Office XP: the competition

Corel has just released WordPerfect Office 2002. The Professional version contains WordPerfect, Presentations, Paradox, Quattro Pro and CorelCentral -- word processor, presentation graphics, database, spreadsheet and information manager respectively.

Corel has just released WordPerfect Office 2002. The Professional version contains WordPerfect, Presentations, Paradox, Quattro Pro and CorelCentral -- word processor, presentation graphics, database, spreadsheet and information manager respectively. Its most compelling advantage is its price point of £199 (ex. VAT), but there are some key benefits that this product has over its archrival.

Cross-compatibility is important when you're not the market leader, so WordPerfect Office 2002 programs can save in Word, Excel, Lotus 1-2-3 file formats, as well as HTML (with CSS support). ODBC compatibility with Oracle and SQL databases is also a feature of WordPerfect Office 2002.

Certain features, such as the Property Toolbar, speech recognition (using Dragon Naturally Speaking) and Application Recovery Manager mirror some of Office XP's functionality. But CorelCentral also has Palm support, and Presentations allows you to publish your slideshows to the Web using a Macromedia Flash plug-in, which is more effective than PowerPoint 2002's HTML export. The licensing of the Pocket Oxford Dictionary is a welcome inclusion, as is the PDF export feature in WordPerfect 2002.

Alternatively, you might want to consider Lotus SmartSuite Millennium Edition (v9.6), especially if your company runs Lotus Notes. It includes Lotus Approach, FastSite Release 2, Freelance Graphics, Lotus 1-2-3, Organizer 5.0, and WordPro, as well as Lotus SmartCenter, a toolbar that launches applications and ties in with streaming Web information such as weather or stock reports.

SmartSuite gives Office XP's Send For Review feature a run for its money with Team Review, which provides even more control over the file's routing list and access/amend profile. It, too, features speech recognition in the form of IBM's ViaVoice, but there's still a long way to go before any of these speech tools become truly valuable.

Some users may find the presentation of SmartSuite to be a little naïve -- the ring-binder look in Organizer for example. But it remains a capable product, although there are notable weak points. FastSite is less capable than FrontPage and Freelance Graphics lacks the same usability as PowerPoint.

So what else is there? Well, you might want to evaluate Sun Microsystems' StarOffice 5.2. You've certainly got nothing to lose, as it's entirely free, and can be downloaded from Sun's Web site.

A truly cross-platform product, the open-source StarOffice runs on Solaris and Linux as well as Windows-based systems, and provides a suite of applications covering word processing, spreadsheets, graphics, presentation, HTML editing, email and news, scheduling and databases.

It's not likely to challenge any of the above products for overall functionality, but is still a viable product, and is starting to acquire intelligent functions such as AutoCorrect and format retention in mail. Version 5.2 also comes with online help and written documentation -- which was not available in StarOffice 5.1.

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