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January 2001
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No Clear Winner in Battle of the Office Suites

By Anthony Paonita

Product Features

Corel WordPerfect Law Office

www.corel.com.
(Reader Response card no. 323.)

$399, $249 for upgrades

Features: WordPerfect 9 with Dragon NaturallySpeaking Standard 4.0; Quattro Pro 9; Presentations 9; CorelCENTRAL 9; ;Paradox 9; Trellix 2; Amicus Attorney IV Organizer Edition; Deal Proof SE; HotDocs 5.1; WestCiteLink 2.2

Microsoft Office 2000 for Windows

www.microsoft.com/office.
(Response card no. 324)

$499 (Standard)-$599 (Professional Edition) upgrades $250.

Features: Contains Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook 2000. Professional edition adds Microsoft Publisher 2000, Small Business Tools, Microsoft FrontPage® 2000, and PhotoDraw® 2000, for desktop publishing, Web design and photo editing.

POP QUIZ: What do Corel Corp. and Netscape have in common? Answer: The signature products of both software companies have come under sustained attack by the Microsoft Corp. juggernaut.

Specifically, in Corel's case, its beloved WordPerfect is fading in a Word world. This is true at least in the world of business, as well as the home office. Big PC makers like Dell and Gateway routinely load Microsoft's Office 2000 suite onto new computers. Like Windows, has become the de facto standard in corporate America.

In big firms, Word rules, 75 percent to 37 percent (some firms use both products), according to the latest Amlaw Tech survey of the nation's top 100 firms. Other surveys (such as The LawNet 2000 survey of 345 firms and legal departments) consistently show a split of two-thirds for Word, one-third for WordPerfect.

The reason for the obvious migration? Maybe it's because of a need for compatibility with clients. Or the firm's guru's mindset. After all, as the saying goes, no I.T. director ever lost a job recommending Microsoft software.

Yet some lawyers have an almost mystical attachment to WordPerfect. It probably was the first word processor they ever used. And once you've figured something out, why bother learning a new trick? One former colleague, a lapsed-lawyer-turned-journalist, gets almost misty-eyed thinking about WP's "reveal codes" feature. Then again, she never got over having to give up using DOS, so she's a special case.

If you have any doubt about the war for the hearts, minds and credit cards of lawyers, just aim your browser (most likely Internet Explorer these days) toward the search engine of your choice (mine is Google.com) and do a search on "Word versus WordPerfect." Jump into the discussions if you dare.

The Suite

Word and its nemesis WordPerfect don't usually live alone these days. It's usually smarter to buy the whole suite, rather than the standalone word processor. That way you get a spreadsheet application (the ubiquitous Excel or QuattroPro 9), databases and a contact manager for virtually the same price as the standalone word processor. (Both Corel and Microsoft are showing previews of their next-generation suites, by the way.)

With Microsoft, you also get PowerPoint, the application that powers those scintillating slide shows at every conference. Corel gives you the similar Presentations 9.

After a couple of days with both packages, I can forcefully say that, well, er, both have their strengths and weaknesses. But they do the big things in much the same way. Those going from one program to another will feel comfortable -- it's like going from New York to London, where everybody speaks basically the same language. So I decided to focus on the differences:

Corel WordPerfect Law Office 2000

Word Perfect It's amazing what fits in one little box. Corel gives you WordPerfect 9; QuattroPro 9; NexLaw 9, with its law practice-tailored add-ons; Amicus Attorney IV for file management; document analyzer Deal Proof SE; HotDocs 5.1 for document assembly; and WestCiteLink. Did I forget Dragon's Naturally Speaking, complete with unidirectional microphone?

But that's what underdogs usually do. Check out car ads in your local newspaper; with the slowdown in sales, incentives and equipment levels increase.

That said, WordPerfect does what it has to do easily enough. I wrote a motion, using one of the supplied templates, it numbered and footnoted and did it all without my having to think much about it. The legal toolbar is a handy device, and WestCiteLink swept through the document and found all the authorities cited.

One of WordPerfect's handier features is the ability to generate PDF, or Adobe Acrobat documents, without having to shell out for Acrobat Distiller. Acrobat is fast becoming a standard for "document portability;" in essence, when you create a PDF, you're making a virtual fax of a file.

That way, no one needs to have the same fonts installed in order to see the beauty of your finished document. (And, without the full Acrobat application, no one can alter your document, either.) It's something to think about if courts in your jurisdiction are moving to a PDF standard.

Corel, knowing that it has to exist in a Word universe, makes much of WP's compatibility with Word. I saved my document as a Word file, footnotes and all, and Word opened it without a hitch. But when I tried to add a footnote, it came out in a different format, which took a few mouse clicks to fix.

And yes, you can still reveal codes. Do I think it's interesting? Yes. Necessary? Not really. (Let the flames begin.)

Microsoft Office 2000

Microsoft Word Web, Web, Web. That's the main difference between Office 2000 and its earlier incarnations. Microsoft, embracing and extending the Web, has put all sorts of Internet tools in its office suite.

But using them means having some heavy-duty hardware and Internet connections. So it's not entirely clear whether the tools are of much utility.

I'm getting ahead of myself, though. Word 2000, which is what most of you would buy this office suite for, doesn't look all that different from its predecessor, Word 97. It's easier to convert a document to a Web page (just do a "save as" and you're there), but again, it's for undemanding Web authors who are going to put on text-heavy pages, maybe to share a file with a client on a secure Web server.

Where Word (and Office in general) scores is in its tight integration into the PC's operating system. The U.S. Department of Justice doesn't think this is such a great idea, but it's certainly useful for the Windows user who doesn't want to think too much about how the computer works. With MS Office, you can have a menu pop up on the right side of the screen every time you start up. And you can simply send a Word file by e-mail from within the program itself, instead of having to go to your e-mail program, open a new message, etc.

As for compatibility, Word 2000 is backwards compatible with its predecessor, as well as WordPerfect, so you can share files with colleagues who haven't yet upgraded. There are tons of legal templates out there, from Microsoft as well as third-party vendors. Check out officeupdate.microsoft.com/legal for the latest Word legal resources.

Choose Your Weapon

For many people, there is no choice: To be easily compatible with the most people, they need Microsoft Office. It's a bonus--as well as a threat, in the eyes of the competition and the Antitrust Division -- that Office 2000 is so tightly bound to Windows and to the Internet.

Still, if you're attached to WordPerfect, you certainly can survive in a sea of Word users. Conversions are pretty easy, plus there's that great option of producing PDFs.

Otherwise, there's not a world of difference. In terms of value, WP Office gives you tons of add-ons that you'd have to pay extra for using Microsoft's suite. But Microsoft Office makes it easier to interact with other programs on your PC.

Then again, you might go your own way completely, and be one of the relatively few lawyers who use Apple Macintosh computers. For them, the only professional office suite is Microsoft's Office 2001, and, oddly enough, it's the most compelling in some ways. It's one of the big ironies of these past couple of years that Microsoft, previously an avowed enemy of Apple, writes nicer software for the Mac than it does for its own Windows operating system.

Mac Office 2001 has a clean, clear interface so beloved of Macistas, with no unnecessary toolbars -- what a change from the hated Word 6. When you crack Word open, all you see is a simple row of buttons, an empty page and a floating formatting "palette."

Microsoft has designed a nifty version of its Outlook Windows corporate e-mail/contact management program, called Entourage in the Mac suite. It combines the functions of a full-featured e-mail application, along with a Palm desktop organizer. And it synchs with a Palm or compatible PDA. I'm lost without it. But for a writer on a deadline, the latest Mac version of Word is a godsend. It allows you to turn off that pesky Office Assistant animated Mac thing once and for all, with one, fast, click of the mouse. Ciao, baby!

Plus there's a running word count at the bottom of the active word processing window that tells me that I've run out of

Anthony Paonita is a senior editor of The American Lawyer and contributing editor to LTN.

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