WordPerfect gets new lease on life on Linux

It wasn't too long ago that WordPerfect was the word processing program

of choice in many government offices. But then arch-rival Microsoft Corp.

made a key strategic move when it bundled its main desktop productivity

tools — Word, Excel, and PowerPoint — into a product suite called Microsoft

Office. Meanwhile, WordPerfect suffered through company acquisitions, ultimately

being sold off to Corel Inc., and seemingly faded into the twilight.

But now it has a new lease on life on the Linux platform. WordPerfect

Office for Linux represents a significant milestone for the Linux desktop

movement in that it is the first commercially established productivity suite

to be ported to Linux. As such it brings the same level of functionality

and features that have come to be expected from most Windows-based products.

About the only competition on the Linux application front comes from

Sun Microsystems Corp.'s StarOffice product. Even though Sun is currently

giving away StarOffice, that product still doesn't provide all of the functionality

that you'll get with WordPerfect Office 2000.

Basic requirements for WordPerfect Office 2000 include a Pentium 166

or better machine with 32M of memory, running any version of Linux based

on the 2.2.X kernel. Corel recommends at least a Pentium 200 for the best

performance. You'll also need a CD-ROM to install the software. I installed

the product on both a Pentium 200 and a Pentium 400-class machine, both

having 128M of memory.

I first tested the product by installing Corel's version of Linux included

with the product and then installing the WordPerfect Office suite. This

installation went off without a hitch, and I was up and running in less

than thirty minutes.

Testing the installation on a RedHat Linux 6.1 system, however, turned

out to be a little more challenging. The Corel manual assumes that you know

how to do basic Linux operations, such as mount a CD-ROM. There was also

a minor issue about a font server that required additional reading to get

it working properly.

WordPerfect Office 2000 includes WordPerfect 9, Quattro Pro 9, Corel

Presentations 9, Paradox 9 and CorelCENTRAL 9. One of the themes prevalent

throughout the entire suite of applications is compatibility. WordPerfect

will read and write documents created in both Microsoft Word and Lotus'

Ami Pro. I was able to read a document written with Word 2000 with no problems.

Quattro Pro will read Excel spreadsheets but will have difficulty if

the spreadsheet includes any Visual Basic macros. While the Paradox database

won't read Microsoft Access database files directly, you can import data

from a number of other formats. Corel says it can import Microsoft PowerPoint

files, although I was not able to import a slide show that had some basic

special effects into Corel Presentations.

Another common theme shared by all WordPerfect Office components is

Internet standards support. WordPerfect provides multiple format support

for saving files, including HTML and Adobe's portable document format. All

of the components support HTML as an output format. WordPerfect also reads

HTML, which means you can use it as a basic Web page editor.

WordPerfect 9.0 includes a number of useful new features. For example,

Perfectprint allows you to enlarge or reduce any document to fit a specific

paper size without changing the format of the page. An autoscroll feature

scrolls the text at varying speeds based on where you place the mouse, similar

to utilities that come with Microsoft's Intellimouse. There's also a real-time

preview option to let you see the effects of a format change before you

actually make it. WordPerfect 9.0 includes a library of document templates

for creating memos, resumes, fax coversheets and more.

Opening a simple Excel 2000 spreadsheet with Quattro Pro was trouble

free. Quattro Pro 9.0 has increased its capacity to allow for 1,000,000

rows and 18,000 columns. Quattro Pro also provides the real-time preview

found in WordPerfect for previewing format changes prior to actually applying

them. For macro programming, Quattro Pro supports either native macros or

PerfectScript macros. PerfectScript is the common scripting language across

all the WordPerfect Office applications, similar to Microsoft's Visual Basic

Script.

The WordPerfect Office 2000 for Linux User Guide provides documentation

for all of the different products in a single perfect-bound book. One thing

I didn't like was the separate index for each section. The largest section

of the book is devoted to WordPerfect Office and includes a number of chapters

on basic text formatting. There's also reference to the online HTML-based

help for more information.

Of most interest to many government agencies will be the relatively

low cost of WordPerfect Office 2000. Corel has priced their product significantly

below a comparable version of Microsoft Office 2000. Their only challenge

now is to overcome the large installed base of Microsoft Office users. With

file format compatibility and a Linux base they certainly offer a viable

alternative.

REPORT CARD

Corel WordPerfect Office 2000 for Linux, Deluxe Edition

Score — B+

Corel Inc.

(613) 728-8200

www.corel.com

Price and Availability: WordPerfect Office 2000 for Linux will be offered in both Standard and Deluxe Editions. The Standard Edition will sell for a suggested retail price of $109. The Deluxe Edition will be available for a suggested retail price of $159. Beyond.com has it for $98.21 on their DoD Blanket Purchase Agreement for DoD agencies and employees. CDW has it for $139.09.

Remarks: Corel WordPerfect Office 2000 for Linux is a very good value. All the different products work well together and provide compatibility with files from other vendors. New features and expanded Internet file support make the product even more useful. While many organizations might find it hard for reasons of support costs to justify something other than a Microsoft product, WordPerfect Office could help small groups on tight budgets.

BY Paul Ferrill
May 31, 2000

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