There exists a world outside Mr. Gates’ Microsoft, and one of the biggest names in word processing is WordPerfect. The WordPerfect Family Pack provides a whole host of competitive choices to keep Microsoft at bay … although it is designed to run under XP and previous Windows platforms. Anyway, the irony distracts me from the real issue here: price (and back to that later).

The WordPerfect family pack is based around the WordPerfect word processing package, which contains many features that you associate with its competitor MS Word. In fact, it’s just as easy to sit down and use it with little familiarisation. Modern word processor files are so compatible nowadays that sharing your work, or working on a Word file isn’t a problem.

Quattro Pro, a powerful spreadsheet package, complements the word processing and it’s comparable with, you guessed it, Excel. Again, there aren’t any compatibility problems, and using it is a simple as 1,2,3, quite literally. I think the Family Pack is on to a good thing providing these two applications, as they are the most useful in the home environment. As with other Corel packages, it all comes with a Task Manager, which is a nifty front-end that can guide you into various tasks, such as managing your exercise diary and so on.

Along side the core functions above is McAfee’s VirusScan, an essential piece of software in today’s internet-rich interactive world. Register the product and you get regular auto updates to keep you protected. It’s a smooth, clean running application, although it can get a little obsessive, and tells you that bad things are happening to your PC, when all you are trying to do is sync with your PDA. Once you have established a customised level of security, it works very well, and will even scan your PDA files. Of course when you now have virus attacks daily where two attacking programs are linked, Like MyDoom and Zindos, sometimes you may have to check for manual updates rather than wait for the automatic but this happens rarely, depending on whether your firewall links in with VirusScan as ZoneAlarm v5.x now does.

The Family Pack also comes with iClean, which purports to clean up your internet records. This strikes me as rather odd. Ok, it will do all the normal jobs of deleting temp files, temp internet files/cache, cookies and clearing the internet history, but why you need a piece of bespoke software to do this is beyond me, as all these functions are available in internet options. It can also serve to block pop-ups, although so will the free Google and AltaVista toolbars or the Mozilla Firefox browser. Anyway, it does bring all these functions into one convenient interface. The second point is why you would want to do this - is it really to protect yourself from marketers gleaning info from your cookies, or is it so the wife and kids don’t find out your penchant for teeny porn?

Encyclopaedia Britannica will be a firm favourite with the kids and can be a great help with homework tasks. It equates to Encarta, and has many of the same functions. I guess the advantage here is that it carries that hallowed name ‘Britannica’. To me that says 20 volumes of hardback expensive wisdom - the envy of every middle class child on the street. I guess no more in this digital age. Anyway, within a few seconds I managed to find a video of Hitler giving a speech, so it obviously covers what people look for and expect in these things.

Finally the Family Tree Maker is included. Now, I can hear you laughing at this part, as it blatantly isn’t what you buy the Family Pack for. However, as soon as you install this piece of software, I guarantee you will be lost in the dubious wonders of genealogy. Sad I know, but they make it too easy. I filled in my details, did the girlfriend, parents, brothers, and odd relations I could remember. I got about 20 people. Not bad I thought. I set the fiancée going, and soon we were over 100 family members, and still growing. She phoned her parents. My God the things you discover! We are currently have 6 generations logged in and are nearing the 200 mark. The Family Tree Maker was begging me to register and share this information with the world. I’ll get the facts straight and I might just do that.

Also bundled is Acrobat Reader 5 (thankfully faster than the version which superseded it) and some more clip art and so on.

Price when reviewed:

Overall, a very composed bundle, and I think, a perfect Family Pack: something for the Dad (Quattro Pro, iClean), something for Mum (WordPerfect, Family Tree Maker) and something for the kids (Britannica, McAfee). Now, price. This product is available for about £60. Not bad for all that stuff that you will probably use, Microsoft Office Standard Edition is about £300. Having said that, you do lose the Office functions of Outlook and PowerPoint (although Outlook is easy to come by) and it isn't Microsoft, who dominates the market for a good reason. I'd say it was worth considering, however, and you can spend the spare cash on games. It's a tea and coffee choice between Microsoft and the rest but if you don't use MS apps at work, you can choose whatever you want at home.