Bulky Wordperfect 6.0 is sluggish but worth space

PERSONAL COMPUTERS

November 08, 1993|By PETER H. LEWIS

The Wordperfect Corp.'s new Wordperfect 6.0 for Windows is an impressive program that tries to be everything to everybody. One of the surprising things about it is that, to a large degree, it appears to succeed -- if, of course, you have sufficient horsepower on the desktop.

Wordperfect 6.0 offers tools and features that go beyond word processing, including advanced spreadsheet functions, drawing and charting tools, clip art and special effects. In essence, it crosses the line into the realm normally associated with integrated software packages and so-called office suites.

But another surprising thing about version 6.0 -- and probably not a happy surprise for most people -- is that it doesn't work well within the standard 4 megabytes of system memory found on most new computers. It doesn't work at all on a machine with less memory.

One can argue that Wordperfect 6.0 is as good a reason as any to add more memory, and that soon all programs will require more than the 4 megabytes recommended for any Windows program. So why not use the occasion to upgrade to at least 8 megabytes of random access memory?

(If you've forgotten how much RAM your system has, type "MEM" at the DOS prompt or choose "About Program Manager" from the Windows Program Manager "Help" menu. Or, you can do it the hard way: Install Wordperfect 6.0 and wait to see how many "Out of Memory" error messages -- word processing's equivalent of writer's cramp -- pop up before the computer has a stroke.)

One can also argue that Wordperfect 6.0 has grown too big to be practical for its mainstream audience.

On the outside of the box, Wordperfect specifies 6 megabytes as the recommended minimum amount of RAM. But surprise again! Once the user has purchased the program and opened the box, the "Getting Started" manual casually reports: "For Wordperfect to run efficiently, we recommend 8MB of random access memory."

On top of that, the program also eats more than 33 megabytes of hard disk space in the course of standard installation. That sort of overhead is expected in advanced operating systems but is simply excessive for a word processor. (A "laptop" installation option consumes a mere 10.5 megabytes.)

Again, one can argue that Wordperfect 6.0's hard disk requirements ought to be compared not to other word processors but to those of an office suite, like Microsoft Office or Lotus Smart Suite, since Wordperfect includes so many features normally associated with spreadsheets or presentation graphics programs.

But the suite argument goes sour for those who plan to use 6.0 mainly for its stated purpose: as a word processor.

As one might expect from something that is either muscle-bound or overweight, depending on one's point of view, the new Wordperfect is not going to amaze anyone with its speed.

According to the industry newspaper PC Week, some early users of Wordperfect 6.0 have complained about bugs -- mainly slow overall performance and sluggish printing, plus some reports of incompatibilities with some Windows programs and hardware devices.

David A. LeFevre, product manager for Wordperfect for Windows, acknowledged that the new release was less than perfect, but noted, fairly, that most new programs have glitches that escape detection until they undergo the scrutiny of hundreds of thousands of users.

It's true: Bugs are common in all software, but especially in new products or major revisions of existing programs. In general, it is wise to be cautious of any program that has a version number ending in zero. This doesn't mean avoid them; just be sure you have a current backup.

So much for the bad news. The good news is that if your computer has the memory, Wordperfect 6.0 flaunts it. It is hard to imagine a better program for generating the types of documents commonly used in businesses.

The program comes with dozens of fill-in-the-blank templates for such documents as letters, memos, fax covers, calendars, expense reports, invoices, inventory forms, job estimates and even grading forms for teachers and class schedules for students.

In most cases, the template forms are very attractive. They can be customized with company logos, fancy "watermarks," special text and graphics effects, borders, symbols and other embellishments.

To create a fax cover, for example, one merely chooses a template (there are five styles), types the recipient's name and address (or adds it automatically from a built-in address book) and adds a message. It's that easy.

Another feature, called Text Art, allows the user to fritter away hours by warping and twisting text, adding colors, shadows, exotic fonts and so on. With restraint, Text Art can be used to make eye-catching company logos or headlines. Without restraint, Text Art can horrify even the people who make circus posters.

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