TECHNOLOGY IN PRACTICE
What’s Up in Corel’s WordPerfect Office 2002: The Odyssey Continues
Feature By Daniel S. Coolidge
Corel axes the Legal Suite, but continues to court lawyers with its Office Suite 2002.
Editor’s Note: This is the second of two articles reviewing the word processing packages in the Big Two’s new releases. See the September issue for "Microsoft Word Gets Smart," Dan Coolidge’s look at new features in MS Word XP.
Corel’s Office Suite 2002 is an incremental rather than a revolutionary upgrade. It builds on the good points of prior versions, adding additional compatibility and stability features. In last month’s Law Practice Management, I overviewed top improvements in the Word component of Microsoft’s new Office XP. However, WordPerfect remains as another viable word processing solution for lawyers.
The Broadest Out-of-the-Box Compatibility
WordPerfect is an old familiar friend to many lawyers and their secretaries. As with all old friends, we are inclined to overlook character flaws because of the familiarity and shared history. Yet some of us (skulking guiltily down the aisles of CompUSA) have moved to the dark side because, "Our clients are all using Word, so for compatibility reasons, we felt that we should too."
As the perceived underdog against Microsoft’s march to World Domination, Corel has placed great emphasis on document compatibility. While it remains true for any conversion tool that some of the most advanced formatting features of any word processor don’t translate perfectly, for the vast majority of files WordPerfect 2002’s document conversion is far better than ... uh ... the other current mainstream word processors. In a perspective that can only come from having a m - - - - oly to maintain, the folks at Redmond take the view that WordPerfect’s last version was 5.1—and they provide no more recent or competing document conversion filters than that. Corel has to try harder, and thus it provides excellent document conversion for all of the current mainline word processing choices—both of them—as well as their prior versions. And WordPerfect also still has a complete set of conversion filters for those who want to convert a WordStar document. (If you don’t know what that is, ask your grandfather.) If the broadest document compatibility right out of the box is a primary concern, WordPerfect wins hands down. Of course, if you really want document compatibility, you are well-advised to use a product such as Conversions Plus from DataViz, which is designed specifically for that task.
Considering switching? While on the subject of converting to "another" word processor, allow me this tangent: Give some thought to why you might be contemplating doing so, and whether your reasoning is sound. With all respect to the religious zealots who think that one or the other word processor is ordained by god, neither has the absolute leg up on the other. Both are quite good and will accomplish your needs. Before considering a switch, you’ll want to determine the investment you already have in document forms, templates, macros and, most importantly, your staff’s knowledge base. Going from one word processor to another is not a simple exercise. It should not be undertaken without substantial reason to justify the cost, both financial and human.
Reveal Codes Still Rules
If compatibility was all there is to say about WordPerfect 2002, it would be a sad commentary. Fortunately, there’s a lot more to the new version. First off, of course, WordPerfect still comes with its single best feature: Reveal Codes. If you don’t know what Reveal Codes means, you’ve either been brain wiped by the Morlocks at Redmond, or you’ve never done more complex formatting than underlining a sentence. Reveal Codes may look complex if you’ve never seen it before, but it lets you see every place in a document where something—anything—has changed: boldface, font size, left justify, block indent, the works. If you’ve ever tried to figure out why the formatting in a Word document has gone sour, you’ll appreciate the ease with which Reveal Codes helps you handle correcting of text formatting. (Compare Figures 1 and 2.)
Publish to PDF, and Create Simple Forms
Corel also continues to improve WordPerfect with some particularly useful new features. For example, WordPerfect can output directly into PDF, Adobe’s now ubiquitous, universally readable document format. PDF is a super way to send a document that a client or opposing counsel can read but not edit. With this version, WordPerfect’s Publish to PDF feature now supports hyperlinks and watermarks.
In addition, new document variables allow you to mark text that you already know will later be changed (such as CompanyName), to give the variable a current value (like XYZ Corporation) and to enter it as a variable name in a document. Later, you can change the variable value and the new value will automatically be substituted throughout the document wherever the variable appears. If you’re really ambitious, you can even write macros to ask for the variable contents when you open up a form document. It’s an easy way to create and automate a number of simple forms. For advanced document automation, however, this capability is pretty limited. So, if you want something with brains, you still need to use a product like HotDocs or a real document automation system.
Still Graphics Friendly
WordPerfect has always been a great source of clip art, and after Corel bought it, the clip art collection in WordPerfect only grew larger. There’s lots of fun stuff to play with in the 2002 version.
Plus, Corel, with its strong background in graphics software, seemingly cannot help but include some more graphics features in the new WordPerfect. For example, if you have grown tired of plain-old-vanilla underlining, WordPerfect 2002 now offers a selection of different underline styles. (See Figure 3.)
Delay Codes When Printing
There is another formatting feature that one at first might think is of questionable value, but hold judgment a moment. Say that you want to set up a document template so that it will print the first page on letterhead with one set of formatting, and then print subsequent pages on plain paper using a different formatting. With Delay Codes, you can do this, with formatting linked to the document page rather than to a fixed location within a document. Since the formatting changes are now linked to a page rather than a paragraph, it doesn’t matter if you add text on the first page—everything will print just fine. Delay Codes works with line numbering, fonts, tab settings and margins.
Other Treats—and Tricks
WordPerfect Office Suite 2002 comes with a host of other goodies and applications, including a full version of Dragon Naturally Speaking 5.0 in its most basic version, which is good enough to handle a large variety of voice dictation jobs handily. It also includes the Pocket Oxford Dictionary, which allows you to look up the meanings of words at a mouse click. (However, while I don’t want to sound like I’m picky, when I asked it for the definition of usufruct it replied that no definition was available in this version of the dictionary, but that I could go online to look into purchasing an upgrade. I found that simply annoying.)
Although not entirely new to this release, the real-time Preview feature is worthy of mention. If you highlight some text, then choose a font (or font size) from the drop-down list, you get a preview of what the text will look like in that font. You not only see it in enlarged version, you also see the font change as it appears in the body of your document. (See Figure 4.) I find this feature neat, but perhaps I am the only one who has no vivid memory of what Haettenschweiller looks like ….
Lastly, I’ll point out that there are rumors of a few bumps along the installation path. Corel has already released a couple of patches to the suite ( www.corel.com). I can’t say that I have experienced any problems, though. I am happy with my review copy of Office Suite 2002. If it’s time to upgrade your current Office Suite, then by all means do so. If, on the other hand, things are fine for the moment, there’s little in Office Suite 2002 that is "must-have" to keep ahead of the competition.
· WordPerfect Office 2002 Professional Edition: $395.00-$469.95. WordPerfect Office 2002 Professional Edition Upgrade: $205.30-$259.95. WordPerfect Office 2002 Standard Edition: $313.00-$412.70. WordPerfect Office 2002 Standard Edition Upgrade: $124.76-$159.95. Oxford Dictionary Upgrade: $20.
Daniel S. Coolidge ( email@example.com) specializes in intellectual property and computer law at Fish & Richardson P.C. in Boston.
Bye-Bye Legal Suite
At nearly the same time that Corel announced the release of its Office Suite 2002, it also announced that it would no longer publish the WordPerfect Legal Suite. The legal suite was an indication of Corel’s continued commitment to the legal marketplace (in which it is still the dominant player). However, the legal suite’s discontin-uation ought not to be seen as a change in Corel’s commitment but rather as an acknowledgment that this suite was a good idea that didn’t work. It was great for other legal-specific publishers to show off their products, but frequently they supplied limited versions of their software. Buyers were upset with this "crippleware," even though it often came with very favorable upgrade pricing. Corel was tagged with the upset. The result was that Corel got upset purchasers, and additional inventory costs, and it didn’t sell more software because of the legal suite. — Daniel Coolidge