WordPerfect 5.1
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WordPerfect 5.1

At her WP5.1 Centre, Mitzi Ponce describes this page as "an easy to follow tutorial that allows new users to get a quick start using WP5.1". The page is linked to other parts of the ABC Study Guide explaining related aspects of computing and writing. It helps you run WP5.1 in Windows, and to use it with other programs, and it has a list of the basic WP5.1 files, needed to run the program. If used with other programs, WP5.1 can be an integrating tool for everything you write on a computer. This web site (for example) is written in WP5.1 and draws on databases maintained in WP5.1.

I am grateful to Mitzi Ponce for drawing the network of WP5.1 users to my attention. The emails I receive show that there are still many other people in the world using WP5.1. If you are one of them, or want to be, you should study her site and follow the links to other WP5.1 sites. These include a way to (legally) buy WP5.1.

Wordperfect, WP5.1:

Wordperfect 5.1 is a wordprocessor that works in DOS. But it is more than this. For some of the other things it does you will need your own software and computer. But most can be done on networked copies.

On your own computer, WP5.1 can be run as a DOS application in Windows. If you do this you will be able to switch from WP5.1 to other applications at the press of a key (ALT/Tab). You will also be able to copy text from one application to another. From WP5.1 to email, for example. This, however, requires a different technique to the Cut and Paste method used between Windows applications.

Although WP5.1 is primarily a wordprocessor, it can also keep accounts (with Maths or Tables), provide you with a basic spreadsheet (with Tables), and a calculator (macro Calc), provide layouts for your pages (Columns, Tables and Graphics Boxes), include pictures in your documents (Graphics), make simple structured databases (Secondary Merge Files), select and sort addresses from a file and address envelopes and labels (Merge/Sort and Paper Size) and write your own programs for WP5.1 (Macros).

There are advantages to being able to do so many things in a simple wordprocessor. Especially as WP51 works quicker than Windows wordprocessors, because it is not always loading such a mass of programs. Furthermore the screen that one works from is plain, unencumbered by all the distracting icons of a Windows wordprocessor. WP51 is a strictly functional set of programs, that concentrates on getting the job done.

Another advantage is that WP5.1 can be run on old computers (with hardly any disk space or memory), as well as on new computers.

The more recent wordprocessors (designed to be run as Windows applications) can read WP5.1 files and can save files in WP5.1 format.

Function Keys:

Function Keys are the keys at the top of a computer keyboard labelled F1, F2, F3, F4, F5, F6, F7, F8, F9, F10, F11 and F12.

They have different functions in different programs. These functions are particularly important in an application like WordPerfect 5.1 which is usually operated by keyboard commands.

In WP5.1 the functions are:

F1: Cancel and undelete;
F2: Search;
F3: Help
F4: Indent
F5: List
F6: Bold
F7: Exit;
F8: Underline
F9: End Field
F10: Save
F11: Reveal Codes
F12: Block.

In addition, function keys have different functions when combined with the Control, Shift and ALT keys. The complete range of functions is set out in the WordPerfect 5.1 Template which you can call up onto the screen at any time by pressing F3: help twice. I have reproduced the information from this in the following table:

WordPerfect 5.1 Template (Enhanced Layout)

key alone + Control + Alt + Shift
F1 Cancel Shell Thesaurus SETUP
F2 Search down Spell Replace SEARCH UP
F3 Help Screen Reveal Codes SWITCH
F4 > Indent Move Block > Indent <
F5 List Text in/out Mark Text DATE/OUTLINE
F6 Bold Tab Align Flush Right CENTRE
F7 Exit Footnote Columns/Table PRINT
F8 Underline Font Style FORMAT
F9 End Field Merge/Sort Graphics MERGE CODES
F10 Save Macro Define Macro RETRIEVE
F11 Reveal Codes none none none
F12 Block none none none

Cancel (F1): When you are in WordPerfect 5.1 the key marked Esc (Escape) does not operate as an escape key. The key that can stop, or cancel, an operation in WP5.1 is F1 (Cancel).

F1 will cancel the effect or operation of any function key that displays a prompt or menu. This will be important for you if WP5.1 seems to be about to do something you do not want it to. For example: If you press F7, the Exit key, you are asked if you want to save your document. If you answer no, the prompt Exit Wordperfect? or Exit document? appears at the bottom of your screen, with the options yes, no or Cancel to return to document. By Cancel it means: press F1. This allows you to stop the exit function completely, so that your document remains on screen. Any other action will mean you lose any part of your document that has not been saved. In WP5.1, F1 is your safety button for pressing when things seem to be going wrong. It cancels an operation, and it can also undelete text that you have deleted.

Cut, Copy and Paste:

This is a particular way many computer applications have of moving or copying text, or other data.

The term is not used in WP5.1. If you cut and paste something in WP5.1, you move it. If you copy and paste in WP5.1, you just copy it. If your WP5.1 is running in Windows, you can also use the Windows clipboard.

The specific keys for moving and copying in WP5.1, are block (to select the text) and Control/F4, which gives you a range of choices, including moving and copying blocks, columns and rectangles. To find out about moving and copying text in WP5.1, press Control/F4 and then F3 (Help)

Moving and copying in wordprocessors can be done by other methods as well. One of these is deleting and replacing the text one or more times. In WP5.1 you can also make variables. You do this by blocking a word, or phrase, pressing Control/PgUp, then a number, then Enter. Once this is done, pressing Alt and the number at any time during the session, will type whatever you blocked. In this way, you can carry up to ten words or phrases for recovery at the press of Alt/Number.

Windows Clipboard and DOS Applications

DOS applications (like WP5.1) running under Windows can use the Windows clipboard for copying material. The full instruction for doing so can be read in Clipboard help. I find the following methods easiest:

To copy text from the clipboard into the DOS application:

    Place the cursor where you want the text

    Press Alt/spacebar to open the Control menu. If your DOS application is running in full screen, this will put it into a window.

    From the Control menu, choose Edit

    From the Edit cascading menu, choose Paste

    If you want to return to full screen, press Alt/Enter (It must be the Alt key on the left of the space bar)

To copy text from DOS application to the clipboard:
    If the text you want happens to be all displayed on the screen, press PrtSc (Print Screen) whilst your DOS application is running in full screen to copy all the text on screen to the clipboard. [If your DOS application is running in a window (instead of full screen), pressing PrtSc copies a picture of the screen to the clipboard.]

    To copy selected text onto the Clipboard

    Press Alt/spacebar to open the Control menu. If your DOS application is running in full screen, this will put it into a window.

    From the Control menu, choose Edit

    From the Edit cascading menu, choose Mark

    In your document, use the highlight provided, and the shift key and arrow keys, to select the text you want to copy

    Press Alt/spacebar to open the Control menu again

    From the Control menu, choose Edit

    From the Edit cascading menu, choose Copy

    If you want to return to full screen, press Alt/Enter (It must be the Alt key on the left of the space bar)

Escape: In many computer applications the key marked Esc (for Escape) will stop, or cancel, an operation. An exception is WordPerfect 5.1 which uses it as a key for ordering repeats of another keystroke. For example, press Escape, type in a number, press a letter and the letter will be repeated the number of times you chose. This is especially useful when combined with Macros.

Cancel is the command that lets you stop or cancel an operation in WP5.1

In WordPerfect 5.1 exit means close the document you have on screen (with or without saving it) and (if you want to do so) leave WP5.1.

The Exit
function key is F7. This gives you the option to save your document and then allows you to either exit WordPerfect or clear the screen. When you are in screens other than editing screens (like View Document<<<), pressing Exit will normally return you to the editing screen. Sometimes you will have to press Exit more than once.


WordPerfect 5.1 gives you help when you press F3. Pressing this tells you how WP5.1 works. After pressing F3, you can either:

  • press any letter to get an alphabetical list of features. The list will include the features that start with that letter, along with the name of the key where the feature can be found. You can then press that key to get a description of how the feature works.

  • Press any function key to get information about the use of the key. Some keys may enable you to choose from a menu to get information about various options. Most of the WP5.1 entries in this glossary have been based on the contents of WP5.1 Help.

If you want to copy WP5.1 Help screens to a computer file (perhaps to print), you can make it by pressing PrtSc (Print Screen) in the entry, whilst WP5.1 is running under Windows. This will copy the entry to the Windows clipboard. From there you can paste it into WordPerfect, or into another wordprocessor or text editor.

Retrieve Retrieving Retrieved:
In WP5.1, the same keystrokes allow you to retrieve a file by
opening it onto an empty screen, and a file into a document that is already on screen.

Shift/F10 (called Retrieve) requires you to type in the path<<< and name of the file wanted. F5<, (called List<<<) allows you to look through the directory listings of your files until you find the file you want, highlight it, and then retrieve it by pressing 1.

Reveal Codes:
In WordPerfect 5.1, and Wordperfect for Windows, F11 (or ALT/F3) divides the screen in two, showing normal text in the top screen, and the same text with hidden codes in the bottom screen. The codes, which are in bold, show you exactly where features like underline<<<, fonts<<<, hard returns<<<, indents<<< etc have been applied. Some codes, like style codes, expand to show more information when the
cursor is positioned directly on the code. Being able to see the codes helps you work out what is happening to your text. Whenever you are perplexed in Wordperfect, check Reveal Codes.

Saving: Save: Save as:
Saving copies of information to a place, like a file on a floppy
disk, where it can be kept and retrieved when wanted. In WP5.1, function key F10 (or F7) saves the current document.

In WP5.1, the switchkeys (Shift/F3) normally switches documents. If you do not know about this, and you press Shift/F3 by mistake, you can think you have lost your document. All that has happened is that you have switched to a blank document screen. Press Shift/F3 again and you will be back with the document you were working on. SWITCH in WP5.1, means you can have two active documents at one time, which means you can have two files open at once and can copy text from one to the other. The status line, in the bottom right hand corner of the screen, shows which document you are in.

Undelete or Undo:
In WordPerfect 5.1, F1 is a
safety key. It cancels certain operations that you may ask for by mistake. After it has done that, or if there is no operation to cancel, it can also restore one or more of your three previous deletions. The most recent deletion is temporarily inserted at the cursor. You restore this by pressing 1, or press 2 for the previous deletion.

View Document:
See screens<<< and screen layouts. In WordPerfect 5.1, to see what a document will look like printed, you have to use View Document. To do this you press Shift/F7 and choose the number 6. When you are in the View Document screen you can press 1, 2, 3 or 4, to see what it looks like 100%, 200%, Full Page and Facing Pages. You press the space bar to return to the editing screen.

Buying WP5.1 Before you read more: try Long lost, but never abandoned

If you live in the United States or Canada it is still possible to buy WP5.1 disks from:


If the alphabest website is down or you need advice, email mtnlionmom@alltel.net

If you do not live in the USA or Canada, you will need to exchange WP5.1 with someone who has a copy.

Exchanging WP5.1

If you need to exchange WordPerfect 5.1, note that WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS can work with a small number of Basic Program Files (listed below). Someone who has a copy can send these as email attachments.

Basic Program Files

The Program Files are usually kept in two directories:


The main files are kept in WP51. The basic ones are:

WP.EXE 228,864 bytes MAIN PROGRAM (Essential)

WP.FIL 617,748 bytes MAIN PROGRAM SUPPLEMENT (Essential)

WP{WP}UK.LCN 16 bytes Appears to be a licence number file. If not present, WP asks for your licence number and creates this file.

WP{WP}.SET 1880 bytes MASTER SET UP FILE WordPerfect creates and updates this file. I guess it records the choices you make in "Setup". (SHIFT/F1)


STANDARD.VRS 30,537 bytes STANDARD GRAPHICS+TEXT DRIVER I think this is needed to use View Document

WP.MRS 6,072 bytes
Used with Macro Editor.

KEYS.MRS 4,800 bytes
Used with Key: Action screen. See Keyboard layout in Reference.

WP{WP}.SPW 13,126 bytes SPELL: Used with UK.LEX

Supplementary files are kept in WPC. Some important ones are:


WP.DRS 490,104 bytes
Used by View Document and graphics printing. The relevant .PRS (printer driver) file must be in the same directory.

In addition, a printer driver is needed. There is a Standard .PRS that could work:

STANDARD.PRS 1,942 bytes
This may also be used by View Document

Problems and Solutions

I am starting this section so that readers can exchange advice and ask for help. If you have a problem or a solution, write to me on the Communication Form.

Problems and (sometimes) solutions below include:


Vivian, in South Carolina, drew my attention to Edward Mendelson's WordPerfect for DOS Updated, which deals comprehensively with how to run WordPerfect for DOS in every version of Windows. I run it under Windows 3.1 and Windows 98. Edward Mendelson has a special (extra) page for Windows NT, 2000 and XP.

Flat Monitors

Patrice is working successfully with WP5.1 using on XP operating system using an "old type of monitor". BUT:

"I cannot get it to display DOS full screen on a flat-screen monitor. Thanks to a driver suggested by Ed Mendleson, it will now display in Windows on the flat screen, but cursor speed is too slow and the fonts look terrible. The message I get on the flat screens is "will not display video mode" when I alt-enter from Windows to DOS."

This is the equipment Patrice uses:

Dell Dimensions 2350
Windows XP Home

The flat screen monitors are Samsung SyncMaster 170MP or the Dell 15" Flat Screen Neither of these will display in DOS Full Screen on XP...They will display WP5.1 using Windows 98, however.

"I am now using an old Sony Trinitron Multiscan E400 that displays both Windows & DOS Full Screen."

Has anyone any ideas on a new driver or an adjustment Patrice could make in settings to get the new Flat Screens to display WP5.1 DOS Full Screen when using XP?

Printer Problems

  • My WP5.1 program crashed if I tried to print in Windows 98. The solution was the first one suggested on Edward Mendelson's Windows printing page

    Before buying, read Edward Mendelson's advice on
    which printer to buy

  • Edgardo (in Argentina) uses Windows 2000 and runs WP5.1 in DOS. "I execute the exe of WP5.1 and work in DOS". Edgardo was using an Epson Stylus II s. He could print from WP5.1 on this by setting the printer in WP5.1 to Epson Stylus 800. Now he has a an Epson Stylus color 670. Epson have told him that this does not work with DOS. What he does is to write in WP5.1 and finally open Word and print from that. However, he would like to print directly from WP5.1. Has anyone any suggestions?

    "The answer to the printing problem (printing to the Epson printer that doesn't work with DOS) is at my site, at:
    The method is complicated to set up, but transparent thereafter. Best wishes, Edward Mendelson"

    Window size

    Vivian, in South Carolina, installed WP5.1 on Windows XP. The only problem was that the DOS window seemed to be fixed at about half the width and half the height of the monitor screen. The DOS window has no square or minus symbol to increase or decrease the window size. Dragging the mouse on the sides of the window did not work.

    "WordPerfect 5.1 and Windows XP seem to work together fine now, and with a full Windows screen from which you can exit in the usual manner (click mouse on large X). This is no thanks to me -- someone else right-clicked the desktop shortcut I had created to run C:\WP51\WP.EXE. and then modified property settings such as screen size."

    Keyboard problems

    My main problem with WP51 running in Windows 98 was that some of the keys did not respond the way I wanted them to. [I am writing in London, England]. The # key on my keyboard gave \. The @ key gave ", and the " key gave @. £ gave # and ~ gave |

    Other people reported similar problems. Some people found the problem just happened after new software or hardware was installed. One day they were OK - the next the keys were wrong

    The probable reason for "wrong keys" is having USA rather than UK (or vice versa if you want USA) keyboards selected. On each side of the Atlantic we have some different keys on our keyboards. You need to have the right region for Windows programs and you need the right region for DOS programs like WP5.1. Sometimes new software/hardware installations alter the files that decide which region you have selected for DOS.

    Windows has a "Regional Settings" in the Control Panel - but if this was the wrong region for you it would be giving the wrong key results in Windows programs, like email.

    To alter the Region for DOS programs I had to add lines to my autoexc.bat and config.sys. This confused me at first, because I did not have these files on my new computer. If you have not got them, you create them.

    Edward Mendelson provided me with the lines I needed and he has provided instructions for dealing with Keyboard problems under different versions of Windows at


    Another useful page about editing your autoexec.bat and config.sys for other reasons is: How to configure Windows 95/98/Me for optimal use of system resources on the Symantec site.

    Macro Error Code

    Bob Brittenham writes that he has never been able to make ON ERROR work within a WordPerfect 5.1 macro definition. He wants to use ON ERROR to trap an attempt to read a non-existent file when using Retrieve (Shift-F10).

    This is the the specific macro that doesn't work:

    The macro is patterned after code on page 845 of the WordPerfect manual. Bob is using WP 5.1 dated 03/09/1992, running under Windows 95 (the earlier version). The macro also fails when he exits Windows and runs under the DOS that came with Windows 95.

    Can anyone help?

  • Weblinks

    WordPerfect for DOS Updated
    http://wpdos.org or:
    Edward Mendelson at Columbia University maintains this site to enable people to use WP5.1 with modern computer programs. It is very comprehensive and should be everyone's first port of call to resolve technical problems.

    WordPerfect for DOS Forum

    WP5.1 Centre
    In 2001 this was extensively revised and improved by Mitzi Ponce. Includes WP5.1 Macros, how to get more out of WP5.1, tips and tricks, and links to other WP5.1 sites. (archive)

    Macro to convert WP5.1 file to HTML

    Click for:

    Basic Program Files

    buying or exchanging WP5.1


    Computer Keyboards

    95; 98; XP 2000.

    Cut, Copy and Paste



    Function Keys (F1, F2, etc)


    Printing help

    How to write on a Computer

    Keyboard template

    Problems and Solutions


    Reveal Codes




    Undelete or Undo

    View Document

    Wordprocessors and Text Editors

    WP5.1 Weblinks

    What is WordPerfect?

    Study Link
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