WordPerfect Office X3
Overall, WordPerfect Office X3 is a solid upgrade for longtime users, particularly those who manage a lot of PDFs. Die-hard Microsoft fans may want to wait to see what Redmond has up its sleeve with the radical changes expected within the upcoming Microsoft Office 12. At the same time, current users of Microsoft Office 2003 who don't want to deal with the potentially steep learning curve in store for Office 12 may prefer to try the more familiar interface and improved tools within Corel's suite.
Setup proceeded smoothly and took about 30 minutes in our tests. Installing new versions of WordPerfect, Quattro Pro, and Presentations, as well as an update of WordPerfect Mail (which was already on our test PC), took 800MB of hard disk space.
WordPerfect Office X3 enjoys a much-needed face-lift. Its applications sport a jazzier look that mirrors the motif of Windows XP and gives better detail and color to icons--not an accident. By minimizing the differences between the Corel and Microsoft productivity suites, Corel hopes to reduce the training time for converts from Microsoft Office. Two nifty carryover features from WordPerfect Office 12 nicely illustrate this point. For instance, the Compatibility Toolbar lets you convert documents to Excel, PowerPoint, or Word formats (as well as HTML, PDF, or XML) with a single click. Next, the Workspace Manager pop-up menu allows you to choose Microsoft or WordPerfect keystrokes, menus, and toolbars for each application in the Corel suite.
Across the board, WordPerfect Office X3 is more affordable than Microsoft Office 2003. For instance, WordPerfect X3 Standard, which includes the three core apps and WordPerfect Mail, costs $100 less than Microsoft Office 2003 Standard with its Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. And the Corel WordPerfect X3 Student & Teacher edition costs $50 less than its Microsoft competitor.
What's new in Corel WordPerfect X3? For starters, Quattro Pro can now export PDF files. By comparison, in the previous edition of the suite, only WordPerfect and Presentation could create Acrobat documents. More intriguing, though, is the PDF-editing feature. WordPerfect X3 is the first office suite that lets you import an Acrobat file, edit its contents, and resave the file as a PDF or another format. By comparison, Microsoft hasn't yet offered PDF export, although it plans to do so in the Office 12 suite, expected to be released later this year.
Alas, the new PDF-editing feature is far from perfect. In our tests, WordPerfect had problems converting highly formatted documents that contained several images. In fact, it often butchered the document's design and formatting. Corel officials acknowledge these shortcomings and report that X3's PDF editing is best for long text documents. Indeed, we had better luck converting PDFs that were mostly text.
Dozens of small improvements are scattered throughout the suite, but WordPerfect gets most of X3's marquee upgrades. One handy addition: Yahoo search capabilities are embedded within the word processor. You now can highlight text in a WordPerfect document and select Search With Yahoo from the right-click menu, and Web search results appear in a browser window. Yahoo also adds a toolbar to WordPerfect, but you can easily remove it via the View menu.
Another helpful new tool gives you the ability to strip formatting (again via a right-click menu) from text copied from Web pages before pasting it in a WordPerfect document. If you've ever pasted oddly formatted text from a Web site and had it seriously mess up your document, you can appreciate this seemingly simple upgrade. Another simple tweak, which lawyers, business executives, politicians, and public relations experts will appreciate, is Save Without Metadata. This menu option lets you save documents without the comments, undo history, reviewers' notes, and other confidential and potentially embarrassing text often hidden inside a file.Corel WordPerfect Office X3 users get free, unlimited e-mail support, and Corel promises a 24-hour response time. Unfortunately, phone support is costly: $25 per incident; a trio of incidents costs $70, and a five-pack is $100. A range of other plans is available for businesses. Corel's online knowledge base provides comprehensive details on WordPerfect Office. WordPerfect X3's training videos are helpful for newcomers, but they're difficult to access on the CD. For instance, after loading the training disc, a folder appeared onscreen. Due to the bad interface design, we had to click several icons before finding one that launched the videos.