Corel’s newest office suite takes matters back to basics. It consists of three applications which have been tightly designed to provide core functions, the idea being that they’re user friendly and easy on system resources. This makes it ideal for working on netbooks, particularly because the suite automatically reconfigures itself to be usable on a small screen. Very handy.
Home Office Suite is also cheap, at least in comparison to the heavyweight Microsoft Office, as it weighs in at £49. It’s office essentials, if you like, and the three programs it comprises are a word processor (Write), spreadsheet (Calculate) and presentation program (Show).
Corel Write is well presented, unsurprisingly in a Microsoft Office style. The menu bar at the top of the screen provides a neat tabbed layout, so if you click on Tools, for example, the program displays a collection of tool icons all divided into sub-menus (such as proofing, which contains the spelling and grammar checker, thesaurus, word count and so on). Everything is easily customisable, from changing the background colour of the menus to adding extra icons to the quick access bar; all can be achieved with a mere couple of clicks.
Without a doubt, Write is very tidy and easy to use, although one thing we did miss was a selection of our favoured keyboard shortcuts. We’re so accustomed to hitting ALT T+W to get our word count on articles, for instance, that it’s rather aggrieving to discover that all this does is produce an error beep.
According to Corel, Write is designed to be compatible with the “vast majority” of Microsoft files. We tested some sample Word documents with slightly more complex formatting than average, and found that in some cases the suite coped with them, but in others there were multiple errors with the layout after import. It certainly seemed a little hit and miss on this front.
On a nuts and bolts writing level, all the functions you’d expect to see are here, such as auto-correct, automatic spell-checking and capitalisation of letters at the start of a sentence. And the fancier stuff isn’t omitted despite this being a lightweight suite. Tables and footnotes are catered for, along with options to insert charts, pictures and captions.
Images can easily be resized, grouped together and dragged around, and Corel’s WriteFX allows the user to add arty text (such as writing on a marble effect slab). Write also gives you the option to export to PDF, and you can create PDF files from Calculate and Show too.
Moving on to Calculate, the spreadsheet program, as with Write it’s smartly presented and mirrors many of the features of its Microsoft counterpart, Excel. It contains some more advanced kit, such as pivot tables (data summary tables), and is compatible with the XLS format. Well, mostly. Loading up some test Excel spreadsheets we found that Calculate handled them all except one particularly lengthy fellow. Upon attempting to digest this it sadly froze and gave up.
Finally, Corel Show is a slideshow presentation program. It’s fairly basic, but this streamlined nature means that putting together a, well, presentable presentation is really quite simple. There’s a decent range of template slides and transitions provided, and the only fly in the ointment we stumbled across was that inserting charts proved to be unnecessarily fiddly. You can save files out in Powerpoint format (in fact that’s the default), and we had no trouble importing Powerpoint presentations.
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