The magazine of the Melbourne PC User Group

WordPerfect 6.1 for Windows
Bryan Leech
bryan@melbpc.org.au

Several years ago the world of word processing was dominated by WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS, with the market share estimated at between 70 and 80 percent. As desktop computing rapidly embraced Windows 3.1, WordPerfect made a hesitant and, frankly, inexperienced entry into the market with version 5.1 for Windows. While this was a workable product it was unsophisticated and suffered badly in comparison with the existing competition. It was quickly followed by an update to version 5.2, with little improvement.

Then along came version 6.0, a product that used the Windows environment with finesse. Like its competitors, it was buggy and a free update, 6.0a, was quickly issued to all registered users. 6.0a was widely recognised by the industry as the most powerful word processor on the market, but, while taking up less hard disk space than 6.0, was hungry for computer resources, was still a little slow, and was seen by some as being not quite as easy to use as its main competitor.

Now, less than twelve months after the appearance of 6.0a, version 6.1 emerged in February and Novell-WordPerfect has finally produced a fully mature and rounded product that is a worthy successor to version 5.1 for DOS.

The program is still basically version 6.0, but with many cosmetic changes that have been made with a purpose - that purpose being to make the program easier to use - , and with many added "frills", that again, are not for show but rather to make the program a more versatile and easily used tool. While, in one incarnation or another, WordPerfect is still the most widely used word processor in the world, it certainly doesn't dominate the Windows arena. With this release WordPerfect fully deserves to also strongly establish itself in this section of the market.

Impressions

I must admit, when I first loaded this program and saw the interface, I didn't like it. The screen looked different and a quick look revealed that a couple of my favourite macros were missing. What on earth had WordPerfect done to me? After just a little more time all my fears were laid to rest. Those missing macros (for example, envelopes) were now menu items. I quickly adapted to the display, which by default presents the Toolbar as iconic buttons and the Powerbar as Text buttons, presenting a modern, very clean look. A more important factor of the display, as with virtually all aspects of the program, is that it makes WordPerfect 6.1 very easy to use. A beginner can be competently producing basic office documents within thirty minutes.


Figure 1. The standard WordPerfect 6.1 display screen in default (almost) layout.


Figure 2. TextArt in action. This feature has also been revised and improved since version 6.0a

Anyone already familiar with Windows word processors should adapt with no trouble, although there is an Upgrade Expert, which lists menu items for previous versions of WordPerfect, along with Word 6 for Windows and Ami Pro, describing how to execute any selected procedure in WordPerfect 6.1. The Upgrade Expert will even perform the procedure for you, or, in some cases, give the option of a Coach, a short training session on the procedure.

The program is so well designed, that, as you explore the menu options, the average user will rarely need to look in the manual, and only require the Help screens occasionally to understand how to use the selected option. Of course, you will need help in some of the more demanding areas of the program, like in writing extended macros. If you are like me you will be pleasantly surprised at the versatility and power of the features incorporated into the program. An immense amount of thought has gone into ensuring this is the best word processor on the market: the best in terms of ease-of-use; the best in terms of the features it provides to allow the user to produce highly-polished documents quickly; the best in terms of being malleable so that it can be tailored to work the way you want it to work; and the best in terms of power features like drawing and charting modules that will probably make your graphics program redundant, the best (if tedious) equation editor in any word processor, and a tables feature that is a fully-functional spreadsheet.

Is it "Perfect"?

Not having quite enough time to prepare this review for the previous issue, I have had the luxury of a fair amount of time to explore (that is, play with) this program and I am delighted to say that, so far, I have found no significant bugs in the program, and I have really put it through some demanding tests. Novell-WordPerfect staff have informed me that they are confident that the program is relatively bug-free and the customer service lines have apparently been relatively quiet on this subject. Of course, no major program is free of bugs, and as time proceeds, some will emerge, but they appear to be well-buried. The worst I have found at this stage occurs in closing the program; it doesn't always delete all of its temporary files. And, like many large Windows programs, it can fail to free some Windows resources when it has finished with them. I usually start with 72 percent free resources, and finish a WordPerfect session with 65 percent. This figure may be lower if I have spent hours working on graphics-intensive documents. Experienced Windows users usually develop the habit of closing Windows after heavy sessions and restarting, so as to recover locked Windows resources.

One area in which there are bugs is in the built-in tutorial and in three of the 25 Coaches. These are all large macros that were rewritten for the Australian market. Apparently there were staff changes during the rewriting, which resulted in incomplete checking. While this is unforgivable, it is still a minor problem. It may be annoying to the beginner, as there is little printed training information provided, but it certainly should not be allowed to deter any prospective purchaser.

The tutorial can be made to run by the following fix. Make a copy of the file WPW61OZ.TUT, found in the drive:\OFFICE\WPWIN\ directory, naming the copy WPW61UK.TUT. The three faulty coaches cannot be easily fixed and must await the first maintenance release.


Figure 3. A table in creation showing the tools to use it as a spreadsheet.


Figure 4. The powerful WordPerfect Draw module open within a document.

The drawback of WordPerfect 6.1 for Windows that will be significant for some users is that it is resource-hungry. A full installation requires 32 MB of hard disk space. While Novell-WordPerfect stipulates a 386DX with 6 MB of RAM as minimum, my experience suggests that if you want to use the more advanced features or create complex documents you will need a 486DX and 8 MB of RAM. I have a 486DX/33, usually with 6 MB of RAM (as I use 2 MB of RAM as a RAM drive). Working on a complex brochure with tables, columns, graphics and multiple fonts, I got into trouble. Reconfiguring to provide the full 8 MB of RAM solved all of those problems.

On my machine I found that Draw and TextArt were a little slow to load. These are incorporated into your document as OLE objects, and opening any OLE object, including, say, a Quattro Pro spreadsheet or chart, was also a little slow. But these are operations I use rarely, and the delay, which wasn't that long, was no problem. I would assume that any power user who was frequently going backward and forward via OLE 2 links, would be using a more speedy machine than mine anyway.

Apart from these comments, I have no further criticisms.

So what is so good about it?

WordPerfect 6.1 for Windows presents a sleek, modern interface that can be fully customised to the user's needs. By default the Toolbar appears as icons with the Power Bar presented in text format, the text changing to signify the current status of each item (like font, justification, zoom, etc.); refer to Figure 1. This is a layout that will suit many users. But these bars can each be configured in iconic form, text, or both. They can also be independently positioned at the top, bottom, left or right of the screen, or even as a floating palette. The status bar along the bottom of the screen can also be configured to show a wide range of information, although, like the Power Bar, I found the default suited me fine. The Toolbar shown in figure 1 is not the default configuration.

One of the problems with Windows word processors is that time is wasted moving the hand between the keyboard and the mouse. WordPerfect provides keyboard shortcuts for most menu items, usually involving the function keys in conjunction with Shift, Alt etc, (without counting, this appears to be around twice the number of the main competitor's product). So the experienced user can build up a greater speed as these shortcuts are learned.

If New is chosen from the File|Open options a dialog box directs the user to a wide range of templates, collected into logical groups. The default is a plain blank document, which can also be chosen directly from the default Toolbar. Templates can be edited, and making new ones, including interactive dialog boxes for standard information to be fed into your template, is an absolute breeze. I created a fairly sophisticated template without any need to look at either the Help files or the manual (a common phenomenon with WordPerfect 6.1).

Absolutely no word processor can match WordPerfect's layout capabilities. If you want to get more adventurous with layout, and your existing program has proved too daunting or incapable of doing what you wanted, try WordPerfect! If you have been in the habit of turning to a desktop publishing program to produce jazzy tri-fold brochures, or eye-catching flyers, you will probably find no further use for that program. WordPerfect's ability to handle graphics, create special headings (via TextArt - see Figure 2), provide lines and boxes from a wide range of defined styles as well as letting you create custom styles, along with powerful typographic control, surpasses some of the desktop publishing programs on the market. You want to insert a graphic? Select Image from the Graphics menu and then use the mouse to draw a box anywhere within your text. A file dialog appears to select the graphics image (which can be previewed). With the image selected, a Feature Bar appears allowing general manipulation of the image - like deciding whether you want text to define a rectangle around the graphic or follow its contours. When the Bar is closed, you can grab the image, shift it, size it, elongate or stretch it at will.

Feature Bars appear automatically for many of the more sophisticated operations of the program. Figure 3 shows a table with both the Feature Bar and the spreadsheet row/column indicators active. While you can use the table feature just as a simple table and ignore the extra facilities, it does also function as a fully-featured spreadsheet, placing it within reach of the big guns. Most of the features you would use in a powerful independent spreadsheet program are there: it even has a table Expert that will apply simple or fancy formats, from a selection of 43 to which you can add your own, at the click of a mouse button.

Regular WordPerfect users will be happy that the macro language appears unchanged. I am no expert on macros, but 6.0 macros will certainly run in 6.1, and WordPerfect documentation frequently refers to 6.x macros, obviously alluding to the commonality.

OLE 2, as mentioned earlier, has been introduced into this release. You can open WordPerfect and, say, Quattro Pro 6 at the same time and simply drag a portion of a spreadsheet, or an entire chart, from Quattro Pro into your WordPerfect document. The image is saved as a graphic image and can be edited and manipulated as a graphic. For example, you could add items to it through the Draw module. Double-clicking on the image causes the WordPerfect menus and Toolbars to change to those of Quattro Pro (assuming that was your source program for the OLE 2 object), see Figure 4, while still remaining within your WordPerfect document. You can then make changes to your imported object using the source program; for example you may have decided you prefer 3-D bars on your chart rather than 2-D. OLE 2 is a great advance in productivity, giving true power to the Windows environment.

Merging

While there are more major features I could describe, I can't cover everything. However, this warrants a section of its own. From what I have seen, creating merge data files can usually be a chore. Not with WordPerfect 6.1! An interactive dialog box asks you what fields you wish to create and whether you want them to be stored as a table (like a database) or as a text file. When you have created the structure of your file (i.e., defined your records), you supply data by filling in the fields in a dialog box that is formed according to the structure you defined. Alternatively, WordPerfect will allow you to perform a merge from an existing database (like Paradox, FoxPro, etc.).

Creating your form letter is made equally easy. In fact, reading back on the above, the procedure seems more complicated than it really is. I've never needed to perform a merge procedure before, but I had the basics totally mastered after spending just ten minutes with the main Coach that covered merging. Of course, there is much more to merging. WordPerfect 6.1 includes a Merge programming language, which is as easy to learn as Basic, that allows immense control over merge procedures.

Some minor niceties

There has been a further speed increase over version 6.0a with this release and, while the program doesn't fly along like a DOS word processor, it now move fast enough (provided your machine has the power mentioned earlier) not to cause any vexation. The slowness of earlier releases was cause of some concern to some users - your concerns can now be put at rest. I was able to edit and move around a 160-page document very rapidly, and there was no undue tedium in dealing with graphic elements.

PerfectSense technology extends Search and Replace. You can, for example, automatically replace all forms of the word "buy", such as "buying" or "bought", replacing them all at once with, for example, the proper form of the word "purchase", such as "purchasing" and "purchased".

Grammatik 6 replaces version 5, and uses PerfectSense technology, as does the speller, thesaurus and QuickFinder functions.

QuickCorrect corrects common spelling errors on the fly, enables automatic expansion of condensations (that is, I type "wp" and that immediately appears as "WordPerfect"). QuickCorrect also removes extra spaces between words and sentences automatically, capitalises the first letter of a sentence and inserts typeset-quality quotation marks.

Document Experts automate the process of creating professional looking documents such as letters, memos, faxes, newsletters and calendars by providing templates and prompting users for information.

The Make it Fit Expert solves the problem of trying to fit a document on a certain number of pages. Users can shrink or expand a document by up to 50 percent by automatically altering margins, point size, line leading etc, all at user option.

QuickFormat lets the user extract formatting from one section and "paint" it to other locations. This is executed as a style, so that changing one instance causes all other "painted" text to be updated.

This is a sample of the multitude of niceties that have been added to enhance the speed and flexibility with which you can create documents - and I must not forget the extensive use of the right mouse button to bring up context-sensitive menus on all parts of the screen and in all modes of the program; yet it is all easy to use, the user is not swamped with complicated procedures that are difficult to learn.

In conclusion

Novell-WordPerfect has come out on top with this one. During the course of preparing this review, I took some time to reacquaint myself with MS Word 6 for Windows and was constantly frustrated by its relative clumsiness, its limitations and comparative inflexibility. Its only virtues, compared to WordPerfect 6.1, is that it will run well on a 386 and takes up less hard disk space.

If you are in the market for a better word processor, and have a machine with the necessary power, there is only one choice. Whether a beginner or a "power user", this program is surely without peer. Other than making the code more compact, and, perhaps, getting even more speed out of it so that it will run better on a 386, I can think of no improvements to ask for. WordPerfect 6.1 for Windows does everything I can think of and more: while I regularly prepare complex, but not large, documents, I am sure I will never need more than 20 percent of the features available, but I am certainly going to have fun exploring them!

Just as a final perk to annoy the opposition, Novell-WordPerfect advised me that from now on purchasers of its major products, like WordPerfect 6.1 and Quattro Pro 6, will receive six months free customer service. Suitable paid service plans are available after this period.

The current RRP is $695, although I have seen it for as low as $360, upgrades cost $139 and crossgrades from other major word processors are $240.

Reprinted from the May 1995 issue of PC Update, the magazine of Melbourne PC User Group, Australia

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