Ride the lightning

Test drive | Corel's light word processor offers a lot of tools for free

Corel WordPerfect Lightning

Free Light Word Processor/Organizer

Reviewer's Comments: Corel finally enters the free light word processor market, and Lightning's capabilities should allow it to hold its own.

Performance: A

Features: B

Value: A+

Ease of use: A-

Price: Free




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Free and Flexible: Corel Lightning will be the most feature-rich light word processor on the market once it's officially released this summer. It lets you view and print documents in a variety of formats and lets you organize them within a project.

Studies have shown that, when the typical government office worker handles a document, eight times out of 10 they only view it or make minor changes to it.
That's why the light word processor was introduced over a decade ago; there's no need to call out the big guns when all you really need is a firecracker. And viewing a document is not difficult for a word processor to perform.

Until now, Microsoft's WordPad has been the most widely available light editor, being bundled with every Microsoft operating system since there has been a Windows. So you probably ran into it even when working on that old 386 running Windows 3.1 in 16-color mode.

No one has challenged this entrenchment ' until now. Corel's WordPerfect Lightning does everything WordPad does and more, and it is just as free.

Easy access

Lightning starts off with a navigator interface that lets you organize document files within a project. We were able to access Word, WordPerfect and Adobe PDF documents and sort them in a file hierarchy of our choosing.

You can also share this project with other users to keep document versions up-to-date, whether over a local-area network or across the Internet.

The document viewer lets you view and print files as they were made, in their original formats. You can copy text and paste it into a Lightning note document. We found it easy to grab content from various sources and combine it into a single document. Once text and/or graphics are selected, you simply right-click to bring up a small menu of export and transfer options, or you can even drag-and-drop it into an open notes window.

Because most content these days refers to other sources, this function can prove extremely useful, and boiling documents down to the crucial ideas is essential.
These features set Lightning apart from pretty much every other type of light-editing software. Corel officials seem to know that ' having been out of this market for so long ' they would have to step it up to make an impact, and they have certainly done that.

The WordPerfect notes editor works as you would expect a typical light word processor to function. You can change font styles, sizes and colors; justification and indentation; and bullets and numbers. Studies have shown that most editing is covered by these functions. We have always hoped that a light editor would include a spell-checker, but we understand that this would drastically increase the amount of hard-drive space it would take up. Still, one day we would like to see someone offer this feature. We think that would make light word processors really shine.

But one of the main advantages of a light word processor is that it takes up so little room on a hard drive, which takes priority over our spell-checking desires.
You can even fit the program on a key drive and carry it with you, in case you need to install it on a remote system that does not have it.

WordPerfect Lightning does not disappoint in this area. The downloadable install program is only 22M, and once installed it takes up less than 30M of hard-drive space. This pretty much ensures that Lightning can be installed on any system with ease.

Corel has partnered with Joyent to offer the Connector, a suite of Web-based collaboration tools that are free to Lightning users. Although more limited than some platforms, it does provide the basics of e-mail, calendar and 200M of file storage, adding another dimension to Lightning's capabilities.

Around the corner

Lightning is in the final stages of open beta right now, but since the last major update in mid-May, we don't expect there to be any major changes before its release this summer. Of course, the installation process will be the same, because it will still be a free download.

As an aside, the business model for the free light word processor is a bit mysterious. The folks at Corel were a little vague when asked how they planned to make any money giving away their light word processor.

But when you consider that people will still need a full-blown office suite to do the more powerful things that occasionally need doing, a free editor doesn't really impact those sales negatively.

And getting your brand name out on as many desktops as possible never hurt a little company called Microsoft, which has so far dominated the light word processor market. Perhaps if people use WordPerfect Lighting and really like it, they will be more inclined to purchase Corel's office suite and not Microsoft Office.

WordPerfect Lightning may be a bit of a latecomer to the free light word processor arena, but its unique capabilities will likely set a new standard for this type of product. It certainly will be the most feature-rich light processor on the market once it's officially released, and as people discover it, things might get a little shaken up in what has long been a still ' some would say stagnant ' pool for a long time.

About the Author

Greg Crowe is a former GCN staff writer who covered mobile technology.


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