GCN LAB REVIEW
For government users, WordPerfect X5 lives up to its name
Corel makes the suite easy to use, with expanded compatibility and collaboration features
If the software needs of a typical office worker never changed, we would never need new versions of the software that makes work a little easier. But needs do change, almost like clockwork. Thus we are greeted with a new version of most office suites every couple of years or so. Sometimes, the improvements in the new versions are minimal, and one wonders why the company even bothered. But then, there are times when everything changes for the better.
WordPerfect Office X5 Standard from Corel is a significant improvement over its previous X4 version in many ways. From its increased integration with document management systems to its larger file type compatibility, WordPerfect Office X5 let you use and work with your documents in more robust and clever ways.
That was immediately evident to us when we opened the various component programs. For each one, we were allowed to choose which type of workspace we wanted. For instance, when opening WordPerfect, we could choose from the modes of WordPerfect, Microsoft Word, WordPerfect Legal or even WordPerfect Classic for anyone who misses that old blue-screen environment. The menus and shortcuts were tailored to the mode we selected.
We especially liked the new Reference Center, which replaces the help system of previous versions. There are tabs, of course, for each of the major components — WordPerfect, Quatro Pro and Presentations — in addition to others for tools and features that are common to all of them, such as spelling and grammar checkers. This more centralized help system makes it much easier to find the help a user needs.
The most drastic improvement is probably in changing the e-mail client program. Although the old WordPerfect Mail was adequate, it fell short in several areas. The suite now contains Mozilla Thunderbird for WordPerfect Office, which has much better features for search indexing and junk mail filtering than its predecessor had. Overall, the mail menus are a lot cleaner, and you can more easily search through your mail. This update brings it more in line with the standard e-mail programs that we are used to seeing and working with, and it should be easy for a beginner to pick up.
However, despite this giant step toward a more standard e-mail client, Thunderbird does not fully support Microsoft Exchange Server. We have been assured that this is a top priority for Corel, but as of this review, it is not yet fully compatible. We did find that it will import address books and folders from Outlook. Probably because of the aforementioned compatibility issue, Thunderbird is not part of the regular installation, and you must install it separately.
The X5 Standard edition we tested also included Nuance PaperPort 12 SE. That feature allowed us to convert scanned documents and PDFs into word-processor text with greater than 90 percent accuracy. It even takes scanned spreadsheets and automatically converts them to Quatro Pro or Microsoft Excel formats. And we could annotate PDF documents with notes, highlight some text or even circle something with a pen tool.
Of course, the strength of WordPerfect and its office-mate programs has always been the number of file formats they support. In WordPerfect, we were able to save a document into any one of 78 versions of 23 different programs or formats. If you add in Quatro Pro and Presentation, the grand total comes to 131 versions of 49 different programs or formats. Chances are you will find the format you need.
In addition, you can publish Presentations X5 documents to HTML or Flash formats. And being able to turn your presentation into a Flash file is a pretty cool trick for your presenter’s bag. That not only will likely squeeze down the presentation size but also means there is little chance of incompatibility when you give your presentation.
The X5 version we tested introduced the Microsoft Office Open Extensible Markup Language (OOXML) formats, which are better known as file types such as .docx. Whether this validates Microsoft’s decision to create its own flavor of XML or not, it’s still a good sign that Corel is putting the user first by allowing access to these file formats without the need for any additional converters. You can just open .docx files normally in WordPerfect.
Although previous versions of WordPerfect Office have allowed users to import and export PDF files, X5 has increased support of the PDF/A format, which more organizations are using for long-term document archiving. The speed and easy way that WordPerfect handles PDFs makes it a good choice for government.
Corel also has made collaboration easier by giving X5 users the ability to work with a Microsoft SharePoint server directly, without leaving the WordPerfect Office environment.
And many government users would be pleased to find out about X5’s redaction tools, which we found easy to use and permanent. Once a document was redacted, we couldn’t undo those changes in the documents no matter what we threw at them. Of course, for organizations that don’t have a SharePoint server to use, there is always WordPerfect Lightning, included in Office X5, which lets users keep track of project-related documents on a local level.
We were pleased to see that Corel has dropped the price of WordPerfect Office X5 Standard. At $250 for a full version or $160 for an upgrade, it’s definitely a good value for such a powerful and flexible office suite.
The needs of office users will continue to change, but Corel’s WordPerfect Office X5 Standard definitely proves that some companies can keep up with the world. Anyone using Office X5, particularly in government, should be happy to have all the tools they require for quite sometime. WordPerfect X5 earns a Reviewer’s Choice designation for being a nearly perfect toolset for busy government employees.
Corel WordPerfect Office X5 Standard
Pros: Improved file compatibility, great price.
Cons: Mail client not totally compatible with Microsoft Exchange.
Ease of Use: A
Price: $250 (full), $160 (upgrade)
Greg Crowe is a staff writer covering mobile technology for GCN. Follow him on Twitter: @GCNLabGuys.