Although Corel’s WordPerfect is no longer the dominant force it was in the days of DOS, it has continued to be updated and enhanced, and the latest versions are both fully compatible with the most modern versions of Windows and still provide attorneys with some significant advantages for document production. The most recent version, WordPerfect Office X6, is evolutionary rather than revolutionary, and that is a good thing.
WordPerfect vs. Word
WordPerfect’s interface continues to be essentially unchanged, though program icons and graphics have been refreshed. On the one hand, this opens the program to accusations of stagnating. On the other, I would contend that Corel has been wise in avoiding “fixing what ain’t broke,” as the overall program operation remains stable and familiar. For a law office this means no retraining is needed.
WordPerfect’s traditionally superior document assembly and automation features are as reliable as ever in X6. The only changes made to PerfectScript, its macro programming language, are a few new commands added and updated and revised help and support files.
A few words about why WordPerfect has “traditionally superior document assembly and automation features” might be helpful. Microsoft Word’s mail merge feature is exactly that: designed to merge address information into a document. This is of limited value for most law offices. WordPerfect’s “merge” feature is entirely different. It is a complete document assembly language, allowing advanced production of pleadings, contracts, corporate formation documents, and anything else you might think of. Instead of the relatively clumsy search-and-replace process, entire sets of pleadings, discovery, motions, orders, and the like can be generated from a template containing basic case information. For sole practitioners and small firms, this capability can be invaluable.
New Features and Performance
WordPerfect X6 can not only read the Microsoft Word 2007 DOCX file format, but also the OpenOffice (or LibreOffice) ODF and OOXML formats. Unlike earlier versions, it now can save to DOCX, too, allowing distribution of the current Microsoft Word format. Importing and conversion of DOC and DOCX files also continue to improve with every version. Files that in WordPerfect X4 or X5 would generate an error code open without a hitch in X6.
The biggest new feature in WordPerfect X6 is its ability to work with multiple monitors. Traditionally, Microsoft Word went the route of putting each document in a separate window, whereas WordPerfect set up documents in up to nine “tabs” at the bottom of the screen. The “tabs” approach made switching between documents quick and easy because the windows are not mixed in with all the other application windows on your system. The only drawback to this was that comparing documents side by side, especially in now-common multiple monitor setups, was awkward. No more: WordPerfect X6 now allows splitting off of separate windows. This may seem like a small thing, but for multiple-monitor users (and if you do not have multiple monitors, you should), it is a godsend.
X6 also features file previewing in Windows Explorer and Microsoft Outlook, which integrates your WPD files more conveniently with your system.
Other Programs and Extras
WordPerfect X6 ships with WordPerfect eBook Publisher, which allows users to create and publish e-books for smartphones or e-readers such as the Kindle or Nook. For those who want to be able to distribute non-editable documents in a good portable format, this feature could be quite useful. WordPerfect Lightning is also included. It is a handy document viewer and note taker, but it has not found a niche, especially when compared with web-based services. The other programs included are of limited use: VideoStudio Essentials X4 is nice for creating videos but not relevant to most law practices, and WinZip, although useful, is no better than several freeware alternatives for file compression.
In summary, WordPerfect Office X6 has a few handy enhancements and tweaks, performs well, and has no known negatives as compared with earlier versions. It is a recommended upgrade if you are running Office X5 or an earlier version. If you are just starting out and considering alternatives, try it. It is inexpensive and still is better suited for serious document production than Word. For further information on features and pricing options, see www.corel.com.