Offices march onward

I continue in my search for the “perfect” suite of office applications. There are three new contenders. Microsoft has Office XP; Corel has Office 2002; and Sun almost has StarOffice 6 (it’s in late beta). This column is about my experiences with these new suites.

If you don’t need the full power of a major office suite, there are interesting alternatives. EasyOffice, from e-press (, offers a Canadian solution. Their “Lite” version is free – the full version costs only $39.95. It doesn’t work for me because I use styles, but it might meet your needs.

StarOffice has undergone a major change from version 5.x to Version 6.0. The earlier version took over your desktop, confronting you with a single large integrated application. The new version allows you to start single applications. Compatibility with Microsoft file formats continues to be good.

Version 6.0 is in late beta. I hope something is done about performance before the final release. The word processor took 35 seconds to start on my system. My computer isn’t the fastest machine available, but both Word and WordPerfect started in under five seconds. That extra 30 seconds seems like an eternity.

I had a difficult time getting WordPerfect 2002 to run. I tried a number of things, but it kept telling me that there was not enough memory to run the application. But my machine has 384 megs of memory! The solution was to uninstall both Draw and WordPerfect and then reinstall them. Go figure.

Office XP comes with a number of “features” that are questionable. First, it profiles your system and logs that at the Microsoft Web site (a voice telephone option is also available). You are limited to one additional installation. To get it installed a third time, you will be required to explain yourself to Microsoft.

I found the start-up of Word XP to be annoying. Microsoft macros for Smart Tags want to run at start-up. Removing the Smart Tag macro avoids the dialogue where you are told to trust all Microsoft macros. That works, but should not be necessary. I don’t miss Smart Tags and like the security of not trusting any macros.

I came to this review with a mild anti-Word bias. But Microsoft has done a remarkably good job with this new version of Word. There is a new “look”, and the menu structure is somewhat changed. I’m not turned on by these new features, but none of them turn me off. Mostly, I like the responsiveness of Word.

One big advantage of Word is that it is the defining standard for word processing documents. When I use Word, I can be confident that my clients will see what I have composed. That’s not quite as true when I use StarOffice or WordPerfect, even if I store documents in .DOC format.

WordPerfect is attractively priced, and it has all of the requisite features. StarOffice could be a strong competitor if Sun does something about its responsiveness. Office XP aggressively champions Microsoft objectives, but provides a solid, comfortable-to-use, “standard” word processor. For now, it’s my default choice.

Fabian is an established Canadian management and system consultant ( who has always been fascinated by technology.