On converting documents


Until just a few years ago, WordPerfect dominated the word processing market. But as Windows became popular, WordPerfect Corporation (followed by Novell and, now, Corel) had trouble creating a competitive Windows word processor. The result: Microsoft Word for Windows took and continues to hold the lead.

Now many firms, co-counsel and clients have to deal with Word-WordPerfect document conversion on a daily basis. And sometimes the results are not pretty. Here are some key findings and tips about how to make the best of a potentially difficult situation.

Where to start

Word does a better job of conversion than WordPerfect. So if at all possible, use Word to read and write WordPerfect documents rather than the other way around.

Caveat: While Word 7.0 can read WordPerfect 6.1 documents, Word 6.0 cannot unless you have the supplemental conversion filters. These can be downloaded from Microsoft's Web site (http://www.microsoft.com). Be sure to follow the installation and operation instructions carefully, otherwise the filters will not work.

Caveat: Word can write documents in WordPerfect 5.X format but not WordPerfect 6.X format. As described below, this limitation can create some problems.

Caveat (if you must use WordPerfect for conversion): WordPerfect 6.1 can read Word 6.0 documents but not Word 7.0 documents. (Just before this article was written, Corel released WordPerfect 7 for Windows 95 and an update to WordPerfect 6.1. I expect that these new products will be able to read Word 7.0 documents.)

Problem areas

Bullet conversion can be difficult because WordPerfect 5.X and 6.1 handle bullets differently. (The problem occurs with respect to bullets created by both the Insert Bullet button and WordPerfect Characters.) Word can properly read a WordPerfect 6.1 document with bullets. However, if the document is saved in WordPerfect 5.X format and then read back into WordPerfect 6.1, the bullets are changed into different characters.

Automatically-numbered outlines convert well as regards displayable characters. However, under certain circumstances (convert a Word document to WordPerfect and back to Word), automatic numbering and indenting do not work properly when the outline is edited. In the worst case (WordPerfect document converted to Word and back to WordPerfect), automatic numbering codes are lost entirely.

WordPerfect allows two headers and footers, while Word allows only one of each. After a WordPerfect document is converted to Word and back to WordPerfect, the second header becomes a misaligned text box inserted into the first header.


Word creates "private fields" to facilitate converting documents back to WordPerfect. Do not delete these!

If you read a WordPerfect document with bullets into Word, use the Bullet button to change the bullets to standard Word bullets.

If you anticipate that a document will require conversion, avoid automatic numbering, Header B and Footer B, or defer these as long as possible.

Be prepared for miscellaneous clean-up on any converted document -- changing fonts; replacing or eliminating graphics lines; fixing table borders, headers and alignment; realigning flush right/right tab; changing improperly converted special characters.

Have various versions of Word and WordPerfect available so you can see what documents will look like when other entities receive them and (if possible) change formatting to remedy any problems before the documents are sent out.