Office productivity comes to Java

Corel to deliver WordPerfect Suite written in Java;
Java-based Barista maintains document format

The success of Java-based network computers, and perhaps Java itself, will likely require the availability of vertical productivity applications for word processing, spreadsheets and databases. At the JavaOne conference, Corel Corp. (www.corel.com) made a first stab at offering such products with the announcement that it plans to deliver a suite of office applications based on its QuattroPro and WordPerfect products. Both products should be available for sale by early next year.

Dr. Michael Cowpland, president and chief executive officer of Corel, said, "Corel has been quick to embrace Java technology as a key in the company's Internet strategy, and we intend to deliver a continuous supply of software products supporting this language. Productivity applications based on Java technology could soon overtake Windows in volume. Despite all of Microsoft's resources, they must be having mixed feelings about how much they want to endorse Java."

A major benefit of Java is that it allows developers to create small applets that can be distributed easily. A key question raised by large software suites is how will they take advantage of Java's power to incrementally add functionality, or make it easy to load on the fly across a network. To address this issue, Corel has pared WordPerfect down to the bone. Although the GUI has the look and feel of WordPerfect for Windows, which takes a minimum of 10 megabytes of disk space (30 megabytes in the standard installation), a trimmed-down Java version demonstrated at the show ran in only 600 kilobytes.

This scaled-down version lacked some popular features, such as a spell checker and thesaurus. Corel was not clear on whether these items would become part of the core application or would be applets that could be downloaded on the fly.

"We are adding functionality right now and so we can't say what will definitely be in or will not," said Eid E. Eid, vice president of software at Corel. "In general, it will be a one-to-one mapping of WordPerfect and Quattro. The architecture is extensible so you can add classes that do charting or for doing formulas in a spreadsheet." Eid notes that functional extensions could be added either by Corel or third parties.

Corel plans to sell the software through retailers and directly over the Internet. Cowpland said pricing will be similar to the current Windows products in the 00 range. Cowpland added, "It may be 30 to 40 percent lower because of streamlined distribution, but that has not been worked out yet."

Java enhances layout

Corel Corp. has announced Barista, a new format for creating documents based on Java that maintains their exact layout. The technology will be deployed in upcoming versions of WordPerfect and Ventura this June, and will allow people to print documents into Barista, which can be viewed on any Java browser with no additional plug-ins.

One of the limitations of HTML is that it modifies the page to fit the browser, making it difficult for artists to define the layout. A number of companies have created formats for sending documents onto the Internet without altering their layout. Adobe Corp. has created the Bravo framework for documents, which is based on the pdf file format. The problem with pdf is that it stores documents as images, making it impossible to index it automatically.

Another technology for doing the same thing is Envoy from Tumbleweed Software (www.tumbleweed.com). Envoy generates smaller files than the pdf format, and they can be indexed. Cowpland said, "If you want publish a large volume application you would use Envoy. But on the Internet, you would need a plug-in for every browser."

Barista will allow anyone with a Java browser to look at documents without having to get a plug-in. Cowpland said that Corel is opening up Barista as a standard format that could be incorporated into products from other vendors.

This story, "Office productivity comes to Java" was originally published by JavaWorld.

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