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September 2003, Week 1 -- The Return of a Giant

   
WordPerfect 11

 

 

   WordPerfect once bestrode the world like a colossus. Then something happened.

   Maybe it was Microsoft. Maybe it was bad marketing. Maybe it was just plain old managerial incompetence. In any event, what was once a 90 percent market share became a sliver of its former self. Comes now the sliver on a salver. It's WordPerfect Office 11: lots of power and a bit of nostalgia.

   This is intended as an alternative to Microsoft Office, though Microsoft would probably shrug at the thought. But the guts of an office type suite are here and quite a few users prefer this set. The most striking new feature in WordPerfect Office 11 is WordPerfect 5.1, the old DOS version. Users can work either in version 5.1 or the latest Windows version, as they choose.

 

   "Five point one" was a star years ago. It was considered the "perfect" WordPerfect. It was the last version to run in DOS instead of Windows. For those who loved it and miss it, here it is again. It comes up on the screen in white letters on the familiar blue background, just as it did in DOS. What you see and work with is a Windows screen that looks like DOS; they call it the "classic" version.

 

   Many businesses, and particularly law firms, once standardized on WordPerfect 5.1. Corel, the maker of WordPerfect, is well aware of that and has added even more lawyer friendly features to the new Office 11 version. The "legal tools" section is a huge program in its own right. You can use its tool bar to automatically create documents such as "pleadings" and "tables of authorities," bringing in cases from stored documents to bolster your own. Documents are automatically formatted in accepted form for filings.

 

   WordPerfect is a great program. Many users claim is is superior to MS (Microsoft) Word and I am inclined to agree. That doesn't mean it's the best product as an Office suite, but it is certainly a great word processor. If you change font size, the program shows you the font in its new size and style and how that change will look on the page. In MS Word you have to highlight text to see changes. You can click on any picture or other image in WordPerfect and drag it around the page to whatever position you want, a wonderful feature. Again, you cannot do this in MS Word. You can publish a WordPerfect document directly to Adobe's PDF (Portable Document File) format, without need of Adobe Acrobat, or to HTML or XML for the web; simply click on a choice in the menu bar. You can insert a picture, movie or sound clip into any document. And you can convert any WordPerfect document into Word, or vice versa.

 

   WordPerfect Office 11 comes with Quattro Pro for a spreadsheet, and a number of graphics and organizational tools for creating presentations -- ala Microsoft's PowerPoint. It also includes the Pocket Oxford Dictionary, an address book, the Internet Explorer web browser, Microsoft's Visual Basic for Applications, and 1,000 fonts and 9,500 pieces of clip art.

 

   Interestingly, WordPerfect Office 11 can run on Windows 98, while Microsoft Office 2003 can not. Prices run $199-$299, depending on which discount provider you go to. Web info: www.wordperfect.com.

 

Roboform, not Robocop

 

 

   This is a free program for filling out forms and one of the best we've seen. You fill out a template, with name, address, phone and any other information you think would be needed to fill out a form on the Internet and the program slugs the items in automatically from then on.

   It's quite accurate and you can create separate sets of information to fit a variety of situations. That information, including any credit card numbers you enter, is encrypted and remains on your computer.

 

   Even though the program is free, it has no adware or spyware to junk up your screen and your life. We tried it out and liked it a lot. Checking around for other views we found it gets five stars from nearly all users and even got five stars from PC Magazine. There's a "pro" version for $30. You can find both at: www.roboform.com.

Internuts

-- www.sciencenews.org  The web site of my favorite magazine. News on current scientific discoveries and archives for seeing what was what when. It's pretty interesting to go back to science news from 70 years ago, and it's worth recalling that many if not most scientific discoveries don't reach practical application till around 30 years later. There is also a special section for kids.

-- www.oozinggoo.com  Think of it as two words: "oozing goo." There are instructions on how to build your own lava lamp. Also explanations of how they work and a history of their invention. The history part may be facetious.

-- www.environmentaldefense.org  A non profit watchdog for environmental issues. Stories on things being done, both positive and negative.

Moving pictures, but not on the silver screen

 

   We found a nice screen saver for $15. You take your own pictures and put them into a screen saver that looks like a series of tumbling cubes. If you want a text screen saver the words can be done as rotating lines, or printed out a letter at a time, typewriter style. You could display "Harry Morton is away from his desk," for example. Many other styles are available. The program is quite clever and certainly cheap enough. It's for Windows 98 and up; free trial version at www.xara.com.

 

NOTE: Readers can search past columns on our web site: www.oncomp.com. You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at bobschwab@oncomp.com or bobschwab@aol.com.

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