WordPerfect Office from Corel is a cheaper alternative to the Microsoft Office suite. The suite contains programs similar to Word, Excel, PowerPoint and more, handles Microsoft files, and can even be configured to look like the aforementioned applications. And as a bonus, it exports to the Adobe PDF format, which is fantastic for web users. So, it sounds like a perfect alternative to the big suite, but in my experience, there were too many imperfections to make the suite usable. I am not a Microsoft hater, but I'm always willing to give something new a try, especially if it's bundled free with a new computer. So that's how I got Wordperfect Office - I'm glad I didn't pay any money for it, and have since abandoned WordPerfect Office for OpenOffice.org (a free office suite). I used WordPerfect Office for about two years, before I knew any better, and I got used to dodging around the bugs. I was mainly using it to write university assignments, so the word processor (WordPerfect) got the most (ab)use during this time. WordPerfect (similar to Word) As the flagship application, this should be a showpiece of what this suite can offer. Instead I found it to be a let-down, and is solely responsible for me abandoning the suite. In my experience, both Quattro Pro and Corel Presentations were perfectly usable, and better than their Microsoft counterparts in places. I installed the suite on two different computers (with Windows 98 SE and Windows ME), and experienced many stability problems both times. Of course, these may have been Windows' fault, but surely this should be tested before the software is released. The compatibility with Microsoft Office files is heavily promoted with this suite. However, in my experience, the Word file import was fairly weak. Although the text normally survived, positioning and graphics were a little hit-and-miss. I often worked with complex Word files, and for a suite with such bold clai
ms, the results were unacceptable. I may have let this slip by if this feature weren't promoted so heavily as file conversion is notoriously tricky to do. There is little point in me running through all the bugs in WordPerfect, however, I will run through a few of the more annoying ones I encountered. Custom document text styles (for headings etc.) are seemingly randomly renamed, or disappear completely from the document. I also experienced WordPerfect taking a dislike to the end of documents. Often this would result in it not allowing the end to be viewed or printed (but could still be exported to a new format so the text could be retrieved). And that's before I even start on the MS Word-lookalike mode, which hides the features that Word 2000 doesn't have. However, a 'feature' (unintentional, I presume) which shows the WordPerfect menus when text is selected alleviates this problem. I downloaded all the patches I could for this software (to service pack 3), however this did not fix all the problems I had with WordPerfect. To add insult to injury, Corel actually charge for the latest patch, which seems a little unfair - surely the software should work out of the box? Apparently the latest patch fixes many of the bugs, but I can't comment on it's effectiveness. Yes, if all you're doing is typing letters or documents with basic formatting, WordPerfect will suit you perfectly - the problems I experienced were all in more advanced features. It has all the basics you'd expect such as live spell checking, a grammar checker and a thesaurus. The help system is simply excellent, and adapts to what you are currently working on. A similar system can be found in newer versions on Microsoft Office, I believe. The PDF export feature was the only reason why I used this program for so long. This is a superb feature, as it allows files to be created that can be viewed by almost all Internet users. Even this isn&
#39;t perfect, however, as it has a habit of creating different spacings between the letters of a document. This is not a problem at a distance, but in a print-out with small text, it is very noticeable. I subsequently found out (via a quick Google) that it is possible to make any program output to PDF for free, so I cheerily waved goodbye to WordPerfect Office at this point. Quattro Pro (similar to Excel) This is a competent spreadsheet application, which I had fairly limited experience of. The only area I found problems with was graphing, which offered less options than the Microsoft counterpart. Otherwise, this is an all-singing all-dancing spreadsheet application. It has lots of built in formulas (and handily points out the ones that MS don't have), and can handle cell formatting and truly enormous spreadsheets. Stability-wise, I don't recall having problems with this program. Corel Presentations (similar to PowerPoint) Again, this is a fantastic program, and in my opinion is better than PowerPoint (in Office 2000, the last version I used properly). The slide transitions are executed very nicely, and work much smoother than in the last version of MS Office I used. I found the MS transitions to be jumpy sometimes, but the Corel ones are silky smooth. Other Applications In the box, you also get CorelCENTRAL, a 'personal information manager', containing some of the same functionality of Outlook, and can be used much like a diary with important dates and appointments. CorelCENTRAL can't receive e-mails, but I never found this a problem as Outlook Express comes bundled with all modern versions of windows, handily filling this very gap. Additionally, a 'voice powered edition' is available, which allows you to dictate directly into the suite (I did not have this feature). There is also a version available with 'Paradox', a database application. And for the technically mi
nded, the suite comes with a version of Microsoft's Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). Common Features Overall, the suite is very feature-rich, appearing to provide more functionality than Microsoft Office. However, it seems the phrase 'quality, not quantity' whizzed silently under Corel's nose. The 'save' dialogue is a perfect example of this, containing a multitude of icons allowing you to perform advanced functions such as mapping network drives. However, there's no button (as far I could see) for creating a new folder. Yes, it looks very impressive, but I much prefer usability over the 'everything but the kitchen sink' approach. I have my suspicions that there's a send-off voucher for a kitchen sink somewhere in the CD case. Any Good then? If all the nice features worked, this would trample MS Office, but as it stands, I found it far too unreliable for use. I did not experience stability problems with any application except WordPerfect, which for many users will be the most used application. I would really like this to be a viable alternative to MS office, and perhaps it will, given time to mature. Or perhaps the latest version is more reliable, but I'm not willing to pay money to find out when I can get a free office suite that suits my needs perfectly. Three stars because the crashes may be fixed in the latest patch, which would make it a goood suite (losing stars for charging to make it work fully).