Archive of UserLand's first discussion group, started October 5, 1998.

Re: Why do artists have their own software companies?

Author:Daniel Barnes
Posted:4/20/2000; 6:15:11 PM
Topic:Why do artists have their own software companies?
Msg #:16479 (In response to 16454)
Prev/Next:16478 / 16480

Speaking of "real fondness for a few ancient DOS editors," there is at least one company still making a program targeted specifically at writers:

The software has a proud, interesting and troubled heritage:

The Nota Bene folks built a word processor for writers in academia, integrating a text database for handling citations. The current Nota Bene seems to be a Windows app. But its DOS forebears were based on the XyWrite word processor, written by Dave Erickson of XyQuest circa 1983 and quickly adopted by PC-using journalists everywhere.

XyWrite mimicked the Atex newspaper and magazine editing system.(Some newspapers still rely on their circa-1976 Atex systems--hot-rodded PDP-11s, custom OS, memory-mapped dumb terminals and all.) XyWrite borrowed Atex system's command-driven approach to editing. And, like the Atex editor, it was written in assembler to coax impressive speed out of modest CPUs.

DOS limitations be damned, a cult of XyWrite users remains. By now, they're probably just the folks who learned to exploit XPL (XyWrite Programming Language) and automate the heck out of things. XPL exposed the guts of XyWrite in a terse and sometimes cryptic way, but its overall coherence and the sense of power that it lends I think are similar to Frontier's.

Salon did a nice piece on XyWrite a while back. It covers the attempted mouse/elephant mating of XyQuest and IBM, and how IBM's last-minute change of heart killed XyQuest. See

XyWrite subsequently was sold to another firm ( that offers some web support but doesn't seem to actively market XyWrite anymore. The user community's compendium of homegrown XPL utilities is still available:

Here's a fan's site with lots of XPL items, including an HTML-writing add-on:

I don't write for a living anymore, and I've forgotten most of what I learned about XPL. But my fingers still know how to run XyWrite and probably always will.

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