Like many competitors to Microsoft's Office suite, Corel has advanced significantly in its latest offering and has provided a package which not only offers a realistic alternative but potentially an easier interface for casual users and more advanced features for Office powerusers.
Out of the box, the WPx5 suite is half the price of Microsoft Office, and rather than slavishly copying its features has addressed many of the user and integration issues that typically arise, such as:
- Document interoperability, from the ability to move between Microsoft file formats, find documents on Sharepoint or Google Desktop, or consume data sources from the web.
- Bridging the gap between electronic documents, PDFs and "real paper" - the Nuance PaperPort scanning solution and the ability to import, manipulate, attach and create PDFs are worth the purchase price by itself.
- A choice between Microsoft and Corel user interfaces, and the ability to maintain the look and feel of previous Corel versions.
The net effect is that WPx5 is extremely easy to install in a predominantly Microsoft work environment, and the user interface has the simplicity of Office before it became overwhelmed with hundreds of features that the majority of its users found confusing or unnecessary. On simplicity, here were some of the features I instantly thought were superior:
- The absence of the the 2007 Office "Ribbon", singularly one of the most unhelpful UI upgrades in Microsoft history, eliminates endless hunting and clicking for buttons. Office 2007 has no way to remove the ribbon UI.
- There's no default double-spacing as in MS Word, which has become a perennial problem for casual users. A carriage return is one-space, as most users expect, and paragraph spacing can be changed if you need it.
- Their tab management is so straight forward it's a miracle that Word has never considered the same approach. You simply click at the position on the line where you want to enter text - that's it. No need to add dozens of spaces to approximately line up sentences.
- Floating textboxes work seamlessly like they do in desktop publishing applications. Textboxes have become so problematic in Word, I've switched to Adobe InDesign whenever a document gets more complicated than a simple letter.
In some respects, the window management and toolbar-driven interface is a throwback to the XP days, so multiple documents don't become multiple windows (the SDI interface for techies out there). While this lacks the more modern appearance of Word 2007, it's much easier to use if you spend most of your workday composing documents. The "simpler is better" approach is also apparent in Quattro and Presentations, which are the Excel and PowerPoint counterparts - these applications can easily meet the needs of most Office users.
The package includes a range of additional utilities, fonts, clipart libraries and all the elements you would expect from an Office suite. My biggest gripe is that Presentations provides too much commonality with PowerPoint, which has rapidly become the most aged of all Office applications. Compared with Apple's Keynote product, both PowerPoint and Presentations look like relics from the 1990s rather than cutting edge presentation tools. But as a PowerPoint replacement, Presentations is very simple to use and more than capable of producing work of the same standard.
Overall though this is a great package, especially for users who've had a hard time with the overly-complicated user interface of Office 2007. It's significantly more feature-rich than Google Docs or Zoho, and offers a simpler interface for most of the tools than regular Office users have come to expect.