Microsoft Word is a perennial favorite among word processing software applications. It is everywhere — from school homework to legal case files. However, not that long ago there was also WordPerfect — another essential word processing tool that was popular during the 1980s-1990s. Now it remains alive in legal, which is especially evident in occasional social media wars in comments to posts about WordPerfect vs MS Word case. But even among lawyers, Word has outcompeted WordPerfect. Why?
The rise and fall of WordPerfect
Back at the peak of its popularity, WordPerfect was one of the pioneering word processing software along with WordStar and ClarisWorks (now AppleWorks). WordPerfect was widely used in various professions but, in the end, it has survived in the legal industry.
Many lawyers love WordPerfect for the Reveal Code and Make It Fit features that may seem to lack in MS Word. The Reveal Code feature divides documents into blocks that are easy to edit independently, which is especially handy if you’re composing a contract or a litigation document.
The Make It Fit feature helps fix the document formatting without ruining its whole structure — a killer feature for a nitpicky drafter.
Although similar results can be achieved in Word using different instruments, some lawyers are reluctant to move to Microsoft’s tools. “Older paralegals grew up with WordPerfect, and many still prefer to use it,” said Jackie Van Dyke, Certified Paralegal, Owner/Writing Coach at The Paralegal Writer™, and Paralegal Studies Professor. “If you are familiar with the original codes and adept at the macros, why switch?” Still, even with these lawyer-friendly tools, WordPerfect failed to overpower MS Word in legal.
So what exactly made MS Word stand out?
Ultimately, Word is compatible with most business software applications and formats. Word is supported on multiple devices, and most other software tools work with Word documents. Furthermore, unlike WordPerfect, MS Word can be installed and run both on Windows and macOS. In the 2020 Bloomberg Law research, 73% of the surveyed lawyers shared that in law firms compatibility with already installed technology is the key factor when adopting legal tech. Although the latest version of WordPerfect includes many features for lawyers, at this point it cannot be easily integrated with the workflow of lawyers and their clients.
“In every law office setting that I have worked in, I have never been introduced to any other word editor, other than Microsoft Word,” shared Berlinda Bernard, a paralegal, writer, and blogger for Quintessential Pillar. “The few times WordPerfect has been mentioned is when legal professionals are reminiscing and making comparisons. However, I have never heard anyone say they want to go back.”
Since MS Word is a default Windows software that is designed by Microsoft, Word has become universal. It is able to fit the needs of every user, and it does not require much additional learning. “Microsoft Word is the leading word editor because it is most favored and used in almost every setting, from home, academia to the professional office,” Berlinda Bernard told Loio.
In addition to universality, MS Word allows users to install add-ins (extensions) that can give an extra edge at industry-specific tasks. The add-in feature is new, it is being updated, and it enables MS Word to be even more accessible for all — no matter what your specialization is. “Word is instinctively easy to use. There are so many shortcuts to make writing and editing easier, too,” concluded Jackie Van Dyke.
The success of Microsoft Word stands on the three pillars of compatibility, universality, and accessibility. It is thanks to these pillars that MS Word has outplayed WordPerfect in the modern world of tech. The story of Word vs WordPerfect carries a valuable lesson for all tech vendors. Whenever you are deciding between killer features and integration with other software applications, go for integration. Otherwise, no unique software features can save it from the ever-expanding tech market.
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