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Underdocumented WordPerfect Features

About this page | Macros: Record pause-for-input | Customize the spelling dictionary | Typography: Automatic ligature substitution | Replace text strings with attribute codes | Final blank page does not print | WP enhancement lists | Home page

About this page

WordPerfect for DOS is so packed with features that some were never described in the printed manuals or help files. They are only known through experimentation, or because they were described only in WordPerfect Corporation's documents that listed enhancements to interim versions. Some of the most notable of these will be listed below. The first few are offered in the hope that other users will contact me to suggest additions.

Macros: Record pause-for-input

While recording a WordPerfect 6.x macro, you can use a feature that will make the macro pause, during playback, at any dialog box so that a user can select options, or enter search strings or similar text, before the macro continues playback. In 32-bit WordPerfect for Windows (and in Microsoft Word), this pause-for-input feature can only be used by writing macro program code, but in WPDOS6.x (and in 16-bit versions of WPWIN), the feature can be invoked while recording.

Here is the method. While a macro is being recorded, and only while a macro is being recorded, dialog boxes display a special checkbox near the right edge of the top border, like this:

WP dialog box with open square brackets near right end of top border

You can press Ctrl-M, or click in the box with the mouse, to enter a checkmark, as shown below. This checkmark indicates that the macro will automatically pause at the same dialog when the macro runs.

WP dialog box with X-mark between square brackets near right end of top border

Note: If Ctrl-M does not enter the checkmark, your keyboard definition assigns some other function to Ctrl-M; before recording the macro, press Ctrl-6 to restore the original WP keyboard, and press Ctrl-6 twice after recording the macro to return to your preferred keyboard definition.

This feature makes recorded macros in WordPerfect 6.x far more convenient than the recorded macros in any other word processor, including current Windows word processors.

Customize the spelling dictionary

WordPerfect 6.x for DOS, unlike all current Windows word processors, gives users total control over the program's spelling checker. One unique feature is an option that makes the spell-checker skip a word whenever you check the current document, but makes it continue to flag the word as a misspelling when it occurs in another document. Other word processors only have options to skip a word during the current spell-checking session, or to skip it permanently (and WPDOS of course offers these options also).

Other unique options let you remove words from the spelling dictionary or customize the hyphenation settings. To use these options, run SPELL.EXE (in the Writing Tools directory) and follow the menus.

Note: The ability to edit language dictionaries is limited to .LEX and .SUP files; some early non-English versions of WPDOS 6.x used non-editable .MOR files for their language dictionaries.

Typography: Automatic ligature substitution

If kerning is turned on, WordPerfect 5.1 and 6.x automatically substitute ligatures (symbols in which two or more letters are linked together, not separate characters) for the letter combinations "fi," "fl," "ff," "ffi," and "ffl.". The substitution occurs at print-time (or in print preview), and the letters remain separate in the editing screen.

For this substitution to occur, the ligature characters must be present in the font. Standard PostScript fonts contain only the "fi" and "fl" ligatures, but all five ligatures are present in most of the PCL fonts built into the LaserJet series, and in all Bitstream Speedo fonts.

To turn on kerning (and ligature substitution) in either WP5.1 or WP6.x, use Shift-F8/Other/Printer Functions/Kerning.

This advanced feature (introduced in WP 5.1 on 31 December 1990) was not duplicated in any other word processor or desktop publishing program until Adobe InDesign added support for OpenType fonts in 2000.

Note: Donald Knuth's uniquely powerful TeX system has supported ligature substitution, and much else, since 1979, but TeX, unlike a word processor, is a post-processing system, and does not display line and page breaks while you type.

Replace text strings with attribute codes

In WPDOS 5.1, 6.0, and 6.1, you can create macros that replace text strings with the codes that turn character attributes on and off. This means you can type the words "this is BOLDON text in bold BOLDOFF followed by normal text," and then use a macro to replace the BOLDON string with the code that turns bold on, and replace the BOLDOFF string with the code that turns bold off. (At the "Replace with" prompt, the code that turns bold on can be entered by pressing F6; the code that turns bold off can be entered by pressing F6 twice and deleting the first of the two codes.)

WPDOS 6.2 lost the ability to replace text strings with attribute-on or attribute-off codes, but Ron Smith, a WordPerfect consultant, posted this workaround on the now-defunct CompuServe WPDOS forum: enter the [Bold On] code twice in the first replace string, and enter the [Bold Off] code twice in the second replace string. Although a duplicate code may appear in the document, the result will be the result that you want. (Thanks to Ed Plowman and Ron Smith.)

Final blank page does not print

WordPerfect for DOS 6.x is intelligent enough not to print a blank page that follows a page-break code at the end of a document. If you use macros to insert envelopes or other page types into your documents, and these pages end with a Hard Page code, your documents will have a blank page at the end, but WordPerfect automatically omits the blank page when printing the full document. This convenience feature is not available in WordPerfect for Windows. 

WordPerfect enhancement lists

WordPerfect Corporation distributed files listing enhancements to interim versions of WPDOS 5.1 and WPDOS 6.0b. The information on these lists was not available in the printed manuals, which were prepared for the initial release of 5.1 and 6.0. Copies of the enhancement list for WPDOS 5.1 (converted into text format; the original WP-format file is available in this self-extracting archive) and the much briefer enhancement list for WPDOS 6.0b are available from this site. (The files have been renamed for convenience.)

Detailed descriptions of differences among WPDOS 5.1 versions and differences among WPDOS 6.x versions have been prepared by Richard Wood and are available by following the links in this paragraph.

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