PRODUCT REVIEW
WordPerfect Office X3

Reviewed by Andrea Goldman

When Jeffrey Allen asked me to write a review of WordPerfect Office X3, I felt a mixture of interest and fear. I had not looked at WordPerfect since I started out as a young attorney. At that time, WordPerfect was the most commonly usedword processing program; it involved memorizing numerous control keys and was incredibly complicated. Having only recently graduated from a typewriter, I was grateful for anything that would allow me to correct and rewrite without those annoying little squares of white-out film (what were they called?), but I found it difficult to use.

Fast-forward to ABA TECHSHOW 2006, where I’m attending a seminar at which one speaker starts ranting about the evils of Microsoft Word, how it’s an awful program in which it’s hard to get rid of that mysterious “metadata,” and how WordPerfect is so much better. So, when I was asked to review the new version of Corel’s WordPerfect, I jumped at the opportunity.

Rather than just reading the manual, I decide to start by using the program and seeing how much I can figure out from its online information and presentation. At first glance, the initial screen is jam-packed with options. A clear-cut menu on the left lists PerfectExpert options for opening a new document or pulling up an old project. The choices include Write a Draft, Set Up the Document, Typing, Add Visual Elements, Edit, and Proofread. There are forward and back arrows for going on to other topics, options for searching the web, and icons I’ve never seen before with a bunch of Yahoo items. The standard options for font/size/style are there, and spell check does its job as I type. Numerous drop-down arrows will need to be investigated later.

I want to double-space my text, so I follow my Word instincts and go to Paragraph. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work, but I notice another choice called “Line” and, sure enough, the arrow points to spacing. The option it provides, however, requires a numerical value, which I don’t know. I click the Help menu and type in “double-spacing.” It doesn’t work. I try “spacing, line,” and I’m back to the numerical value choice. So far, not so good. I move to the menu on the left and click Formatting. One of the choices is Change Line Spacing, but this gives me the numerical value option again. I am cursing under my breath.

Being married to a software consultant instills good habits, so I decide to save my document. Choosing “Save As,” I am faced with at least 20 format options, including some programs I’ve never heard of: Multimate, RTF Japanese, XyRite, etc. Others are incredibly old, such as WordStar. One recognizable option is saving the doc as an MS Word file, which is nice if I want to send it to an uninitiated colleague. Another option, Save Without Metadata, offers a choice of which metadata to remove and whether to keep the original document open. Who knew metadata came with choices?

My briefs include outlining and numbering, so that seems like an important feature to try next. The page view for my document shows visible margins, which is reassuring. I know that outlining and numbering in Word is annoying because the digits seem to have minds of their own and often change midstream.

My numbered list in X3 does not work out well—the numbers repeat themselves instead of continuing in sequence. The spacing between the number and the words is also inconsistent. This is what the numbered list looks like:

  • 1. Under Format, choose Outline/Bullets & Numbering.
  • 2. Notice that the text continues to single space.
  • 3. Looks like the sentence tab is too far from the number. Reduce the tab space, which changes the formatting of the whole outline automatically.
  • 4. An icon on the left has an arrow—but what does it mean?
  • 5. Hover over it—it reveals nothing.
  • 6. Click on it and a fancy line appears above the outline but then disappears.
  • 7. Mistakenly click the numbering format again—whoops! The numbers are no longer in order and start with 1 again.
  • 1. Click on Help.
  • 2. As it directs, click the Paragraph Number bar on the Property bar and reset the number. I do that, and it does fix the numbering, but now my tabs are off again.
  • 1. Highlight the one that’s numbered wrong and change the Tab to .2. Now the numbering is wrong again.

The menu on the left allows me to choose Turn Numbering Off, and I breathe a sigh of relief. I do like the many options in Numbering Format, but I am feeling frustrated by the fact that when I click Help and then the document, the Help dialogue box gets hidden. I just can’t memorize the directions and apply them, and I hate alt-tabbing between windows.

Still in the Format menu at Outline/Bullets & Numbering, I notice a topic labeled “Text.” Clicking it gives me options for Headings, Quotations, and Definitions. It changes the font, font size, and font style—now my text is all bold, and I have no idea why.

One hard return and tab later, I’m back to normal text. I check out Bullet choices, which are nice, but I move on to Outline. I choose a format I often use in contracts, but I can’t seem to make the number advance to “2.” The outline appears like this:

  • 1. The outline begins with what I’ve already just typed, and I want it to start after, with the outline topics. This time I think oh, well, and move on to my next entry.
    • 1.1 The format is good for contracts.
    • 1.2 But what if I want to start with 2?

I return to the first margin and type 2, but now the outline is gone.

  • 2. After I click Outline format once again, the tabbing is wrong.
  • 3. Now it says “3” instead of “2.1.”

I try returning twice, which seems to turn off Outline. I decide that if I am going to use this program, I’ll need to hire a new secretary who can learn how to produce my contracts.

It’s time I had some fun, so I start exploring the other icons and find the following: Xhos´ayxCfoyt. A good font for faking a kid’s science project, maybe. I click the Color icon and change color every sentence. Some are easy to see onscreen; some are not. The icon changes color with the choices. Recently used colors appear at the top of the choices. When I click on More, a color wheel appears. The Insert Symbols icon is right at the top, and my most frequently used choices are right there. This is great: ¶ § © ¢.

Another icon looks interesting. It’s a capital letter A with two lines next to it. It offers me storybook-style dropped caps for the first letter of my sentence, in various formats.

I try them all.
t’s fun!
f I were writing a proclamation, I would use this feature.

Clicking next on the Pen or Pencil icon, I find I have put in a new text box, changed the margins, and brought up a whole new screen. Hovering over it tells me it is Draw Picture-Create Picture. Double-clicking it gives me an enormous amount of options in the text box, as well as a bunch of drawing options . . . but I always ask my 13-year-old to create my drawings because I have no idea what I am doing.

Hyperlinks appear to link themselves automatically, but I highlight the next word and click Hyperlink Create, which offers me options for Bookmarking in this or other documents, etc. Typing www.andreagoldmanlaw.blogspot.com brings me to my blog but does not create a bookmark.

Columns and tables seem easy enough, but it is not clear to me how to enter text in the next column. The columns and tables I create look like these, but they’re not glitch free, as evidenced by the left margin:

It is easy to create columns and tables. There are icons for creating columns and tables, but how can I get to the next column?

There's even an option called Newspaper. I skip it. A blank document offers to show a document map, but I can't find my way out of this format! Going to Columns, I click Discontinue.

Eventually I click New Column and that seems to work, but tabbing does nothing.

The eyeglasses icon and "¶" icons make the markings visible in the document.¶

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The Quick Format icon sounds as if it would be terrifically useful if I knew how to use it.

Spell Checker offers an extensive array of options and has a Thesaurus, Dictionary, and Grammatik built right in.

The left Menu always offers a Tip. Maybe I’ll find a way to turn it off. PerfectExpert, however, can easily be turned on or off so I can have a full document view. Word Count information is extensive, offering you the total number of paragraphs or sentences or pages—or a useful average word length. Even the Find and Replace option gives me choices: insert words before or after, find prev, and so on.

WordPerfect is like Word on steroids. Every feature is so packed with options that it almost makes me yearn for the days of the typewriter. The presentation is good, and the menus are constantly visible. I can publish to PDF and HTML and Save Without Metadata—which to me are the program’s most attractive options. It seems like Corel thought of everything.

The Microsoft Word versus Corel WordPerfect debate has been raging for some time. I have been a relatively satisfied Word user and recently heard that its 2007 beta version is fabulous. As with all software, the question for me comes down to, is this worth the time it will take me to learn something new? My answer for WordPerfect X3 is, probably not. It’s one thing to goof around with a program to write an article about it, but if I were in a rush to get out a brief, I would not want to be using a new program, never mind one for which I can’t fix formatting that goes awry.

In addition, I still don’t know how to double-space, and for that, I should not have to read the manual.

Andrea Goldman is the principal in the Law Office of Andrea Goldman in Newton, Massachusetts. She is a litigator, mediator, and arbitrator focusing on construction/contractor, business, and landlord/tenant matters. She can be reached at www.andreagoldmanlaw.com.

Copyright 2006

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