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

Subject: Re: Lousy Word Procs (was: WordPerfect (Ugh!))
From: Ian White <ian -at- IFWTECH -dot- DEMON -dot- CO -dot- UK>
Date: Sat, 14 Dec 1996 12:06:58 +0000

Dan Strychalski wrote:

>> 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.

I don't think so - while diamonding away with your left hand, what are
you doing with the other one?

Speed of typing and editing is highly relevant to tech-writers
(obligatory justification of message) and that's why I stuck with
WordStar for as long as possible, before changing to Word for Windows
because that's what my clients asked for.

Having used WordStar since the CP/M days on a basic tty keyboard,
I found the biggest single step forward was a real keyboard - one that
had a set of independent cursor keys for the right hand, and two
vertical rows of function keys for the left. You could use the right
hand to move around the document (with help from the Ctrl key), and then
do things to the text using a large number of Alt-Ctrl-Shift-Function
keystroke combinations - all readily available under the left hand.

It's very quick - which is why I still use Word in the same mode,
configured to use the function keys up the left side of an original IBM
AT-style keyboard. Drive the mouse or cursor keys with the right hand,
and do all the most commonly-used editing operations with the left. Both
hands move outwards for editing, and back to the center of the keyboard
for typing.

For my kind of writing, involving no long periods of either typing or
editing, but almost always a complex mixture of both, I find that any
other software/keyboard configuration is less efficient because it makes
the hands move about much more than necessary.

What brings the speed when editing is that the work of both hands is
interleaved - just as it is when typing. While one hand is doing an
operation, the other can already be moving to anticipate the next.
It's also important that no common operation should require a major
shift across the keyboard. From that point of view, the keyboard layout
with function keys all along the top is an ergonomic disaster.

>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?).

Of course there are - large numbers of DOS-based products still have the
WS diamond available as a default, and more importantly the editing
keystrokes too. For example, any developer using the Borland editor
toolbox inherits WS compatibility by default. It's the lingua franca of
editor keyboard interfaces, and therefore useful to know.

>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.


>P.S. Yes, Virginia, there is a WordStar for Windows.

A contradiction in terms, which is why there isn't even a WordStar
company any more.

For my money, the "best" WP is the one that's most configurable to meet
individual needs. That was precisely why WordStar *was* one of the best.
It had an enormous influence that we can still recognize in today's WP
products, but its time has passed.

Ian White | IFW Technical Services, Abingdon, England
| Clear English for high-technology companies

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