Re: Lousy Word Procs (was: WordPerfect (Ugh!))

Subject: Re: Lousy Word Procs (was: WordPerfect (Ugh!))
From: dski -at- CAMEONET -dot- CAMEO -dot- COM -dot- TW
Date: Fri, 13 Dec 1996 14:53:20 +0800

Writing of word processors he considers lousy, David Jones entered --

> WordStar for any text-interface OS (DOS, CPM, etc.) Never could keep
> the keystrokes straight, even with help turned on, and never figured
> out the tedious "dot" (.) commands used for formatting. But it's
> another one that many high-volume writers used (and may still use).

The WordStar Mailing List offers ample proof that many high-volume
writers still use WordStar. Rub some of those folks the wrong way and you
might find yourself having to answer a three-thousand-word treatise
before the day is out.

I didn't *think* I could keep the keystrokes straight, either, until the
fateful day I turned the main menu off as an experiment (the help is on
by default, David). It sure is nice to realize you can have faith in
yourself. Eventually I got to thinking about those keystrokes, and I came
to some other realizations:

- Movement is all on the left hand: cursor control, screen scrolling
(cursor-independent, no scroll bars required), find, and find-and-
replace. The incredible diamond is there, the scrolling keys are in a
square around that, and there's an accelerator/repeat key (you can
make any command repeat itself continuously at a dynamically variable
rate; neat-o!). You can move around at will in a document while
scratching your nose, answering the phone, flipping through a
reference, and so forth. With your left pinky on Ctrl (next to the A
key, of course), accuracy is a bit diminished at first, so you don't
want instantly destructive functions in that block. No way.

- Destructive keystrokes are all in the middle of the keyboard. With
your pinky on Ctrl (next to the A key, of course), you have to reach a
bit for a few of them, but those keys have to be used for something,
and deletions are the best choice. I would (and did) rearrange this
block a bit, but it's still the chopping block. After all, Ctrl-H is
Backspace in every encoding method from ASCII to Unicode, every text-
based system from CP/M to Unix, and every CP/M and early DOS
application program. Just as Ctrl-I is Tab, Ctrl-M is Return/Enter,
and Ctrl-[ is Escape. And we're all for non-proprietary standards,
aren't we?

Two other pesky things that you don't want to hit by mistake are in
the middle: insert/typeover and paragraph tidy-up. (Paragraph tidy-up
is automatic in later versions of WordStar, though you can change it
back to manual at any time. Flexible. Remember flexibility?)

- Ctrl-P is for print enhancements. Ctrl-O is for on-screen formatting.
Ctrl-K is for block operations, including operations on the entire
file. Ctrl-L? Last search or search-and-replace. Ctrl-U? Undo. I
challenge anyone NOT to keep those straight. I challenge any touch
typist not to find such keystrokes better than Alt or a mouse for
opening menus (assuming Ctrl is next to the A key, of course). And
please don't tell me, as some have, that a mouse is better because a
five-year-old can use it. Sheesh!

Ctrl-J seems like a strange choice for help (extra help or changing
the help level, that is), but Ctrl-H is sacred, and the main screen
tells you what the help key is, so why not? It's a lot closer than F1,
isn't it, touch typists? Besides, WordStar runs on a wide variety of
computers, some of which -- steel yourselves, now -- don't have an F1
key, or even an Alt key! (By the way, remember variety?)

Communicators we may be, as opposed to "just" writers, but the writing
part of our jobs seems important enough to justify learning keystrokes
that facilitate it. The effort is paltry; the benefits are tremendous.
When every control function is a natural extension of basic typing
skills, using a computer is amazingly efficient, and a very special joy.

Dot commands, tedious? Typing `.mt 3' is more tedious than opening a
menu, choosing a command, tabbing or clicking, typing `3', and clicking
OK or pressing Enter? Come ON, now. In later versions of WordStar you can
go through the whole pointy-clicky rigamarole if you want to, and the
program will insert the dot command for you. Want to duplicate a dot
command? Three keystrokes. Hide them all? Two. Insert one that acts as a
ruler line? Tip-tap, done. Search for them, edit them, move them, delete
them? All the same techniques as you use for text. Now that's elegant.
(Remember elegance?)

Want to allow periods to appear at the left margin in your text? Change
the "dot" command character to a closing parenthesis. Bulge commands!

Note also that once you type `.mt 3', your body text starts three
whatevers from the top of the sheet no matter WHAT you do (except type
`.mt 4', of course). Headers and footers are positioned relative to your
body text, so you just set aside some room and put 'em in, take 'em out,
or move 'em around at any time without affecting a single page break. I
was a menace to society for a while after learning how certain other
programs handle headers and footers....

> Reportedly, the "WordStar diamond" cursor movement layout is *still*
> the most ergonomic of any wordprocessing program.

Sources say the human hand hasn't changed much since 1979, so yeah, you
can believe those reports. There are also reports that the diamond has
been copied by everyone from freeware authors to the almighty MS. Easy
enough to check out, especially as there's hardly anyone left in between
(remember free markets?).

Don't stop at word processing, though. At least one Web browser uses the
diamond for document and menu navigation. And wherever keystrokes can be
changed, you can be sure someone has changed them to WordStar keystrokes.
You can get a ready-made WordStar keyboard setup for Word or WordPerfect
from most large FTP sites. I use my own in WordPerfect and DrawPerfect
(tried to do it in Word, too, but Word is beyond salvation). Imagine
that: the speed of DOS, formatting capabilities that in some respects far
surpass those of Word, WYSIWYG print preview, linking and embedding --
and every function and command within three quarters of an inch (1.9 cm,
metric fans) of your fingertips. Hear that cat meowin'?

Being able to use WordStar keystrokes has made it possible for me to love
WordPerfect for DOS. If nothing else I've said makes an impression, maybe
THAT will.

A diamond is forever.

Dan Strychalski
dski -at- cameonet -dot- cameo -dot- com -dot- tw

P.S. Yes, Virginia, there is a WordStar for Windows. Those who would
gladly drive a Gatesmobile and have Gatesies for breakfast every
morning can use WordStar without fear of eternal damnation.


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