With Microsoft Office being the de facto standard in most offices around the world, any competitor will find it hard to prove that its Office software package is a viable alternative. Corel therefore launch Word Perfect Office 12, the latest incarnation of its office suite with some in trepidation. Even the chairman of the company realises and acknowledges that for the majority of the time they play second fiddle to Bill Gates' empire (he said at a recent present conference they were proud to be number two).

It is no surprise then, that whatever application you open, whether it is WordPerfect, Quattro Pro (its equivalent to Excel) or Presentations (Corel's PowerPoint) that you are presented with a window asking you “What mode would you like to work in?”. So concerned that you might shun the software for not looking like Microsoft Corel has actually created the program to emulate what the equivalent programs would look like if they were created by Microsoft. Of course you can opt for WordPerfect mode, and even the blue screen WordPerfect 5.1 for that ultimate throwback, for the fans that have grown-up with the alternative package, but it seems Corel are so concerned at fitting in they are willing to don the sheep's clothing just to be a sheep.

Once you get past this confusion, the software package tries its hardest to prove that it is worthy of your money and for that we can't fault it. The ability to directly publish to PDF, HTML or XML is a nice touch, as is support for Macromedia's Flash SWF Format.

However there are still some compatibility issues when transferring data from one program to another that might annoy experienced users on Microsoft's applications. One example is in Word Ctrl-Del will delete to the end of the word, in WordPerfect it will delete to the end of the line- a big difference. Furthermore in tests we had an 85- page script that seemed to expand itself into 89 pages in Corel for no real apparent reason.

If however you've never really got into the Microsoft Office world, then these small gripes won't affect you. One nice feature which might appeal and one that does have strength over Office is the Reveal Codes option, allowing you to see the coding of the document you are working on and therefore easily format it without autoformat and other such wonders kicking in and causing you issues (a bane of most Microsoft users).

For those unsure of what they actually want to create, Corel has also provided a stack of templates already set out. Everything you could seem to want and not want is here from the Annual Report Slide show in Presentations to Certificates of Achievement in WordPerfect to a retirement budget in Quattro Pro.

Price when reviewed:

Apart form the new assimilating Microsoft Office style options there isn't much new here for the WordPerfect Office 11 user to warrant an upgrade, however if you've always been a fan of Corel's Office package this won't disappoint and at £100 cheaper than Microsoft it does offer a viable alternative as an office package. However with Sun's latest Office offering also providing a viable alternative at an even cheaper price it might be wise to shop around if you really can't afford to go for Microsoft.