WordPerfect Office 2000: Powerful, easy to use

The just-released Corel WordPerfect Office 2000 is not likely to lure many users away from market-leading Microsoft Office. But this new version should keep current Corel users from fleeing, and it will attract some new users, especially among those keeping a close eye on their budgets.

The Corel suite's most obvious competitive advantage is its price. With a list price of only $274 for the professional version—which includes the Paradox database as well as WordPerfect, the Quattro Pro spreadsheet program, Corel Presentations and the CorelCentral contact manager—the Corel suite has a price about one-third that of Microsoft Office 97 Professional.

Even if WordPerfect Office 2000's base applications do not challenge the dominance of Microsoft Office's primary applications, they are nevertheless powerful and easy to use. And with this new version, the Corel suite pushes the envelope further than Microsoft Office in at least one respect: voice recognition. The suite offers Dragon Naturally Speaking, a trainable product that allows users to dictate at 160 words per minute or more. You can use the program for dictation tasks as well as for issuing a limited set of voice commands for such formatting chores as setting text as bold or italic.

If you buy the voice-powered edition or the professional edition, both of which include Dragon Naturally Speaking, you'll find a headset/microphone device in the box. Plug it into your sound card, install the software, and you're ready to go. Unfortunately, we found that—as with other voice-recognition programs we've tested—it takes significant training time to achieve even acceptable levels of recognition accuracy, especially for dictation.

Another notable addition to the suite is Trellix 2.0, an easy-to-use program for converting and formatting World Wide Web pages. But what is really special about Trellix is the program's ability to generate site maps and navigation links for Web documents. However, Trellix is not as tightly integrated with WordPerfect Office 2000 as we'd like to see. You can move documents from WordPerfect to Trellix by selecting File/Publish in the word processor, but there is no integration with other suite applications.

WordPerfect Office 2000's Internet tools are rounded out by NetPerfect, a client/server program that allows multiple users to contribute documents to a central server. The program supports the conversion of a broad variety of formats and will automatically update documents as changes are made to the originals.

In addition to the suite's new tools, WordPerfect Office 2000 users will find dozens of significant enhancements in each of the suite's major applications.

WordPerfect 9, for example, now offers real-time previews, XML support and font embedding, which means users will be able to view documents just as they originally were formatted, even if users don't have the appropriate fonts installed. There's also a nice new autoscroll tool. Click on the tool icon and then simply move your mouse in whatever direction you want to go. This feature is comparable to Microsoft's IntelliMouse support.

Quattro Pro has taken on heavyweight dimensions in this new version. The program can now handle up to 1 million rows and more than 18,000 columns of data. And among the dozens of other formatting enhancements, Quattro Pro also sports the new real-time preview feature.

WordPerfect Office 2000 also includes a completely redesigned CorelCentral. This contact manager is not as well-designed as Microsoft's Outlook, and it doesn't integrate e-mail capabilities.

But it does offer a strong set of calendaring, task-management and phone book tools. In fact, this version of CorelCentral has taken on some project planning capabilities. You now can record progress on tasks and create subtasks for each task. Also new is an alarm application that will sound alarms for specified events whether CorelCentral is running or not.

Finally, one of the suite's most highly touted enhancements is its enhanced compatibility with other products, especially Microsoft Office.

While continuing to employ a native file format identical to that used in WordPerfect 6, Word Perfect Office 2000 introduces enhanced file conversion to make it easier to accurately convert documents between WordPerfect, Word and WordPro. Users of WordPerfect Office 2000 can open a file in the Word and WordPro formats even if it contains formatting data not supported by WordPerfect Office, such as table line thickness. When the file is resaved to the foreign format, that formatting data is restored.

Administrators will appreciate WordPerfect Office 2000's utility for generating setup profiles for automated user installations. The Corel Distribute Utility leads the administrator through the installation process and generates an installation file for users to activate. Unfortunately, if you want to change the setup file, you'll have to go through the entire process of generating a profile again because there is no provision for editing existing profiles.

WordPerfect Office 2000 represents a major upgrade, one that will be attractive especially to users who want to move documents to the Web. The suite offers a lot of power at a bargain-basement price, and its enhanced compatibility with Microsoft file formats means users won't have trouble working with users of the market-leading office suite.

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Corel Corp.

1-800-499-6544

www.corel.com

Remarks: WordPerfect Office 2000 represents a significant update of Corel's office suite, and it will be attractive particularly to users who want to move documents to the World Wide Web or who need compatibility with Microsoft Office or Lotus SmartSuite files.

Score: Very Good

BY PATRICK MARSHALL
June 07, 1999

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