Update – December 4, 2017: According to this handy guide, LibreOffice will do the trick… as will a few smaller utilities. So ignore the rest of this page, and go check it out!

Update: Bad news if you’re using OS X 10.7: Bfidlow reports in the comments that Lion it doesn’t like AbiWord, and the feeling’s mutual. I’ve tried OpenOffice, but their WordPress import project seems to be moribund. Let me know if you know of a free solution.

A client just sent me a batch of files as background information. And my heart sank as I saw that procession of “.wpd” file extensions. Ugh: WordPerfect files.

There was a time when WordPerfect was the champion of the word processing world. That time was well over a decade ago, though, and Microsoft Word is now the undisputed leader while WordPerfect languishes in relative obscurity.

But every once in a while a WordPerfect file rears its head again. And when you try to open it in OS X, you run into trouble. Microsoft Word can’t understand it. Textedit can’t grok it. Pages wants nothing to do it it.

There’s always the venerable utility MacLinkPlus Deluxe… but I don’t own a copy, and I’m reluctant to shell out something like $100 for a program I very rarely need. Especially if I can solve this problem for free.

So I surfed to VersionTracker. A search on “wordperfect” in the OS X area turned up only two options. One utility, WPConvert, works only on older versions of the WordPerfect format. That’s a pity, because it’s tiny and simple – two things I like in a conversion utility.

The winner is AbiWord, a full-function word processor. (Here’s the official web site.) (Updated: The domain name has changed; I’ve updated the link.) The download is just under 8 MB: hefty, but not onerous on a fast connection. It happily opened every one of those WordPerfect files, and supports a slew of other formats (including Palm database files, of all things).

This is your textbook sledgehammer-to-kill-a-flea solution, but it worked flawlessly.

Here’s another option: join the Yahoo! WordPerfect Mac group, and use their “Links” area to download a free copy of WordPerfect. Be warned: it’s old enough that it runs only in Classic mode (or under OS 8 or 9), and weighs in at 25 MB.

For more Apple goodness, check out Rob’s Noise to Signal cartoons about life as a Mac user!

(two people looking at an iPad) It's the perfect device for watching Apple product announcements!(Steve Jobs onstage, introducing an amazing device and admitting he can't remember what it does)(man with fishhook in nose) Yes, it's a fishhook lodged in my nose. But it's an Apple fishhook, so the user experience is surprisingly pleasant.