October 17th, 2014


In Praise Of Ancient Software

As I've commented on before, I use a certain amount of old software. Some even dating back to the DOS era, considering that until Microsoft started breaking things in the name of making money, er, progress, DOS was at the heart of Windows. Word 95, for example, is much faster to type in than more recent versions, because as computers upgraded from a paltry 166MHz (or 4.77MHz if you want to go back to Word 5.0b for DOS) to more than ten times faster, they cannot seem to catch up with a slow human who can type.

I have used HoTMetaL PRO 4 and 5 since at least 2001 to write my class webpages and the content on dr-phil-physics.com since 2008. Alas, when I set up SUMMER, my Fujitsu ultracompact PC, I don't know where I put the install disk afterwards. No doubt in some convenient and obvious place. Found the other software to set up LARA, the HP netbook I am using at work right now, but not my HTML editor.

And I want to keep HoTMetaL PRO.

Apparently I am not alone. There is a whole website dedicated to keeping HoTMetaL PRO 6 running on XP, 7 and 8, after SoftQuad sold out to Corel who sold it to someone who went out of business. For months I have been checking eBay to find a copy of HoTMetaL PRO 4 or 5 or even 6. Not one. Lots of people selling the User Manuals, but not the CD-ROM, cause you have almost no need for the manual. Perfect.

Last week there was a Buy It Now for $7.17 with shipping for a copy of HoTMetaL PRO 3. "Works the same on Windows 3.1, 95 or NT." I took a gamble and it arrived the other day. Today I brought in my portable Fujitsu USB DVD/CD-ROM drive and went to install it.

After a previously mentioned adventure on LARA and the hibernation file, I have 2.1GB free on the 16 GB solid-state drive C: . And it turns out this ancient software needed a whopping 20MB to install. I think I can spare it. My biggest worry was whether this thing was so old, that it meant Windows NT 3.51 or NT 4? The User Manual had no list of operating requirements or install directions. Presumably that was on the box, which I didn't have.

But, HoTMetaL PRO 3.0 release 3.21 runs just fine on Windows XP Home. Controls are a bit more primitive that on 5, but I can get it to work. Some things, like HTML codes for Greek characters like θ (theta) don't work right, but I can update a webpage, then fix it tonight. Unlike Wednesday when I had to update raw HTML in Notepad.

Yes, there are other HTML editors out there, but this one works. I don't do cascading style sheets, I don't have to be compatible with Microsoft's miserable attempt to mix DOC with HTML -- have you SEEN the bloat code Word writes? -- and it works better than the Composer semi-WYSIWYG editor from the old Netscape Navigator. Why must I change?

Anyway, I still have to find a version 5. But in the meantime, I am back in business. Thank goodness LARA doesn't run Windows 7, 8 or 8.1...

For $7.17.

Dr. Phil