A new standard in word processing

Microsoft Word is presenting a
significant challenge to the longtime
word processing standard, WordPerfect


[Dana H. Schultz]

It's no secret that Microsoft Word is presenting a significant challenge to that long-time word processing standard, WordPerfect. According to survey results the Summer 1997 issue of AmLaw Tech, the various versions of WordPerfect currently hold a 58- to 40-percent lead over Word among the top 100 law firms. But with 10 percent of the firms reportedly committed to switching to Word from WordPerfect, Word soon will surge ahead.

It's also no secret that when firms select a new word processor, they almost invariably choose a complete office suit -- including spreadsheet, presentation graphics and so forth -- rather than just the word processor itself. In Microsoft's case, this means Office 97.

The choice

Office 97 comes in two principal versions: Standard Edition and Professional Edition. Both include Word 97 for word processing, Excel 97 for spreadsheets, PowerPoint 97 for presentation graphics and Outlook 97 for e-mail and contact management. Professional Edition includes, in addition, Access 97 for data bases and Bookshelf reference materials.

(A third version, Small Business Edition, substitutes desktop publishing and financial management for Standard Edition's presentation graphics. Small Business Edition often is found pre-installed on new PCs but is not especially useful for most law firms.)

Because of the additional products, Professional Edition is somewhat more expensive than Standard Edition. While prices range all over the board -- for new-purchase vs. upgrade, full-price retail vs. mail-order, single-purchase vs. quantity discount -- for most of my clients the additional cost of Professional Edition is about $75 (more complete pricing information is provided below).

So why should a firm spend the additional $75 per user? Not because of Access, in all likelihood. Access only needs to be licensed for users who will develop Access data base applications. Other users can have a free run-time license to execute those applications. Besides, firms are moving strongly toward using Microsoft SQL Server as their software for firm-wide, client-server data bases.

It turns out that Bookshelf is the little-known resource that really makes Office 97 Professional Edition worthwhile for many firms.

Varied resources

The core of Bookshelf is the American Heritage Dictionary, Roget's Thesaurus and the Columbia Dictionary of Quotations. Known as Bookshelf Basics, this is what the retail customer typically gets, with an offer to receive the other Bookshelf products for a fee of $34.95. Firms, in contrast, usually negotiate a single license fee for the complete Bookshelf collection.

These may seem like mundane products -- but their value has already been proven to me. I used the word "duopoly," referring to an economic condition where power is concentrated in two companies, in a report I was preparing. My word processing spell checker did not recognize "duopoly." Neither did the dictionary sitting in my office. But Bookshelf came to the rescue, confirming the validity of the word and the definition I understood it to have.

Other Bookshelf components include Internet Directory (a guide to over 5,000 Internet resources), Address Builder (a tool that retrieves a complete address when you know only part of it), and thousands of pictures, sounds, video clips and animations that can be added to word processing documents, spreadsheets and presentations.

Estimated retail prices for Office 97 are $499 (Standard) and $549 (Professional) for new users, $249 (Standard) and $349 (Professional) for upgrades. Discounts of at least 15 percent are routinely available from network integrators. For firms that are large enough to negotiate directly with Microsoft, discounts of close to 40 percent can be expected.

Dana H. Shultz is an Oakland-based lawyer, certified management consultant and speaker specializing in office technology and online marketing. He may be reached by e-mail at dhshultz@ds-a.com and on the World Wide Web at http://seamless.com/ds/.