Review: WordPerfect Office Is Far From Perfect

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WordPerfect Office X5 suite provides a good experience overall, punctuated with periodic intense aggravation

Yes, there is still a WordPerfect, and yes, Corel is still developing and updating the product. And it might even be a good solution for many users, even if some of its selling points are oversold.

Corel says that WordPerfect dominates the non-Microsoft part of the desktop office suite market—an obvious swipe at OpenOffice.org and StarOffice. The company says it remains especially strong in particular vertical markets such as law and government.

I tested the new WordPerfect Office X5 suite on Windows (its only platform) and was more disappointed than pleased. The core word processing features are quite good and the user interface to all the main programs seems refreshingly straightforward compared to the newer Microsoft Office versions. I used the WordPerfect word processor for several stories before writing this review and overall it’s been a good experience, punctuated with periodic intense aggravation.

For this version of WordPerfect Office, the company is stressing improved PDF tools: All programs in the suite can create PDFs, and WordPerfect can open and edit them. This includes integrated OCR for PDFs containing images of text. PDF publishing supports password protection but not digital signing.

The new suite also includes improved integration with document management systems, including Microsoft SharePoint. Web service interfaces let you populate documents with live data feeds from the Internet. A limited version of Nuance’s PaperPort document and image manager is also included.

In recognition that it’s a Microsoft Office world, all the main programs in the suite offer more than one user interface mode: a native mode, the Microsoft Office mode and perhaps more, like the Lotus 1-2-3 mode in Quattro Pro. I generally used the native modes, which all seemed intuitive—more so than the typical Microsoft Office program these days.

No problems with installation

My installation of a single copy went without a problem. The Windows version is built with MSI files, and Corel has a 100-page deployment guide that describes how to create customised server images, perform command line installs, pull or push the software, deploy patches and perform other maintenance.

The file open and save dialogs in WordPerfect Office are a trip down file-format memory lane: It supports any version of AmiPro, Volkswriter, XyWrite or Multimate you might want. What you really need, of course, are .DOC and .PDF. In my tests of these, simple documents imported well enough, but I had a lot of problems with complex ones.

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