It can be an administrative nightmare. You’re in a medium-sized business where most everyone runs Windows (be it 95, 98, and/or NT), but there’s one department where Macs rule. Maybe a few UNIX machines host the company’s Web presence. Meanwhile, one crotchety old-timer doesn’t want a graphical interface and insists on keeping the DOS machine because it runs faster. You can network them together, but is there a seamless way to share documents and other standard office files throughout this patchwork?

It’s the warhorse of office suites
Enter the old warhorse of the office suite wars: Corel’s WordPerfect Suite. Although the StarOffice package is starting to make waves, WordPerfect has always had the edge in supported platforms. The WordPerfect word processor will run on all the above systems, along with Linux.

The full suite (with the Quattro Pro spreadsheet, CorelCENTRAL personal information manager, Trellix Web publisher, Presentations and, optionally, the Paradox relational database) is Windows-only, but there’s also a Linux suite available. There’s also a basic suite with WordPerfect, Quattro Pro, and Presentations (!) for DOS, released in 1997.

Since it’s playing catch up in the marketplace with the Redmond empire, interoperability across platforms and formats was important for the WordPerfect development team. As a result, users have access to a lot of Microsoft Word-to-WordPerfect transitional support. And, if you’re really comfortable with the MSWord toolbars, you can use one of them instead of the default WordPerfect toolbar.

Conversions conquered
Although there have been conversion problems with Word and other Microsoft products in the past, WordPerfect Office 2000 seems to have conquered them. If you wish, you can even save your documents in Word format by default. Should you transition from IBM’s Lotus SmartSuite, you can read, write, and save to those formats as well.

The suite can directly publish all or any part of a document with graphics, tables, and embedded spreadsheets in the Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF). Moreover, it doesn’t require the full (and pricey) Adobe Acrobat program to do so. Corel also includes the Acrobat Reader on CD-ROM, saving users download time.

System administrators will love the control and options available for installing the suite. You can install it on workstations or servers and conduct silent or minimally prompted installs on all workstations. A detailed, 58-page Network Administrators guide (in PDF) outlines the various configurations and options.

If you have an intranet, the Netperfect applet that comes with the suite converts almost any major word-processing document, spreadsheet, or presentation into HTML. I haven’t had the chance to test it out, but Corel says Netperfect will convert Applix formats (a prominent Linux desktop suite).

Particularly nifty is the ability to create forms, reports, and automated macros, and make them available on the server for everyone to use. McDATA, a Colorado Fibre Channel backbone firm, has been using server-based WordPerfect forms and templates for years. It’s been so successful, the designer built a Web site to describe how it works. You can visit it here. On the site, Mark Henrich writes, “Office automation is all about reducing the amount of duplicated work involved in daily tasks. Macros are the key to simplifying your documents by ‘knowing’ about repetitive operations used in the document.”

At McDATA, status reports, insurance claim forms, time sheets, expense reports, and all those other necessary evil forms are kept on the server. A user pulls one of these forms to the workstation and the most common fields, such as name, rank, serial number, location, and department, are instantly completed. The server extracts information that was entered when the user first filled out the form he or she is currently working on, or from a different form with the same information. Another macro even routes the completed form to the right person!

Overall, WordPerfect Office 2000 is an excellent solution for a tricky problem.

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