Thursday, September 13, 2007


Writing import filters for different WordPerfectTM file-formats can be fun and rewarding. Nevertheless, apart one rare exception, all WordPerfectTM versions run on non-free systems (Solaris Sparc, Mac OS, Micro$oft Windows). As a free and opensource software developer, moved by the will to be consistent with my own convictions, I develop using free operating system. But for filter development, and especially in cases where the documentation available is rather sketchy, it is a necessity to do some reverse-engineering. For this, one is really obliged to have working copies of different versions of WP. And also to run some versions of non-free operating systems. Nevertheless, having a server room in one's appartment can be considered as wife-and-kids-unfriendly act, and rebooting every five minutes to another partition is not so efficient workflow-wise. The good news is that a big part of the problem can be solved using free software.

For Windows versions, a solution was already outlined by Ariya some time ago. I modified a little bit the software installed and managed to fit all the necessary Windows and DOS versions of WordPerfectTM on less then half GB disk image running a 98lite-modified version of Windows 98SE. The screenshot of this situation can be found here. The advantage is that such an image is fitting quite confortably on a USB stick.

Another problem was the Mac OS versions. And here it is really crucial to have a running versions. Because for some of the old file-formats, the only documentation that web is able to give you is the libwpd source code and this blog entry. And inspite of the "Mac Mini donated by unnamed on behalf of unnamed", the situation was less then optimal. Besides the fact that my KVM switch supports only PS/2 keyboard/mouse ports and a normal VGA monitor connector, it is quite difficult to use the Mac Mini when traveling. And frankly, MacOSX is quite an overkill for applications that install and work happily in a MacOS8 running on a Quadra. After looking on internet, I decided to give a ride to the Basilisk II emulator. After some time of struggling and helped extensively by Filip Molcan, Hubert Figuiere and hsfutils, I am able to run a little MacIntosh on each of my GNU/Linux computers, i386 as well as x86_64.

Although I installed all this thing on a disk image of 512MB, I realze that I have still more then 400MB of free space there. But even 512MB is small enough to back it up on a CD and put it somewhere on a USB stick. I also have to admit that I am quite impressed by the stability and speed of BasiliskII emulation. On modern processors, the emulated MacOS8 works faster than I ever have seen it running on a native Apple hardware back then when we were still young and handsome. I will not go into the details of the installation, but if the popular demand is there, I might document things that are not well documented on the web.

So, now only one little problem remains. How to run the WordPerfectTM 5.1 for Solaris Sparc? Anybody knows about an emulator that could run the version 2.5 of this proprietary system?