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February 2000, Week 5 -- From the Office to the Playroom

  WordPerfect Office 2000

   Let's look at Corel's "WordPerfect Office 2000," which is interesting enough in its own right and will later take us far afield.

   This package is designed to compete with "Microsoft Office" but is a much better deal. It has pretty much the same nuts and bolts, plus a few extra parts, and sells for $450 compared with about $650 for Microsoft Office. An upgrade from earlier versions or competing packages costs $159. Still, there are other considerations, and as it stands this will never be a big hit with large businesses. But it can be a big hit with small ones.

 

   The "small business edition" of WordPerfect Office contains several features not found in the Microsoft competitor. One of the best is "Peachtree First Accounting." This is a honey of new accounting program that can easily stand on its own against Quicken and QuickBooks. It even converts Quicken files into Peachtree format. It's easy to learn, includes check writing, project tacking, and automatic data fill for things you do often.

 

   WordPerfect Office 2000 also has "On-line Merchant," which lets you create and publish a store on the WorldWide Web, and "Trellix 2" which lets you continue to publish documents to the web no matter how complex they are. Of course, WordPerfect itself can translate a document into HTML code for instant publishing to the web, just as Microsoft Word can, though handling graphics and animations gets tricky for both. Let a program dedicated to that purpose do it. WordPerfect Office adds Norton AntiVirus, WinFax and Corel PrintOffice, a publishing program similar to Microsoft Publisher.

 

   All the important stuff is here, plus the Peachtree accounting and a nice little fillip of a program that lets you print U.S. postage stamps directly onto envelopes and mailers. It's all a great deal, and yet, if I were the information systems guy for a substantial business I would still buy Microsoft Office. Why? Because what matters to large businesses is uniformity. They want everybody to not only be on the same page, but have the same reference manuals. It is easier to be consistent and have inter-operability, if you will, with Microsoft.

 

   So this is a good deal for small businesses, which have more flexibility, and often more courage. You can get more information from Corel. Phone: 800-772-6735 or 613-728-8200; web: www.corel.com.

 

Who's playing games here?

   We ran WordPerfect Office, a huge program set needing 320 megabytes of hard disk space and 32 MB of RAM, on a Mattel "Hot Wheels" computer for children.

   The Hot Wheels computer is dark blue and painted with racing car flames; it's aimed at boys. There's a "Barbie" version all in pink with decorative for girls. They come with matching monitors. The Hot Wheels also has an accessory steering wheel and foot pedals for car racing games, the Barbie version has a digital camera.

 

   The whole thing -- computer, monitor, modem, racing controls, and 24 CDs of games and education -- sells for a little less than $600. It looks like a toy, but believe me ... this is no toy. Or to amend that, it is a toy in the sense that it's designed for children's play. In every other sense it's a regular Windows 98 office computer. If you buy a more expensive version for $799, they double the size of the hard drive and throw in WordPerfect Office.

   This was all something of a shock, mind you. The difference in appearance and performance caused a slight case of what psychologists call "cognitive dissonance." It ran WordPerfect Office and any number of other "serious" business programs we threw into it, with no complaints.

   This fun machine carries Mattel toy lines on the outside but is made by Patriot Computers of Canada; the monitor is made by Philips, the Dutch electronics giant. You have to get it from Patriot. Phone: 888-569-5437; e-mail: usa.sales@patriot.com; web: www.patriot.com.

 

Internuts: a liberal education and more

 

-- www.bartleby.com Your own Internet library of literature and learning. The site currently has 74 works, with an eclectic range covering such diverse pieces as G.K. Chesterton's "The Man Who Was Thursday," the poems of T.S. Eliot and Carl Sandburg, all 18 volumes of the Cambridge History of English and American Literature, and the inaugural addresses of American Presidents. The most recent addition is the 1918 edition of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook, then called "The Boston Cooking School Cook Book (sic)." All text is searchable.

 

-- www.libraryspot.com This is a site for general research and links to hundreds of libraries and reference works. We've mentioned the site before, but it's been such a long time and it's so good, that it's worth mentioning again. There's some new stuff too.

-- www.saveonphone.com  The site posts prices and service comparisons for virtually all long distance phone carriers and offers opinions on which ones provide the best deals.

-- www.ilovegraphics.com  Tips on creating graphics on your computers as well as some free downloads of animations, web buttons, arrows, etc.

-- www.overlawyered.com A compilation of articles and references pointing out abuses and mis-uses of the legal system.

-- www.festivals.com The name says it all: a list of festivals, at present confined to North America, Europe and Australia and New Zealand, but coverage is expanding. The site welcomes additions from viewers.

 

NOTE: Readers can search more than three years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: www.oncomp.com. You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at bobschwab@oncomp.com or bobschwab@aol.com.