Midrange Microsoft alternative

Corel Home Office has much to recommend it, but this new productivity suite is dogged by some notable cons.

Corel Home Office has much to recommend it, but this new productivity suite isn't for everyone. It was never meant to be. Smaller in size, lighter in features, and with certain optimizations built-in for small-screen resolutions, Corel Home Office is squarely aimed at Netbook owners, and among them, home users--both casual consumers and those operating home businesses.

The program's familiar layout emulates Microsoft Office 2007 with tabbed menus and a clean, visual display in all three applications--Write, Calculate, and Show. Its leaner feature set contains all the basic and intermediate features you'd expect in word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation applications, but skimps on the advanced tools that the majority of home users may not use. Innovations include pressing F11 to hide the toolbar and customizing with color. Being able to save in Corel, Microsoft, and PDF formats is a necessity for sharing files with others on different systems.

Despite its pros, Corel Home Office is dogged by some serious cons. Cross-program compatibility was at times subpar, especially when importing data into Calculate. Write has some wrongs when it comes to pasting information from other documents and the Web. Creating and editing charts is confusing and frustrating in all three applications.

Detractions aside, Corel Home Office holds its own as a light productivity suite and is the only one at the time of the review that's been optimized for Netbooks' munchkin size. Consumers looking for the familiarity of Microsoft Office 2007 without the hefty price tag will do well with Corel Home Office, as long as they don't foresee needing the more advanced features for composition, spreadsheets, or presentations and can work around the occasional garbled data conversion.

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