- The Washington Times - Monday, July 21, 2008

When WordPerfect last made any significant headlines, or so it seems, then U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno had ordered up a bunch of licenses for the Department of Justice. Lawyers, it seems, love WordPerfect.

There have been a few revisions of the software since Ms. Reno´s tenure, and the most recent, dubbed “X4,” for 14, is the most recent. It´s available for as little as $160 as part of a WordPerfect Office “suite” that includes a spreadsheet, presentation graphics program and other extras.

It´s not as inexpensive as the free OpenOffice.org suite, nor as costly as Microsoft Office 2007. But both the suite and the word processor are good values for what you get: something that is exceptionally compatible with Microsoft Office and, on the word processing side, just about every program going back to WordStar, which means roughly the last 25 years.

There´s much to like about WordPerfect X4 along with its extensive compatibility. The program has a clean appearance, and can operate in a “Microsoft Word” mode that makes it more familiar to users of that program. It has every bell and whistle that you would want in a word processor and, in a move particularly useful for those using small laptops, a “zoom to margin width” feature that´ll make viewing what you type easier.

There´s an auto-correction feature that will flag misspelled words as you type, and many common transpositions are corrected as you type. There´s an online dictionary and thesaurus.

But there are a few annoyances: There´s a word counter at the bottom of the program screen, but you must click on the word count number to have it update.

For those concerned about exporting the final results, I can only say that the range of ways to save a WordPerfect file should cover just about every need. I´ve found these file translations to be quite good, even if I doubt some are widely needed. If you are uncertain, publisher Corel Corp. will let you download a 30-day free trial version, at www.corel.com. That´s not a bad way to try the program out.

My oft-stated belief bears repeating here: I like having a bunch of word processors to choose from, and WordPerfect X4 is a very good alternative for many users. If you are in the mood to switch, it´s worth investigating.

NEED A GREAT LAPTOP STAND? May I recommend the Alto Connect from Logitech, which will set you back about $80 at Amazon.com. This thing is simplicity itself: two sturdy pieces of plastic that connect to form a “X” on which the notebook can rest. You get a proper viewing height (in my opinion) and it´s easy to position the notebook so that a front-loading optical drive is accessible.

That´s good enough, but add in four USB ports, including one specifically designed for media such as USB card readers, memory sticks and MP3 players, and you´ve got a real winner. The extra ports bridge to the computer´s USB connector via an included cable. Yes, the stand needs external power to drive this connectivity, but it´s a small price to pay, in my opinion.

I´ve seen all sorts of notebook stands, and the only thing that beats the Alto Connect is a product-specific stand costing double, triple or even quadruple the cost. For the money, I haven´t seen a better desktop value, period. Details at Logitech.

Write to Mark Kellner



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