Putting office suites to the test

Chameleon

The Chinese office suite also reveals itself to be extremely visually versatile. The Tools | Switch UI menu allows you to choose between several tile views of the interface or the classic layout; you must restart the respective program module to activate the selected interface. You can use the individual modules with different interfaces, because the selection only applies to the active module. This minimizes the learning curve for newcomers who stick to using the interface they are familiar with from the office package they previously used.

WPS Office is also very flexible and innovative when it comes to language support: The community is currently completing localization tasks, but the package is a delight, with its tremendous support of foreign languages. You can change the language with just a few clicks of the mouse from the Tools | Switch Language menu.

When you select the desired language from a new dialog, the system downloads the relevant language files from the web. WPS enables the new localization after restarting the respective program module (e.g., Writer, Presentation, etc.).

Unlike the visual themes, the language selection affects all modules of the suite, meaning you do not need to adjust the language in each and every module. WPS Office simultaneously stores several localized versions, so you can switch between languages in the language dialog box with a mouse click and module relaunch (Figure 9).

Figure 9: A few clicks change the language in WPS Office.

Similarly unusual is the way WPS Office manages backup copies. If the program terminates unexpectedly, it can still access the active document. After restarting, Tools | Backup Management will bring up a list view in the sidebar that displays all of the backup files. You can select the desired recovery file there.

File Formats

The Chinese office suite claims to be fully compatible with Microsoft Office documents. Although WPS Office has its own file and template format, it naturally provides conversion filters for the import and export of content in various Microsoft formats.

The WPS suite also offers filters for templates with built-in macros, the only contestant in this test to do so. Microsoft saves macros with a .dotm or .docm extension in the new versions of its Office program. Nonetheless, in many cases, WPS Office has to throw in the towel with Microsoft documents containing macros or scripts.

In my test with complex templates, WPS Office did not achieve full compatibility with its conversion functions for MS Office formats, although it had by far the best result compared with the other office suites, especially when taking on OOXML documents. Graphics, tables, and placeholders appeared in the appropriate places, with fonts rarely switched.

Beyond the Microsoft world, the WPS Office modules offer hardly any options for exchanging data, however. The suite only offers filters capable of handling web pages and the simplest text files without formatting. The office suite is apparently unfamiliar with the Open Document Format, although it still recognizes the dBASE database format, which in fact is no longer in use. The DIF format, also very dated and almost irrelevant in modern IT infrastructures, is still supported by the spreadsheet application (Figure 10).

Figure 10: Almost perfect: Handling Microsoft documents without macros and scripts in WPS Office.

Teamwork

WPS Office also performs pretty well with documents to be edited by multiple users. The office suite from Beijing is the only product in the test that highlights the comments and their related references and labels completely and with the correct colors. Simple symbols in the status lines of individual comments also make it easier to edit or delete annotations. You can create new references and comments with the Insert | Comment menu item, and the software automatically selects the relevant colors for new commenters, making it clear which person is the source of each comment.

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