WordPerfect 8 for Linux

by Michael Scott Shappe
  • Manufacturer: Corel Corporation(ported by Software Development Corporation)

  • E-mail: custserv2@corel.com(info@sdcorp.com)

  • URL: http://www.corel.com/(http://www.sdcorp.com/)

  • Price: Server Edition: $495 USPersonal Edition: $69.95 US (MSRP),$49.95 via Linux Mall, Linux Central and Linux Systems Labs

  • Reviewer: Michael Scott Shappe

WordPerfect 8 for Linux is an evolutionary improvement over last year's WordPerfect 7 port to Linux, and so, appropriately, this review is merely a follow-up to my review of WP7 (“Word Perfect 7 for Linux”, April 1998).

To summarize that review, I'd found WordPerfect 7 to be a very good port of a solid product. It had all the features I needed, plus many features I didn't, which are necessary for buzzword compliance. It fit handily into what was then a very low-end machine: a Pentium 120 laptop with 16MB of memory and 1GB of disk space, only 600MB of which were allotted to Linux.

My problems with it at the time were few. It was a bit on the slow side, particularly under Xfree86; I found I had to turn off many of the dynamic features, like Spell-as-you-go and the application bar at the bottom of the window. Under AcceleratedX, performance was a bit better, but I still had to turn off the dynamic spell-checking to get good speed. I also found the style system overly complicated, and some crashes in the help system and the HTML conversion code.

Small Steps

How does this next version stack up? Is it worth the download time or the $50US for the shrink-wrapped version? I'd like to be able to say, “Yes, definitely!” Instead, I find myself thinking, “It depends.”

If you're already perfectly happy with WordPerfect 7, in that you're not experiencing any problems and not missing any particular feature, you may simply not need this upgrade. I know that's a bit heretical in the modern software industry, but it's true. Most of the features already in place have had only minor improvements.

Some nice new features are present for novices, including an extensive guide system called “PerfectExpert”. Grammar-as-you-go is new and useful if you like grammar checkers (I actually do).

The speed is certainly improved. When I was first given access to early betas, I still had the same low-end configuration and found that not only could I leave Spell-as-you-go on, but I could also leave the new Grammar-as-you-go active. The newer version keeps up just fine with my typing. The final release seems to be equally snappy, which made me very happy.

Getting What You Pay For

Several features are available only in the purchased version, not in the download. Notably, the ExpressDocs template feature is not available in the download. The number of fonts available is extremely limited. The “Insert->Shape” menu works, but, “Insert->Graphics->Draw A Picture” does not; so you can insert shapes “in-line”, but not a complete picture unless you draw it with a different program. Also, the ability to create and insert charts and graphs is disabled.

Lingering Problems

One of my biggest complaints from WordPerfect 7 remains a complaint with its successor; indeed, it appears that no work whatsoever has been done to improve it. The style-sheet system is still incredibly complex—almost too complex to be useful. It is difficult to define styles that are part of a library of styles rather than part of a specific document, and defining individual styles is a cryptic process.

The interaction of printers and fonts is also a bit strange. In most word processors, the list of fonts available does not reflect the printer selection; instead, fonts are translated or substituted at the print-driver level. In WordPerfect, the list of available fonts is a direct reflection of the way the currently selected printer is set up, and setting up a printer is a less-than-obvious process. This is as much a flaw in UNIX, which has no nice, neat, centralized print model, as it is in WordPerfect.

To Buy or Not to Buy

If you need or want a good commercial word processor for Linux, WordPerfect 8 is definitely a good value. It works, and it works well. It's also inexpensive, which is always good.

If you already have WordPerfect 7 and are satisfied with it, there's probably no great rush to upgrade. On the other hand, the upgrade won't break the bank, either. Actually purchasing the product will give you a wider range of fonts and access to all the features, as well as save you considerable download time.

As much as I was hoping for more out of this upgrade, I'm still very happy with the product and recommend it. I hope Corel continues to have success with it.

Michael Scott Shappe is a somewhat frazzled software engineer for AetherWorks Corporation, a start-up in Saint Paul, Minnesota. When not writing reviews or copy editing for Linux Journal, he's reading—and attempting to write—fiction, or attending Society for Creative Anachronism events. He can be reached at Mikey@Hundred-Acre-Wood.com, and his web page is at http://www.14850.com/web/mikey/.
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