WordPerfect beat Microsoft Word to the marketplace (1980 versus 1983), but it has fallen way behind since Windows 3. Unlike other competitors who lowball Microsoft, like LibreOffice, OpenOffice and WPS Office (free or paid), or Google Docs (free, or $50 per user per year for companies), WordPerfect beefed up the price. Now, the WordPerfect Office X8 Suite charges $80 (Home & Student), $250 (Standard Edition) or $400 (Professional Edition). I tested the Standard Edition, the most popular suite and the one closest to Microsoft Office's standard program set.
Still tied to the Windows desktop, WordPerfect X8 has no cloud-hosting or sharing options. It cooperates with SharePoint to check files in and out, but there's no concurrent editing (like in Google Docs). Not really Microsoft "interoperable" like LibreOffice but more "compatible after converting files," WordPerfect took its own path years ago, and now includes multiple features that Microsoft Office can't match, especially for law firms. Those who don't care about Office compatibility but want a work truck of an office suite should try WordPerfect Office X8.
Included Apps and Compatibility
WordPerfect Office includes WordPerfect the word processor, Presentations slideshow creator, and Quattro Pro (remember that name?) as the spreadsheet. Some handy utility programs come with the suite, including a batch utility to convert Microsoft Office files to WordPerfect files.
Yes, that's what WordPerfect calls compatible: a conversion utility. Every time you open a Microsoft file it must be converted, much like moving a file up to edit in Google Docs, but WordPerfect has a bit more capability. With LibreOffice, OpenOffice and WPS Office you can read and write Office files directly, but not with WordPerfect. Only the most basic files convert without getting scrambled.
Like LibreOffice and OpenOffice, WordPerfect kept the Office 2003 look and skipped the ribbon menu "upgrade." The standard File, Edit, View, Insert, Format, Table, Tools, Window and Help top-line menu options look much like the ones in LibreOffice. There are more items under some of the menus that promise some interesting features, such as Open PDF files for editing, but no ribbons.
Just as WordPerfect looks much like Word, Presentations looks much like PowerPoint and Quattro Pro looks much like Excel. Common menu items across all the major WordPerfect apps do the same jobs you expect in every program. Those who still remember old WordPerfect function key commands, like F3 for File > Save, will have a pleasant flashback.
WordPerfect focused on building powerful tools for one computer-based user, not a collaboration tool for teams. SharePoint integration file check in / check out is your only real online access, if you want to call it that.
There's not really even a Track Changes tool for feedback from editors in X8. It has a Reviewer's feature that only tracks different users typing in a different color, but doesn't tag who is who except by the color chosen. There are notes one can leave in the page margins, but they're fairly crude compared with comment features in competing products.
It may sound like WordPerfect X8 Office wandered far off-track and offers little value for the money, but that's just because it remains focused on serious tools for writers, presenters and spreadsheet ninjas. WordPerfect offers 900+ TrueType fonts, 10,000+ clipart images and 300+ templates. Lawyers, who may be the biggest paper-pushers of all professions, love WordPerfect. There's a separate toolbar full of features like Pleading Designer and Expert Filler, Table of Authorities, publish to EDGAR, remove metadata and more.
Law firms may have files from decades past, and WordPerfect can almost certainly read them. WordStar, XyWrite III Plus and even IBM DCA file formats are supported, along with many others (MultiMate, anyone?). That said, complex Word documents don't make a clean conversion as fonts get wonky and layouts get mangled.
Ever need a PDF editor? You can import and edit PDF files with this software. Again, complicated graphics may not cross over well, but PDF text documents work great. And you can embed PDF fields for users to fill in electronically with this as well.
One of WordPerfect's big selling points before graphical interfaces took over the computer was the Reveal Codes feature. Even today it's useful to see where a stray return or tab is causing alignment problems.
Some tricks to help heavy-duty writers include QuickWords. I got tired of typing "WordPerfect" so often, I put "\wor" in the table. When I type that and press the spacebar, WordPerfect appears. Clickbook, an extra utility, holds text strings cut and pasted into 36 different slots. You can save a batch of boilerplate paragraphs so that when you hit Ctrl-V, and the window pops up, you can choose one of the saved phrases, and hit Enter. Bingo, your boilerplate takes only three keystrokes.
Want to manually adjust kerning? You can. The Grammatik grammar checker catches more potential mistakes than Microsoft Word, but you must choose whether to run it or spell check in real time (one click to check through a document). You can even publish your Great American Novel written in WordPerfect using the export to MOBI (Amazon) and EPUB (most everything else) e-book formats.
Templates, hundreds of them, are everywhere for everything. Not all are called templates, however. Look under File > New Form Project and you'll have more to choose from more than you can wade through. There's also an abundance of clipart, if you still care about cheesy graphics.
WordPerfect may have lost the marketing battle to Microsoft Word, but it never lost the feature race.
WordPerfect Office Presentations and Presentation Graphics
Presentations creates slides as well or better than PowerPoint. But while the design process and quality of results are very much the same, transferring PowerPoint files to Presentations succeeds about half the time. Only basic slides come through accurately. Your time will be better spent recreating slides rather than fixing imported ones.
The look and feel echoes PowerPoint. The only real difference is that speaker notes aren't peeking out from under the design area but in Format > Slide Properties > Speaker Notes. When you choose to create a new Presentation, the Master Gallery appears, offering nearly 100 templates to start your design process.
Inserting text, graphics, images and charts works the same as in PowerPoint and competing programs like LibreOffice and OpenOffice. WordPerfect offers 54 different slide transitions so you'll never have to repeat one in a meeting if you like busy shows. Trekkies will appreciate the "Beam In" transition effect.
Chart fans will find 12 types with six options each, many with both 2D and 3D looks. Placing the charts where you want and filling them with your data takes little effort.
All the various Save As and Export options in the word processor are here as well: PDF, XML, and even save to DropBox. Embedding TrueType fonts, a must for moving slides over to PowerPoint, is a simple check box away.
Presentation Graphics X8 looks like a part of Presentations, but it's really a basic page-oriented drawing tool. Many of the design elements are in Presentations proper, but the added program does offer a more drawing-specific workspace and toolset.
Quattro Pro Spreadsheet
If you remember Quattro Pro, and Lotus 123, explain to the young 'uns around that spreadsheets existed before Excel. Show them the rows and columns. Just don't show them how little makes the trip from Excel files when converted to Quattro Pro.
Less compatible than Presentations, Quattro Pro can't import spreadsheet formulas. Arithmetic works, so at least 80 percent of spreadsheet users will be fine. Spreadsheet ninjas will need to recreate rather than import.
Once you dig into Quattro Pro you should feel at home. The PerfectExpert wizard (also in WordPerfect and Presentations) does a good job stepping users through the creation process and shows tips along the way. The Chart Expert wizard, or the QuickChart tool, will help your data put on a nice display.
Adding charts is simple, and you get a choice of 14 types, six of which have 3D options, but not as many as the 2D choices. You can have multiple worksheets and then notebooks to hold them all when the numbers keep growing. The QuickFit feature helps adjust all the details to fit into the space you have, such as for export to WordPerfect for a report, without you having to painstakingly finagle each margin and font option yourself.
Number-crunchers can switch to Quattro Pro and do their work happily. They just can't convert much of their old work to the new program. But once you're in, you have the tools you need.
WordPerfect Office X8 and Microsoft Office
When most programs get compared to Microsoft, it's almost always a "Be like MIC," approach. The developers assure users the non-Microsoft program works just as well as Microsoft to the point that file interoperability is assumed to be complete (or very nearly so). That is not the case with WordPerfect.
It is, as promised, compatible. But to this suite, compatible means it will convert Microsoft file formats into WordPerfect file formats so you can work in a better, more complete and more specialized set of programs from that moment on.
One can make the case that every part of WordPerfect Office X8 is as good or better than the Microsoft equivalent. It's better, or perhaps much better, if you're a lawyer who needs the specialized word-processing tools that WordPerfect includes.
Perhaps the final answer is that WordPerfect Office X8 is better in some ways, and different in all ways, from Microsoft Office. That umbrella statement covers LibreOffice, OpenOffice and WPS Office as well, since they are the leading vendors in the "same as Microsoft" camp.
Google chose to separate their programs from Microsoft Office just as WordPerfect has. But in Google's case, they played the collaboration and cloud cards. WordPerfect played the "better- than-Microsoft-at-an-office-productivity-suite" card.
WordPerfect Office X8 does it differently than the other office suites. It doesn't lowball prices to undercut Microsoft, and it doesn't limit features to just match the competition. WordPerfect wants to beat Microsoft at its own Office party. And except for the marketing juggernaut that rolls out of Redmond, Washington, and maintains ownership of the majority of the market, WordPerfect Office X8 made good on that promise.