Corel offers free WordPerfect 8 version for Linux






The freeware Linux operating system has had plenty of adherents but, until now,
few commercial-quality applications. That is changing rapidly, thanks in no small part to
Corel Corp.


Corel carried on WordPerfect’s long cross-platform tradition with Corel
WordPerfect 7 for Linux, the most popular productivity application for the upstart OS. Now
Corel is jump-starting mainstream interest in Linux by giving away a personal version of
WordPerfect 8 for Linux without a manual, clip art or technical support. Full commercial
and server editions also are available.


Corel will port its full WordPerfect application suite and graphics packages to Linux,
and the word processor alone is a big first step. Although Applix Inc. of Westborough,
Mass., and Star Division Corp. of Fremont, Calif., also have Linux office suites,
WordPerfect is more familiar to Microsoft Windows users who want to take a tentative step
toward OS independence.


I tested the personal and server versions of WordPerfect 8 under Red Hat Linux 5.2 from
Red Hat Software Inc. of Research Triangle Park, N.C., at a local console of a
Hewlett-Packard Co. NetServer LH Pro, as well as in an X Window session on a remote
workstation running Windows NT and Reflection X from WRQ Inc. of Seattle.


Both versions performed in both tests without a hitch.


Installation was simple. I downloaded the personal version’s files from the Corel
Web site and extracted them from their archive format into an installation directory using
the Unix tar utility. The server commercial version came on an installation CD-ROM and
needed no such Unix voodoo.


Both versions had a graphical program for initial setup. In the near future,
WordPerfect 8 will come bundled with several distributions of the Linux OS, and Corel
users can take advantage of any installer packages provided by the OS vendor.


The WordPerfect 8 interface under Linux is so close to the Windows interface that most
users of Windows word processors will feel comfortable with it. The only real differences
come in printer setup and font selection, which bring back memories of old MS-DOS
versions.


The interface has two windows: one for editing and printing, and a control panel for
running utilities and setting preferences. All the Windows word processor’s
high-powered editing and proofing features are here: the Grammatik spell-checker, a
thesaurus, and auto-underline for misspellings and grammar errors. A quick-correct feature
like Microsoft Word’s spots common typographical mistakes and corrects them on the
fly. You can make shorthand entries for frequently used text, phrases or symbols.


For more complex tasks, you can record and play back macros. The macro recorder tracks
each keystroke, command, menu choice or edit made while it is turned on, then saves the
results as a handy macro. You can view and edit the command language in a recorded macro
or modify any of the predefined macros that come with the package.


I liked the high-powered collaboration features. A remote window utility lets a remote
user take control of an editing session with a local user’s rights. To start the
utility, all you do is choose the Remote Window command from the control panel, then enter
the IP address or domain name of the system that will control the session. It’s easy
to edit a document jointly with another user or work with the help desk staff on a
problem.


The document generation power of Windows WordPerfect is present in the Linux version,
too. You can merge data into forms and make indexes, cross-references, lists or tables of
contents. Users familiar with these tasks in any Windows word processor will have little
or no difficulty.


An Internet publishing feature lets you create a Web document from scratch, using
WordPerfect as a Hypertext Markup Language editor, or reformat an existing document for
the Web.


A few adventures do await pioneers who move to the Linux platform. For example, if you
need a printer driver not provided with WordPerfect 8 for Linux but available for the
Windows product, you’ll have to download the WordPerfect 6 version of the driver to a
Windows or MS-DOS platform, run a self-extracting executable file, then move it over to
Linux and modify its filename. Directions appear on Corel’s site at linux.corel.com/support_faqs.htm.


Then there’s font selection. The commercial version supports PostScript Type I
fonts and Bitstream fonts—something that will make long-time WordPerfect users
nostalgic. Don’t expect support for Microsoft TrueType fonts anytime soon.


Recent security issues have cropped up with the default installation in cases where
WordPerfect 8 was installed using a root account. Straightforward directions for
correcting the potential security breach appear at linux.corel.com/linux8/linuxfix.htm.


Given these caveats, WordPerfect 8 for Linux is a solid word processor. The server
version would be ideal for workgroups that have a spare Pentium or 486 computer and a
couple of X terminals, and want a low-cost administrative replacement for aging or year
2000-vulnerable word processors. 


Kevin Jonah, a Maryland network manager and free-lance writer, writes often about
computer technology.



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