This week, Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., has an
exclusive interview with Laura Acklen.
Prolific author and WordPerfect expert,
Laura Acklen, first encountered WordPerfect 4.2 in 1988 when she developed
custom courseware and trained law offices during their conversion from Wang
systems to Novell LANs. Through the early nineties she developed student and
instructor courseware for an international training company, Productivity Point
International. In 1993, she wrote her first two books for Que entitled, “Oops,
What to Do When Things Go Wrong with WordPerfect. Later that year she wrote,
“WordPerfect 6.0 SureSteps”. Since that time she has authored or co-authored
more than a dozen other books for Que including six editions of Special Edition
using WordPerfect (versions 6, 6.1, 7, 9, 10, and the recent 12) and three
versions of The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to WordPerfect (versions 10, 11, and
Laura was contributing editor for the
WordPerfect for Windows Magazine for four years. Currently she writes articles
and tutorials for Corel’s WordPerfect.com website and for their monthly
e-newsletter, “The WordPerfect Expert”. Laura continues to contribute to and
maintain her website, WPWriter.com, which boasts the largest collection of
WordPerfect tips on the web. The site includes articles, links to other
WordPerfect resources, and a page containing updates and patches for virtually
every version of WordPerfect.
Her latest book, co-authored with Read
Gilgen, “Special Edition using Word Perfect 12”, is crammed with tips, tricks,
and practical examples that you won’t find anywhere else.
Q: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with us.
A: It’s my pleasure.
you write for Corel’s WordPerfect.com website and for their monthly newsletter,
the “WordPerfect Expert”. You also contribute to and maintain your successful
website, WPWriter.com and you have just completed your latest book, “Special
Edition Using WordPerfect 12”. Bring us up-to-date and what do you see on the
horizon for yourself?
the newsletter is doing very well and I’ve signed on for another year. I’m very
excited about the positive feedback we’re receiving from subscribers. We’ve
been able to shape our content around user requests, and Corel gives me a lot
of creative freedom, which is quite gratifying.
I am hopeful that we will be updating the
books for the next release of WordPerfect. In the meantime, I
will continue to build the site, adding links to knowledge base articles for
newer releases of WordPerfect, adding more tips and tricks and getting rid of
outdated or dead links. It’s a huge job so I tend to procrastinate a bit. I’ll
also continue to volunteer my time on the WordPerfect Universe forums and on
the Corel newsgroups.
Q: Your latest book, “Special Edition Using WordPerfect 12”, has been
described as the most comprehensive and up-to-date book on the market today - a
must-have reference book. What
differentiates it from other books on the topic? Can you give us an overview?
A: To be honest, there is no other book that covers WordPerfect with such
depth. It is the only reference book available for WordPerfect (versions
10, 11 and 12). There were other reference books available for WordPerfect 9,
but those books were never updated.
Read and I are proud to be able to continue
improving the Special Edition WordPerfect book that we have worked on since
WordPerfect 9. We feel that every new edition is better than the first because
we are able to add time-sensitive information such as the differences in newer
operating systems, updated knowledge base articles and new online resources.
And last, but definitely not least, we add the knowledge that we’ve gained by
supporting WordPerfect users.
To get back to your question: our book is
different because of it’s depth of coverage, but also because it caters to all
levels of user. A complete beginner can pick up the book, learn the basics and
then move on to intermediate and advanced feature sets. On the other hand,
intermediate and advanced users will benefit from tips and tricks for using
features together, troubleshooting strategies that go beyond the most common
problems, and notes that point to additional information available online, or
in the help topics.
Let me also bring up something that I think
is critically important to someone who needs to learn the tools, but doesn’t
necessarily have the time to delve into every nook and cranny. Before we show
the reader how to use a feature, we explain why they would want to learn
that feature. How is the feature used in “real life” situations? We spend a lot
of time and energy coming up with realistic examples that a reader can relate
to. Why do we put so much emphasis on this? Because once someone understands
how a feature can be used, they are more motivated to learn it.
book covers the material in a thorough, but easy to follow format including a
troubleshooting section, and is targeted at both the new and the advanced user.
Content layout can be an issue, especially when dealing with the wealth of
information presented in this book. How have you used your experience in
teaching, courseware development, and troubleshooting to help you to understand
the potential reader and user of your books?
One of the most important things I learned during my days as a corporate
trainer is that you have to explain why someone would want to use a
certain feature before you launch into explaining how to use it. Only if
someone can relate a task back to their own daily work will they invest the
time (and energy) to learn it.
Another important lesson from courseware
development is that you have to be able to anticipate the trouble spots so you
can warn readers before they get lost, confused, and frustrated (in that
order). Also, the best tips in the world are of no use unless you present them
in the proper context. The key is to supplement the “core” material with
valuable information that we have compiled over the years.
I have three school-age children, so I’ve
given up the long hours of corporate training. I stay in touch with the user
base by checking the WordPerfect newsgroups and the forums at WordPerfect
Universe (www.wpuniverse.com) every
day. I can see where people are getting tripped up, and because there is such a
broad range of knowledgeable responses, I have several easy and straightforward
solutions to choose from. When I get stuck, or if I need someone to confirm
something, I can post a message and expect enthusiastic, speedy responses from
WordPerfect users that are scattered all across the globe. I don’t think there
is a friendlier community than the WordPerfect user base.
I truly feel that the enormous amount of
information in the tips, notes, cautions, troubleshooting items and
end-of-chapter projects, is what sets this book apart from other books. A
beginner can choose to read through the steps, noting only the cautions, while
another more experienced user can spend more time on the notes, tips and
you provide us with five tips from your new book “Special Edition Using
A: Absolutely! I edited these a bit from the way
they appear in the book:
1) No matter where you are in a document, no
matter what you are working on, or what you have selected, if you right-click,
you’ll get a menu of items that directly relate to what you are doing. Instead
of using the main menu and hunting for a specific item, you can choose from the
most frequently-used commands on the QuickMenu.
you want the world to see your documents the way they look in WordPerfect, you
can publish them to HTML or PDF, and post them to a Web server in just a few
mouse clicks. A quick related tip: you can embed fonts with your WordPerfect
documents so they will look as you intended, no matter what fonts are present
on the computer.
you are ready to fine-tune your formatting, let the RealTime Preview feature
give you a preview of the change, before you make it! For example, if you want
to change a heading font, select the heading, then open the Font list. As you
arrow down through the list, the heading is dynamically updated to appear in
the selected font. The same thing goes for font size changes, alignment
changes, zoom changes and much more.
you know that you can edit your heading styles to automatically mark headings
for a table of contents? You can, and it only takes a few minutes. Whether you
edit WordPerfect’s heading styles, or the styles that you created, you can mark
headings for a five-level table of contents as you format them for appearance.
collaboration features in WordPerfect make it possible for several people to
work on a single document. Each reviewer has their own color so their changes
are shown in that color. The author can accept or reject each specific change
from series of reviewers either all at once, or one reviewer at a time.
Document compare markings ensure that every change is clearly noted so nothing
is modified without author confirmation.
Q: What major improvements have been made in WordPerfect 12 versus
WordPerfect 11? What justification is there to upgrade to the WordPerfect 12?
Office 12 is described by some as a “compatibility release” because the focus
was on increased compatibility with Microsoft products. Most of the work that
was done is invisible to the average user, until they start exchanging files.
Only then does the hard work done by the programmers become apparent. For the
majority of documents, the conversion is clean and transparent. Microsoft Word
users would never know that a document was originated in WordPerfect.
The Publish to PDF feature was redesigned
to eliminate file bloat and to ensure compatibility with Adobe Acrobat 6.0, so
if you work with PDF files, you’ll definitely want to upgrade.
The new OfficeReady browser is pretty cool
because for the first time, you get a high-resolution preview of the
WordPerfect templates. You can browse, preview, and launch the new OfficeReady
templates in a full-screen application. From time to time, new solution packs are released, which lets you
expand your template collection.
For those considering an upgrade, take a
look at the page at www.wordperfect.com.
Corel has done an excellent job providing materials that explain why you would
want to upgrade, what the minimum system requirements are, the top 10 reasons
to buy, a comparison matrix that explains what is in each edition of
WordPerfect (standard, professional, academic).
looks at the bug/fix success rates of different and major software, and
compared the bug/fix success rate of MS Word and Corel’s WordPerfect. Based on
BugNet's figures over the last 18 months, users of Word have a 10% better
chance of getting bugs fixed than users of WordPerfect. Do you think that this
is a fair assessment?
A: Not really. Word has a larger user base so there are proportionately
more bugs being reported. In that same vein, Microsoft is a huge company so the
number of programmers dedicated to fixing bugs is proportionately larger.
I think the best way to gauge the stability
and usability of an application is to spend time on that company’s newsgroups.
I’ve spent time on both the WordPerfect newsgroups and the Microsoft Word
newsgroups. My perception is that with Microsoft Word, there are more problems
that cannot be fixed, fewer workarounds, and a significantly less flexibility
to customize the program .
Q: As an acknowledged WordPerfect expert, name two areas of improvement
that you would you like to see in the next version of WordPerfect?
A: Continued development of PerfectScript tops my list. I can’t tell you
how many times I’ve seen this mentioned in the newsgroups and at WordPerfect
Universe. There are bugs that need to be fixed and improvements that need to be
made. More comprehensive documentation is a must. If the book publishers won’t
do a book on WordPerfect macros, then Corel should self publish a manual. They
could make it available online as a modestly-priced download.
Second on my list is continued work on file
conversions. This is a hard one because the results are mostly invisible. If
you spend a year working on a product, users expect a bunch of new features and
they don’t get that when resources have been devoted to conversion
improvements. It’s a tough decision for Corel to make and I applaud them for
making the right choice with WordPerfect Office 12.
Q: Word has a large part of the word processing market. With the
compatibility issues between Word and WordPerfect diminishing with successive
versions, do you see a shift coming in the market towards WordPerfect? What do
you see in the future for the two major word processing giants?
I do see a shift happening. WordPerfect is a more economical choice and despite
the prevailing opinion that Microsoft Word is a better application, WordPerfect
is more powerful, more flexible and infinitely customizable. I see Microsoft
Word being relegated to companies that have to use Microsoft products
due to the intermingling of applications and operating systems, especially on
large networks that are running Microsoft network operating system
Home users, students and small-to-medium
sized businesses are not tied down by these issues so they are free to make the
economical choice. They can freely share their documents with Microsoft Word
users by saving their WordPerfect files in Word format.
I see more interface changes for both
programs. I’m not crazy with the direction that Microsoft is taking with the
Task Pane in Word 2003. It’s fairly obtrusive, and even after you turn it off,
it keeps coming back. WordPerfect, on the other hand, has implemented some very
subtle changes. The Workspace Manager, for example, lets you quickly choose
between different interfaces: WordPerfect Classic, WordPerfect 5.1, WordPerfect
Legal and Microsoft Word. If you choose Microsoft Word, you get toolbars and
menus that match Words. There is a toolbar that lets you save documents in Word, PDF, XML or HTML formats with just one click. The Publish to PDF
feature is more user friendly and has more options for customization.
There were countless small changes made in
response to user requests. Those types of changes bring immediate gratification
to users. They are tangible and they obviously save them time.
those ex-WordPerfect or current Word users out there, do you think there is
enough in WordPerfect 12, which would warrant making the switch?
A: I’m a WordPerfect author, so it goes without
saying that I want the product to do well. But it really depends on what a
person wants to do. There are features in WordPerfect that cannot be found in
other programs. For example, the Publish to PDF feature in WordPerfect 12 is
like a diamond in the rough. It was enhanced to decrease file sizes and to update
compatibility with Adobe Acrobat Reader 6.0. To get that same power outside of
WordPerfect, you would have to purchase Adobe Acrobat Reader for around $250.
There are thousands and thousands of
computers sitting in government offices that still run Windows 98. The cost of
upgrading to Windows XP is prohibitive and with tight budgets, new computers
are not on the horizon. The latest release, Microsoft Word 2003, will only run
on Windows 2000 with SP3 and Windows XP. Unless these governmental entities can
upgrade to Windows XP, they will not be able to upgrade to the latest version
of Microsoft Word.
WordPerfect Office 12 will run on Windows
98SE (Second Edition) so it becomes the logical choice. With all of the
interface improvements, it is easier than ever for Microsoft Word users to
migrate over to WordPerfect. During the transition, users can use the Microsoft
Word workspace so the menus and toolbars look familiar. The file format is set
to Word so when they save a file, they don’t have to remember to change it.
Ultimately, the increased power gained with
the Reveal Codes feature will ease the transition process. The people that I’ve
talked to who have been through this change are happier with WordPerfect and
they say it was easier than they thought to make the switch.
books can we look forward from you in the future?
A: As I mentioned earlier, I hope the