A "Suite" Deal

By SmallBusinessComputing Staff | Posted May 01, 2000
by Charles H. Gajeway

WordPerfect Office 2000 Small Business Edition
Rating 90

When choosing an office productivity suite, it's easy to go for the obvious choice (we won't say who). But since it's one of the most important software purchases a business can make, it's no time to buy blind.

WordPerfect Office 2000 Small Business Edition is not a stripped-down version of an enterprise product. With presentation, accounting, and Web tools, and even anti-virus and fax utilities added to the usual word processing, spreadsheet, and publishing components, WordPerfect Office is a complete business solution that more than matches up to Microsoft Office 2000 SBE.

* Word Processing and Spreadsheets: The central applications of any office suite are word processing and spreadsheets. WordPerfect 9 and Quattro Pro 9 are both capable, time-tested programs that have been updated with Web publishing capabilities and MS Office 2000 compatibility. WordPerfect can also publish to Adobe's PDF format to preserve the formatting of electronically distributed documents. We appreciated being able to use our library of MS Office document files without any special conversion process, and to save new documents in MS Office format to send to other users. Quattro improvements include more formatting options, better compatibility with Excel, and enhanced reporting features, including the ability to "drill down" through multiple layers of data, and to create dynamically updated reports.

* Presentations and Publishing: Microsoft eliminated PowerPoint from its small business suite, on the theory that their Publisher was versatile enough to take up the slack. Like lots of users, however, we missed the slide-specific features of PowerPoint, and were glad to see that Corel included Presentations 9 for slides and Print Office 5 for publishing. We were impressed with both programs, finding them simple and straightforward to use. Corel supports both programs with a CD full of fonts, clipart, and photos. The only problem we ran across here was Corel's weaker compatibility with PowerPoint and Publisher. Presentations 9 offers PowerPoint conversion, but it was unable to handle the PowerPoint 2000 files we threw at it. Publisher-based projects will have to be re-created in Print Office, as no conversion is currently possible.

* Accounting: Peachtree First Accounting, included with WP Office, is easy to learn and use, but powerful and complete enough to be a valuable management tool. The software features tools for payroll, inventory, invoicing, and business reporting, plus templates and tutorials to help users to get up and running. Peachtree can also be useful for handling projects, tracking expenses, or estimating job costs.

* Web: WP Office includes Trellix 2, a desktop application designed to help users with limited knowledge of HTML create and organize Web site content quickly and easily. In addition, Online Merchant is a program that allows small businesses to set up an e-commerce Web site, complete with shopping carts, a search engine, and payment options.

* Other Stuff: In addition to the main programs, WP Office features Corel Central 9, a personal information manager that synchronizes data with your PC. We found it easy to use, and liked the way it "disappeared" into the right side of the screen when not in use, but stayed ready to use at a moment's notice.

WP Office also puts an icon on your desktop for a direct link to Stamps.com, the Web site for Internet postage. Two other extremely useful utilities, Norton AntiVirus 2000 and Symantec WinFax Basic, are included. And, there's Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications to help build custom business solutions based on the programs in the suite.

* The Bottom Line: Corel provides a complete suite of applications. While the individual programs are excellent, the suite components could be more tightly integrated, or at least grouped more conveniently. We also found the installation a bit inconvenient. The "Typical Installation" option leaves out some main components to the suite, so users have to choose the custom configuration option to include all the major components.

We should also mention the very useful Network Administrator Wizard, which helps LAN administrators configure the suite to run on a server.

Overall, WordPerfect Office 2000 Small Business Edition is a fabulous bargain, with a wide array of tools wrapped up in a very practical package. If your business is just starting up, or getting ready for a major software upgrade, you'll get more bang for your buck with Word Perfect Office than with Microsoft Office 2000 SBE, especially if accounting and Web site creation are at the top of your list.

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