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If you're a Mac-based lawyer practicing with attorneys who continue to rely on WordPerfect, you're faced with the fact that no one has made a version of WordPerfect for the Mac since version 3.5, which worked only on PowerPC Macs running Mac OS 9 or earlier. In other words, no hardware-software combination that Apple shipped in the last seven years. Fear not. There are options if you need to access WordPerfect documents. And they're cheap; from as little as $0 to as much as $80. Your options depend on your needs.

If you simply need to open WordPerfect documents on a modern Mac for the sole purpose of referencing or extracting text, the Mac App Store offers two utilities that accomplish this task: WordPerfect Viewer ($9.99) and WPD Wizard ($18.99). Neither is created or supported by Corel, WordPerfect's current owner, but both give you easy access to the document's text. WordPerfect Viewer converts the document's text to your choice of PDF, RTF, or TXT. Once converted, you can edit and format the text in your preferred word processor. WordPerfect Viewer states that conversion loses complex formatting, metadata, margins, headers, and footers.

WPD Wizard performs similar functions to WordPerfect Viewer, but is more ambitious in its conversions. WPD Wizard preserves most formatting, including pagination, text styling, lists, et cetera. WPD Wizard also includes a page browser, ability to export to a variety of formats, and a "Find" button to easily allow you to find that perfect clause you wanted to copy out of a huge document. In experimenting with WPD Wizard on a durable power of attorney, I was able to open the document, see that the formatting and numbered list was mostly maintained, and easily copy the text to Word 2011 for editing.

Both WordPerfect Viewer and WPD Wizard are uni-directional, meaning that you can't use either tool to edit the existing text within the WordPerfect file. This is not a round-trip solution to make edits and return the file to a WordPerfect-addicted colleague. Rather, these are good tools for viewing your own older files, extracting text, or as part of a process of converting critical documents to a modern multi-platform format, be that Word's docx or raw text.

If you need true round-trip functionality with a WordPerfect attorney, there are several good options, all of which involve adding another word processor to your Mac. The price ranges from free (NeoOffice or AbiWord) to $79 (Nisus Writer Pro). All work with WordPerfect files. Each program has its own idiosyncrasies. For example, NeoOffice and AbiWord are free, but have no technical support. AbiWord requires the installation of a plugin to work with WordPerfect files. Nisus Writer Pro adds additional superscripting to footnotes; no small problem if the two writers are collaborating on a brief. With these programs, you can open and edit the text. On the return trip to the other attorney you need to save the document in a file format such as RTF that is supported by your choice of NeoOffice/AbiWord/Nisus and WordPerfect.

Beyond converters and additional word processors, there is the "nuclear option" whereby you install the Windows version of WordPerfect on your Mac by way of a virtual machine. Detailing such an installation is beyond the scope of this article. But, for those unfamiliar with the process, you install a program that either emulates Windows (CrossOver by CodeWeavers) or one that runs a full version of Windows (VMware Fusion or Parallels). After installing one of these solutions, you then install a copy of WordPerfect for Windows. Overall, it's a multi-layered solution whose minimum combined cost is $150.

As a Mac-using attorney, you're accustomed to going the extra mile for compatibility with your Windows-using colleagues. Assuming you're not in a large firm, who barely tolerates your Mac as it is, I would push back on folks who insist on using WordPerfect for collaboration. Microsoft Word is the sine qua non of business writing. There is nothing that WordPerfect can do that Microsoft Word cannot. WordPerfect is to the legal market as Aston Martin is to James Bond. Without the latter, the former would have disappeared years ago.

But, for those situations where you must access WordPerfect documents, these Mac-specific options give you the access you need to view the document and rescue the text from a dead-end format.

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