Rather than chase after Microsoft Office users or suite newbies, Corel says that WordPerfect Office 2002, the newest upgrade to the venerable business applications suite, has focused on features for current WordPerfect aficionados. The result is an extremely capable product, though one not radically different from its predecessor. We tried out a shipping version of the software.
Unlike Microsoft's new Office XP, WordPerfect Office 2002 doesn't sport a heavily revamped look. Most interface changes are subtle: for instance, RealTime Preview - a handy feature (and one that Microsoft Office still lacks) that shows how prospective formatting changes will affect documents - now shows up in more places.
More than ever, the suite's namesake word processor is an excellent tool for crafting long, complex documents. It now lets you hop through a lengthy file by jumping to hyperlinks, text boxes, and other elements, and it does a better job than its predecessor at turning raw text into tables. Also new in this edition is an integrated version of the Oxford English Dictionary, with definitions of 30,000 words.
Presentations, the suite's presentation application, can now export Flash slide shows that retain animation effects and display equally well in the Web browsers of both Microsoft and Netscape. WordPerfect also has improved PDF export capabilities, so anyone who has installed Adobe's free Acrobat Reader software can view your documents.
CorelCentral, formerly a single-user calendar and address book, now handles e-mail and group scheduling, too. But the e-mail client is effectively a stand-alone application, not very well integrated with CorelCentral's other tools. While it has a friendly look resembling that of Microsoft's Outlook Express, it could use more power and polish. For instance, it handles multiple accounts less adeptly than Outlook Express, and it lacks filtering tools for sorting incoming messages automatically.
WordPerfect Office 2002 Professional includes version 10 of the Paradox database - little-changed from the previous version - and Dragon's excellent NaturallySpeaking 5 voice recognition software, a more highly evolved dictation system than Microsoft Office XP's new voice recognition program, albeit one that hogs system resources. Paradox is a relational database that can be scripted and programmed to an extent that is simply unmatched by the competition. However, it's not very easy to use. By using SQL builder it is possible to build up complex and powerful queries that can be used across a Web database.
Also included is Quattro Pro, a powerful spreadsheet application, which can display a million rows of data over 18,000 sheets. As with Excel and Lotus 1-2-3, preset formulas enable users to manipulate figures more easily. Corel has also enhanced many of Quattro Pro's charting features: its new charting engine lets you produce slick, shaded 3D graphs. Ultimately, however, Quattro Pro requires considerable effort to learn compared to Microsoft Excel.
Upgraders shouldn't have trouble sharing documents with users of previous WordPerfect versions, since the suite's file formats haven't changed. Of course, in a Microsoft-centric world, it's at least as important for WordPerfect Office to handle Microsoft Office files. In my tests, simple documents usually came through with few problems. Fancy formatting was often lost, however, and WordPerfect couldn't open a couple of Word files at all.
One major addition to WordPerfect Office 2002 mirrors a change in Office XP: when suite applications crash, they try to recover work in progress and to relaunch themselves. I didn't have the final versions long enough to gauge their stability, but one hopes that users will rarely be forced to depend on this feature.Corel WordPerfect Office 2002
Price: Standard $1100, Professional $1320
Phone: 1800 658 850