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Our installation of WordPerfect Office 12 Small Business Edition took from 30 minutes to an hour--overall, a smooth ride, aside from some speed bumps. For instance, one test PC already had a trial copy of Paint Shop Pro 9 installed, so we had to cancel the suite installation, remove the image-editing app (long past its 30-day trial period), then return to the WordPerfect Office 12 installation. On another PC, Norton Internet Security 2005 installed itself--even though the computer already had another antivirus program, McAfee VirusScan. Corel's express-installation program didn't prompt us with an offer not to install; had we thought about it, we could have opted for a custom installation and manually deselected Norton. After installation, the two virus fighters were running simultaneously, so we had to manually uninstall McAfee.
WordPerfect Office 12 performs some clever interface tricks. For instance, it can mimic the keystrokes, the menus, and the toolbars of Microsoft Office applications--handy for Microsoft Office converts. The Corel Small Business Edition adds WordPerfect Mail, a well-designed e-mail client with a familiar icons-and-toolbars layout that's painless to learn.
The WordPerfect Office 12 suite also adds the new Task Manager, a job-oriented interface that provides templates for specific tasks. When you select Business Plan Presentation on the Task Manager screen, for example, the appropriate template will load inside the Presentations app. This is simple but redundant; this suite's task-based utility OfficeReady already offers dozens of templates for invoices, purchase orders, job estimates, brochures, and so on. Hopefully, Corel will merge OfficeReady and Task Manager in future versions of WordPerfect Office.
The $349 WordPerfect Office 12 Small Business Edition is designed for businesses with 50 or fewer employees. Several new components include the WordPerfect Mail e-mail client, formerly known as Bloomba; Paint Shop Pro 9, an image editor that Corel acquired with its purchase of Jasc Software in 2004; and the Task Manager.
This suite's core applications are powerful and popular, including Corel's first-rate WordPerfect word processor, the Quattro Pro spreadsheet, and the Presentations business slide-show maker. We find WordPerfect 12 easier to use than Microsoft Word, especially for creating long documents or tweaking persnickety formatting. Quattro Pro offers all the data-organizing features you'll find in Excel, although some tools are named differently. And Corel Presentations' dozens of wizards make it easy to create slide shows, although it has problems displaying Microsoft PowerPoint files accurately.
We wish that Corel would provide more than a 90-day free trial of Norton Internet Security 2005; if you buy Norton separately, at retail, you'll get a one-year subscription. Still, Corel's suite costs $100 less than Microsoft Office Small Business Edition 2003, and the Microsoft suite lacks an image editor and a security program. If you like Corel's programs but don't need Mail, Paint Shop Pro, or Norton Security, opt for the $299 WordPerfect Office 12 Standard Edition instead.
While Corel WordPerfect 12 Small Business Edition is a bountiful bundle, it's more a collection of applications than a smoothly integrated suite. When you edit an image inside a WordPerfect document, you're provided a simple set of WordPerfect paint tools instead of Paint Shop Pro's comprehensive image-manipulation toolkit. In the future, we'd like to see Paint Shop Pro better integrated with WordPerfect, Quattro Pro, and Presentations.
Corel provides free e-mail support to registered users of WordPerfect Office 12 Small Business Edition. Turnaround time is one business day, and Corel met that promise in our tests. Toll-free telephone support, available weekdays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET, costs slightly less than for Microsoft Office 2003, but it's still expensive: $25 per incident, three calls for $70, or five calls for $100.
Each app provides plenty of text-based tutorials that cover basic tasks; in WordPerfect, for instance, easy-to-follow guides describe working with footnotes, changing fonts, and so on. Except for WordPerfect Mail, all of the apps provide help menu links to Corel's support Web site.