By Anne Chen  |  Posted 2006-01-30 Print this article Print

WordPerfect Office X3—the latest version of Corels productivity suite—comes packed with new features that make it a stronger competitor than ever to Microsofts dominant Office.

Armed with the ability to natively import and export word processing documents to PDF—as well as to export spreadsheets and presentations to PDF—WordPerfect Office X3 has features were still waiting for from Microsoft Office (or dont expect to see until the next Office update, due at the end of this year).

The new Corel office suite also boasts improved compatibility with Microsoft Office applications, an updated interface, a new mail client and the ability to strip documents of metadata—among other things—making it a good upgrade for existing shops and worthy of consideration for organizations looking for a Microsoft Office alternative.

Enterprises heavily invested in Microsoft Office, however, should wait for the release of Office "12," as Microsoft is currently calling the update, before performing any kind of side-by-side comparisons.

Click here to read more about Office 12. Released in January,WordPerfect Office X3 Standard Edition comprises the WordPerfect word processor, Quattro Pro spreadsheet application, Presentations slide maker, Presentations Graphics image and graphics editing program, and WordPerfect Mail e-mail client.

WordPerfect Office X3 Standard Edition has a retail price of $299 and $159 to upgrade. Microsofts Office, in contrast, can cost as much as $500 per seat retail without volume licensing. Volume licensing for WordPerfect Office X3 is available, and Corel will honor the upgrade price for users of both the WordPerfect and Microsoft Office suites.

WordPerfect Office X3 Professional Edition, which is available by site license, includes a software developers kit and the Paradox database. Paradox has been enhanced to connect to external databases via ODBC DSN (ODBC Data Source Name) under Windows XP Service Pack 2.

Free and lower-priced office productivity suites are available—such as OpenOffice.orgs OpenOffice.org 2.0.1 and Sun Microsystems StarOffice 8—but organizations considering a switch would need to factor in training costs for these likely unfamiliar office suites.

Jason Brooks says OpenOffice.org has an edge over StarOffice. Click here to read more. Even Microsoft Office shops planning to upgrade to the next version of Microsoft Office will have to figure in such costs, as Office 12 will have dramatic interface changes that users may have difficulty handling at first.

WordPerfects advantage here is its ability to mimic Office 2003s look and feel, as well as save in Offices document file formats.

Core applications

During eWEEK Labs tests of WordPerfect Office X3, we were pleased with the suites core applications. We also experienced fairly good results when opening and creating Microsoft Office-formatted documents with WordPerfect Office X3.

We did encounter some small inconsistencies during our testing that required tweaks to preserve the appearance of the documents we imported. We also ran into some formatting issues when importing WordPerfect Office X3 documents into Microsoft Office 2003.

While this may not seem like a big deal, 99 percent of businesses use Microsoft Office, and organizations that dont use Microsoft Office need to ensure that their documents can be viewed correctly by those that do.

Businesses can ensure that their documents render appropriately for those who arent using WordPerfect by taking advantage of the suites PDF export feature.

All the core applications in WordPerfect—WordPerfect, Quattro Pro and Presentations—now have the ability to export to PDF. A tool bar allows users to easily convert documents, spreadsheets and presentations into PDFs with one click.

WordPerfect is also the first office suite with the ability to natively import an Adobe Systems Acrobat file, edit its contents and resave that file as a PDF or in another format. In tests, we found that the PDF import feature needs some work, particularly with heavily formatted documents. However, the feature worked fine with straight text documents and will come in handy for users who work with such files.

Microsoft has announced that, with Office 12, documents can be saved to the PDF format, but it is still unclear whether Office 12 will allow users to import and rework PDF files.

WordPerfect Office X3 will support Office 12s OpenXML format. The Corel suite will not support OASIS Open Document Format for Office Applications standard, although Corel remains an active participant on the OASIS technical committee for ODF.

End-user focus

During testing, it was obvious that Corel had users needs top of mind when developing WordPerfects new features. For example, we appreciated how the word count is now displayed at the bottom of the WordPerfect word processor.

We also liked that Yahoo Search is embedded into the word processor, which allowed us to do quick Web searches without leaving our documents. We were able to highlight text in a WordPerfect document and select Search With Yahoo from the right-click menu to get search results within a browser window.

Two other new tools we liked allowed us to strip formatting or metadata from documents. Using the right-click menu, we could remove formatting from text copied from Web pages before pasting it into a document. We could also save documents without metadata, which could prevent the embarrassment of having comments, history or other hidden information uncovered by other users.

Mail call heeded

In past WordPerfect reviews, weve lamented the suites lack of an e-mail client. Were lamenting no more, as WordPerfect Office X3 comes with the new WordPerfect Mail client.

After testing with the WordPerfect Mail client for a few weeks, we found ourselves relying on the built-in RSS reader to keep up-to-date. We also like that the client automatically indexes everything, allowing us to instantly retrieve our messages. (Who wouldve thought the ability to search through thousands of messages without a third-party add-on would come in so handy?)

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.

As a senior writer for eWEEK Labs, Anne writes articles pertaining to IT professionals and the best practices for technology implementation. Anne covers the deployment issues and the business drivers related to technologies including databases, wireless, security and network operating systems. Anne joined eWeek in 1999 as a writer for eWeek's eBiz Strategies section before moving over to Labs in 2001. Prior to eWeek, she covered business and technology at the San Jose Mercury News and at the Contra Costa Times.

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