Ugh, word processors make most common jobs the hardest to do

My wife once said complaining is my hobby, but I straightened her out. A columnist
complains for a living. Arguing with her is my hobby.

In this column, I plan to complain about modern word processors—Corel WordPerfect
specifically, because I don’t have the latest version of Microsoft Word. When it
arrives, it’s sure to get a fair share of complaints.

I still like to write in WordPerfect 4.1 because it’s small and fast, runs from a
floppy and is completely familiar.

Newer versions cannot do some of 4.1’s tricks, or else the tricks are so buried
among a zillion useless bells and whistles that I haven’t found them.

I noticed this again in writing a column with the newest WordPerfect. Parenthetically,
why on earth should anything have a version number such as

I always capitalize POWER USER at the top of a column and have a handy WordPerfect 4.1
macro to do that for me, but old macros don’t move easily into new software versions.
So I typed the words in lower case and picked up the mouse to highlight them, confident
that WordPerfect would have a simple way to capitalize.

First I tried hitting the Shift key. It made no difference. Next I looked to the third
WordPerfect tool bar from the top—the one that takes up two rows of working space and
exercises incredible control over the fonts.

I found that I could select anything from Allegro BT to Zurich Ex BT or about 50 fonts
in between, most having about 100 standard sizes.

Moving right along the tool bar, I saw that I could make the two words bold, italicize
them, underline them, change their colors and justify, or do several other things. But I
couldn’t capitalize.

Am I the only user in the world who does such simple things far more often than he sets
text in fancy script? I spent five more minutes trying to find an easy way to capitalize a
block of letters. No luck.

Then I decided to remove that particular tool bar. But what was it called—Property
Bar, Application Bar or WordPerfect 8?

Those were the only checked tool bars in the View and Toolbars pull-down menus. It
turned out that the bar in question is called the Property Bar.

Then I tried the top tool bar. Caps are part of a font, right? I clicked on Format and
selected Font from the pull-down menu. It seems that the new WordPerfect lets you change
small caps under Font, but not regular caps.

Eventually I unearthed what I was looking for under Edit, ConvertCase. Why should I
have to spend several minutes trying to find how to do something so obviously useful? Yet
I could have changed the text from 12-point Times New Roman to a ridiculous 71-point
Copperplate Gothic in two mouse clicks.

You’d think a modern office suite would concentrate on common instead of uncommon
tasks. Maybe there’s a way that doesn’t require drilling down through three
menus, but I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel. I just wanted to get a column

It would have taken far less time to retype the column head with the Caps Lock key on
than to figure out how to make WordPerfect do it.

WordPerfect happens to be a word processor I really like. Just imagine what I could
complain about otherwise.       

John McCormick, a free-lance writer and computer consultant, has been working with
computers since the early 1960s. E-mail him at

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