Oregon State Bar Bulletin — JUNE 2002

Managing Your Practice
Word v. WordPerfect: Is the battle over?
By Dee Crocker

Although Word is the most commonly used word processing program used today, WordPerfect has always maintained a loyal following in the legal community. Lawyers and legal staff have always debated which is the better program, but with the release of Word 2002 and WordPerfect 10, there now seems to be little to debate. Both programs have incorporated virtually the same features; these features are just accessed differently in each program.

Since training is the most important aspect to consider when upgrading software, familiarity with the program should be at the top of your list for reasons to remain with your current program. If your staff has only used WordPerfect in the past, why change? If some are better with Word, get both. These new versions allow use of both programs with an almost seamless interchange.

I recently acquired a new laptop with the Windows XP operating system and the Microsoft Office 2002 Suite installed. One of the first steps I took was to load the Corel Office 2002 Suite to determine which program I preferred. (I must admit, however, that I started out a WordPerfect user and remain faithful to that program.) There is no doubt WordPerfect is the program for litigation, but new features have been added to the Word program to make it more attractive to the legal market. My personal opinion is, 'Why not use both?' I should caution that when I first attempted to open a Word document in WordPerfect, I got that annoying message, 'Unknown format.' Needless to say, I panicked. I immediately tried to open a WordPerfect document in Word. Here, I got a message that a conversion feature needed to be loaded. I was instructed to insert my Office 2002 CD, and the conversion program loaded automatically. Strange as it may seem, once this was accomplished, not only was I able to open WordPerfect documents in Word, but Word documents were easily opened in WordPerfect as well. And I might add, with great success. None of those strange formatting errors appeared in either document, and I was even able to open documents containing tables with no loss of formatting.

Although many Word users did not make the upgrade from Word 97 to Word 2000, Word 2002 has many significant changes which make it worthwhile to take the plunge and upgrade. Some of these include:
Reveal Codes: Well, almost. It's called 'Reveal Formatting Task Pane.' The task pane is divided into three parts: Font, Paragraph and Section. The font part displays the font and font size; the paragraph part displays alignment, spacing and indentation for the active paragraph; and the section part displays margins, paper size and layout for the current section. Additional options will display if the paragraph contains tables, bullets or numbering.

Line Spacing Button: Line spacing can be quickly changed by using the new line spacing button on the formatting toolbar.

Clear Formatting: This feature allows you to remove all formatting from a document with one click. The clear formatting option is available on the reveal formatting and styles and formatting task panes.

Multi-Section: This allows you to select non-contiguous areas of a document using the CTRL key.

Paste Option Button: This displays in the right corner of the text after pasting. It allows you to choose to keep source formatting, match destination formatting, or keep text only for the pasted text.

Watermarks: Finally, you can add watermarks to documents.

Show Document Format: You can view what type of file format was used to originally create a document using the properties feature on the file menu.

Smart Tags: This allows you to use names and addresses in Word documents to quickly add an Outlook contact, send e-mail, schedule appointments and much more.

Autocorrect Options Button: This displays when a word is corrected using autocorrect. The automatically-corrected word is underlined with a small blue box. The options on the drop down menu allow you to control what is corrected without having to display the autocorrect options dialog box.

Ask a Question: By using this text box (located to the right of the menu bar), you can quickly search for help by typing a word, phrase or question.

If you did not make the upgrade from WordPerfect 8 to WordPerfect 9, you won't want to miss this new version. Some of the features are:

Dictionary: The writing tool package (spellcheck, thesaurus, and Grammatik) has been enhanced with the Pocket Oxford Dictionary, which will allow you to look up word definitions and phonetic spellings, then add text to documents.

Backward Compatibility: The WordPerfect file format has been the same since version 6.1, allowing users to work with all existing files.

Variables: This time-saving feature allows a variable, or placeholder, to be placed in multiple locations in a document. The application will automatically fill in all instances of the variable with text specified by the user.

Publish to PDF: This allows you to save WordPerfect documents in a PDF format with enhanced capabilities to support hyperlinks and watermarks.

RealTime Preview: Users can take advantage of the ability to preview formatting options when they select fonts, columns, underling styles, drop caps, QuickFonts, outline, bullets and numbering.

Digital Signature: WordPerfect 10 supports digital signatures.

Text/Table Exchange: You can now easily convert text to tables and to convert tables to text or a merge file. When converting tables to text, users can also specify the desired delimiter, or they can convert the table to a merge file with the option of designating the top row as a header row.

Complex Tables: You can create a basic table, or you can use the advanced table features to create more complex tables with features such as slanted header rows and unmatched numbers of cells in each row or column. You can join two tables with the same number of columns into one large table, or you can split a table horizontally into two tables.

Many law firm business departments have switched from WordPerfect to Word because they exchange documents with their business clients, and their business clients all use Word. However, this can be accomplished in a much easier manner and with security in mind. The file can be saved in a PDF format in either Word (versions 2000 and 2002) or WordPerfect 9 or 10. The files can then be accessed through Adobe's Acrobat Reader software, which is available as a free download at www.adobe.com. The client can read and print the document from this program. This is also a great way to e-mail documents to others, no matter what word processing program they use. These files are 'read only,' so no changes can be made, but they allow the receiving party to read or print the file. This is especially important with electronic filing of documents.

The good news is we can now end discussions of which product is best. They are both excellent programs and will serve you well. It's easy to justify either choice. Just focus on which product will work best for your firm. Or use both.

Dee Crocker is a practice management adviser for the Professional Liability Fund. If you would like free, confidential assistance with your office systems, call her at (503) 639-6911 or e-mail her at deec@osbplf.org.

1. But see Riemer, Limited Practices: Is there a 'federal law only' exception to the Oregon bar examination?, OSB Bulletin, June 2001, p. 25.

© 2002 Dee Crocker

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