WordPerfect comes of age in latest release from Corel

The core WordPerfect word processor, once a ubiquitous MS-DOS application, foundered in
its Microsoft Windows transition. Users drifted away from the performance problems,
bloated code and poor management that were the suite's hallmarks under the control of
WordPerfect Corp. and then Novell Inc.


After Corel acquired the word processor along with Borland International Inc.'s Quattro
Pro spreadsheet and Paradox database manager, WordPerfect began to have the makings of a
good suite. But only in WordPerfect Suite 8 does everything jell.


As tested in the GCN Lab, the suite did not include its new personal information
manager, Corel Central. A coupon for the PIM, due this fall, comes with the package.


WordPerfect Suite 8 has a smaller footprint and substantial performance enhancements
over its predecessors. The applications are better integrated than those in Microsoft
Office and about equal to those of Lotus Development Corp.'s SmartSuite 97.


The GCN Lab tested the second and third beta releases and the production release.
Throughout, the software was stable, without a single system crash from beta code. The lab
ran the suite under Windows 95 on a Hewlett-Packard Co. Vectra VL 166-MHz Pentium with 32M
RAM.


Besides WordPerfect 8, Quattro Pro 8, Presentations 8 and Corel Central, the suite has
the Corel Barista Java publishing tool, 1,000 fonts, 10,000 clip-art images and 200
digital photo images. Also on the CD-ROM is the WordPerfect Suite Software Developer Kit.


Minimal installation takes about 50M on the hard drive, and it can spiral upward to as
much as 120M. But that's slim considering the punch the suite packs.


Corel designed the product to take advantage of Pentium MMX processors. On MMX PCs, the
applications blaze through formerly daunting tasks, especially Presentations 8 programs.


Like Microsoft Office, WordPerfect has an agent to access help information. Unlike
Office's animated Office Assistants, Corel's PerfectExpert shows up in a menulike frame
next to your work area. The information is context-sensitive to what you're doing.


PerfectExpert may not be as cute as the Office cartoon agent icons, but it's superior
in help capability. For example, it can guide you through cross-application tasks such as
time management or filling out business forms.


Several small tools round out the suite. Envoy 7 Viewer reads documents created in the
Envoy 7 distributed document program that will ship with the as-yet unreleased WordPerfect
Suite 8 Professional. Versions, an archiving tool, tracks different versions of documents.
Photo House 1.1, a photo-editing tool, does touch-ups and special effects.


Of course, no suite would be complete without a customizable program launcher. Corel's
utility is called the Desktop Application Director, or DAD.


The documentation, like the suite, is more task-oriented than program-centric-thank
goodness. You'll even find a clip-art guide with full-color examples of all the visual
objects on the program CD.


This package will appeal to users who do desktop publishing. For World Wide Web
publishers, however, I recommend waiting for the Professional edition, which will include
Corel Web.Site.Builder software. Users looking for a database manager also will have to
wait for the Professional edition's Paradox 8.


It's a mystery why Microsoft and Corel don't seem to think buyers of standard suites
want some type of database program. Lotus includes its Approach database manager in the
standard SmartSuite 97.


WordPerfect 8 is more comfortable with Windows than any previous version of the word
processor, not only in the interface but also in the way it performs. It looks very
similar to Microsoft Word, but you can customize the interface and menus to resemble the
earlier WordPerfect versions if you want to keep them familiar to users of the earlier
releases.


Internet access is simple and intuitive. Tasks such as embedding a Java applet into a
document are easy. Users who often publish documents with images will appreciate the new
drawing layer, which gives better control of images and drawings independent of text.
Table support also is better.


I've used WordPerfect 8 to create everything from simple correspondence to complex
text-and-image documents and Web pages. It is equal or superior to Microsoft Word in
almost every aspect.


Quattro Pro still stands in the shadow of Microsoft Excel and Lotus 1-2-3 for ease of
use and features, but the gap has narrowed in Version 8. Many of its formatting features,
though well-executed, have been around in other programs for a while.


Its integration with the rest of the suite is exemplary. Quattro Pro has ample power
for most users, and the PerfectExpert gives guidance through more than 100 spreadsheet
tasks.


Presentations 8 best demonstrates Corel's re-engineering effort. It's up to par with
Microsoft PowerPoint or Lotus Freelance. Not only is there a wealth of clip art,
templates, borders and fonts, the quality of some of the objects is far beyond anything in
the other suites.


Presentation's shows run smoothly with graceful transition effects. Individual pages
and whole slide shows can be posted to the Web.


In this version, WordPerfect Suite 8 is better as a whole and better in the individual
applications. Corel has created a bundle that really can compete with other popular
suites.


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