Microsoft Office 2010 takes on all comers

OpenOffice.org, LibreOffice, IBM Lotus Symphony, SoftMaker Office, Corel WordPerfect, and Google Docs challenge the Microsoft juggernaut

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Microsoft Office 2010 takes on all comers: Corel WordPerfect Office X5
There was a time, in the DOS days, when WordPerfect was for many professionals the word processing program. Law offices still swear by it, since it's heavily backward compatible with previous versions and has features that appeal to legal professionals.

WordPerfect has since been made part of a suite that contains the Quattro Pro spreadsheet (originally from Borland) and Corel's own Presentations application. The newest version of the suite, WordPerfect Office X5 (or version 15), was released in 2010, and has little to attract users from other suites. It's slightly less expensive than Office 2010 -- the home version is $99 and runs on up to three PCs -- but SoftMaker Office and the various OpenOffice.org derivatives all offer more.

When you launch WordPerfect, Quattro Pro, or Presentations, the first thing you see is the Workspace Manager -- a way to automatically set the program's look and the menu options to one of a number of included templates depending on the user's preferences. Aside from the standard WordPerfect mode, there's Microsoft Word mode, which includes a toolbar of document compatibility options and a sidebar that gives you quick access to common document functions; WordPerfect Classic mode, which emulates the white-on-blue look of the old DOS-era WordPerfect and even the macros of same; and WordPerfect Legal mode, which brings up toolbars related to legal documents.

If you open anything other than native WordPerfect documents, the program runs a conversion filter first, a process that can take anywhere from a fraction of a second to a minute or two depending on the file size and source format. The conversion process for OpenDocument word processing (.odt) documents, even small ones, is much slower than for Word files (.doc or .docx), and as with the other programs here the level of fidelity for document conversion will vary widely. For instance, inline comments from both Word and .odt documents were preserved, but any information about who had made specific comments didn't seem to survive the conversion.

The mortgage calculator spreadsheet loaded in Quattro, but just barely. The charts didn't display any values, and the sheet itself lost most of its functionality; most of the cell formulas didn't work. While I was able to get an existing PowerPoint presentation to import, the transitions were all replaced with simple wipes and many presentation details (such as the aspect ratios of slides) didn't translate accurately. That's where file format support ends -- WordPerfect Office can't open spreadsheets or presentations in Office 2007/2010 or OpenDocument formats.

Most of what drew people to WordPerfect in the first place has been aggressively preserved across the many versions of the program. Take the way WordPerfect deals with document formatting: The user can inspect the formatting markup for a document in great detail and edit it directly. It's a great feature.

But the general stagnancy of the program is off-putting, like the fact that WordPerfect still doesn't support Unicode after all this time. Open a document with both Western and non-Western text and you don't even see gibberish -- non-Western text simply doesn't display. For this and many other reasons, WordPerfect Office X5 is unlikely to appeal beyond WordPerfect's existing user base.

Most of WordPerfect's features appeal mainly to the program's die-hard users, not newcomers.
Most of WordPerfect's features appeal mainly to the program's die-hard users, not newcomers.
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