Word to the Wise: Reviewing Linux Word Processors - page 3
Introducing Our Series
WordPerfect is the most venerable of the word processors we examined. A longstanding favorite of many, and still somewhat dominant in the legal community, it's lost ground against Microsoft Word in recent years in most corporate settings.
WordPerfect is no stranger to Linux, or UNIX for that matter. Longtime users may remember WordPerfect for SCO UNIX and the attendant mini-HOWTO on how to make it run under Linux. This particular release is interesting because it represents Corel's initial efforts at using their work on the WINE Windows programming libraries to bring applications to the Linux market.
WordPerfect easily handled our criteria for high-end page layout. It was a simple matter to produce documents with varying numbers of columns and spanning headlines. We were pleased, in fact, to note that these features produced exactly what we asked the first time. Similarly, integrating graphics and "pull quotes" with the text were easily accomplished, and there were some nice touches to these features, including autoincremented figure numbers for the pictures we added.
WordPerfect also included the sort of character and line spacing control we've come to expect of a high end word processor, providing fast access to kerning and leading. In all, WordPerfect proved itself a powerful package, capable of dealing with some fairly high expectations.
As a mid-level word processor, WordPerfect once again proved more than satisfactory. It has a flexible mail-merge feature with an easy-to-understand interface that makes setup of such a task simple for any experienced office worker.
We were similarly impressed when we set about to create letterhead and other specialty documents. In each case, WordPerfect had everything we needed to accomplish the task, and we usually noticed neighboring features we hadn't even been looking for.
When used for low-end tasks, the program was intuitive and easy-to-use. We were able to get at the features we wanted and even though they had plenty of advanced options, we were able to get them to do simpler things without any hassle.
General Use and Interface
WordPerfect was interesting to us on a couple of levels. As the word processor with the most general name recognition on the Linux scene, we wanted to see how it held up against other packages that have established themselves over the years. We were also curious about how the use of the WINE programming libraries would change what we'd become used to with WordPerfect 8, which was solid in its own right.
We walked away from our initial encounter with mixed feelings, deciding that, as with anything, WordPerfect would find different welcomes depending on the audience.
As a general observation, there's a certain lack of responsiveness present we're inclined to blame on use of the WINE programming libraries. Use of these libraries was probably responsible for the product's quick arrival in the Linux market, and they ensure a "just like the Windows version" look and feel, but there are performance issues on the sorts of machines likely to turn up on the desks of home and general office users.
In addition to the sense of unresponsiveness, we were unhappy to note that program occasionally failed to shut itself down cleanly. On one occasion, it left several open processes occupying over 10MB of RAM. A quick consultation with the Corel support newsgroups revealed that a script called "closeWPO2000" serves to clean up some offending processes and remove a lock file that prevents the program from executing properly the next time it's invoked.
One final problem that drew our attention was the difficulty WordPerfect had in dealing with several different, common window managers, including Sawmill and Enlightenment. In each case, we had to make sure that the window managers were set to "click-to-focus" instead of other settings, like sloppy focus, or WordPerfect would take focus at inappropriate times and have problems with its own menus and dialog boxes.
From the point of view of a Windows user, there is little to complain about. Combined with a friendly and tightly controlled desktop environment, the amount of training time involved in moving a user from WordPerfect for Windows to WordPerfect for Linux will be very small. There is no "slightly different" sense to the interface from the point of view of less experienced, former Windows users who might be easily thrown by nuances more experienced users brush past.
Keyboard and menu access to basic search/replace, cut, copy, and paste tools is also in keeping with established convention. Anyone familiar with word processing in a graphical environment, particularly Windows, will have little trouble with these areas of the interface.
Another positive element we noted for users transitioning from the Microsoft Windows and Word combination was a useful guide to how to access features found in Word with WordPerfect.
From the point of view of an experienced Linux user, things are a little less positive. As with their Linux distribution, Corel clearly aimed the product at users who are new to Linux or comfortable with accepting Corel's interface choices. Those who stopped using Windows as a pointed matter of choice may find themselves irritated, for instance, when greeted with "My Linux," "My Home," and "The System" as directory choices.
WordPerfect is an outstanding package, packed with the sort of functionality that indicates it's a survivor of the Windows world's features wars. It was able to do everything we asked, plus some, with flexibility and ease.
While there are some software design issues that kept our enthusiasm for the product muted, and some interface issues that will cause more experienced Linux users a moment's pause, it's still a quality product for any level of user. Those looking to deploy WordPerfect in an environment where technical support resources are thin may need to weigh the clear advantages in ease of transition against the occasional bad behavior we found on our test machine.
Home Page: http://linux.corel.com/products/wpo2000_linux/index.htm
Cost: $109-$159, depending on the edition of WordPerfect Office.
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