Quattro Pro is a fine spreadsheet application that handles loads of formulas, builds attractive charts, and can create professional-looking reports. It's one of the heartier Excel alternatives, and in our limited tests we found it to be easily compatible with Excel spreadsheets. Still, Microsoft Excels' Pivot Tables and other intelligent features feel more intuitive and rich. We found Microsoft Excel 2007's data-analysis improvements among the best reasons for an Office user to upgrade. Corel's similar, new Visual intelligence features--which we did not test--are meant to make it easier for business users to analyze data patterns through charts and color coding.
Presentations X4 will get the job done for creating a slide show. It's a superior tool to competitors such as Zoho or Google. However, users who demand spiffier-looking slide shows with 3D effects will be more pleased by Microsoft PowerPoint 2007, Office for Mac, or Apple Keynote.
There are several dozen combinations of templates and color palettes from which to choose or to customize. You can embed images, AVI, MPEG, or MOV movies; as well as recordings, MIDI files, or audio from a CD.
Most PPT and PPTX documents opened in Presentations without a hassle. However, we couldn't understand some odd behaviors. For example, we were unable to open one PPT file in Presentations, which told us an "incompatible file format or filter is not installed." Within a lower corner of another open document, Presentations displayed a small image of the first page of the PowerPoint slide that wouldn't open. Perhaps with more regular use of WordPerfect Office, we would have avoided that and what felt like other idiosyncrasies, but the interruptions wasted our time.
Lightning is supposed to bridge WordPerfect with the Web. That concept sounds good, and the Start Panel has improved from what we remember of our beta tests. However, for a tool built to manage so-called Web 2.0 tasks, Lightning has a decidedly old-school flavor.
There's a navigator for finding files, a viewer, a light word processor, and online services with a nice 200MB of storage. Online tools include a calendar as well as contact and e-mail managers.
Unfortunately, we didn't find Lightning as intuitive as we hoped. From the Start Panel you can easily grab a screenshot to save to notes. From there, however, we began to feel lost. With its gray page background, we didn't understand that Notes was ready for us to type. We clicked the icon to create a new note, which opened yet another window and created another instance of "note.htm" in the navigator window. Nor did it help that when we began typing in Notes, the font was too tiny to read, even with a loupe. Even 8-point type was too small to see.
Call us dense, but although we tried following Corel's instructions for handling the trio of tools, execution was kludgy, and we couldn't easily track which of the four windows handled which task. On top of that, some of the windows remained in the foreground when we switched to other applications.
When we opened WordPerfect Mail at work, we had to tell a Windows Firewall to unblock the program. With that out of the way, however, Mail was relatively painless to set up. An import Wizard immediately guided us through importing Netscape, Outlook, Outlook Express (but not the newer Windows Live Mail), Eudora, Vcard, Mbox, iCal, and CSV data. We would have liked to see options for the popular Web-based services, such as Yahoo Mail or Gmail.
The calendar and contacts manager are decent, although not nearly as extensive or well designed as those in Outlook.
Service and support
Service and support for Corel WordPerfect Office X4 is a bargain compared with that of Microsoft Office 2007, and it is more comprehensive than that offered by free tools. Help via e-mail is free, and toll-free telephone technical support only costs $15 per incident. In addition, Corel offers a thorough online knowledgebase.
Longtime users of Corel WordPerfect--particularly professionals--will appreciate the company's attempts to play well with multiple document formats, its PDF capabilities, and its intelligent data analysis tools.
Corel is playing it safe by adding useful features without changing the interfaces to an extent that might alienate its loyal customer base. Users who frown at the radical changes to Microsoft Office 2007 are most likely to take to WordPerfect X4. However, we feel that if Corel wants Microsoft Office users to defect to WordPerfect, it should rethink its pricing strategy. Costs are lower, particularly for business-friendly packages, but users whom don't need to pay for extensive features may opt instead for freebies such as OpenOffice.
We must admit that we prefer the more seamless--yet also imperfect--Microsoft Office 2007 for included advantages such as image editing, document previews in Outlook, and more obvious document security options. However, users who prefer a more traditional, menu-based application layout with the majority of serious productivity features offered by Microsoft's pricier package may find what they need in Corel WordPerfect X4.
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