Task Manager, Family Pack's main interface, is a handy starting point for launching applications and project templates. For example, to launch WordPerfect's Professional Letter template (for business correspondence), you simply click the Tasks link on Task Manager's main page, and follow the appropriate links on the next. It's übersimple.
While we did find Task Manager quite easy to navigate, we would like to see it better integrated with Family Pack's non-Corel applications. For instance, you can launch Family Tree Maker (FTM) from inside Task Manager, but you can't load specific FTM genealogy reports or research journals. One of the benefits of a Microsoft Works-style application is its integrated interface, so it would nice to have this function within Family Pack. It's tough to argue with Family Pack 5.0 as a value buy. For less than $60, you get seven productivity and security apps without any throwaway junk. So which should you choose: Corel Family Pack 5.0 or Microsoft Works Suite 2004? Since Family Pack costs $25 less than Works Suite, it's sure to appeal to bargain hunters. And like Microsoft's offering, Family Pack has a feature-packed word processor in WordPerfect 11.0 (Works Suite includes Word 2002). We were disappointed to find, however, that Corel bundles a "lite" version of WordPerfect that lacks revision tools, such as document compare and redlining, for collaborative editing. True, most home users don't collaboratively edit resumes or letters to Aunt Ethel. But if you're bringing work home from the office, you might need those editing tools.
Family Pack also includes Quattro Pro 11.0, a venerable spreadsheet that, in our tests, opened various Microsoft Excel worksheets without a hitch. By comparison, Works Suite comes with its own spreadsheet app, a subset of the ubiquitous Excel.
Security is another differentiator between the two suites. Family Pack offers McAfee VirusScan 7.0 for detecting viruses, Trojans, and worms and includes a firewall for thwarting hackers. Also onboard is iClean, a handy Web utility that blocks annoying pop-up ads, deletes unwanted cookies, and essentially covers your surfing tracks by cleaning the browser cache, history, and so on. We found both security apps easy to configure. Works Suite, on the other hand, has no security features at all.
Financial management, however, is another story. Works Suite bundles Microsoft Money Standard. But Family Pack? Nada. There are templates in Quattro Pro for financial tasks, such as budget planning, credit card payments, and more, but it's still no substitute for the advanced money-management tools of Microsoft Money or Intuit's Quicken. Then again, Corel includes Genealogy.com's Family Tree Maker, a nicely designed package that helps you research your family roots via a variety of online databases. It comes with a 30-day subscription, but afterward, you'll need to pay a steep premium--from $70 to $200 annually--to access important historical data from Genealogy.com's Web site.
Other extras include Corel PhotoBook, an easy-to-use image editor with wizards to assist you with basic photo manipulation chores, such as cropping pictures, adjusting colors, straightening crooked photos (a common problem with scanned images), and so on. It's good for family photo buffs who'd rather not deal with the complexity (or expense) of a full-fledged photo editor. Also, in the box is Encyclopedia Britannica Ready Reference. This app is useful for elementary school students researching scientific, historical, and other educational topics. However, older scholars will find the program's brief descriptions--there's a single paragraph on NASA's Apollo moon missions, for instance--too superficial for in-depth research. Corel offers e-mail and fee-based phone support for Family Pack 5.0. E-mail queries are free and are answered within 24 business hours (Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. ET), a claim that rang true in our tests. Unfortunately, Corel charges $25 per tech support call; Microsoft gives Works Suite 2004 users one year of free phone support. There are also other paid support options, including an annual plan for $149 that gives you up to 10 calls. Despite the per-call charge, a Corel phone techie did take our call and e-mailed us instructions that fixed our installation problem.
Another good (and free) resource for information is Corel's Web site, which includes a collection of FAQs and troubleshooting advice for Family Pack 5.0, as well as a section for tips and tricks.