Safe and dependable software old-timers WordPerfect and WinZip have been bestowed with some upgrades. WordPerfect gets a major overhaul with Version X4, while WinZip's 11.2 adds some new features to the program, the first update in a year.

WordPerfect X4 gives users a choice of interfaces and defaults at startup. (Credit: Corel)

You can read the full CNET Reviews analysis of WordPerfect X4 here, but in short, it's a good, solid improvement on what has gone before in the suite even if it is cost-prohibitive and not quite as spiffy as one would hope. It's able to gracefully handle more than 60 document formats, including the nascent Open Document Format, a stark contrast to Microsoft Office's decision to create its own "open format" instead.

It's also useful that WordPerfect displays different interfaces for different purposes, with a different look for the main interface, for WordPerfect 5.1, for MS Word, and for Legal mode. The WordPerfect suite includes spreadsheet-creating Quattro Pro and PowerPoint analogue Presentations, both of which have improved with the times--but not dramatically so.

The two new apps in the suite are Lightning and Mail. Mail is an e-mail client comparable with Outlook, but lacks built-in configurations for handling Gmail, Yahoo, and other Web-based e-mail systems as Mozilla Thunderbird does. Lightning was somewhat disappointing for Corel's answer to Web 2.0. Online services provide 200MB of storage for free, a file navigator indexes your hard drive, and a lightweight viewer and text editor round out the package. While it offers a lot, the workflow isn't always intuitive.

Besides the price, though, other problems included difficulty managing multiple documents opened simultaneously in WordPerfect, and a lack of refinement to many of the newer features. Users who are turned off by Microsoft's changes in Office 2007 might find X4 to be a suite worth investing in. Personally, I used WordPerfect for nearly 20 years, but gave it up last year to jump to

WinZip now supports a second interface that looks more like Explorer. (Credit: CNET Networks)

WinZip's changes are far less extensive, but should please people who are still loyal to the program. Native LHA support has been added, so that WinZip can create and manage LHA files, and unicode support has been extended to sharing files that have names with international characters. ARC and ARJ support has been removed.

I was actually surprised, though, by some of the newer features I hadn't picked up on when versions 11 and 11.1 came out. Most interestingly, there's now a new spreadsheet-style interface that I found to be easier to use and far more pleasant to look at than the old open interface that is also still available. RAR and BZ2 extraction support was added, too, both long-overdue compatibility issues.

It's great to see both WordPerfect and WinZip still kicking around after all these years, but if news of open-source software's rising dominance is to be believed, these programs will have an even shorter lifespan than I'd thought unless they make some drastic changes.