Back in the days of MS-DOS, before Microsoft Windows and PC-based WYSIWYG word processors had become the norm, WordPerfect was the dominant program used in legislative legal drafting. It pioneered redlining and strikeout features, which, along with the ability to dig into formatting with reveal codes, were killer features for lawyers everywhere transitioning to computers from typewriters.
The option to have line numbers on tables was very useful in the legislature when it came to working budget bills, for example, and features like this are what set WordPerfect apart as the new digital “gold standard” for legal professionals.
But times have changed, and so too have drafting applications and their functionality: the need for reveal codes is not the differentiator it once was. Styles-based drafting is much more advanced now than it was back in the 1980s and is a more robust way of handling formatting than the code-by-code manipulation of a document. Especially nowadays when formatting needs to accommodate online as well as paper output formats.
A diminishing ecosystem
Though WordPerfect is still a commercially supported product, now owned by Canadian company Corel, its roadmap, in comparison to its competition, is somewhat unclear. Market share and advocates appear to be dwindling due in no small part to difficulties keeping up with the speed at which Microsoft has continued to roll out new and advanced Word features to match users’ changing needs.
With fewer and fewer legal publishers even accepting WordPerfect files, and fewer and fewer executive branch agencies and external law firms using it, it seems likely that it will soon cease to be a viable option in legislative environments.
Though there has been – and will continue to be – resistance to changing from a system that already does the job in favour of an alternative, the time has come to look at the needs of the legislature as a whole – the technology landscape as it is today – and put that before concerns over reveal codes, re-coding macros, and so forth.
MS Word: a clear leader for legal drafting
Microsoft Word, with massive market share and a clear roadmap for integrating Word online in the form of cloud-based Office 365, has become the go-to choice for legal drafters in legislatures today, especially with its new XML capabilities.
MS Word has a huge ecosystem of third-party tools and add-ons, in stark contrast to any of its competitors. Its styles-centric approach offers a much more efficient approach to drafting when you need to consider both online and paper versions of bills, statutes, amendments, and so on.
MS Word: an inevitable migration
The bottom line is that most lawyers are now using MS Word exclusively, and one of the biggest legal publishers has stopped accepting WordPerfect files altogether. Most legislatures that continue to use WordPerfect now find themselves having to juggle both WordPerfect and MS Word. As a result, the question of migration from WordPerfect has moved from being an “if” to a “when.”
At Propylon, we know that making such a transition comes with fears and challenges, that’s why we prioritize putting time and effort into determining which aspects of WordPerfect you regard as irreplaceable and demonstrate their comparable forms in a MS Word environment.
We also spend time training users on how to use the new program and do the tasks you are used to doing in a new format. Our deep knowledge of both platforms, coupled with our domain expertise, helps ensure a successful transition.