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Corel's WordPerfect Office 11 and Microsoft's Office 2003are both still in beta testing, but the Canadian company announced this week that the flagship office productivity suite will make its public debut before April is through.
What's the allure of using a non-Microsoft office productivity software package? According to Wendy Lowe, Corel's WordPerfect product manager, there are three things that will draw small businesses to WordPerfect Office 11.
"It's an intelligent choice for office productivity because WordPerfect Office 11 is cost-effective, flexible and efficient," Lowe said.
WordPerfect Office 11 ships in Standard and Professional versions. The Standard Edition includes the WordPerfect word processor program, the spreadsheet Quattro Pro and Presentations, the slide show-creation software. The Professional Edition also includes the Paradox database program.
Corel's office suite's is indeed lower priced than Microsoft Office. The suggested retail price for the standard suite is $300, the upgrade price is $150 and an education version costs $100. Microsoft Office Standard, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook, retails for $479, with an upgrade price of $239 and an education version for $149.
What's Old Is New Again
Corel added a series of improvements to the new office productivity suite and also brought back two of its more popular features that had been eliminated from WordPerfect version 5.1. Lowe said hose familiar with WordPerfect have grown fond of its white-on-blue text screen and quick keyboard commands. "Normally, an all-blue screen is not good news for Windows users. But Corel brought the familiar blue screen back by popular demand," Lowe said. "Classic customers asked to see their familiar blue screen again, so we added it back into Office 11's feature set with the added flexibility of customizing the onscreen appearance."
If any of you remember how nice it was — how easy on the eyes it was — to be able to prepare text on a monochrome screen, then you understand why Corel has loyal blue screen customers. (Sometimes I yearn for the eye-soothing glow of amber on black myself.)
Another popular feature made new again are keyboard shortcuts. Lowe said WordPerfect's quick keyboard commands go back to the days of DOS. But classic users once again asked for the return of these familiar quick-command keystrokes to navigate their way through document preparation.
New Or Enhanced Features
WordPerfect Office 11 also enhanced its collaborative and integration capabilities this time around. Lowe said the latest iteration of WordPerfect is highly intuitive, making it easy to use and ultimately creating a more efficient office.
"Corel uses Extensible Markup Language (XML) to allow users to publish slide shows and spreadsheets, as well as integrate with other functions," Lowe said. "XML integration facilitates Corel's enhanced file-sharing options since the flexible programming is capable of sending data across multiple computers."
Far reaching file sharing capabilities include Publish to PDF functions in WordPerfect and Presentations, suite-wide Publish to HTML capabilities, support for open document management application program interface (ODMA) and a new conversion utility to batch convert files from formats including Microsoft Word, RTF and more. Other interesting WordPerfect Office 11 enhancements include:
- Reveal Codes and RealTime Preview ensure complete formatting control. Uses can edit in either area of text or code to produce the desired results.
- New e-mail Document Routing capabilities and Microsoft Outlook Address Book connectivity lets users collaborate via e-mail.
- New ZIM SMS Office integration with Quattro Pro allows users to update spreadsheets remotely via cell phone.
Beta testers say the product enhancements have put WordPerfect Office 11 on the cutting edge of office productivity. Hy London, president of Systems Canada, a tax consultancy and a beta user of WordPerfect Office 11, said the file sharing enhancements make communications with his clients seamless and efficient.
"The built-in PDF functionality is an absolute pleasure to work with," London said. "The new features, together with the many classic features, especially Reveal Codes, will reduce our operating costs while saving us a very rare commodity, namely time."
Still A Far Second
Lowe Said Corel's business productivity suite is the second most popular program in North America. To hear Lowe talk about it, if it weren't for Microsoft, Corel's WordPerfect would be number one.
"We're number two in the market in terms of office productivity software," Lowe said. "And the market is definitely ready for a change. Small businesses are looking for alternatives because they don't want to be bound to one proprietary vendor."
One of the ways Corel is picking up news business uses is through a series of original equipment manufacturing (OEM) deals struck last year. Since August 2002 HP has included WordPerfect 10 and Quattro Pro 10 as part of its business productivity software bundle in its entire Pavilion desktop computer lineup for North America. Similar deals have been struck with Gateway and Dell.
While new PC buyers may get an introduction to Corel office productivity products through these OEM deals and current users remain loyal to the brand, Corel remains the number two office productivity program for small businesses — but number one for those that are looking for an alternative to Microsoft products.