Corel Home Office review: Corel Home Office

Many home users may not ordinarily use the Reviews tab, but students and entrepreneurs using Corel Home Office for their Netbooks will miss being able to view edits a friend made to their work, or track document changes themselves.

A spelling dictionary is included in Write (as opposed to a definitions dictionary), along with a thesaurus, grammar checker, and an autocorrector you can edit or decline altogether by opting out. Corel also includes macros, charts, and illustration tools, but no highlighter--one tool we missed most.

While past versions of Corel have had trouble maintaining multiple open documents, this version uses the Ctrl-Tab hot-key combination to pull up a list of active files, in addition to showing open documents on the taskbar.


Corel Write (left) seems to strip formatting and images during a paste. Microsoft Word preserves them.

Corel Write succeeded in the majority of its composition tasks, though pasting content from the Web and from other documents stretched Write's capabilities. Write stripped the images, formatting, and spacing between paragraphs from an article copied and pasted from the Web. Microsoft Word 2007, on the other hand, kept all three. The word processor also altered selected text pasted from a Word 2007 document, this time treating the content like a small image we had to expand from the corner to read.

Calculate
Like Write, Corel's Calculate spreadsheet app includes most of the features you need for creating spreadsheets, plus a few more. Strong support for symbols, sums, charts, illustrations, and pivot tables are a plus, especially on documents created within Calculate.

However, like Write, Calculate suffers from some missing keyboard shortcuts and compatibility garbling. Calculate does not support Microsoft Word's macros, but you can make your own within the program.


Calculate, Corel's answer to Microsoft Word, looks good, but it suffered from acute conversion hiccups.

We were disappointed by the experience of importing a Google Docs spreadsheet saved in the XLS file type. Calculate dramatically altered the row and column colors. The 12 tabbed spreadsheets in the single document were difficult to manage and navigate on the Netbook, given its shorter display bar that only comfortably held half the total tabs.

Corel's suite faltered again when creating a PDF from the same imported XLS document. A blank PDF (except for its title) and an error message that Calculate "could not start print job" followed. The PDF feature worked flawlessly after pasting a portion of the original document into a new Calculate doc.

Show
Of the three applications, Corel's presentation creator, Show, is the more basic compared with its Microsoft 2007 analog. That said, if your only goal is to create a simple slideshow, flier, or presentation, Show will do a fine job. It handles layouts, the master slide, shapes, pictures, charts, colors, and animated transitions between slides.

What's more, it supports Microsoft PowerPoint's PPT and Microsoft PowerPoint 2007's PPTX file types, and saves as PowerPoint and PowerPoint Show files for both the 2003 and 2007 products. Corel Show's compatibility extends to inserting a wide variety of objects and documents, including those from Adobe, Corel, and Microsoft.


Even with fewer tools, Corel Show whips up attractive, effective presentations.

Since Show automatically saves your slides to the PPT format, importing and exporting presentations ought to work seamlessly. It didn't quite seem to. Text and images carried back and forth without a hitch, but the charts imported and exported as images, despite sharing an identical file type. The content remains intact. If you don't intend to edit many charts from imported documents, it shouldn't pose much inconvenience.

While there's enough substance in Corel Show to create presentations with some polish, the much slimmer application departs from PowerPoint 2007 by leaving out full-color templates, write protection, proofing, and video support, not to mention several artistic touches for the background, layout, and charts.

Emulating PowerPoint's chart interface would have left Corel Show's own chart creation process better off. Creating charts from the inserted template was confusing, and Show's help manual was thin on guidelines. Show also seems to have skipped over the chart's formatting menu when giving the application its new visual emphasis--Corel's chart formatting remains a linear text menu that's less meaningful than the thumbnail icons favored elsewhere in the application.

Service and support
Free support for Corel Home Office is available via e-mail, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as is the self-service online support forum. Telephone support is also available during business hours to several regions--6 a.m. to 4 p.m. PT in North America; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. GMT in Europe; and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. GMT+8 in Asia. In addition, a toll-free call for technical support costs only $15 per incident, a steal compared with Microsoft's roughly $50 e-mail or phone assistance for Office 2007.

Conclusion
Corel Home Office isn't the cheapest, easiest, or most comprehensive office suite on the market, but it holds its own as a light productivity suite and is the only one at the time of this review that's been optimized for Netbooks' munchkin size. As such, it strikes a good balance between feature set and size, and is fairly priced for a commercial application. Consumers looking for the familiarity of Microsoft Office 2007 without the hefty price tag will do well with Corel Home Office, as long as they don't foresee using the more advanced features for composition, spreadsheets, or presentations.

While we find Corel's $70 price tag quite reasonable, it's hard to beat the cost of Sun Microsystem's free OpenOffice.org suite. OpenOffice.org, however, is neither as flashy nor as small as Corel Home Office, and it may include more features (like separate database and drawing tools) than a Netbook user needs.

We're disappointed that Corel still suffers from compatibility and rendering issues, which we found frustrating and inconvenient, though not abortive to most projects. The rest of the feature pack performed well in our tests, making Corel Home Office a solid, if imperfect, productivity suite for basic and intermediate users. While we wouldn't recommend that Netbook owners who have Microsoft Office 2007 preinstalled replace it with Corel Home Office, it's definitely worth considering if you're looking for a brand-new installation.

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