Happy to See Blue

Chen: As I write this column, I'm running the WordPerfect 11.0 word processor in Classic Mode.

One of my first cubicle jobs was at Syntron Bioresearch Inc., a pregnancy test manufacturer in Carlsbad, Calif., where I answered helpdesk calls and helped out in the rebate department. Back then, the company religiously used the DOS-based WordPerfect 5.1 word processor from Corel Inc. and I, a user of Microsoft Word, grudgingly learned to use—and then love—the F key shortcuts while typing away on that blue screen.

I was reminded of Syntron earlier this month while testing Corels WordPerfect Office 11.0. The suite, released in April, has enhanced its XML capabilities and comes with a really nice file converter that allows you to change groups of documents into a different file format. Old favorites including Reveal Codes and RealTime Preview have not gone away. Corel has even thrown in a light version of the Oxford English Dictionary, something wordsmiths will really appreciate.

Syntron switched to Microsoft Office not long after I left, but I still joke about the revered white text on blue screen with former colleagues from the company. People who did not have the opportunity to use the DOS-based WordPerfect interface back then may never understand, but that blue screen has some very devout fans. So devout, in fact, that my friends were excited to hear that Corel has added the ability to make the WordPerfect 11.0 word processor look and act like its predecessor of more than a decade ago.

Yes, Im well aware that its sad that I have friends who get excited about stuff like this. But apparently, were not the only ones. Corel executives told me they brought back the classic mode function in response to user feedback. There are users in the legal profession, they said, who swear they type much faster using the keyboard shortcuts than with newer program interfaces.

As I write this column, Im running the WordPerfect 11.0 word processor in Classic Mode, allowing me to work with the white text on blue background of 5.1. Im even using the keystroke commands to match—Corel includes a card with all the keystroke commands with its software package. Remember? F11 for Reveal Codes, F8 to underline.

While WordPerfect Office 11.0 may never upstage Microsoft Office, its refreshing to see there are situations when users actually smile at the sight of a blue screen.

Are there software programs youd like to see make a comeback? Let me know at anne_chen@ziffdavis.com.