Review: WordPerfect Office X3 Standard Edition

The latest edition of Corel's office suite, X3 adds an e-mail application and PDF functionality to its existing group of applications.

January 20, 2006

8 Min Read
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There was a time, long ago, when WordPerfect ruled the DOS word processor world. WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS was a thing of beauty and a joy to behold, in my mind one of the best programs ever written. It could handle long documents with aplomb — something, even all these years later, Word still has trouble with — and it had a macro language that was easy and intuitive. When your formatting got messed up, you could reveal codes and fix it in a jiffy. In addition, WordPerfect Corp. had the most competent technical support staff in the business, and it was free.

Then came Windows 3.1 and Microsoft Word. WordPerfect made a very rough transition to Windows and never recovered its market share. The rest is history. But WordPerfect is still plugging away, now owned by Corel Corp. Their latest version, now part of an office suite, is called WordPerfect Office X3.

What’s In The Box?
WordPerfect X3 comes with three disks: the installation disk (which enables you to load the suite and the template browser called WordPerfect OfficeReady), a training disk, and a resource disk with 9,500 clipart images, 175 photos, and 900 True Type fonts. The last includes an installation front-end, but inexplicably doesn’t include access to the art work and fonts directly from its menu. Instead, you have to use the Explore This Disk option to see them. While the photos are nice, if bland, the clipart is in WordPerfect’s proprietary .WPG format.

The final disc includes high-quality training videos from the fine folks at Lynda.com. This is a nice touch, usually available only from more well-heeled developers such as Adobe. Unfortunately, the disc I received wouldn't auto-run, so I had to figure out how to run the videos, a simple issue Corel should fix.

WordPerfect Office X3 Standard edition ($299.99), which is reviewed here, includes new versions of WordPerfect, Quattro Pro (spreadsheet), Presentations, and WordPerfect Mail (an e-mail client). It also comes with a host of utilities, including PerfectScript (a macro script language), the WordPerfect XML Designer and the Pleadings Expert (a nod to their core law market).There is also a Professional Edition ($399.99) that adds the Paradox database application, the WordPerfect SDK, and Visual Basic. A Student and Teacher edition ($99.99) adds Paradox to the Standard version, and offers a trial version of Mail. Finally, there's a Home Edition ($99.99) that doesn't include Presentations, and has a trial version of WordPerfect Mail. The Home Edition adds Task Manager, a front end to get home users started; Corel PhotoAlbum 6-Standard Edition, a digital photo organizer; Pinnacle Studio SE for creating videos with special effects; Pinnacle Instant CD/DVD LE v8 for burning CDs and DVDs, and Norton Internet Security 2006 along with a three-month subscription.)

New Features
The suite offers several new features that cut across WordPerfect, Quattro Pro, and Presentations. The most interesting may be support for reading and importing PDF files without having to own a copy of Adobe Acrobat. Once open, you can edit the document as a WordPerfect file.

In tests with several documents, most imports worked well, although the utility hung on one and more complex PDFs often required formatting tweaks after opening. You can also save any WordPerfect Office document as a .PDF (WordPerfect Office saves to version 5.0; the current version is 7.0). Headers are converted to bookmarks and hyperlinks are preserved.

WordPerfect Office X3 lets you save documents to .PDF files. (Click on image to expand.)

One nice security feature is the new ability to strip out any metadata that might have been saved with a document, so that info such as author, notes, and redlined changes won't go where it shouldn't.The upgrade of PerfectExpert provides a suite-wide step-by-step help applet that walks users through common document creation processes such as writing an outline or producing a document. It then sits on the left side of the application's window and provides drop-in help for things like "Choose the Look" and "Change Text Format." However, these are strictly for neophytes — unless you have never worked on a word processor or spreadsheet, chances are you won’t need this.

Installing The Suite

The installation front-end is nicely designed and gives you plenty of opportunities to customize the installation. You can delete older installations (or not). You can migrate settings from previous versions, including templates, address books, user word lists and more. What’s more, you can pick and choose exactly which elements you want to install, and of those, which features you want to include. It’s extremely flexible and easy to follow.

WordPerfect X3
WordPerfect X3 is, of course, the flagship application of this suite. The new version offers some enhanced features without any radical changes. It has a cleaner look (as do the other applications), and some of the features have been tweaked.

As in previous versions, when you open WordPerfect X3, you get a choice of interfaces, including X3 mode, Microsoft Word, WordPerfect 5.1, and WordPerfect Legal. The X3 interface sports a fairly standard look and feel. One nice feature is the enhanced status bar: When multiple documents are open, you can see them listed in the bottom status bar and easily switch between documents by clicking the document name. You can also access the current style, the print button and a word count tool in the status bar, features that writers are sure to like.

Long-time Wordperfect users will be relieved to know that the Reveal Codes feature, which was one of the most popular features in WordPerfect for DOS, remains .

The program includes a Yahoo! toolbar (which will also install in Internet Explorer unless you opt out during installation) prominently displayed at the top of the page. With many folks using desktop and Web search toolbars, this is overkill, but to Corel’s credit, you can turn it off easily.

Unfortunately, WordPerfect X3 flunked an important test — exchanging documents with the market leader, Microsoft Word. I tried importing the same complex Word document I used successfully to test OpenOffice 8 and StarOffice 8, but unfortunately, WordPerfect X3 didn’t even recognize the document format. (The complexity appeared to be the problem: I had no trouble with simpler documents.)

WordPerfect X3 includes templates for common business documents such as business cards, memos and CD covers. If you want more sophisticated templates, you have to buy them on the Corel Web site. I would think that a company trying to gain market share might provide these as part of the main package, rather than trying to use them as a means to make extra money.

You can also select templates from the WordPerfect OfficeReady browser, which provides you a thumbnail view of the templates. This is a useful app that would have been even more useful if you didn't have to open it separately — it might have made more sense to make OfficeReady available from each of the applications in the suite.

By the way, long-time Wordperfect users will be relieved to know that the Reveal Codes feature, which was one of the most popular features in WordPerfect for DOS, remains (although it’s not as useful in these days of graphical interfaces). WordPerfect Mail And Others
It's hard to compete with a product like Microsoft Office without offering an e-mail application, and Corel has finally added one to its suite.

WordPerfect Mail is an interesting, if fairly standard, e-mail package, with most of the familiar features, including basic appointment and contact management (interestingly, there is no task management). The interface includes a nice feature that, when you hover over today’s date, displays thumbnails of all the months in the year, making it a simple move to display a future month and make changes or adjustments. The address book is well laid out and you can easily create new address books, then drag and drop contact names between books.

WordPerfect Mail uses a tool called Smart Groups to organize e-mail, listserv messages, and RSS feeds. This is handy, but it took me a while to find out that you had to use Smart Groups in order to receive your RSS feeds. The relationship should be made clearer for new users.

WordPerfect Suite X3's other two major applications, Presentations and Quattro Pro, are not significantly changed in this iteration. Both offer the features expected of professional-level presentation and spreadsheet packages; I was able to import and work with simple Office files in both Quattro Pro and Presentations without trouble — though animations failed to import cleanly into Presentation.

Conclusion

Corel still has a strong base of loyal WordPerfect users, but it's got to entice existing users to upgrade and convince new users to join its ranks. Unfortunately, the company is currently caught between the overwhelming market dominance of Microsoft Office, and the attraction of free suites such as OpenOffice. While features like better wizards and PDF editing can help, they may not be enough.

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