PRODUCT REVIEW 
WordPerfect Office X5

Reviewed by J. Anthony Vittal

I have an admission to make at the outset—I really don’t like Microsoft Office. I use it because I am forced to, but I don’t like it. I find it bloated, inelegant, unnecessarily expensive, and generally inimical to the best interests of those who have to use it. More to the point, it doesn’t work the way I think. Fortunately, there finally is an alternative that addresses all of my objections but permits a user to work in an MS Office environment and seamlessly open and save MS Office files. Welcome to WordPerfect Office X5.

I have been a WordPerfect user since I first started working on a PC in the latter half of the 1980s. In those days, WordPerfect Corporation—a small company in Orem, Utah—had this easy-to-use, full-featured word processor that worked in the DOS window. Although it required a learning curve to be able to generate complex documents with proficiency, such as pleadings on ruled and numbered paper, once you climbed the learning curve, it became second nature, despite the white characters on a blue screen.

In 1989 WordPerfect released version 5.1 for DOS, which offered drop-down menus on a menu bar as a supplement to the function-key features. Version 6.0 for DOS offered a graphical editing mode that showed the document as it would print as an alternative to the classic text-based editing mode. Finally, with WordPerfect for Windows version 5.2 released in late 1992, WordPerfect had its first mature Windows version.

In 1993 WordPerfect became part of an office suite under a co-licensing arrangement with Borland, which included the Borland Quattro Pro spreadsheet application and the Paradox database application (originally developed by Ansa and Borland and now included in the X5 Professional Edition).

The product line was sold to Novell in 1994 and to Corel in 1996. Since then, despite the market power and marketing practices of Microsoft, WordPerfect Office has maintained a competitive market position versus Microsoft Office. WordPerfect Office compares well not only on price but also on features and architecture. It is no wonder that the Department of Justice and the Administrative Office of the Courts have licensed WordPerfect Office as their application suite of choice.

The most recent (15th) version, WordPerfect Office X5, was awarded the Best of FOSE Award in the Desktop Software Category in March 2010 by Government Computer News at the annual Federal Office Systems Exposition. Certainly, a product awarded “best of breed” for government use warrants consideration for your own office and personal use.

What Do You Get?
WordPerfect Office X5 comes not only with a full office suite but with hundreds of dollars in extras, including more than 900 TrueType fonts, more than 200 templates, more than 8,000 clip art images, and more than 175 stock photos, plus floating objects, watermarks, and sounds that can be used in various projects. It also has an hour‑long training video from BrainStorm. Most importantly, X5 provides an elegantly designed software suite that functions the way most of us think and create documents, rather than the way some software architect thinks we should work, all for at least 20 percent less than the comparable Microsoft Office suite.

Significant developments in X5 include:

  • The ability to use WordPerfect X5 in lockstep with document management systems such as Microsoft SharePoint.
  • Web services integration giving users the time‑ saving capability of creating documents populated with data pulled from the web. The new web data import feature brings tabular data from remote sites directly into WordPerfect tables without the need to embed a spreadsheet table. A simple tree‑structured dialog makes it easy to select the web data you want to import.
  • Enhanced compatibility allowing users to open, edit, and save in Office Open XML (OOXML)  formats.
  • Nuance PaperPort 12 SE, a desktop document management package giving users the ability to easily annotate PDFs and integrate with scanners.
  • Mozilla Thunderbird for WordPerfect Office, a new integrated e‑mail client and calendar that offers a tabbed e‑mail view and powerful search tools.
  • WordPerfect Lightning, a digital notebook providing a simple set of tools to take notes and quickly gather information and screen grabs from the web, e‑mail, and other sources.
  • The new Reference Center, a redesigned approach to the Help system, and tutorials for every part of the suite.
  • Windows 7 compatibility, allowing users to takes advantage of the touch-screen capabilities of that operating system
The X5 suite also retains the best features of previous versions. As with its predecessors, in X5 the top status line of any open file (above the menu bar) shows the full path and file name and whether your active document has been modified.

X5 also retains the legal‑document toolbox, including an easy‑to‑use wizard for creating a pleading document. The toolbox is one reason why the WordPerfect word processing application has held its own in the legal market. The application supports multiple styles of pleading documents—a significant plus if you practice in different forums with differing format rules.

Once your document is finished, WordPerfect Office X5, like its predecessors, also permits you to save files in the broadest possible range of file formats—more than 60 file types from Ami Pro 1.2 to XyWrite III Plus. WordPerfect Office X5 allows you to open, edit, and even create files using the newest Microsoft Office files formats—OOXML, .docx, .xlsx, and .pptx. You also have the ability to natively publish your document in various formats, including PDF, HTML, XML, and EDGAR, without the need for another application.

Last, but certainly not least, X5 still includes fully functional “reveal codes”—allowing the kind of easy-to-use granular control over the format and appearance of your documents that is virtually impossible to achieve in Microsoft Office applications.

What You Don’t Get
Users want to focus on the details of their work, not the mechanical idiosyncrasies of their office applications. Users don’t want an office suite that forces them to learn a new user interface with every new version of the software. Instead, they need office productivity tools that work for them. WordPerfect Office delivers on all accounts. The legendary formatting features, intuitive user interface, and menu selections of WordPerfect Office help you effortlessly create documents, spreadsheets, slide shows, and databases while easily managing your electronic communications. (Even so, if you are absolutely wedded to the look and feel of Microsoft Office, you can start the WordPerfect Office application with the familiar Microsoft interface.)

With WordPerfect Office X5, you will not get the full web‑based structure being adopted by Microsoft Office 2010 and other office suites. Nonetheless, this latest release includes web‑based collaboration tools. Corel deliberately chose to avoid the full web‑based structure because it understands that an offline workspace is still important. This is particularly true in environments where data confidentiality is vital—such as law offices, courts, and other tribunals.

System Requirements
Unlike the current versions of Microsoft Office applications, which typically require the current version of the operating system to run properly, WordPerfect Office X5 will run on any Windows operating system since Windows XP SP3 (with critical updates installed). It will run (although not very well) with as little as 660 MB of hard drive space for minimum installation, 256 MB RAM, a 466 MHz CPU, and 800 x 600 monitor resolution (1028 x 768 or higher recommended). Because you can download the suite directly from Corel, you don’t even need a CD‑ROM drive.

Pricing
WordPerfect Office X5 Standard Edition (without the database application, database samples and templates, or developer kit and integration tools) is available for $249.99 as a stand-alone or $159.99 as an upgrade. The Professional Edition (with the additional features) is available for $399.99 as a stand-alone or $259.99 as an upgrade.

To purchase at upgrade pricing, you must own a licensed copy of WordPerfect 11 or higher, Microsoft Office XP or higher, or Microsoft Works Suite 7 or higher. By comparison, Microsoft Office Professional 2010 is available for a flat price of $499.99, with no upgrade pricing available.

Corel periodically offers sale pricing on its products. In early October 2010, WordPerfect Office X5 Standard Edition was offered for $149.99 as a stand-alone and $129.99 as an upgrade. Keep an eye on the Corel website ( www.corel.com) for deals.

The Bottom Line
With WordPerfect Office X5, Corel has an office applications suite that, in my view, performs more efficiently than any other office applications suite on the market and does so at a substantially lower cost. Download a copy of the Standard Edition and take it for a free 30-day test drive. I think you’ll like it well enough to buy it when your 30-day trial is over.

 

  • J. Anthony Vittal is in private practice with The Vittal Law Firm, based in Los Angeles, California. A former member of the ABA Standing Committee on Technology and Information Systems, a member of the editorial boards for Tech eNotes and the Technology & Practice Guide issues of GPSolo, and a member of various technology-oriented committees of ABA Sections, he speaks and writes frequently on legal technology topics. He may be reached at tony@vittal.net .

    Copyright 2010

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