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WordPerfect X4 and e-mail

This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on June 6, 2008
(Issue 2623, Webmasters Guide)

Whenever a new version of WordPerfect is released, I get a little excited because the folks at Corel (publisher of WordPerfect) have done the best job I've seen yet at melding a general purpose word processor with a decent HTML output filter.

Anyone who's ever saved a Microsoft Word document into a Web page from Word knows how bad a process that is. Even if you're not a Web design purist (that is, one of us weirdos who actually create Web pages in raw HTML tags), just looking at a Web document created in Word makes clear how badly Word converts documents into Web pages. Tables, rules (lines), graphics – anything other than plain text rarely comes out the way you intended.

But WordPerfect has long had an excellent HTML export filter that allows you to convert your existing documents to Web use pretty easily. In fact, I write this column each month in WordPerfect, save it as a Word doc for the ComputorEdge folks, then do a "Publish to" HTML for posting on my Web archive. I do a little clean-up, but it still takes only about 3 or 4 minutes to post the column to my Web site using WordPerfect.

And ever since WordPerfect 6, the general WP document format type has not changed – meaning if you have friends or colleagues using an older version of WordPerfect, they can still open your documents saved in the latest version. Nor have the WordPerfect folks engaged in the kind of feature bloat that causes perfectly useful programs to become memory hogs that slow down your whole system. If anything, WordPerfect's programmers have spent the past few iterations making it a smoother program, one that is better coded to use up fewer resources.

After all, the word processor was pretty much fleshed out by the mid-'90s. Once personal computers came with typeface management tools so we could do real desktop publishing with laser and inkjet printers, and the computers were powerful enough to drive displays with WYSISYG graphics (so that what you type on your screen is what comes out of your printer) the rapid development of the word processor was pretty much over.

I'd been using WP 12 the past few years, but WordPerfect X4 came out a month or so back and the good folks at Corel sent us a review package to give a test spin.

So far, it's been smooth as silk moving from WP 12 to WP X4 – you can use all the previous toolbars you're used to, or even Microsoft Word toolbars if you prefer. You can even set it up to run in old WordPerfect 5 DOS mode!

But before getting into whether and how WordPerfect handles HTML output, I noticed that WordPerfect X4 includes a standalone e-mail program - "WordPerfect MAIL."

I installed it, loaded it up, and it imported my existing account and mailboxes from Qualcomm's last build of Eudora. (Which is, frankly, better than the latest version of Eudora from the open-source Mozilla folks, which wouldn't see my existing Eudora build and made me start from scratch.)

So far, WP Mail has been a very solid replacement for Eudora – with one unfortunate drawback that may be a deal killer.

The strenths are that, unlike Thunderbird or Eudora, it has a built-in calendar/planner like Microsoft's market-dominant Outlook. It's user-interface (i.e., it's look and feel) is gracefully laid out and intuitively designed. The contacts manager / address book is just as intuitive and easy to use, and allows you to add contacts directly from an e-mail (which is admittedly a standard function these days, but very well implemented here).

For a free mail client packaged with WordPerfect, it's pretty darn good. And it's nicely integrated with WordPerfect – you can send a document from WordPerfect as an e-mail message (or as an attached document) right from WordPerfect's toolbar. (Well, unless you've installed The Bat e-mail client, as I have, and it locks the Windows registry so you can't make any other program the default mail program. Sigh ...)

It's a perfect e-mail solution ... except for the search function. Based on WordPerfect's existing search tool, the WP Mail tool allows you to search all kinds of fields in e-mail – but only in one mailbox at a time, with no option to search sub-mailboxes within a mailbox!

Now, I don't know about you, but I've got thousands of e-mails on my hard drive, all sorted into various mailboxes – there's a family mailbox, a friends one, another for saving e-mail receipts from online purchases, one for ComputorEdge column ideas, another for Web design hints.

And if I knew which mailbox the message in question was in, why, I'd organize that mailbox's messages by sender or topic and find it.

WordPerfect Mail won't be a truly usable e-mail client until and unless you can search across multiple mailboxes, and search through a mailbox and all its sub-mailboxes.