WordPerfect Office 2000 Deluxe

 in
One box contains everything needed to use Linux in an office environment, and if you don't have Linux yet, there is even a CD with Corel's LinuxOS distribution.
And Finally, the Product Review

WordPerfect Office 2000 Deluxe includes everything most business users need to make a computer useful: a word processor, spreadsheet, database, calendar/PIM, presentation graphics software and even a game. One box contains everything needed to use Linux in an office environment, and if you don't have Linux yet, there is even a CD with Corel's LinuxOS distribution.

At the heart of it all is WordPerfect. Hardly new or unknown in the word processing game, WordPerfect has been around since the beginning, and has steadily improved and expanded since its inception. WordPerfect 9 provides all the features expected in a professional-quality word processor, from page layout to automatic spelling correction to PDF generation; full-featured grammar checking, an “Expert” designed to walk you through the process of creating a document, and more. It may not have every feature imaginable, but it has more than most people will ever use.

Quattro Pro, Paradox and Corel Presentation Graphics round out the office suite. The spreadsheet, Quattro Pro, and database, Paradox, are longtime contenders in the office software world, but are less well-known than WordPerfect. Quattro Pro has all the modern spreadsheet features you could ask for and a consistent and easy-to-use interface. Paradox provides more database functionality than most end users will ever need. When it comes to graphics, few companies have the history and experience of Corel. With that in mind, the features of Corel Presentation Graphics look downright dowdy compared to CorelDraw, but it is designed to serve a different purpose and works well for office meetings and sales presentations.

Railroad Tycoon II from Loki is there to ease you through any frustrating moments you may experience, although some may question the rationale behind including a game in what is otherwise rather straight-laced business software.

Using It

Office software inspires user loyalty. After all, if you spend eight hours a day for years working with a program, you are going to understand it pretty well. Little changes can make a big difference to someone who “knows” how a program should work. For all that, the WordPerfect Office interfaces are standardized enough that, unless you are a power user of another suite, you won't be too bothered by the differences you encounter. If you are already using WordPerfect for Windows, you will feel right at home. WordPerfect for Linux looks exactly like, well, WordPerfect. The other applications in the suite are equally unsurprising in their appearance.

Whether you like the interface or not, some of the features are undeniably cute, and some are better than the competition. The WordPerfect grammar and spell checkers seem to ace Microsoft's offerings; the dictionary is larger and the grammar checker gives a little more detail. If you like thesauri, a drop-down on the property bar will keep you occupied, as it automatically finds alternate words while you type. Upon further consideration, that's a feature rife with opportunity for abuse; but, abusable or not, WordPerfect has enough features to keep anyone with something to say busy for a long time.

The other applications in the suite are similar. The features may not be the ones you are used to, but you will rarely leave tasks unfinished for lack of features.

More important to most of us than feature selection is file compatibility. The programs in the WordPerfect suite all have import and export filters for a wide range of competing products, including the latest versions of Word. They even work, most of the time. There can be real, though arbitrary, incompatibilities between programs, which will cause problems from time to time. When importing an Excel spreadsheet to Quattro Pro, the import filter took exception to having a hyphen in the spreadsheet name. This is not a problem in Excel and shouldn't be a problem in Quattro Pro, but it is. The import filter offered to replace the hyphen with an underscore character, and other than the name change, the file read perfectly.

File compatibility is not a two-way street, however. WP can read most other file formats, but most programs are unable to read WordPerfect files. If you need to access your documents using Word, you must save them in Word format. Even then, you may not be able to access the file exactly as it was; differences in available fonts alone can cause otherwise perfect file conversions to look like a madman was in charge of your document layout.

All of the programs share some idiosyncrasies caused by the use of WINE. For example, when saving, some of the dialog boxes refer to your home directory as the D: drive, and the floppy (referred to as the A: drive) is always listed as a destination, but saves to the floppy only when you have a disk mounted. That could cause some confusion, especially for new Linux users.

The first time WordPerfect starts up for a new user, it must do some final setup, like create a directory for user-specific files, generate font information, ask the user if they intend to comply with the license and other little jobs of that nature. Unfortunately, WP does not tell you anything is taking place while it does that. You click, and nothing happens. Or nothing happens right away. Somewhere between 10 and 40 seconds after clicking on the WordPerfect icon, a copyright screen appears to let you know that your computer isn't being eaten by a runaway word processor.

The performance was acceptable on modern systems. I tested on an older P90 that was definitely struggling and would be marginal for word processing, unacceptable for more. Linux is less resource-intensive than most operating systems, and WordPerfect and Quattro Pro running at the same time with moderately sized documents took between 29MB and 34MB of RAM (not counting buffers or cache), depending on the test system. A full installation requires over 450MB of drive space, not counting operating system, games, clip art or additional fonts. If you want to install everything in the box, you will need at least 1GB available.

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