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WordPerfect was originally produced by Bruce Bastian and Dr. Alan Ashton who founded Satellite Software International, Inc. of Orem, Utah, which later renamed itself WordPerfect Corporation. Originally written for Data General minicomputers, in 1982 the developers ported the program to the IBM PC as WordPerfect 2.20, continuing the version numbering of the Data General series.
The program's popularity took off with the introduction of WordPerfect 4.2 in 1986, with automatic paragraph numbering (important to the law office market), and the splitting of a lengthy footnote and its partial overflow to the bottom of the next page, as if it had been professionally typeset (valuable to both the law office and academic markets). WordPerfect 4.2 became the first program to overtake the original microcomputer word processor market leader, WordStar, in a major application category on the DOS platform.
In 1989, WordPerfect Corporation released the program's most successful version ever, WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS, which was the first version to include Macintosh style pull-down menus to supplement the traditional F-key combinations, as well as support for tables, a spreadsheet-like feature. The data format used by WordPerfect 5.1 was, for years, the most portable format in the world. All word processors could read (and convert) that format. Many conferences and magazines insisted that you shipped your documents in 5.1 format. Unlike previous DOS versions, WordPerfect 6.0 for DOS could switch between its traditional text-based editing mode and a graphical editing mode that showed the document as it would print out, including fonts and text effects like bold, underline, and italics. The previous text-based versions used different colors or text color inversions to indicate various markups, and (starting with version 5.0) used a graphic mode only for an uneditable print preview that used generic fonts rather than the actual fonts that appeared on the printed page.