WordPerfect Office 11 Standard

Long the underdog, WordPerfect has filled a niche and maintained a strong following over the years. The latest WordPerfect Office 11 offers more polish than useful new capabilities, but some may find the upgrade worthy. Stronger XML tools will help businesses publish documents into the XML format and various enhancements — most notably better document navigation and routing tools — will work well in some offices. But the new version mostly appeals to power users, particularly those in the government, legal and application development arenas. And staunch Microsoft Office users will find little to convince them to switch.

The WordPerfect Office 11 Standard suite comes with the WordPerfect word processor, Quattro Pro spreadsheet, and Presentations presentation program. The Professional version, which is available as a license, adds the Paradox database program to the mix.

At the suite’s core lies the WordPerfect word processor, which remains a powerful contender. A useful new document map feature helps users navigate within documents. For example, if you have a long document that’s organized by sections, you can click a section to immediately view that portion of the document, which beats scrolling endlessly through on-screen pages. Another plus, WordPerfect’s thesaurus is the Pocket Oxford Dictionary, which provides the meaning, history and pronunciation for some 30,000 words.

The enhanced reveal codes feature offers greater control over document formatting and lets you print codes in order to review them on paper. While the improvements do offer additional control, it’s probably not a feature that most users will take advantage of. As before, the program comes with helpful PerfectExperts, clear instructions that guide you through the process of adding headers and footers, setting margins, editing and proofreading, and more.

Improved XML integration, which will appeal more to IT types than to rank-and-file users, lets you publish WordPerfect documents, suite slide shows and spreadsheets to XML. This is a strong enhancement to the suite’s file sharing options and encourages the distribution of content to multiple devices

The program lets you convert individual files or groups of files in batches and supports a wide range of file formats, including those of Microsoft Office. Perhaps most important from a file standpoint, the latest WordPerfect maintains direct file compatibility with WordPerfect version 6.1, because the file format hasn’t changed.

Interestingly, WordPerfect offers a mode that mimics the interface of the ancient 5.1 version that ran under DOS some ten years ago. Talk about going back to the future. While Corel says that this feature was requested by a number of users, it’s hard to imagine who would want to use it. But it’s harmless to the rest of us who have moved on.

New routing functions allow for a stronger review process, particularly when documents are written by multiple authors or feedback is needed from a large number of reviewers. WordPerfect increases its appeal to those in the legal industry with a Pleading Wizard that walks users through the process of creating pleading documents.

An oversight — or perhaps it’s simply throwing in the towel and waving the white flag — the suite lacks an e-mail client. Ironically, to use the new routing features mentioned earlier, users have to rely on Novell GroupWise or, gasp, Microsoft Outlook. We were, however, impressed with the suite’s ability to use information from Microsoft Outlook — for example, to merge contact information into letters and onto envelopes.

The suite comes with a solid collection of photos, clipart and fonts and offers strong options to let users create and modify their workspaces with display choices, menus, settings and toolbars, and property and application bars. Those of you who already use WordPerfect will find that the interface is similar to that in past versions and consistent across the suite’s applications. There was no reason to change a good thing.

WordPerfect Office can publish to PDF, Adobe Acrobat files, which is something not offered in Microsoft Office. And the scripting languages, PerfectScript, Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications and ObjectPAL, let power users create custom dialog boxes to simplify tasks and add extra functions.

The venerable Quattro Pro 11 spreadsheet returns, with strong charting features and a QuickSubtotal feature that applies totals to a column for fast analysis; and a CrossTab Reports feature summarizes data. Presentations, long in the shadow of Microsoft’s PowerPoint, comes with a new QuickWarp tool to mold objects into preset shapes; a Quick3D tool to add dimension to text and support for animated GIFs, MP3 and WMA sound files. A useful Show On the Go feature lets you create self-executing versions of slide shows that will play on any Windows computer. All are decent additions, but not enough to allow the program to compete with PowerPoint.

Paradox, which is available only through a license agreement of the Professional version, provides the suite’s database features. While we didn’t evaluate Paradox — we were only provided with the Standard suite — the newest version of the database program is designed to offer stronger sharing features. When you consider that Microsoft Office 2003 Professional Edition includes the Microsoft Access database as well as the Microsoft Publisher 2003 desktop publishing program and Microsoft Office Business Contact Manager 2003, Microsoft clearly rules the higher-end, “Professional” suites.

In its press materials, Corel touts the suite’s stability. When we evaluated a gold version of the program running on Windows XP, we found the system to be quite stable and experienced no crashes. Unlike Microsoft Office 2003, WordPerfect Office 11 runs on older operating systems that can go back as far as Windows 98 Second Edition.

The WordPerfect suite’s in-program assistance, particularly its PerfectExperts, remains first rate and helpful. On the other hand, while Corel offers a thorough database of Q&As to assist end-users on its Web site, there’s no way to ask questions via e-mail. And to speak with a technical support, you have to make an expensive toll call to Canada in addition to the per incident, or per minute charge.

Current WordPerfect users may not find enough in the newest suite to warrant an upgrade. But if your office can use the suite’s new XML integration, WordPerfect Office 11 is definitely worth a look.

Pricing and Availability
WordPerfect Office 11 comes in Standard and Professional editions, with the Professional edition available as a license-only offering to enterprise customers. WordPerfect Office 11 Standard edition has a suggested retail price (SRP) of $299.99. Existing users of WordPerfect Office can purchase WordPerfect Office 11 Standard at the upgrade SRP of $149.99. A special edition to serve the education market, equivalent to the Professional version, is available for $99.99.

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