Monday, April 30, 2018

Running WordStar on FreeDOS

You may have heard that Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin uses WordStar 4.0 to write his books. I thought it would be interesting to go back and look at this classic word processor, WordStar 4.0, on FreeDOS.

Maybe you've heard of WordStar but haven't used it. And that wouldn't be a surprise; WordStar is a very old program. Originally written for CP/M 8-bit computer systems in the late 1970s, WordStar was later ported to MS-DOS systems in the early 1980s. WordStar was one of the first programs for DOS.

At the time, WordStar was noted for being a difficult program—although today you might find it quite simple. But that doesn't mean WordStar will be very easy for new users. If you haven't used WordStar before, be prepared for a learning curve.

WordStar opens with a menu where users can open a document, print a file, or do other file operations:

WordStar includes several sample documents that demonstrate various features of the word processor, or provide an opportunity to experiment with the system. I opened an existing document (TEXT.DOC, containing an excerpt from Gulliver's Travels) as a simple demo of WordStar. The upper third of the screen is devoted to a quick-reference menu of WordStar's functions. As you become more familiar with WorStar, you can turn off display of this menu, giving you more screen area to display your document.

Unfortunately, WordStar is not open source software, so we cannot include it in future FreeDOS distributions. But it's interesting to try out this original DOS application.

(screenshots are QEMU, resized to 533×400)

1 comment:

  1. Somehow, every good-looking DOS editor looks like a front end to FreeDOS Edlin.