The Standards Blog

Corel Releases WordPerfect Beta and Inches Closer to Dual Format Support

OpenDocument and OOXML
As you may recall, Corel announced last November that the next release of its flagship WordPerfect Office productivity suite would support both the ODF as well as the OOXML document formats. That announcement followed more than a year of (at best) ambivalent statements by Corel regarding its format support intentions, despite the fact that Corel was a founding member of the OASIS Technical Committee that developed the ODF standard. In delaying so long to embrace ODF it had seemed to me that Corel was missing the chance of a lifetime, given that its core market was in government users - the group most interested in long-term document accessibility.

 

 

Last year's announcement told customers to anticipate the new release in "mid 2007," and yesterday Corel finally announced that the new release is now available - a bit late, and in beta, rather than in final form. But on the plus side, the new dual-format version is available as a free download for evaluation purposes to those that fill in a form at the Corel site and are approved for that purpose.  (Additional information can be found here, and the application form and license terms can be found here.)

The new press release (as usual, reproduced in full below) is largely consistent with the direction Corel announced last year. As previously, Corel's customer focus remains on the government market, and the dual support capability is intended to make WordPerfect the product of choice for those that wish to not only be able to work with documents in both formats, but to hedge their bets for the future as well. Or, in the words of the press release:
The new beta will allow users to open, view and edit ODF and OOXML files and uniquely positions Corel as the industry’s format-neutral vendor of productivity software. The free beta will allow customers to test WordPerfect Office’s ODF and OOXML capabilities and evaluate which of these emerging standards best meets their needs.
Further to that message, Corel notes in its press release that its Professional Services group stands ready to help with conversion issues, thus providing a second profit center.  This product and services, "you choose - we can help" message is amplified at the beta page at Corel's site, where Corel positions itself as the guide that can take users into a risk-free future, whatever the future direction of open formats may be:

ODF or OOXML? Which format is right for me?
The move toward more open standards is an exciting and positive development for our industry—but the impending shift in file formats will also create challenges. Which format holds the most promise? Which format will become adopted? Will we end up with two formats? How can an organization evaluate these formats risk-free?

Using this new beta of WordPerfect Office, we encourage you to work with our file format experts and our Professional Services team to understand what ODF and OOXML mean for your organization.

Corel has been involved in ODF from its very beginning and possesses a solid reputation for compatibility with Microsoft® Office—giving us an unparalleled expertise in file formats which we are dedicated to using in supporting our customers as they address these and other emerging file formats in a risk-free fashion.

To do this, Corel has adopted a unique, format neutral approach to ODF and OOXML. With this new beta, Corel is supporting both ODF and OOXML, in addition to the more than 63 other file formats already supported by WordPerfect Office.

Corel's expertise in OOXML and ODF positions our company as an ideal partner, whether you're interested in document archival, open standards, custom publishing, document conversion or any variety of other options.

Corel's strategy also addresses another important requirement of government users by playing the accessibility card, an issue that has been significant ever since the announcement by Massachusetts in August of 2005 that it planned to implement ODF (Massachusetts almost immediately had to admit that then-available ODF-compliant products did not meet minimum accessibility needs).  Corel picks up on this concern as follows:
Known worldwide as a full-featured and value-priced alternative to Microsoft Office, WordPerfect Office works with screen-reading and other accessibility technologies called for under Section 508 of the United States Rehabilitation Act. Support for ODF combined with such accessibility capabilities positions WordPerfect Office to help foster ODF's broader adoption in public sector organizations, where accessibility is a key requirement.
Still, Corel can't seem to help sounding tentative, even when it issues decisive press releases. Appended to a short article by Joab Jackson at Government Computer News is this response from a Corel spokesperson (Jackson had inquired how many people could participate in the beta program):
We don't have a hard cap at this point, since part of this exercise is to help us gauge demand for these formats,” e-mailed Jason Larock, Corel’s director of product management for WordPerfect Office. “Our beta is very much a mechanism that we can use to engage a select number of CIOs to see where they're headed and to assess their plans to address any of these emerging open standards. For us, feedback from within the government space is critical and that's really our focus with this beta." So there you go, download it and tell’em what you think.)
Hopefully that tentativeness has more to do with how much consulting and support time Corel will need to anticipate, rather than suggesting that it still has any ambivalence over how robustly the commercial version will support both formats.

 

 
Doubtless the most intriguing question to be answered publicly through the beta testing phase will be how well the conversion capabilities of the new version of WordPerfect perform.  At the moment, there is only a confusing blur of plugins and translators available to manage transitions between ODF-complant products and Office 2003 and Office 2007.  None of these tools appear to work very well, and not all work with Office 2007 (at least not yet).  If WordPerfect does the best job of managing a multi-format world, then that clearly will be a plus for government users that want to be able to accept documents from all citizens no matter what software products those citizens wish to buy and use.  And it will be no small benefit as well if WordPerfect makes life easy for Government CIOs and non-IT  employees.  

For all of these reasons, it will be quite interesting to see how Corel's new product is received if Corel indeed holds true to its "one world" format strategy and promotes that strategy aggressively. WordPerfect has always been a great product, and it has an established government customer base. With a significantly lower price than Office 2007, full support, and a look and feel that is more familiar than Office 2007, dual support looks like a smart – if long overdue – move to me. Now customers, and particularly government customers, have not one but four credible products to choose from: Office 2007, WordPerfect Office, StarOffice and OpenOffice – in descending order of price, and with the first three enjoying full support – one product for every budget, from the First World to the Third.     

 

For further blog entries on ODF and OOXML, click here

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Corel Provides Support For ODF and OOXML In New Beta of WordPerfect® Office

Free Beta Allows Customers to Open, View and Edit Open Document Format, Microsoft Office 2007 Files

OTTAWA--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Corel Corporation (NASDAQ:CREL; TSX:CRE), a leading developer of graphics, productivity and digital media software, today announced a new beta version of Corel® WordPerfect® Office that supports both the Open Document Format (ODF) and Microsoft® Office Open XML (OOXML), the default file format for Microsoft® Office 2007.

The new beta will allow users to open, view and edit ODF and OOXML files and uniquely positions Corel as the industrys format-neutral vendor of productivity software. The free beta will allow customers to test WordPerfect Offices ODF and OOXML capabilities and evaluate which of these emerging standards best meets their needs.

Open standards are increasingly important for our customers, especially in government, said Nick Davies, Vice President and General Manager, Graphics and Productivity at Corel. A multi-format approach allows Corel to provide our customers with maximum compatibility and archival options, and harnesses our deep expertise in file formats to deliver flexible document solutions for our customers.

The introduction of ODF and OOXML support in the new WordPerfect Office XML Format Beta is the latest example of Corels long standing commitment to multi-format compatibility. In addition to ODF and OOXML, the Beta supports Microsoft Office binary formats, Adobes PDF, Corels own WordPerfect Office formats and over 60 others. It also includes an integrated XML Editor capable of creating custom XML publishing solutions.

Corel backs the multi-format support of WordPerfect Office with a full range of conversion and consulting services delivered through its Professional Services group. Information on the companys free document conversion assessments are available online at www.wordperfect.com/conversion.

Known worldwide as a full-featured and value-priced alternative to Microsoft Office, WordPerfect Office works with screen-reading and other accessibility technologies called for under Section 508 of the United States Rehabilitation Act. Support for ODF combined with such accessibility capabilities positions WordPerfect Office to help foster ODF's broader adoption in public sector organizations, where accessibility is a key requirement.

To learn more about the Open Document Format, Microsoft Office Open XML and the new WordPerfect Office XML format beta, please visit www.wordperfect.com/open.

About Corel Corporation

Corel is a leading developer of graphics, productivity and digital media software with more than 100 million users worldwide. The Company's product portfolio includes some of the world's most popular and widely recognized software brands including CorelDRAW® Graphics Suite, Corel® Paint Shop Pro®, Corel® Painter, Corel DESIGNER®, Corel® WordPerfect® Office, WinZip® and iGrafx®. In 2006, Corel acquired InterVideo, makers of WinDVD®, and Ulead, a leading developer of video, imaging and DVD authoring software. Designed to help people become more productive and express their creative potential, Corel's software strives to set a higher standard for value with full-featured products that are easier to learn and use. The industry has responded with hundreds of awards recognizing Corel's leadership in software innovation, design and value.

Corel's products are sold in more than 75 countries through a well-established network of international resellers, retailers, original equipment manufacturers, online providers and Corel's global websites. The Company's headquarters are located in Ottawa, Canada with major offices in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, China, Taiwan and Japan. Corel's stock is traded on the NASDAQ under the symbol CREL and on the TSX under the symbol CRE. www.corel.com

© 2007 Corel Corporation. All rights reserved. Corel, CorelDRAW, Paint Shop Pro, Corel Painter, Corel DESIGNER, WordPerfect, WinZip, iGrafx, InterVideo, WinDVD, Ulead, and the Corel logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Corel Corporation and/or its subsidiaries. All other product names and any registered and unregistered trademarks mentioned are used for identification purposes only and remain the exclusive property of their respective owners.

Comments

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Andy...  if i may make a prediction...   seeing as corel has had a very lack luster attitude towards ODF..   (at first if i remember correctly, they stated that they would NOT support ODF)... and now they seem to have yet the same lack luster attitude..  i will predict (hopefully im wrong) that ODF support wil be dropped by the final version...   their press release will say something like..   " during out beta period and our discussions with CIO's we found that there is little interest for ODF support "...      i  know, if it is already there in beta why drop it...  well..  id say look for a "partnership" wink wink.. between Corel and MS coming soon......