WordPerfect, Microsoft Office Style

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At a Glance
  • Corel WordPerfect Office 12

WordPerfect's new Workspace Manager lets you choose multiple interfaces, including a Microsoft Word-like look.
WordPerfect's new Workspace Manager lets you choose multiple interfaces, including a Microsoft Word-like look.
If you can't beat Microsoft Office, mimic it--at a lower price. That's the philosophy behind WordPerfect Office 12. This minor upgrade to Corel's venerable, capable suite adds tweaks aimed at keeping cost-conscious small businesses and home users, as well as longtime WordPerfect aficionados, productive in a Microsoft-centric world. I tested a shipping version and found that, though the new features help, the best way to ensure that you'll always have full Microsoft Office compatibility when you need it is still to use Microsoft Office.

With two clicks, you can now switch the WordPerfect word processor, the Quattro Pro spreadsheet, and the Presentations tool into rough approximations of their Microsoft counterparts. Choose this option in WordPerfect, for instance, and the program not only adopts a Word-like menu structure, it also defaults to Word's file format.

The Corel suite lacks an alternative to Microsoft's Outlook e-mail and calendar app; instead, it has features such as the ability to do mail merges using Outlook contacts.

The Microsoft-like menus do make it easier for Microsoft Office users to convert to Corel's Office. And in my tests, most files traveled back and forth between Offices without a hitch. Unfortunately, file importing worked, well, WordImperfectly: For example, Presentations jumbled elements on some complex PowerPoint slides, and Quattro Pro couldn't handle an Excel spreadsheet with elaborate formulas and macros.

More Extras

As for version 12's other additions, the slick OfficeReady utility lets you preview the suite's templates, including 40 new ones for work and home tasks. But the WordPerfect Wireless Office Suite--a set of tools for exchanging messages with SMS-enabled cell phones--is misnamed, poorly documented, and haphazardly integrated with the rest of the product.

Like previous versions of WordPerfect, Quattro Pro, and Presentations, the apps in the new suite already match most of the significant features of their Microsoft equivalents, and they offer some bonuses of their own. To create PDF documents in Microsoft Office, for example, you need a separate program such as Adobe's $299 Acrobat 6.0 Standard package; Corel's suite does it natively. And Microsoft Word still does not duplicate WordPerfect's Reveal Codes mode, which lets serious document tweakers massage page layouts by editing the underlying formatting instructions.

WordPerfect Office undercuts Microsoft Office Standard Edition's list price by $99, and its upgrade price by $89; volume licensing agreements net even deeper discounts.

Ultimately, Corel's suite is a better value than Microsoft's for some users, but not all. In its favor are its more-liberal licensing policies, which allow you to install a single copy on both a business PC and a laptop or home system, as long as it is used on only one machine at a time.

Those on tight budgets should investigate OpenOffice.org, a free open-source download that feels even more like Microsoft Office in some respects. But if you need a powerful e-mail/personal information manager such as Outlook or if you can't risk file-compatibility glitches, then Microsoft's pricier suite remains the best bet.

Corel WordPerfect Office 12

Modest upgrade to a solid suite offers better (but not flawless) Microsoft Office compatibility.
List: $300 full, $150 upgrade
Current Price (if available)

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At a Glance
  • Corel WordPerfect Office 12

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