Personal Computer Museum, Canada's Videogame Museum

Quattro Pro

Quattro Pro
Quattro Pro

Floppy (3.5")8



7  28663  02484  2

Release Date: 9/1/1992
Manufacturer: Borland
Original Retail Price:
Adjusted Inflation Price:
Donated By: Jim Wilkinson
Quattro Pro began as a DOS program (like Lotus 1-2-3) but with the growing popularity of Windows from Microsoft, a Windows version of Quattro needed to be written. There was almost nothing from the DOS code that could be moved to the Windows project so the Quattro Pro for Windows (QPW) was written from scratch.

Both the QPW and Paradox for Windows (another Borland database application) codebases were based on Borland's internal pilot project with object oriented UI code for Windows. This project ran simultaneously with the Borland language group investigating the desirability of a C++ compiler, and the company decided to make a bet on C++. However, the C++ compiler was not ready at first, and OO code for both projects was started in C with OO emulation through macros. As the Borland Turbo C++ compiler became available internally the projects converted to using C++.

Charlie Anderson was put in charge of the project and he soon had Istvan Cseri, Weikuo Liaw, Murray Low, Steven Boye, Barry Spencer, Dave Orton, Bernie Vachon, Anson Lee, Tod Landis and Chuck Batterman working on the project. Other engineers joined later. Eventually the team numbered nearly 20. The object model was inspired by the NeXT object model, modified by Mr. Cseri. Mr. Liaw and Mr. Spencer were in charge of the spreadsheet engine (written in assembly language) while Mr. Low wrote a large chunk of the UI.

The product was internally code named "Thor" for the Norse god of Thunder. QPW featured 2 major innovations. First, it was the first Windows' spreadsheet with multiple pages with cells that could be linked together seamlessly, a feature from Quattro Pro which QPW extended. Second, it was the first released Windows program to have an attribute menu (or property pane) available by right-clicking on the object. Although this idea was first seen on the Xerox Alto, the idea had not been implemented on a major Windows program. Paradox for Windows shared this feature, and it was shown off by Phillipe Kahn at a Paradox user conference over a year before QPW was released. Both these ideas became wide spread in the software industry.

QPW was one of the first big applications written in C++ on Windows and it pushed the Borland C++ compiler to the limit. One reason why the Borland C++ Compiler was so good was that it had to compile and link the massive QPW code base successfully.

The technical risk of the QPW project was immense. The object model was untried and might not have worked for a spreadsheet. The user interface (UI) was new (for Windows programs at least). No one knew if the C++ compiler could generate fast enough code. As it turned out, the program worked. It was fast, it was close in feature set to Lotus 123 and Excel, and the "right click for properties" user design was reasonably understandable.

At one point, it was hoped that QPW and Paradox for Windows would be able to share a common object model. That proved impossible despite serious thought and design efforts.

QPW was finally released in September 1992. It sold well (after the price was slashed from $495 a copy to just $49 a copy). Work was started immediately on a new version with a brand new team of engineers led by Joe Ammirato; including Bret Gillis and Peter Weyzen. Borland purchased DataPivot from Brio Technology to add a new feature to the program. Colin Glassey came from Brio to help with the integration of that technology.

After a year and the merging of the old team and the new team, QPW 5 was released (the reason for the jump in version number had to do with keeping up with the DOS version as well as it looked good). QPW 5 sold well also, though the Microsoft Excel + Word combination was gaining steam.

Work then started on version 6 (now with Steven Boye as project lead). Mid-way through the development of version 6 a strategic decision to work closely with the WordPerfect word processor was made. It was a direct attempt to push back at the Microsoft Office one-two punch of Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel. The other big issue with Version 6 was the advent of Windows 95. This was a significant modification to the Windows operating system with a major change to user interface guidelines.

In an odd set of events, Novell purchased both WordPerfect corporation and purchased the Quattro Pro code base and team of engineers from Borland. Novell was going to try to be a real competitor to Microsoft. Although Version 6 was released and some effort was made to unify the user interface between WordPerfect and QPW, the effort was far from complete.

In another lawsuit, Novell claims that Microsoft had "deliberately targeted and destroyed" its WordPerfect and QuattroPro programs to protect its Windows operating system monopoly. The US Supreme Court refused to halt the antitrust lawsuit in March 2008.

Have a comment about this Software (personal stories, additional information)? Post it here (no registration required).

Share |

* Inflation data courtesy of Values are approximate using our own calculations.

Return to the software index.