Existing WordPerfect users will find WordPerfect Office X4 Standard Edition worth the upgrade, but Microsoft Office users will find few compelling reasons to switch suites.

When Microsoft Office 2007 hit the streets, its new user interface - topped by a super-sized toolbar called the ribbon - delighted some and frustrated many. Long-standing WordPerfect users will be relieved: the latest release of Corel's WordPerfect Office doesn't have similarly drastic user interface changes.

There's something to be said for WordPerfect Office X4's clean, no-nonsense blank page. While the suite keeps its traditional looks in the new X4 version, it does beef up support for both PDFs and Office 2007 file formats. Existing WordPerfect users will find the new version worth the upgrade, but Microsoft Office users will find few compelling reasons to switch suites.

WordPerfect Office is cheaper than Microsoft Office, but not by much. Although the Standard (£276) version of WordPerfect Office is about £50 off the list price of Microsoft Office, retailers such as Amazon currently offer discounted Microsoft Office prices that bring it within a few pounds of WordPerfect Office, erasing the price advantage.

We looked at WordPerfect Office X4 Standard Edition, which includes the WordPerfect word processor; the Quattro Pro spreadsheet application; Presentations; the Visual Intelligence data analysis software; WordPerfect Lightning, a web-connected note-taking app; and WordPerfect Mail for managing email.

While WordPerfect's comfortable interface hasn't changed much in nearly a decade, the office software market has. WordPerfect is now a very distant second to Microsoft Office. In this position, WordPerfect's most important feature is offering compatibility for file formats from other programs. So how well does it play the compatibility game?

The core WordPerfect Office applications support an impressive range of file formats, including Open Document Format (ODF), the very oldest WordPerfect versions, and a few ancient Microsoft Office formats (Word for DOS, anyone?) that even Microsoft doesn't support anymore. Most important, WordPerfect Office can open the latest XML file formats from Office 2007 (those with the -x extensions, like .docx, .xlsx, and .pptx).

In fact, WordPerfect seems to have an easier time dealing with the new Microsoft Office file formats than with the traditional ones, and often imports them with fewer glitches.

WordPerfect's compatibility is extremely good - but not perfect. Most of the Word documents we tested imported without a hitch, although we had problems with richly formatted documents, such as missing or mangled pictures. Overall, WordPerfect's support for Office file formats is good enough that most workers won't face a headache when exchanging documents with their colleagues.

NEXT PAGE: editing PDFs