a later version of Word, the licence covers previous versions too.

Here is a comparison of the two:
Microsoft Word 5.5 And 6.0 In-depth DOS Review With Pics
Tags: classic macos, corel, linux, wordperfect

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