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.
The New System

I also installed WordPerfect on a new 500MHz Dell Inspiron 7500 Laptop running Mandrake Linux. Installation on this system was actually easier than using LinuxOS, or at least it required less thought. I just popped the CD in, and a few double-clicks later, the installation was on its way.

The Easiest System of All

The third computer to receive WordPerfect was an AMD K6-2 system running Caldera eDesktop 2.4. Unlike the Corel or Mandrake systems, Caldera immediately saw that something interesting was on the WordPerfect CD and started the installation process on its own.

And What Was the Installation Like?

In all three cases, the start of the installation process foretold the greatest problem—nothing happened. Okay, that's not totally fair, the hard disk light started flashing; but in all three cases, there was a significant delay between starting the installation program and any indication it was running. The lack of feedback is frustrating when the installation begins, but an equal lack of feedback when something goes wrong can cause more than frustration. If an error occurs, the installation program closes without explanation.

Installation must be done as root. It starts with the ever-present license agreement query and finishes by asking if you want a full or partial install. Everything else is automatic, although the installation program does give you a chance to panic and abort if you don't like the target directories. The installation program uses the system package tool for the actual installation, which is why the software installs in the normal system directories and not the “local” directories many commercial applications use. After the installation has started, a progress bar and slideshow presentation let you know something is happening.

Using the system package tool is a rather neat solution to providing cross-distribution Linux software, but Corel should work on fault recovery. In two out of the three installations, something happened (me) to cause the Corel installer to die without so much as a grunt of pain. Prematurely closing the installation program caused the worst problem, leaving the installer permanently unable to run on the system. If you get in too much trouble using the installation program, you can always use your system's native package tool to install manually. After I realized the full impact of my fateful installation-stopping mouse click, I was able to install WordPerfect using Debian's apt-get, which Corel uses for the LinuxOS package tool. Manual installation instructions are provided in an HTML README file on the CD.

WordPerfect automatically installs itself in KDE's Applications submenu for all users. After installing, you must either log out or restart KDE in order to see the updated menu. This isn't a problem, because if you do try to run the applications as root, you will be politely warned that it really isn't safe. You can, but it is not recommended.

Installation took from fifteen minutes to two hours depending on the computer, and, uneventful process or not, the software did install on all three systems.

Problems? What Problems?

I didn't have very many problems with WordPerfect Office or LinuxOS. The worst one occurred on the Mandrake-based laptop, which received its copy of Mandrake from an older CD. It would open, import and edit files flawlessly, but invariably crashed when called upon to save those files. Not simply crash, but wipe out the source file and any backups that may have been ferreted away. After a great deal of trial and error, I realized that virtually none of the WordPerfect software would run reliably on the laptop, even though most of it ran perfectly. Delving deeper, the problems occurred only for users; when the WordPerfect applications were run by root, they worked fine. This pointed to a problem with the operating system, and upgrading the Mandrake installation seems to have buried the problem.

When it did crash, WordPerfect was less than perfect about having a backup saved. It tries, but it doesn't always succeed.

I noticed only one problem with LinuxOS: the system was unable to establish PPP dialup connections as a user. As root, KPPP dials without difficulty, but normal users get an error message claiming PPP is not installed in the kernel. This is at odds with Corel's positioning of LinuxOS as a desktop operating system for non-technical users.

In the End

WordPerfect Office 2000 Deluxe offers a real solution for people who want the power of mainstream office software without contributing to the Bill Gates Retirement Fund. It is an even better solution for people who use Linux and need access to full-featured office software without rebooting. It is at its best in environments where compatibility with other software packages isn't the most important issue. The file import/export capabilities provide a link to other popular office software, but if compatibility is a matter of daily importance, you will find weaknesses. Overall, it is a great set of programs with the promise of becoming even better.

The Good/The Bad

Born at the beginning of the microcomputer age, Jon Valesh (jon@valesh.com) has pushed and been pushed by computers his entire life. Having run the gamut from games programmer to ISP system/network administrator, he now occupies himself by providing technical assistance to ISPs and small businesses whenever his day job doesn't get in the way.

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