With the beta 2 release of WordPerfect Office 2000, Corel makes it clear that it does not expect to supplant office suite heavyweights Microsoft Office and Lotus SmartSuite. Instead, the next version of Corel's office suite represents what may be a last-ditch effort to hang on to an already very small slice of the office suite market.
Indeed, one of the most highly touted features in this beta release of WordPerfect Office 2000 is enhanced compatibility with those competing products. While continuing to employ a native file format identical to that used in WordPerfect 6, Office 2000 introduces enhanced file conversion to make it easier to convert documents among WordPerfect, Word, and WordPro. This enhanced conversion works in a similar way to Extensible Markup Language (XML), which uses meta data that travels with the file. Thus, when the file is reconverted to the word processor format, all of the data is restored.
A step behind
Unfortunately, WordPerfect Office 2000 will be a step behind the developments in Microsoft Office 2000, because it will not be able to handle Microsoft's HTML/XML format.
Corel has also tipped its hat to Microsoft by adding support for Visual Basic for Applications, in addition to offering its own PerfectScript. PerfectScript will make it easier for developers to quickly create custom applications with the tools provided in the suite.
WordPerfect Office 2000 does push the envelope further than Microsoft Office in at least one respect - voice recognition.
The suite will offer the tried-and-true Dragon Naturally-Speaking, a trainable product that allows users to dictate as many as 160 or more words per minute. And it's not just for dictation. You can also use Dragon to issue a limited set of voice commands for such formatting chores as setting text as bold or italic. Unfortunately, this feature wasn't functioning in the beta version I tested.
Another notable addition is Trellix 2.0, a very slick application for converting and formatting Web pages. Trellix does a better job of making it easy to generate attractive pages complete with navigation links and site maps than any other Web page designer I've seen. The product is integrated with the suite to the extent that you can choose to File/Publish to Trellix from WordPerfect. A dialogue box will appear asking if you want to publish to a single or multiple Trellix page, and whether to maintain formatting or convert to a Trellix stylesheet. This integration is not, by the way, available in the suite's other applications.
Though Corel has not specified how many beta cycles it plans to go through, this seems to be relatively unsettled code. A lot of features are not yet implemented.
As I mentioned, voice recognition is not available, nor is the full set of file-conversion capabilities. And the address book in CorelCentral isn't working either.
Still, users of WordPerfect Office 2000 can look forward to many significant improvements in each of the suite's major applications.
WordPerfect 9, for example, now offers real-time previews, XML support, and font embedding, which means users will be able to view documents just as you formatted them - even if they don't have the appropriate fonts installed.
There's also a nifty new autoscroll tool. Click on the tool icon, then simply move your mouse in whatever direction you want to go. This feature is comparable to Intelli-Mouse support, which is available in other applications in the suite.
Quattro Pro has taken on heavyweight dimensions in this new version. The program can now handle as many as 1 million rows and more than 18,000 columns of data. And among the other formatting enhancements, Quattro Pro sports the new real-time preview feature.
WordPerfect Office 2000 also includes a completely redesigned CorelCentral. This contact manager is not as well designed as Microsoft's Outlook, and it doesn't integrate e-mail capabilities, but it does offer a strong set of calendaring, task management, and phonebook tools. In fact, this version of CorelCentral has taken on some project-planning capabilities. You can now record your progress on tasks, and you can create subtasks for tasks. Also new is an alarm application that will sound for specified events regardless of whether CorelCentral is running.
Paradox 9 has also been significantly enhanced with a new Visual Database Designer and dozens of lesser new features, such as IntelliMouse support and the capability to handle RTF and JPEG files.
Low price only
Although the applications in WordPerfect Office 2000 are certainly powerful and relatively easy to use, they do not challenge the dominance of the applications in Microsoft Office.
If users are going to be tempted to switch to or stay with WordPerfect Office 2000, it may be due to one feature - low price.
Although pricing has not been set, expect WorldPerfect Office 2000 to come in at less than half the cost of Microsoft Office.
WordPerfect Office 2000 applications
CorelCentral 9 contact manager
Corel Presentations 9
Paradox 9 database
Quattro Pro 9 spreadsheet
Trellix 2.0 Web page builder
WordPerfect 9 word processor
The Bottom Line
WordPerfect Office 2000, beta
Corel has improved the strong suite of applications in WordPerfect Office 2000. Nonetheless, its major selling point as the third in a three-product market is the suite's expected low price.
Pros: Supports Microsoft and Lotus file formats; voice recognition; first-rate Web page builder.
Cons: Contact manager not integrated with e-mail; Web designer integrated only with WordPerfect.
Platforms: Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT 4.0.
Price: Not yet announced. Ship date: May.
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