CeePrompt! Computer Connection

Originally published Monday, March 11, 1996 

Finally, a software suite that's Perfect for children

Note 9/1/98 : Since this article was published in 1996, Novell has sold PerfectWorks to Arkose Software, Inc.  They have revamped the software and republished it as Arkose Works 3.0.  Visit their website for additional details http://www.arkose.com/arkoseworks/index.htm

Note: 1/16/01:  Since the above footnote, Arkose appears to have gone out of business. I do not know the fate of Perfect Works, or Akrose works, sadly.  It was a good product. CS

There was a time in history, relatively speaking, when the only association one had with Perfect, were words. WordPerfect has been a word processing staple forever, it seems, and the popular version 5.1 for DOS is still the mainstay of many thriving businesses. It has undergone many upgrades and incarnations with WordPerfect 6.1 for Windows being the latest available version.

But since its acquisiton by Novell in March 1994, Perfect has taken on a new life form of its own. The Novell Perfect Office suite features WordPerfect, QuattroPro, Presentations and Paradox as a competitive suite product to the Microsoft Office. The PerfectHome line of products has replaced Novell's Main Street software and features such products as Perfect Works, tailored for the home and family markets.

And the evolution continues with Canadian based Corel's acquisition of the Perfects in January of this year. Last week Corel announced that it would begin in April shipping the Corel WordPerfect Suite for Windows 3.1x which will feature WordPerfect 6.1, Corel Quattro Pro, and Netscape Navigator bundled with additional products including beefed-up desktop publishing applications. The Windows 95 version of the Corel WordPerfect Suite is scheduled for a May 1996 release. A Corel Office Professional version will also be released which additionally features Paradox, InfoCentral and GroupWise. The32-bit version of the Office Professional is expected to be released in June, 1996.

The fate of the home-based applications has been somewhat uncertain, but I recently confirmed with Novell that they were indeed keeping Perfect Works and would continue to support this product. This is good news indeed since this line of integrated software applications offers the very basics necessary for home computing in an intuitive, user-friendly interface. Perfect Works, and its competitors, Claris Works and Microsoft Works, offer an "all-in-one" package of word processing, database, and spreadsheet options.

I'm particularly pleased that Perfect Works didn't end up on the cutting room floor, since I just finished reviewing it's first release of Perfect Works for Kids and found it to be one of the best applications for kids that I've seen in a long time. It's designed for the 4-10 age group, and isn't just a game-like interface to practice spelling, reading or drawing. Kids can produce book reports, journals, thank-you notes, letters, signs, cards, calendars, independent work and address books all in an interactive, step-by-step, environment.

This program is so interactive, that children need only use the mouse to point to various options, and a friendly voice prompts them instantly through every task. A Reading Bookworm will recite any text that is typed on the screen and Spelling Bee chatters at high speed as it scans every word in the document, searching for misspelled words. Cartoon-like icons represent the text justification tools, font size and type, text styles, text colors and other options such as saving and printing. Letters and book reports are pre-formatted so that kids need only fill in the blanks with their unique information. Saved work can be accessed with just a click on desktop folders.

Waving boldly in the corner of the desktop screen is the America Online flag, which allows users to access their online account directly from Perfect Works. Once online, cyber-kids are automatically connected to the Kids Only area of America Online where they can research topics, get homework help, play games or interact with other America Online youth.

Parents can control all aspects of Perfect Works for Kids and set up to six kids (or grown-ups?) with their own file folders and preferences. Each child's work is saved in their own folders. A parent password can be setup so that children cannot access the program or America Online without supervision. Each child has their own password and program features can be customized and suited to each childs level of literacy.

System requirements for Perfect Works for Kids include: Microsoft Windows 95, 486SX25 or higher processor, 8 MB RAM, Double-speed CD-ROM, Sound card and speakers, 256 color display, mouse and optional modem for online access. I'm relatively sure that Perfect Works for Kids was probably not pivotal in the negotiations between Novell and Corel, but I'm glad to know that someone had the PerfectSense to realize that not all software is big business and high finance. This is a terrific product that really boosts computer literacy and meets the needs of the target age group.
PerfectWorks for Kids Novell, Inc. Orem, UT (800)-453-1267; 801-222-6000 See note above

Cathi Schuler owns a computer literacy training/consulting company, Cee Prompt! She is a co-author of computer textbooks and can be reached by e-mail at cschuler@uop.edu or cschuler@ceeprompt.com or by mail c/o The Record, P.O. Box 900, Stockton, CA 95201. She is on the Internet at: http://www.ceeprompt.com. Click here for past archived columns.
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