Software Review: WordPerfect Office 2000, MS Office 2000 and Lotus SmartSuite Millennium Edition

By Jayne A. Hitchcock
as it appeared in the February 2000 issue of Computer News.

Corel, Microsoft and Lotus have come out with Office Suites for 2000, trying to outrival each other. But which one is best for your needs?

First a breakdown of what each Suite reviewed offers:

Microsoft Office2000 Premium

Includes MS Word, MS Excel, MS Outlook, MS Publisher,
MS Small Business Tools, MS Access, MS PowerPoint,
MS FrontPage, MS PhotoDraw, plus MS Office Server Extensions,
Internet Explorer 5.0 and shared clip art

WordPerfect Office 2000 Voice-Powered Edition

Includes WordPerfect 9, Quattro Pro 9, Corel Presentation 9,
CorelCentral 9, Trellix 2.5, Dragon NaturallySpeaking (includes
headset/microphone), Corel PrintOffice, Adobe Acrobat reader,
12,000+ clipart, 1,000+ fonts, 200+ photos

Lotus SmartSuite Millennium Edition 9.5

Includes Lotus 1-2-3, Lotus FastSite, IBM ViaVoice (includes
headset/microphone), Lotus Organizer R5, Lotus Word Pro,
Lotus Freelance Graphics, Lotus Approach (database), Lotus
SmartCenter, Lotus ScreenCam (multimedia), Lotus Notes R5
and Smartsuite for Dummies reference book (which all of us can use!)

Now the reviews of some of the comparable apps in each suite:

Microsoft Excel 2000 offers a few new updates to previous versions and like almost everything else in Office 2000, Excel works better with a web browser, even making HTML its native file format, which does make it easier to save, open, make changes, etc, all without losing any information. This also allows you to publish the spreadsheets, charts, or PivotTables on a web site in minutes. Larger offices/businesses who have invested quite a bit in big databases can now use Excel as a front-end engine for accessing anything from SQL and OLAP servers.

Lotus 1-2-3 easily converts/uses Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, and like Excel, it has support for up to 65,536 rows in a single spreadsheet. It also converts files to HTML, except for some complex Lotus 1-2-3 worksheets. A particularly nifty new feature is importing data from any HTML table into a 1-2-3 table, while maintaining the correct number of rows and columns. Plus you can "speak" your spreadsheet into reality with the included IBM ViaVoice speech recognition program and headset. Although the installation of ViaVoice took an hour, it's surprisingly impressive (ViaVoice also works with Lotus Word Pro).

Corel Quattro Pro 9 still hasn't caught up with Excel or 1-2-3, although it's getting closer with some new features, such as SpeedFunctions (entering functions from the toolbar), AutoTotal (tallies a range of cells as you type in the label total), Formula Tips and Page Break View (similar to Excel's Page Break Preview - shows where pages start and end). But it does beat both Excel and 1-2-3 with the ability to handle up to one million rows and more than 18,000 columns of data.

Microsoft Outlook has had its share of problems and the 2000 version aims to change all that. But it hasn't - Outlook tries to be too many things with an address book, e-mail client, calendar, and barebones project manager, when it should have done less and offered more. The best part of Outlook 2000 is the e-mail client. Let's just hope there are no more security holes or bugs, because it's pretty darned efficient. You can send any Office document via Outlook's e-mail, create virtual conferences with NetMeeting and even publish calendars as Web pages. The whole of Outlook 2000 is easy, as it mimics everything else in the Suite, so you won't find it hard to navigate or use. The calendar and address book are average and although the project manager is a good idea, you can't connect notes to each other or to other Office documents.

Lotus Organizer R5 and Approach, like the rest of the Millennium Suite apps, work seamlessly together (and many work with Microsoft's Office 2000). It definitely gives Microsoft a run for the money. It has the usual calendar, appointment book and address book that look much like a day planner, so it's very simple to use. Approach allows you to create reports from Notes R5 quickly and easily, plus publish print-quality report to the Web. But it doesn't have an e-mail client, it's only downside.

CorelCentral 9 tries hard, but doesn't hold a candle to Outlook 2000 or Lotus Organizer. First, there's no e-mail client, but the DayPlanner does automatically appear at start-up to show the day's appointments and to-do items, discreetly placed on the side of the screen. Like Outlook, CorelCentral 9 has an address book and card file, plus a "memo" for notes, and all of these can be integrated seamlessly within each other, but not within WordPerfect documents.

Microsoft's entire office suite is essentially web-based in one form or another, but some apps work together better than others. Web Discussions works within any Office document so that you can post or add comments, but only if you're using Office server extensions and Internet Explorer 5 (which you must install, whether you want to or not, or Office 2000 will not work. Period.). FrontPage is something anyone can use, from the novice web page designer to the web page guru, converting word processing documents (even from other office suites) into pretty darned good web pages.

Lotus' FastSite is a fantastic Internet/intranet tool, complete with a "wizard" that converts even the biggest net skeptics; a Web site can literally be designed in 10 minutes! With it's single button upload of the Web pages to an Internet/intranet server (plus an option for Lotus Notes users to use a Domino server instead), any updates or changes take seconds. FastSite also converts Microsoft .doc files and most of it's Lotus files to HTML, plus it can convert any Lotus document into Java format to Net-It Software Corporation's jDoc format (which allows the document to be read by any Java-enable Web browser).
SmartCenter is an Internet Information Manager with one click access to not only Web-based data (i.e. Internet news, stock quotes, weather, travel reservations), but also SmartSuite apps, frequently accessed files and more.

Corel's Trellix provides simple converting and formatting of Web pages, although it's not a Web page designing app like FrontPage. But Trellix can generate site maps and navigation links for Web pages much easier than most other apps (especially good news for novice users). The downside? You'll lose some formatting, such as colored highlighting. Although you can move documents from WordPerfect to Trellix by selecting File/Publish in WordPerfect, you can't do it with other Corel Suite apps.
NetPerfect fills out the net-related apps in this Suite as a client/server program that allows multiple users share documents on a central server. Not only does NetPerfect support the conversion of several commonly used formats, it updates documents as changes are made.

Microsoft's Word 2000 is pretty much the same old word processor, except for a couple of notable features: Click-n-Type allows you to start typing anywhere in a document (not big news for WordPerfect users, since they've had this for a long time), and Collect and Paste, which lets you select multiple blocks to "collect" and paste elsewhere. The one distracting (okay, annoying) feature is that Word 2000 doesn't allow new documents to be stacked like in previous versions - now a new window is opened for each document. Like the rest of the Office 2000, Word 2000 uses HTML as it's native file format for easier Web publishing if you don't want to use FrontPage. If this doesn't interest you, the option to "save as" can be changed to .doc or whatever file format your prefer.

Lotus Word Pro wants to work with Microsoft apps so badly that it now offers Word's .doc format as a native file format - which means you can open a Word document, edit it, and save it automatically in Word format instead of Word Pro. ViaVoice also works well here, even when I had my Celtic music playing pretty loudly in the background (with the headphones on, it's sometimes hard to tell how loud the music is). Since I don't have a regional accent, it picked up my commands and words really well - for those with thick accents, it may take a while for ViaVoice to recognize what you're saying, but it does learn fairly quickly.

Corel WordPerfect 9 is my default word processor. I've been using WordPerfect for years now, although I do use Microsoft Word for University work. So I'm a little partial to this app, even though MS Word is "the" word processor most used. WordPerfect compensates for this by converting all kinds of files easily (even my old Wordstar 3.x docs). Unless you change the options, WordPerfect opens files in its original format without asking you which format to convert from and save as. As in Lotus SmartSuite, WordPerfect offers the "Voice-Powered Edition" with Dragon Naturally Speaking. But unlike Lotus, it only works with WordPerfect and not any of the other included apps. Once you have Dragon Naturally Speaking "trained," you're supposed to be able to dictate 160 words per minute or more (I don't think I've gotten quite that fast yet). What's nice is you can also "tell" WordPerfect to bold or italicize, etc. Although I'm partial to WordPerfect, I did find Lotus' ViaVoice was easier to use, but the Dragon Naturally Speaking headset was more comfortable.
Some nice new features in WordPerfect are the "RealTime Preview," which lets you see how a font will look before you change it, AutoScroll lets you scroll quickly through longer documents and you can now save PDF files without the need for Adobe Acrobat.
The most impressive thing about WordPerfect is that it's decided to work with Microsoft docs and handles MS Office native files and spreadsheet formats, all automatically.

Microsoft Office 2000 is still the premiere package and best option for mid to large-sized businesses. It's ability to combine so many different apps in one package is impressive, it's ease of use is a plus and the price isn't bad, either.

Corel WordPerfect Office 2000 is my personal choice and I'd highly recommend it primarily for SOHO businesses, as you don't really have to worry about inter-office integration since you're usually the only person in the office. It would even work for a two to three person office. I think it's biggest downside is that it doesn't have an e-mail client, nor does it offer a Web browser, although it does work very well with either Internet Explorer or Netscape Communicator.
However, if you're a small to mid-sized business looking for just word processing capabilities, this suite is fairly inexpensive compared to the others, and heck, you may be able to use some of the other apps included.

Lotus SmartSuite Millennium is on par with Microsoft for mid to large-sized businesses. It's strengths, compared to Microsoft, are FastSite and its integration with IBM apps, including MQ Series, DB2, QMF and Net.Data. Plus I found ViaVoice to be very well done and easy to use. It's most appreciated asset? The SmartSuite Millennium Edition for Dummies book included. Now if every employee got one of these, you'd have a very happy business.


J.A. Hitchcock is a regular contributor to Compute Me. Visit her web site at

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