Video: Corel's Wordperfect Lightning is a free, lightweight collaborative word processor

Video: Corel's Wordperfect Lightning is a free, lightweight collaborative word processor

Summary: Based on what I saw in the beta version (released today) of Corel's new Wordperfect Lightning (I have a video as well as a screen...

TOPICS: Microsoft

Based on what I saw in the beta version (released today) of Corel's new Wordperfect Lightning (I have a video as well as a screen gallery), the freely downloadable lightweight collaborative word processor could be a harbinger of things to come as the productivity heavyweights look to find a sweetspot between full-blown, expensive, and locally run office suites like Microsoft Office and a new breed of browser-based competitors from outfits like Google, the chief disadvantage of which is that they're unusable wherever and whenever an Internet connection is unavailable. My colleague Larry Dignan has his own laundry list of potential downsides to the recently released Google Apps Premier....(continued below)

  See our video of Wordperfect Lightning in action: To get a better idea of how Corel's Worderfect Lightning works, David interviewed Corel general manager Richard Carriere who talked about Corel's philosophy behind the software and then gave a demo. To see the demo, just check out the video.  Image Gallery: Want images? Have we got images. In addition to the video, we've prepared a gallery of images that shows some of the various user interface elements of Corel's Wordperfect Lightning -- the Navigator, the Viewer, it's ability to synch with an online repository -- in action.  

If I had to describe Lightning's chief selling proposition (not that you would buy it, the less-than 20MB download is free), it's a note assembler that can take original content that you plug-in or content from Microsoft Word, Wordperfect Office, PDF-formatted documents, or the Web, and remix them together in a lightweight fashion that allows you to not only share the final document locally, but also to an Internet-based document sharing service where (a) you can get at it from another computer running Lightning or (b) someone else you are collaborating with can get at it as well. 

Lightning conforms to the 10/90 rule. It takes the 10 percent of the features found in heavyweight word processors that 90 percent of the people who have those heavyweight word processors actually use, and dispenses with the rest. What remains is a what can best be described as a version of Microsoft's Notepad (built-in to Windows) on some serious steroids. For example, I use Notepad to take notes all the time. But to be able to add a modicum of formatting to them, to be able to import images into them, and to easily go from viewing a Word or PDF document to having some or all of its content exported to a Lightning Note where I can continue to edit the remixed content without losing too much formatting is the sort of steroids that might easily distract me from using Notepad again. Going back to the images that Lightning can incorporate into its notes, Lightning also includes a screen capture utility. Indicative of Corel's emphasis on simplicity, Lightning strip out any thing that users typically wouldn't need. For example, a "save" button. All content is auto-saved.

Not only does Lightning's Navigator (shown in our screen gallery) use a folder-tree like metaphor to index any notes you've assembled with Lightning, it also indexes the original content that you might be incorporating into those notes (eg: MS-Office, Wordperfect Office, or PDF files). What's interesting about Lightning is how, with a push of a button, it can synchronize its entire tree of content to an online service that Wordperfect runs in partnership with Joyent. This way any or all of the content that you have stored in your online repository (you get 200MB for free) can be downloaded to another PC being used by you or by someone else (which means it's a bit Lotus Notes/Microsoft Sharepoint/Wiki-like in the way it works). Team spaces in this online environment are limited to two free users and after that, subscription rates start at $15 per month according to Carriere. 

So what's the catch? Why is Corel offering something with so much utility for free? According to Carriere, the company is hoping that usage of Lightning will stimulate upsells to the company's flagship productivity suite -- Wordperfect Office X3.  Included in Lightning's functionality is an ability to, with one click, "send" a Lightning Note over to Wordperfect Office (they must be running on the same PC) where the user can use the latter to engage in the sort of heavyweight editing and formatting that Lightning can't handle. Something else that Wordperfect Office (WPO) does (that might come in handy for Lightning users) is that it can save to Microsoft's Office formats as well as PDF (making WPO somewhat unique out there for an office heavy hitter).

The company is also looking to drive up subscription revenue to the online services. For example, beyond two users to a team space where Lightning documents can be stored, businesses would incur subscription fees (as discussed earlier). 

On the downside, Lightning is only for text and image-based documents. In other words, Lightning can't do spreadsheets or Powerpoint-like presentations. But when I aske Carriere about those applications, he said "not yet."  He didn't promise that functionality in the future but it seems like a natural direction for Corel to take things given the competitive nature of the office space (give what's happening with Microsoft, Google, etc.).

Lightning is definitely an innovative offering and I don't see how you can beat the price. It will satisfy most of what users generally do with word processing software today and it offers the best of both worlds when you look at typical Office 2.0 approach (like Google's) vs. the local bloated suite approach (like Microsoft). You create and save fairly rich documents locally (with the ability to draw upon the original content from multiple document types) while be able to keep your documents in the cloud as well (for either backup, anytime anywhere access, or collaboration). The beta program is going on right now and Corel is looking for your feedback. In the meantime, check out the video. 

Topic: Microsoft

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  • uhh every head of WordPad?

    Comparing Lightning to WordPad would have made more sense don't you think? WordPad is included with Windows and can edit word docs. This is a dead end product from Corel.
    • Actually...

      With the newest version of Wordpad (in Vista) one can no longer edit MS Word Documents.
    • Spellchecking

      Perhaps Lightning includes a spellchecker, something Notepad and Wordpad lack. You appear to need one. I know I have been wanting a program such as this for many, many years (since Windows286 or 386). I can't agree that this is a dead-end product. Software bloat is the biggest problem I encounter with every computer I have ever owned. I am tired of the "latest version" (which is the only version supported) being bloated by features I don't need forcing me to upgrade my hardware. Kudos to Corel for tackling this.
    • Every head???

      Your message doesn't make sense and your subject line means what?
      • How about "ever heard"

        The guy just needs a spell checker. I wonder if he every headed of one.
  • Interesting piece of software

    Can't wait for the Excel and Powerpoint functionality to be added. Then there will be little reason to stick with MSFT Office.
  • 10/90 rule

    The 10/90 rule is flawed. The problem is, you assume 90% of the people use the
    SAME 10% of the features.
    • but they do use the same 10%

      The fact is that they do use the same 10%.
      That's the whole point.
    • Pot, kettle, black ...

      You neglected to provide any support for your
      implicit assumption that 90% of users -->don't<--
      use the same 10% of available features.

      Come back when you are prepared to respond with a
      sound critique instead of a Pee Wee Hermanism.
      Still Lynn
      • A critique of your critique.

        The 90/10 rule goes back to when wordprocessing was run on dedicated equipment (CPT was the leading vendor). Wordperfect ported this functionality to DOS and eventually Windows. To compete with Wordperfect Microsoft started offering additional funtionality in Word that went beyond traditional word processing. In a generic sense the 90% refers to this basic functionality. Creating macros, running formulas, inserting hyperlinks - well you can see where these are not traditional word processing functions.

        Wordpad (previous post) does not conform to the 90/10 rule. Columns, Text Wrapping, Spellcheck are considered part of that standard 90% functionality, and you wont find them in Wordpad.
    • 80/20

      You are absolutely correct. Statistically, 80/20 would be more appropriate.
  • Very Interesting tool.. Too bad it does me no good.

    If it were cross platform that might be a different story.

    The tool I use most often next to a browser is Kate, and gets saved as txt, then depending on need & purpose, gets moved to HTML, PDF, XML/ODF etc.

    Somewhat OT, but related......
    I have always thought Corel missed a huge opportunity, by doing what they thought was the more pragmatic and safer thing.

    At one point in time they had the most popular user friendly Linux and a native Word Perfect/Office as well as Apple ports of their software.

    Add to that many good software products
    WP/Office Suite
    Technical drawing.
    various dev tools, etc

    If they remained crossplatform & even gave away the OS(Linux) while selling their application stack & suites I think/feel they could have become a much more major player.

    They chose the safer route...
    Spilt milk under the bridge.........
    • Corel Office Wasn't Native...

      It ran on an internal implementation of WINE and was abysmally slow. But it did a great job, all the same. I really liked it (still have the install CDs!). Corel was my first Linux distro, too.
      Also, IIRC, Microsoft bailed Corel out of some financial trouble, and Corel Linux / Office disappeared at about the same time. . . Coincidentally, of course.
  • Open Office anyone?

    Hmmm. Yet another word processor. OO does word documents (though probably not word 2007 docs!), pdf, excel, etc. and OO has a power Point type app as well. The whole thing is free and you can get it for windows and linux (probably mac too).
    • Not light

      OO is pretty heavy. No surprise there, it's job is to compete with MS Office, which I think it does pretty well. I mostly prefer it. On the other hand, I don't do much Office stuff to begin with, so a simple, fast, somewhat compatible word processor would interest me. And WordPad ain't it. Think I'll check this one out, see what its got to offer.
    • 800lb Gorilla

      OpenOffice is huge. If you doubt that, try compiling it from source - you'll need a few gigs free just for the build, plus the install footprint.
      Also, while it is a good office suite and deals fairly well with MSFT formats, it's not perfect. I've had more than a few docs from work that simply would not render properly in OOo. Haven't tried any Office 2k7 docs yet - most of my writing these days is either e-mail or exported directly to PDF.
    • Corel Products

      I'm just an old war horse, put out to pasture, but I still do a lot of stuff. I've tried many programs including MS Office 2000, MS Word 2003 and Open Office (current), but the one program I always fall back on is good old Word Perfect 7. (I have the full suite, but don't use the the rest as often.) No activation, no restrictions, just use it! That one does it all and it's the easiest to work with. (Also Quattro Pro is great.) I've never used a desk top publishing program because WP does it all. I have a newer version of WP that came on my lap top, and I don't like it as well.

      Second choice, if someone needs MSWord compatibility: Open Office. It's nice that it's free and runs on M$Win & Linux.

      This new product may be interesting.
      Hans Schmidt
  • Ancient History

    Back in the days when Wordperfect Corporation owned Wordperfect (pre-Windows), there was a period when they had two versions of Wordperfect. One was the serious full-blooded product, and the other was a much simpler product (I can't remember what they called it; let's call it WPLite). In a typical office environment, the WPLite version was completely adequate for the majority of users who usually just created memos.

    The full version was suitable for secretaries (remember them?) and power users. The Lite version was capable of properly displaying all Wordperfect features, but could not create or manipulate all of them; i.e., tables. In that 10% of the time when a user needed a feature that wasn't available in WPLite, they could give their document to a power user, who could create the feature, then return it to the casual user for further work. This could save an organization a lot of money by not having to buy products with features that weren't needed by the majority of users.

    I wonder if that same capability exists with Lightning?
    • Now I remember...It was LetterPerfect!

      The name of the WPLite product was LetterPerfect. And as I said, it was 100% format-compatible with WP.
  • Stops working When???

    I would like to see a better explanation of this version. Read the boilerplate in the EULA:

    The Trial Version of the Product will become inoperable after a designated period of time (e.g. 30, 45 or 60 days) or after a specific number of product executions as specified by the Product after installation. After this date or this number of product executions, the License hereunder shall terminate and you will not be able to access any files created with this trial version unless you have licensed a retail version of the product.