That Corel WordPerfect 8 is available for Linux is the latest sign of Linux' recent emergence as a serious contender in the desktop market. As can be seen from Microsoft's dominance of the present market, what you need to win users is not technical brilliance, but ease-of-use and familiarity. WordPerfect 8 provides both.

Familiarity begins with the installation; if you install WordPerfect under X-Windows, you get treated to a Windows-like graphical installation complete with mini splash screens to distract you while it copies files to disk. The installation is quite straightforward with the minor complaint that doesn't say what modifications it makes to the system boot file. It does provide the option to skip the modifications, however.

My office machine, a P100 with 32MB of RAM which also performs file and print server duties, was understandably a little strained while running WordPerfect. That's not to say that it was unusable - I used it to skim through a few Word97 documents as an initial test. WordPerfect happily converted these to its own format. While printing them, I did find one anomaly - part of the install allows you to configure printers for WordPerfect to use, but none of them appeared in the Print dialogue box. Not to worry, as part of the box allows you to add in extra printers on-the-fly. Now if only I'd remembered to change the paper size to A4...

On my home machine, a K6-200 with 64MB, operation was smoother and faster. I used the integrated File Manager to locate and load documents. The File Manager allows you to create a list of shortcuts with the QuickList feature, and has a simple ASCII file viewer which allows you to inspect files - a primitive version of Windows' QuikView, if you will. On the down side, the File Manager doesn't appear to support drag and drop, something a lot of people would expect of a modern desktop. Additionally, I suspect there aren't many people who would run a word processor just to have access to a file manager - particularly if they already run xfilemanager or similar.

Having run up a quick draft of this review, I ran it through the spell checker. The dictionary provided was quite happy with "Linux", but balked at "Microsoft"! The spell checker window offers dynamic completion of the replacement word you're typing which is handy if you're not sure how to spell something. A related feature, QuickCorrect, is a dynamic checker that corrects common spelling mistakes and, for example, replaces asterisks with bullet points as you type. You can modify the list of words and symbols it detects and what it replaces them with. However, in addition to correcting my spelling mistakes, the default setup insisted on replacing the word "setup" with "situp", so your experiences with this feature may vary! The other proofing tool, the grammar checker, has a far more conservative dictionary than the regular spell checker - it doesn't contain the word "Corel", for example. It covers the usual combination of strictly grammatical points plus some additions such as suggesting that a particular word may be too informal, or a particular phrase should be simplified.

WordPerfect comes with some document templates - called ExpressDocs - such as Attendance Chart and Timesheet. There's a helper (okay, "Wizard"...) called "PerfectExpert" which guides you through creating a document. It covers drafting, page layout, formatting, proofreading and saving, with helpful tips for each step. It also describes additon of graphics and other non-textual components to your document using subsystems not unlike Word Art and Equation Editor.

WordPerfect provides a wealth of save formats when you click on Save As.... The default, WordPerfect 6.x/7/8, is identical across all platforms, allowing for easy interchange of documents between various operation systems. Additionally, WordPerfect supports common Windows formats such as Ami Pro and Word, and also common Unix formats such as FileMaker, Interleaf and ApplixWare. WordPerfect can also read files in several formats -presumably the same list of formats as it can write. This may well be the single biggest selling point - there's no requirement to save all of your documents into a new format in order that the geek down the hall can process them. Finally, there's a built-in HTML editor called Internet Publisher which will turnyour masterwork into a web page and allow you to publish it to a web server. While it's not particularly comprehensive, it's sufficient to get documents on the web.

With desktop systems like GNOME and KDE making Linux a more user-friendly platform for the non-technical user, applications like WordPerfect serve to strengthen Linux' position as alow-cost alternative to the ubiquitous Windows. This is a very well-executed product that I'd certainly consider making a permanent feature on my desktop.