It’s tough being No. 2, especially when you used to be No. 1, so you not only have to try harder, you also have to make it easier. And easier it is; we would rather work on any document in WordPerfect than hack our way through the menu levels of MS Word.

Even a user who gave the WordPerfect

Office suite a thumbs down in CNET reviews (www.cnet.com) commented: “”It’s easier to use and vastly superior to Word.”” Vastly superior is what it is. The main reason the user didn’t give WordPerfect a thumbs up was the conversions from MS Word aren’t quite perfect. We did notice that working in the MS Word mode of WordPerfect, the creation of tables looked different.

WP Office 12 has templates for just about anything you want to compose and print: annual reports, business plans, newsletters, calendars, etc. There’s even a template for printing graph paper. Anything you create can be saved as a PDF file (Adobe’s portable document format) without having to use an extra program.

And this may seem silly, but we are impressed that you can do envelopes with WordPerfect. Yes, you can do envelopes with MS Word, and after months of wandering in the wilderness, some users figure out how, but you can do envelopes right away in WordPerfect.

If you scroll through a selection of fonts in WordPerfect, it immediately shows you how a section or a whole document would look in that font. Cool, as they used to say back in high school.

There’s much more to WordPerfect Office 12 than the word processor. You can do presentations with a feature called, logically enough, Presentations. This is like Microsoft’s PowerPoint, but with lots of extras. PowerPoint is a slide show program. Presentations is a slide show program, animation program, graphics editor and Web page creator. You can edit an old PowerPoint presentation in WordPerfect’s program to jazz it up. Viewing the presentations can be done with Macromedia Flash, a free viewer. Since Flash is required to view Web pages, most people downloaded it ages ago.

The Quattro Pro spreadsheet in WordPerfect Office has a couple of features we love. One is a little blue triangle that appears in the corner of any cell that carries totals or subtotals. If you hover the mouse pointer over that triangle it reveals what formula was used to reach that set of numbers.

Another nifty feature is see-through 3-D bar charts. It’s common for a tall bar to obscure others behind it or make it difficult to read the index numbers at the sides of the chart. Now you can see through the tall guys and easily read what’s behind.

WordPerfect Office 12 is $299 (all prices US) at www.corel.com, which also has a free trial version. We found WP Office 12 for $233 to $252 at discounter www.atomicpark.com. To get the $233 price, we had to start at cnet.com.

By the way, all the new Inspiron line of Dell computers come with WordPerfect Office 12 already installed. The game is afoot, as Sherlock Holmes would say.

OKI DATA LASERS UP FRONT

The new Oki Data color laser printers have the best color quality we’ve ever seen from this kind of printer. The printout even has the kind of semi-glossy finish you see in slick magazine pages.

The charge against color lasers in the past is that you got precision print definition, but not the rich, deep color from a good inkjet. Well, you can forget that; color us deeply impressed.

In PC World Magazine’s recent bench tests of color laser printers, three of the top 10 were from Oki Data, including the No. 1 selection. Unfortunately, that model, the OKI C7300n, costs $2,057. The model C5100n we ran, on the other hand, costs much less. We found it for $700 at Office Depot, and only $575 from discounter www.provantage.com.

The Minolta 2300W color laser we wrote about last year is still the best bargain we could find, selling for less than $500. It’s a great deal for small and home offices; we have one and we love it.

The great thing about color laser printers is that they are cheaper to operate than low-priced color inkjet printers, even after you factor in the higher initial cost. In general, what you get when you go up in price is faster output. The Oki Data C5100n is a good choice for a small business or even a department in a large business, if the demand is not constant.

For more information on Oki Data printers, go to www.okidata.com.

INTERNUTS

— www.virtualtourist.com: An unusual travel information site. The information here is all personal, from people who have been there (wherever the “”there”” is) or have used online travel services. Travelers can register and create their own home page with personal opinions about places they’ve been, restaurants, hotels, museums, nightlife, etc. You can also contact them and ask questions. The opinions are quite candid.

— http://travel.aande.com: This site is maintained by the A&E cable television channel, with additional material from the History and Biography channels. It’s a good way to view photos of a place you might want to visit and get lots of background information. The site then wants to sell you a tour for that place. You don’t have to buy, of course. Examples include Classic Gardens of England, the Leipzig Bach Festival, Rome and the Amalfi Coast. You can also have the site design a custom tour, economy or luxury class.

NOTE: Readers can search three years of columns at the “”On Computers”” Web site: www.oncomp.com and can e-mail the Schwabachs at bobschwab(AT)oncomp.com or bobschwab(AT)aol.com.

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