WordPerfect gets new lease on life on Linux
- By Paul Ferrill
- May 31, 2000
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
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