Just the other day I was reminded of some unfinished business by a display in a computer shop.
I’d been meaning to devote a column or two to the recently launched Corel WordPerfect Office Suite for Linux but hadn’t got around to it. Two minutes before deadline I duly sat down at my test system and prepared to take a careful look at the package.
Unfortunately for me, however, Corel Linux had broken in the interim since I’d last used it and it stubbornly refused to start. I feel sure that there is some way of rescuing the situation but I don’t know how at this point.
I’ll return to the subject once my system is fixed because I feel that Corel’s Linux-based operating system and office suite are quite important in that they are the first viable alternative to Microsoft’s wares. Now on to the next item in the review queue which turns out to be Corel Custom Photo. The package consists of Corel Photo House 5 and Project Designer and is aimed at the home user who wants to do a bit of image manipulation and use the images for various projects.
I’ve noticed an increasing tendency for people to turn their computers to good effect by making their own greetings cards and such using family photos. With the price of cards today it’s no wonder and, in any case, most people seem to appreciate a hand-made card.
The general idea is to start in Photo House by getting the image you want to use, from whatever source, and then manipulating it to your satisfaction. There is a fair amount you can do to enhance poor images as well as applying special effects like speed blurs and the like.
Other options include jazzing up the image by adding text, clipart or even by putting a frame around it. You can combine different images into one and place yourself, for example, in front of a backdrop of London or show your enemy in his true guise as a horse’s ass.
With the click of a button you can transfer your image into Project Designer which will allow you to use it in your project. You have the choice of starting your project from scratch or using one of the supplied templates.
There are dozens of these including greetings cards, calendars, newsletters and, even, a seed packet. The most intriguing for me are the magazine covers which could be great novelty items for parties.
Custom Photo is a fun package which will be just the job to get those creative juices flowing. There is no real point to buying it, however, unless you’ve got some means of getting your own images into your computer.
The obvious means to do this is with a digital camera but unfortunately the prices are still too high for the average person. Most of us are still stuck using scanners, if we have them, and will have to wait until the price of digitals comes down considerably.
Last week I said that my Corel Linux installation had unexpectedly broken but that I would try to fix it and then report back.
Linux would not boot at all so I decided that I would first try installing a fresh copy over the top of the broken version. Over the years I’ve learnt that this often fixes recalcitrant MS Windows installations without your having to re-install all your applications.
Corel Linux, or Corel Debian Linux to use its proper name, wasn’t having any of that and the re-installation bombed halfway through. Clearly, sterner measures were called for so I got out my Brillo pad, scoured my D drive down to bare metal and started again.
This time the process went smoothly and, while that was happening, I was able to while away an hour or so playing Ballistic on my other machine and getting, I might add, my second highest score to date.
There was one slight glitch when I came to install Corel WordPerfect Office 2000 beta version but that was only because the manual leaves out a crucial step in the instructions for installing new programs. Fortunately, however, the CD-ROM disc had its own instructions included on it and I was able to get it installed eventually.
The suite consists of WordPerfect, of course, along with the Quattro Pro spreadsheet, Paradox database package, Corel Presentations graphics program and CorelCENTRAL personal information manager which includes a calendar, address book and a module for keeping memos. There are also plenty of extras including Adobe Acrobat Reader, Netscape Navigator, and lots of fonts, bits of clipart and photos.
You might expect something pretty exotic when you fire up the CDL and Corel Office combination but there is something of a let-down when it looks and feels pretty much as if you’ve never left Windows. You don’t get that daring travelling-in-foreign-lands kind of feeling but, on the plus side, there is the comfort of knowing your way around.
In the time I fiddled with the programs in the suite I didn’t encounter any problems except those which could explained by the fact that I only have a beta test version of the package. The programs did limp a bit and I had one case where everything stopped working but, on the whole, they were pretty solid.
The best starting point for most people will the Perfect Expert which gives you the choice of a wide variety of projects such as letters, brochures and CD Covers, to name only a few. Once you’ve chosen what you want to do, the Expert creates the project from a template and then allows you to customise it to your own needs.
Next time I’ll finish off my look at Corel WordPerfect Office 2000 and I’ll report on my efforts to connect install a printer and scanner on the Linux system. I might even try and connect it to my home network if I can resolve the issue of what to call it: in real life its name is Eccles but should that apply to its Linux personality as well?
Last time I told of my exploits with Corel’s Linux operating system and its new WordPerfect office suite.
I wrote that I had been very favourably impressed with both Linux and the suite and said they felt so comfortable that, if you closed your eyes, you might imagine yourself back in Windows land. I had the definite feeling that here at last was a viable competitor for Microsoft’s desktop operating systems.
During my next session with the package, however, I had cause to quickly change my opinion because absolutely nothing I tried worked. Nothing except the games and that’s scant consolation when you’re sitting with a computer that you can’t connect to anything else.
The first thing I tried was installing my HP 710C printer and initially all went pretty well. I soon found that the way to add printers to the system is through the Control Centre which allows you to pick your printer from a list.
There was no 710C but I picked the nearest model number to that and everything seemed fine. It was just that, when I went to print, nothing happened and kept on happening at regular intervals.
I then thought I’d configure the beast so that it would talk to the other PC on my network. In the Help file Corel claims that Corel Linux PCs can talk perfectly well to Windows PCs but I know of one, at least, which doesn’t.
I then decided I’d that I’d give Corel Linux a final chance and see if I could get it to connect to the Internet. It saw my modem; even dialled the number I asked it to but, when it came to logging on, it wasn’t having any.
Before departing for supper in an ill temper I did briefly consider trying to connect my scanner to the PC but I gave up on that. The Help file does mention the word ‘scanner’ but not in the context of devices for sucking pictures into computers.
To compete with Windows effectively, Corel Linux is going to have to be at least as powerful and as easy but unfortunately it’s not. If the Help file had been brilliant it might have made up for a lot but it wasn’t.
All is not gloom on the Corel Linux front, however, because it has plenty of potential and should be much improved in another version or six. I’m giving it the thumbs down for the present as an operating system for the average user but it is still worth the attention of the hobbyist.
The price, at just R99, is perfect and, as I’ve noted before, it does provide a pretty gentle introduction to Linux. You have the option of installing it in an unused partition on your hard drive so that it doesn’t interfere with anything.
There are also help files which go some way to helping figure out how to drive the Web and FTP server and the many other arcane network-type things you get with the package. You will also find a good bit of info at http://linux.corel.com/.
If fiddling around is your sort of thing then Corel Linux may be for you.