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Sofware in Review → Office/business → Office suites →

Corel WordPerfect Office X3 review

By Jem Matzan

WordPerfect's history is rife with victories, but none of them are recent. It's a long, sad story, and the possibility of a happy ending diminishes with each new release. What was once the world's best word processor has become an "office suite" that has seen little innovation over the past three releases, coupled with the fact that its price tag is increasingly difficult to justify in the face of free software office suites like OpenOffice.org and less expensive word processors like TextMaker. WordPerfect Office X3 is still a great office suite, but this release has added virtually nothing of substance to the previous version, and now more than ever, there's a good chance that your desktop software needs can be met for less money and fewer licensing restrictions.

WordPerfect Office overview

This section is for readers who are new to WordPerfect Office. If you're already familiar with this software suite, you'll probably want to skip down to the next section to see what's new in this release.

Corel WordPerfect Office is built around some of the industry's oldest and most feature-packed software. The WordPerfect word processing program predates Microsoft Word, and was the premiere DOS word processor before graphical interfaces (ala Windows) were the standard. Quattro Pro has also long been recognized as a hard-hitting spreadsheet program. Newer additions to the suite include the PowerPoint-like Presentations program, the Presentations Graphics drawing program, and the Mail personal information manager.

All of the WP Office suite programs are compatible with their Microsoft counterparts, and use Microsoft file formats interchangeably.

WordPerfect Office is often used in law offices and courtrooms, many of which are standardized on the WordPerfect file format. The reasons for this are WP's excellent legal document tools and its ability to integrate with other external legal software -- features that competing office products do not have.

The differences between WP Office editions

There are now four distinct editions of WordPerfect Office: Home Edition, Standard Edition, Student and Teacher Edition, and Professional Edition. The differences in functionality among these versions can vary from minor to major.

The first major difference among the four is price: Home Edition is U.S. $100; Standard Edition is $300; Student and Teacher Edition is $100 (with proper academic credentials); and Professional Edition is $400. Upgrade editions of the Standard and Professional Editions are, as usual, somewhat less expensive. Though Corel advertises WordPerfect Office as being substantially cheaper than Microsoft Office, as you can see, that point of view greatly depends on which versions of WP Office and MS Office are being compared.

The other major difference among the versions of WP Office X3 is the included software. Standard Edition includes WordPerfect, Quattro Pro, Presentations, Presentations Graphics, Mail, Pocket Oxford Dictionary, Legal tools, and the OfficeReady template organizer.

Professional Edition includes WordPerfect, Quattro Pro, Presentations, Presentations Graphics, Pocket Oxford Dictionary, Legal tools, OfficeReady, the Paradox relational database program, a software development kit for WP Office, Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications, and various articles of documentation that are specific to software development for the WP Office X3 platform. Note that Professional Edition -- for whatever strange reason -- does not include WordPerfect Mail.

Student and Teacher Edition is licensed only for non-commercial use, and includes WordPerfect, Quattro Pro, Presentations, Presentations Graphics, Paradox, Pocket Oxford Dictionary, and OfficeReady.

Home Edition is the most watered-down of the bunch, including WordPerfect Home Edition, Quattro Pro Home Edition, and OfficeReady. Also bundled with Home Edition are Corel Photo Album 6 Standard, Pinnacle Studio SE, Pinnacle Instant CD/DVD LE 8, and Norton Internet Security 2006. You might notice that all of this software has reduced functionality -- you're getting the bare bones versions of these programs.

WordPerfect Home Edition (the program, not the suite) is missing the following compared to the Standard Edition:

  • Open and edit PDF files
  • Save without metadata
  • WordPerfect file format conversion utility
  • Document collaboration and review tools
  • Legal tools
  • XML creation functionality
  • Visual Basic tools
  • Pocket Oxford Dictionary
  • Signatures
  • No WP 5.1 or Legal compatibility modes

And Quattro Pro Home Edition is missing:

  • Lotus 123 compatibility mode
  • Insert external data
  • Visual Basic tools
  • Publish to XML
  • CrossTab reports

The rest of this review will concentrate on WordPerfect Office X3 Standard Edition.

What's new in X3

Office suites don't change much from release to release anymore, but WP Office X3 does offer something that previous editions did not have: a good personal information manager (PIM) and email client. A few releases ago, Corel Central was WordPerfect's somewhat substandard email client. It was dropped as of WordPerfect Office 12, when Corel conceded the email/PIM battle to Microsoft. Instead of offering its own email client, WP Office 12 concentrated on better integration with Microsoft Outlook. Those enhancements have not been eliminated in favor of the new WordPerfect Mail program, but WordPerfect Office X3 users are likely to get more from Mail than from Outlook because of Outlook's dependence on Microsoft Word for enhanced email functionality.

WordPerfect X3 Mail
The new WordPerfect Mail

Quattro Pro and Presentations now have the ability to export to PDF, and all of the WP Office X3 programs have a somewhat better looking user interface.

Other than that, there are no significant new features in WP Office X3 -- only slight, often invisible enhancements and updates to version 12.

WordPerfect Mail

WP Mail is a Microsoft Outlook workalike; it has almost all of the same functionality as Outlook, except it's designed to be integrated with WordPerfect Office instead of Microsoft Office. As you can see from the screen shot, the interface is familiar and intuitive. The only thing that really bothers me about Mail is its inability to do inline spell checking. I want to know that typos and misspellings happen when I make them, and I don't want to deal with a popup window at the end of the email showing me the unrecognized words out of context.

WordPerfect X3
Yahoo's new word processor?

Overall, WordPerfect Mail is a decent email/PIM application, but I don't think it will change your mind if you're happy with Microsoft Outlook, Lotus Notes, or Novell Evolution.

WordPerfect X3

WP Office X3's flagship component was already as good as it could get without becoming multi-platform. When it's as good as it can get, what do you add? A Yahoo search box, apparently. I was surprised and disappointed to see that Corel had incorporated a Yahoo Web search box into the previously clean WordPerfect interface. Congratulations, WordPerfect users, you're now paying big bucks for a word processor that has an advertisement for Yahoo in it, and Corel will be making extra money off of your in-program Yahoo searches. WordPerfect has officially jumped the shark -- assuming it hadn't before now. I guess when you're at the top, the only direction left to go is down.

One good point about WordPerfect X3 is its ability to open and edit PDF files. Don't expect any miracles, though -- this function is only good for extracting text and pictures from a PDF. You wouldn't want to publish or edit an imported PDF because of the large number of formatting errors that occur during the translation.

Quattro Pro X3
Quattro Pro X3

The only other feature enhancement of note is the ability to save a document without its metadata. Hidden metadata in Microsoft Word documents has been the subject of a few embarrassing corporate scandals over the past few years. It's nice that WordPerfect has the ability to remove such data, but it kind of makes you question why this kind of information is there in the first place.

Quattro Pro X3

Some minor changes were made to the CrossTab Reports function and the charting tools. You can now maintain connections with ODBC databases through CrossTab, and there is better rendering functionality for charting.

Presentations X3

Presentations and Presentations Graphics haven't changed much, either. Basically, Presentations now has anti-aliasing for fonts and graphics, and a template browser called Master Gallery. Presentations Graphics is now a separate application with more vector drawing and shape tools.

Extras and add-ons

Presentations X3
Presentations X3

The Oxford Concise Dictionary is available as an add-on to WordPerfect for U.S. $20. This is nothing new -- it's been around since at least version 10. This is not a product; it's an "unlock key," which allows you to access the full functionality of the software that you've already purchased. The Oxford Concise Dictionary adds in-program dictionary lookup functionality to WordPerfect, so if you need to look up a word, just right-click it and then click on Dictionary in the popup dialogue to see its definition. You can also search the dictionary if you like. No other word processor has this kind of in-program functionality, and to professional writers or students, it's worth the money.

During installation, Corel pushes you to install the Yahoo toolbar for Internet Explorer -- more of the same in-bed-with-Yahoo crap that nobody who buys a commercial office suite wants to see. This isn't so much an "extra" as it is a mild form of spyware, monitoring what Web sites you go to so that Yahoo can "better serve you" by selling marketing data.

Conclusions

If you're currently using (and happy with) WordPerfect Office 10, 11, or 12, there is no good reason to upgrade to X3. All of the features necessary for most "office" work were present in these versions, and there aren't any significant advantages to upgrading. I think the real point of WP Office X3 is to appeal to people buying new office suites, or those upgrading from ancient versions of MS Office. And -- believe it or not -- there are still a significant number of people who are using prehistoric versions of WordPerfect for DOS as well.

Presentations Graphics X3
Presentations Graphics X3

I get the distinct feeling that there were two reasons for Corel to come out with this new release: first of all, to release before Microsoft Office's next version. Secondly, to remind people that Corel still sells an office suite and that it is modern and up-to-date. The kind of "enhancements" found in WordPerfect Office X3 are the kind of standard updates and bug fixes that you used to get for free in service packs. I guess now we have to shell out for every release rather than rely on Corel to support older yet fully capable versions of the same software.

What is the future of WordPerfect Office? Are we going to be buried under a growing pile of new versions that offer trivial updates? I think the outlook is bleak for WordPerfect Office, particularly when considering the growing GNU/Linux and Apple markets, and the competition posed by cheaper alternatives such as OpenOffice.org.

That's not to take away from the competency of WordPerfect Office X3. It's a more-than-capable office suite and it includes what I believe to be the world's most powerful word processor. Having said that, I think the Yahoo "partnership" in WP Office X3 portends the beginning of the end for this once-great desktop software suite.

Purpose Office suite
Manufacturer Corel
Platforms 32-bit Windows 98SE, 2000, XP, and 2003
License Proprietary, restrictive in all the usual ways
Market Law offices, current WordPerfect users
Price (retail) U.S. $270 for the Standard Edition (click here to buy it from Amazon.com)
Previous version WordPerfect Office 12
Product Web site Click here