Corel WordPerfect Office 2002

Reviewed by: Howard Carson
Published by: Corel Corporation
Requires: Pentium II or faster processor, Windows 98 through Vista, 64MB RAM, 425MB free hard disk space, CD-ROM drive, VGA monitor, mouse or tablet, 16-bit sound card, speaker

MSRP: US$499.00 (Professional Edition)

There are two primary and robust alternatives to Microsoft Office: WordPerfect Office and OpenOffice. A few other players and wannabe players lurk around corners and in shadows. For the active, daily users of office software however, and for the most thorough compatibility with business documents electronically produced during the last 15 years, there are really only two choices—WordPerfect Office and Microsoft Office. That the two products taken together cover approximately 85% of the business marketplace world wide is a testament to both marketing power and distribution deals. Lotus Notes exists as a sort of large corporate enterprise anomaly, requiring engineers and programmers just to install and configure the thing. Lotus Notes is most emphatically not a viable alternative for home-office, small and medium business users.

WordPerfect Office 2002 is available in two versions: Standard and Professional. In order to give WordPerfect Office 2002 the best possible workout, we arranged a little experiment (well, not so little really). Basically, a friend of ours who owns a busy service business agreed to install WordPerfect Office 2002 alongside his current version of Microsoft Office XP. The point was to take about three weeks to wean his staff off of the Microsoft product and onto the Corel product and judge both how difficult the changeover is as well as extracting some serious commentary from the staff who were forced to make the change. We were able to install WP Office 2002 on all of the computers in the office including three aging Windows 95 machines which were still running Microsoft Office 97 (shudder) because Microsoft Office XP does not run on Windows 95.


Derek Burney, CEO and president of Corel, said of Corel WordPerfect Office 2002, "We're not going to go into a head-to-head battle with Microsoft Office." Smart move Derek! It's hard to find much in WordPerfect Office 2002 that exceeds the key features and functions in Microsoft Office XP. That's not to say that WordPerfect Office 2002 is bad—far from it. What we're saying at the outset here is just that WordPerfect Office 2002 is a viable choice for someone on a budget, someone running a brand new legal office and someone who just doesn't like either Microsoft or the Microsoft Office design paradigm (a lot of people struggle with Microsoft's user interface).

With this new version, the WordPerfect word processor continues its well-known ability to create, handle and manage lengthy and complex documents. You can move instantly to specific text boxes, hyperlinks and related document objects quite easily. Considering the importance of long document navigation, the current enhancements are very welcome. The inclusion of a 30,000 word version of the Oxford University Press Dictionary is also delightful and useful. Combined with superb spell checking that is always present in WordPerfect, you've got a very powerful tool for writers of all kinds.

CorelCentral is a competent communication and personal information manager that is meant to rival Microsoft Outlook. CorelCentral used to be nothing more than an address book and appointment scheduler. It has evolved into a full-featured personal information manager however, with integrated modules for contacts, personal scheduling and group scheduling. Unfortunately, the e-mail component (while being perfectly decent) is not integrated with the rest of the modules. The whole thing has a standardized 'Outlook Lite" kind of feel to it, lacks several important functions such as incoming e-mail filters and also has a peculiar access method for multiple e-mail account setups.

The Quattro Pro spreadsheet program gets a new charting engine in this version. It's really quite nice, providing a solid set of detail tools with which you can design shaded 3D graphs. This spreadsheet program is not as powerful as Microsoft Excel once you get into things like massive actuarial tables and complex scientific research layouts, but for the vast majority of small office, medium business and enterprise use, Quattro Pro remains an excellent tool.

Presentations, the suite's rival to Microsoft PowerPoint, now handles Flash (SWF) embedded files well enough to display everything properly in all of the competing web browsers. Creation of presentations is well-guided and the selection of templates is very good. Corel has added content in this part of the suite, so while you can look forward to quite a few similarities to the template content found in PowerPoint, there's also a large selection of unique and interesting layouts designed by Corel's content team. It's all very nice, very effective and easy to use. Presentation layouts export perfectly to viewer files which can then be loaded onto any Windows PC or laptop for display using the viewer program integrated within the presentation file. PowerPoint does not offer anything better so Presentations remains a great alternative.

Corel WordPerfect Office 2002 includes a full, integrated version of the Dragon NaturallySpeaking 5 voice recognition software. We've been fans of Dragon NaturallySpeaking since 1998 and this inclusion in WP Office is head and shoulders about Office XP's weak voice recognition functionality. To make the best use of voice recognition in any guise, you must be using a computer with a fast processor and lots of RAM. Anything less can be frustrating and will produce less accurate responses and results, but with the right amount of available system resources, Dragon's voice recognition makes for a viable data input tool. We used voice recognition in WordPerfect and Quattro Pro, getting good results once Dragon had been fully trained by two different staff members. One of them has continued to use voice recognition input and is quite expert at it. Her carpal tunnel aggravations have since disappeared.

We did not have an opportunity to make use of the Paradox database. A brief look however, shows that the current version is almost identical to the solidly functional previous version. We're not fans of Paradox or Microsoft Access in any case, but for typical office database applications such as customer and user lists, mailing lists, subscriber lists, etc., etc., Paradox remains a workable choice. It integrates well with WordPerfect to produce mail merges that are relatively pain free.

Cons: Corel WordPerfect Office 2002 is not a huge improvement over the previous version. Document collaboration tools are present but nowhere near as robust as the massive collaboration componentry in Microsoft Office XP which allows powerful workgroup document sharing, editing, revisioning and version control. PDF export is present but in our experience did not product consistently reliable results—too many text formatting alterations, incorrect line widths and text attribute differences for our taste. The CorelCentral e-mail program is not integrated with the rest of the component—wierd. Generally good Microsoft document import capabilities, but there are still some frustrating import problems, especially with Office XP Word and Excel files, some of which were either not recognized as valid files by WP Office or imported with ruined formatting, missing graphics and so on. The integrated text proofing and grammar tools in WordPerfect are about as useful as similar tools in Microsoft Word—that is to say, useful only for novice writers and editors. Manually check every sentence in your document after using the proofing tools!

Pros: The act of forcibly converting a busy office from one office software suite to another can be both enlightening and frustrating. The process was greatly eased by WordPerfect Office 2002 Professional's import capabilities with standard Microsoft Office documents—by no means perfect, but fast and accurate for most documents. Less expensive than Microsoft Office for both upgrades and new licenses. Considering the vast document creation and handling power in both office suites, the question you might ask right now is, "Why make a change in the first place?" The fact is that the WordPerfect design paradigm (user interface style, program layouts and component integration) makes much more sense than Microsoft Office to a lot of people. Another very important view is that WordPerfect still does a number of things beautifully that Word just can't do as well, legal documents being among the most prominent. Corel includes a 430 page product manual containing guidance and instructions which are significantly more useful than anything supplied by Microsoft for its office products. The range of office documentation tools and options is impressive, and presented within an interface and working environment that is eminently usable by both beginners and experienced users. From simple correspondence to complex reports, from full size novels to single sheet brochures and marketing materials, WordPerfect is a powerful tool. Converting raw text into tables is greatly improved and a welcome change from the often hit 'n miss efforts of the previous version. The rest of the components of the suite rival the power of every other product on the market and provide any office—from the smallest, single person home-office to the largest enterprise—with all of the tools needed to work in a competitive business world in which powerful business information has to be exchanged. Corel was first to the line with good integration of voice recognition and you'll have to move up to WordPerfect Office 12 to beat the implementation in WordPerfect Office 2002. Excellent value. Highly recommended.




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