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 Author:   Perfect Software
 Family:   CPMEditorFamily WordProcessorFamily
 Platform: CP/M
 Liscense: Commercial

PerfectWriter was an Emacs clone for the CP/M operating system, created by the [Mark of the Unicorn] company. The venerable Kaypro computer system came with two word processors installed by default: WordStar and PerfectWriter. Unlike WordStar, PerfectWriter stored its files in plain 7-bit ASCII, so its files were always readable by third party software. The PerfectWriter documentation never mentioned that its keybindings, method of operation, or look-and-feel were copied from Emacs. An Emacs user who uses PerfectWriter for the first time will instantly know nearly all of the commands.

PerfectWriter was accompanied by a team of other "Perfect" programs which worked in conjunction with it: Perfect Speller, Perfect Formatter, Perfect Filer, and others I cannot remember. There was also a wrapper program to make the various programs in the Perfect series available from a centralized menu.

Unlike WordStar, which would sometimes crash or freeze up, requiring a reboot (cold boot, hard reset) of the operating system, PerfectWriter was bullet-proof software. It almost never crashed, and if it would crash on a very rare occasion, the user could always retrieve a copy of the most recent edit of the files. PerfectWriter utilized a "swap file" for virtual memory, and if one would frequently edit large files, the solution was to increase the size of the "swap file" so that it would always be substantially larger than the size of the file being edited.

Like Emacs, PerfectWriter let the user completely remap the keyboard. One of my best friends, Jon Trott, loved the intuitiveness of the WordStarDiamond, but also loved the stability of PerfectWriter, so he wrote and distributed an "alternate" keymap for PerfectWriter -- Perf*Star, which was PerfectWriter that worked substantially like WordStar. I still have the instruction manual for Perf*Star. About four years after I dumped CP/M and entered the DOS world, I discovered Emacs and then discovered that Emacs was the source for PerfectWriter. Though I felt cheated in a way, it was also like being reacquainted with a long-lost friend.

Some reviews and commentary:

Note: Perfect Writer was based on MOTU's Mince. In, Bridger Mitchell says:

Perfect Writer is an imperfectly-realized modification of MINCE that put the command-bindings into the swap file (making the bindings configurable without recompilation), added hooks for spell and help modes, and wrapped the editor and formatter inside an optional shell menu. It was marketed by Perfect Software, which was bought by Thorne-EMI.

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Last edited May 13, 2015 6:42 pm (diff)