- The Washington Times - Monday, January 10, 2000

Best office suite

Microsoft Office 2000 wins, hands down. It's slick, it's fast, it works and it's Web-ready. There is no better way to work with information from and on the World Wide Web, and there are few faster methods of placing your information on the Web, or on a company intranet.
In a sense, Microsoft Office 2000 is a bit anti-climactic, since its first beta arrived in July 1998 and here I am, 18 months later, still talking about it. But this software is deserving of praise because this time, Microsoft got it right, and in so many ways.
Consider: You can click on an address in Microsoft Outlook 2000's contact manager, and instantly address an e-mail or a printed letter. Another click takes that report you wrote and saves it in hypertext mark-up language on a Web site. Still a third click does the same thing for an Excel spreadsheet and when you update the spreadsheet, the Web site is also refreshed.
This kind of functionality will serve Microsoft Office users well, and that seems to be a great number of folks. More information can be found on line at www.microsoft.com/office.
Runner-up is Corel Corp.'s WordPerfect Office 2000, an able assemblage of items from the Ottawa-based software shop (www.corel.com). WordPerfect remains a premier way of putting words on paper, and the Quattro Pro spreadsheet is a wonder to behold. Corel's overall expertise in graphics and commitment to the Internet is seen throughout this package, and the firm's bundling of Dragon Naturally Speaking in the high-end version of the software is an extra treat, making it easy to transition to voice processing.

Rookie of the year

StarOffice from Sun Microsystems (free to download at www.sun.com/staroffice) makes the grade. Not only does the program offer word processing, spreadsheet, graphics, e-mail and Web browsing (in six languages and on several computing platforms), but it does so for only the cost of downloading. (If you want all the manuals and a CD-ROM with the program, that will cost $39.95, which is less than one-tenth the full retail price of Microsoft Office 2000's least-expensive version.) While it drew some demerits when reviewed here, StarOffice is a good look ahead to what will be available in the Linux era of computing, which is just dawning now.
Best finance software
There's no debate that Quicken 2000 stands out. The Quicken line is the gold standard of money management programs, and the Year 2000 versions add more Web flexibility and input to an otherwise stellar combination of tools.
One might hope for a bit more flexibility with some aspects of the program, but overall, Quicken does what it's supposed to do, and does it so well and so completely that there's no comparison with anything else on the market.

Best communicators

LapLink2000, which actually made its debut last fall, from LapLink.com (formerly Traveling Software) of Bothell, Wash. (www.laplink.com). This program starts by offering hookups between PCs (say your notebook and your desktop units) and a USB cable for superfast data transfer. The new program also includes a way to connect remote computers over the Internet, and builds in new security measures for safe, reliable communications. With the Internet capability also comes the ability to chat real-time with other users using LapLink 2000's Voice Chat feature, which means you could talk to your company's information technology staff while on line. The voice-over data calling feature could be a real lifesaver when on the road.

Utilities of the year

Here, it's a toss up since both Conversions Plus, version 4.6, and MacOpener, version 4.1, from DataViz (www.dataviz.com) are important products if you deal with people who send over files in differing formats.
New technologies in version 4.6 have made the $39.95 Conversions Plus a must for Windows users who experience incompatibility trying to open Mac files, unreadable e-mail attachments or Windows files created in programs they don't have, such as Lotus 1-2-3 or some of the more esoteric word processors and databases. MacOpener 4.1, list price $29.95, allows you to open a Macintosh-format disk floppy or Zip drive on your PC, view the file directory and bring over what you need.
Both are excellent programs, which deliver substantial value for the money.
Write to Mark Kellner in care of The Washington Times, Business Desk, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002, send e-mail to [email protected], or visit the writer's Web page (www.markkellner.com).

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