WordStar

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WordStar was a popular WordProcessor on CP/M and MS-DOS.

 Author:      Micropro International (Rob Barnaby)
 Information: http://www.wordstar.org/
 Fan Site:    http://www.grifwood.com/wordstar
 Command Set: [WS Commands]
 Family:      WordProcessorFamily WordStarFamily
 Platform:    CP/M, MS-DOS, Windows
 License:     Commercial  
 Screenshot: (WordStar 7 under Windows XP)

It came bundled with the purchase of several CP/M computer systems, such as the Kaypro. By the time Microsoft Windows was released, the popularity of WordStar was waning in favor of more powerful word processors such as WordPerfect and Microsoft Word.

Two special features marked WordStar: its keymap (or KeyboardLayout) and its document format.

(1) The WordStar keymap (see WordStarDiamond) was designed to be fully functional without a mouse or using the cursor keys. Everything could be done from the main keyboard. The command set for cursor/page/screen movement, deletion, and block operations was intuitive and easy to learn. Without the need to take one's hands off the keyboard, the skilled typist could edit more quickly than with Microsoft Word or many other competitors. This command set was adopted by Borland in its TurboPascal product. Today, VisualStudio (Microsoft) and MultiEdit (American Cybernetics) include WordStar emulation.

(2) The WordStar document format forced several third-party programs (such as Norton Utilities, Buerg Software, XTree, and others) to support the WordStar way of viewing ASCII text. WordStar had two "modes" of operation: a document mode and a nondocument mode.

In nondocument mode, WordStar could be used to edit source code. It produced flat (7-bit) ASCII files that would compile on any compiler.

In document mode, WordStar supported justified text with even margins on the right (as opposed to "ragged-right" or unjustified text), "soft" spaces, visual indications of page breaks, etc. To accomplish this, WordStar used the 8th bit of the printable ASCII characters. To indicate that a line of text could have spaces added (if needed) for justification, WordStar set the 8th bit of the last character of each word. (E.g., this would change "this" to "thi≤"). To indicate "soft returns" (lines it was okay to reformat), Wordstar changed the CP/M or DOS line endings from 0D 0A (hex) to 8D 0A. Lines that ended in 0D 0A were "hard returns" in this system. Within WordStar itself, everything looked normal, but third-party viewing, searching, and file-find programs had to "strip" the high bits if they were processing WordStar files.

Once the dominant WordProcessor, WordStar was wiped out by WordPerfect, which was then wiped out by MicrosoftWord. One history of WordStar is available at http://www.wordstar.org/wordstar/history/history.htm

A detailed explanation of why WordStar was superior for writers can be found at http://www.sfwriter.com/wordstar.htm by Hugo Award winning SF Writer Robert J. Sawyer.


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