December 1994

All Hail The New Prince of Darkness...

WordPerfect 6.x: King of GPFs?

EVERYBODY DREADS them, and everybody gets them. Even though they don't rate an index entry in the Microsoft Windows 3.1 manual, they represent the three most feared letters in the PC lexicon (sorry IBM).

The General Protection Fault, or GPF, is the Windows app equivalent of the China Syndrome.

Also called Unrecoverable Application Errors (UAEs), these software meltdowns are usually the result of some sort of memory conflict. Over the years, certain Windows applications have become infamous for their tendency to bomb. Some, like IRA hitmen, have developed almost mythic outlaw identities.

But what about today? We at BugNet decided to find out who is the baddest cat on the Windows block right now -- who is the King of GPFs? To find out, we searched through all the bug reports we have received over the last quarter (fourth quarter 1994), looking for GPFs.

Then we looked at the ratio of GPFs to the total number of problems reported for each major software house. The results establish a new Prince of Darkness, but before we go any further, we want to stress that these results are based only on the data available to us.

Because WordPerfect/Novell treats bug and fix information as proprietary, it is impossible to say for sure exactly what is happening with WordPerfect. On the other hand, since Microsoft is relatively open about bug and fix issues affecting its products, it is possible to speak with greater confidence about Microsoft.

Not surprisingly, Microsoft's performance during the fourth quarter of 1994 was stellar.

WordPerfect, on the other hand, came out on the bottom of the major firms we evaluated.

Worse than that, WordPerfect finished last by a large margin. More than 40 percent of all BugNet's verifiable bug /problem reports on WordPerfect for Windows 6.x involved GPFs. This is astounding.

To get a sense of how high this is, let's look at WordPerfect's principal competitor, Microsoft Word for Windows. During the same period, only 12 percent of Word problems involved GPFs. For Microsoft as a whole, 19 percent of problems involved GPFs.

WordPerfect spokesman Andre Musgrow acknowledges that WordPerfect may suffer more GPFs than other Windows apps, but says this is due to the "complexity of the code, and the richness of its features."

Certainly it is true that WordPerfect for Windows 6 is more capable than any of its competitors in terms of tool set. (Ever try, for instance, to create parallel columns in Microsoft Word 6 for a 100-page script? No can do.) Musgrow adds that the latest upgrade, WordPerfect 6.1 for Windows, is much more polished and stable than its predecessors.

Users sometimes turn a humorous eye on the whole affair. "OK, we fixed the DDEML.DLL GPF, the video driver GPF, haven't seen much of the SHWIN60 GPF, but we are being plagued by the WPWIN60 GPF," Ronald Sattan, a WordPerfect user from New Jersey observed.

However, some WordPerfect devotees insist that the current GPF carnage is not as bad as the past. Declared one WordPerfectii, David Swerdlove, "All in all, I would say this new release is the most stable of any I've seen (and I remember doing an install of WP 5.0 the first week it came out in a law firm that was converting over from Displaywriters. PCs were freezing left and right)."

Even so, the fact that WordPerfect 6.x appears to bomb out so much is significant. Anyone contemplating a word processor purchase should keep it in mind.

Or to paraphrase my sainted mother, "you better mind your Gs, Ps, and Fs."

-- Bruce Brown

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