- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 24, 2010

In a move that might draw comments such as, “They’re still publishing WordPerfect?” I can testify that, on March 23, Ottawa-based Corel Corp. launched a new version of the word processor that first saw commercial sales some 30 years ago. “Also new, and making its bow at the Federal Office Systems Exposition trade show, is the rest of the WordPerfect Office suite, now in its X5 version starring what is more or less the 15th version of WordPerfect (WP).

That Corel used FOSE, aimed at government users and those who work with them, as a launching pad should tell you something about the popularity of WP Office X5 and its predecessors: These are products that do have a following in the U.S. federal government and other agencies. Large numbers of attorneys also like WordPerfect, I’m told, because at least the earlier editions were more lawyer-friendly than rival Microsoft Word.

While Microsoft’s category-leading Microsoft Office suite is the chief competition, Corel Office X5 also bumps up against OpenOffice.org’s offering as well as Sun Microsystem’s StarOffice, the “commercialized” version of OpenOffice. That doesn’t mean WP Office X5 is without potential; it’s just a more crowded, and in some ways fragmented, field than it’s been before.

For around $250 for the “standard” version, Corel says you’ll get “WordPerfect X5; Quattro Pro X5 for spreadsheets, charts and graphs; Presentations X5 for creating and presenting slide shows and demonstrations; and WordPerfect Lightning for digital note taking.” While Lightning is an intriguing application, it’s not enough to move me to a particular office suite; the Corel presentation-and-spreadsheet software is very good, however.

To counter Microsoft’s super-popular Outlook software, which melds calendar and e-mail functions, Corel Office users get “Mozilla Thunderbird for WordPerfect Office,” which adds a popular Thunderbird calendar add-in, and some other customization, to the basic e-mail client.

Two other features stand out: “Enhanced PDF Tools,” which Corel defines as “PDF creation out of each application, opening PDFs in WordPerfect, [and] creating archival and password protected PDFs.” The other is the inclusion of Nuance PaperPort SE 12, a scanning solution that helps users work with scanned-in documents, as well as files created with WP Office programs.

Neither feature should be discounted, especially in a world where we’re all flinging paper at each other with near reckless abandon — or maybe that’s just in Washington. Being able to work with PDF files quickly and to be able to scan in, convert and use paper-based documents, are both helpful additions to an Office suite, ones I don’t recall seeing in WP Office’s rivals. (The PaperPort version supplied with WP Office does offer OCR support, but that’s also built into the WordPerfect program itself, Corel said.)

In use, WordPerfect X5 is a very good word processor that includes a raft of templates for most business and personal needs, and has nice features such as “Make it Fit,” that’ll condense a letter that slightly runs over two pages into a one-page document. Corel claims the program is compatible with 60 different file formats, and is super-compatible with Microsoft Office file formats. That might ease the concerns some might have about being an “island” in a sea of Microsoft Office users.

For the home (or school) user, the purchase becomes somewhat more compelling: The “Home & Student” version, listed at $99.99, contains the word processor, spreadsheet, presentation and “digital notebook” programs — no e-mail or PaperPort additions — but is $50 less than the Microsoft Office home/school product, which also lacks Microsoft Outlook.

WordPerfect X5, and the attendant office suite products, are solid competitors to the Microsoft range. They offer a good range of features, some nice extras, and prices that are competitive. However, Microsoft’s products remain a powerful draw, particularly for things such as Outlook, which is such an attractive productivity tool that Microsoft is creating an Outlook for the Macintosh as part of the next revision of its office suite there.

Details on WordPerfect Office X5 can be found online at www.corel.com/wordperfect.

E-mail mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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