Feds still value WordPerfect
Word processing software a good fit for legal, government work
- By Aliya Sternstein
- Mar 28, 2005
Microsoft Word may be the dominant word processing software used in offices today, but Corel’s WordPerfect still has a home in many federal agencies for at least the immediate future.
Thousands of federal employees still use WordPerfect, including many at the Justice Department, Census Bureau and Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Corel officials have sold federal agencies more than 100,000 licenses for WordPerfect Office 12, the company’s latest release of the product, a spokesman said. That version includes word processing, spreadsheet and multimedia applications.
Officials at Justice’s Bureau of Prisons plan to use WordPerfect, Word or both applications for computer vocational training next year, and Input analysts predict that the Defense Information Systems Agency’s wide-area network will continue supporting WordPerfect users for some time.
“It’s safe to say there are still WordPerfect users in the government, and they’re probably spread across all the different agencies and departments,” said Input analyst Payton Smith, although he could not quantify the number of Word users vs. WordPerfect users.
Corel officials say their product is well-suited for the legal profession and government agencies. Officials at the Library of Congress, the White House and federal courts use WordPerfect at some level, said Richard Carriere, Corel’s general manager for office productivity. WordPerfect costs less than Word, he said. “We are not giving our product away, don’t get me wrong,” Carriere said. “It remains a standard in the industry.”
The General Services Administration lists the starting price for WordPerfect licenses at $106. Although that’s 73 percent less than the suggested retail price for Microsoft Office 2003, government agencies typically pay less than retail for Microsoft applications.
Corel officials announced March 8 that Justice officials will extend an existing contract for WordPerfect Office and license more than 50,000 seats, making the department one of the largest users of the software. Since Justice bought 35,000 WordPerfect seats in 1999, the Bureau of Prisons and U.S. Attorneys’ offices have hired more employees, creating a need for a larger contract.
Although many Justice employees use Word, officials say, many members of the legal community prefer WordPerfect because of a function that allows users to view and edit formatting codes. They also like the software’s ability to display a variety of legal tools.
“We have a lot of expertise in WordPerfect,” said Mary Aileen O’Donovan, a program manager on Justice’s enterprise solutions staff. “Kids come out of [law] school pretty good users, and they don’t want to switch.”
Federal courts also require that case documents be filed in WordPerfect.
All Justice agencies except the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Drug Enforcement Administration use the latest version of WordPerfect. FBI employees work with an older version, WordPerfect 8, although some bureau employees bought several new suites. DEA and the Marshals Service have stopped using WordPerfect.
Although Justice will continue using WordPerfect for now, the department will eventually shift to Word, O’Donovan said. Justice officials signed a two-year contract with Corel that included three option years. “As far as correspondence to the outside world, everybody uses Word,” she said. “After two years, we could presumably” stop using WordPerfect. Department officials already use Microsoft’s PowerPoint and Excel.
Library of Congress officials would not comment on their uses of WordPerfect. They are evaluating word processing packages. Spokesman Guy Lamolinara said in an e-mail message that it would be premature to discuss the evaluations.
“We do use Corel products here, among many other types of software,” including Word, he said.
Some federal agencies, such as the Census Bureau, continue using WordPerfect despite other options. Thomas Meerholz, chief of the bureau’s client support office, said his customers like WordPerfect’s ability to reveal formatting codes, and mathematical statisticians routinely use the application’s equation editor.
“If we standardized in Word, we’d have to retrain a lot of people,” Meerholz said. The bureau’s 8,000 employees have access to both WordPerfect 12 and Word.
About a year and a half ago, Census officials proposed discarding WordPerfect, but they decided to use both products after receiving a tremendous amount of negative feedback.
“To be honest with you, cost-wise, it’s a very good deal,” Meerholz said.
Compatibility with Word remains a thorny issue, but the ability to exchange documents improves with each new release, Meerholz said.
Like other longtime WordPerfect users, FTC information technology specialist Donna Blades can think of few shortcomings in WordPerfect. She recently extended FTC’s Corel contract and will upgrade to WordPerfect 12 later this year.
FTC officials chose WordPerfect mainly because of the product’s document security. By default, WordPerfect does not save changes when users edit documents. FTC employees have the option of using Microsoft Word, but the program makes edits harder to hide, she said.
Additionally, FTC’s lawyers can save macros, type on letterhead and compose legal documents in WordPerfect. “Once you’ve customized a product, it’s hard to move away from it,” Blades said.