A couple of software publishers are betting that WordPerfect isn't perfect.
They have introduced add-in programs that make it easier to use WordPerfect, the best-selling word processing software that is both powerful and difficult to learn.
Ko-Pilot, $90, from Insight Resource Inc., Tarrytown, N.Y., (914) 332-1589, and Perfectly Simple, $130, from GR Technology Inc., Memphis, (800) 525-4423, each seeks to improve the command menu that comes with WordPerfect's latest edition, version 5.1.
Ko-Pilot is a nice improvement. Perfectly Simple is not as helpful, and it's overpriced compared with Ko-Pilot, even at Perfectly Simple's $77 introductory price.
Ko-Pilot is a memory-resident program that coexists with WordPerfect. Installation is simple, and all of the Ko-Pilot files are placed in a separate subdirectory of your hard disk. There they cannot get lost among the WordPerfect program files or replaced by some subsequent upgrade of WordPerfect.
To use Ko-Pilot, you type the command "KO" instead of the "WP" you usually type to use WordPerfect. That causes Ko-Pilot to be loaded into memory and starts WordPerfect.
Thereafter, pressing the F3 key displays Ko-Pilot's more elaborate and more extensive menu set across the top of the screen. Like WordPerfect, Ko-Pilot divides the menu into nine basic topics, but they are organized differently. The categories -- Help, Document, Edit, Format, Settings, Print, Tables, Advanced and Quit -- are grouped more logically than WordPerfect's File, Edit, Search, Layout, Mark, Tools, Font, Graphics and Help.
The pull-down menus are more detailed, too. A short version is initially shown and pressing the tab key reveals the longer listings.
Context-sensitive help is built into the menu structure so that as you make choices, a description of what you are doing appears in a box superimposed over your text.
There are two ways to use Ko-Pilot. In its normal mode, you simply select commands from Ko-Pilot menus and the associated WordPerfect actions are automatically executed. This is the easiest way to use the program and it really makes some of WordPerfect's more complex tasks easier.
The second mode teaches you the real WordPerfect keystrokes to accomplish each task. It is the way to go if your goal is to learn how to use WordPerfect unassisted, which is ultimately the fastest way for a full-time user.
But you pay a penalty while you are learning because it takes twice as many steps to do anything. The reason is that Ko-Pilot explains the WordPerfect command for each action and then forces you to hit the appropriate keys. It is probably easier than going through WordPerfect's tutorial program. But easiest of all is to forget about the underlying WordPerfect commands and let Ko-Pilot run the program from its menus.
Actually, you can do a combination of both, reserving Ko-Pilot for the seldom-used and complicated tasks you can't remember, while issuing the basic WordPerfect keystroke commands to do the more frequent editing, formatting and printing tasks.
Perfectly Simple takes a different approach. Instead of using an unobtrusive menu line at the top of the screen, it plops a big menu box in the middle of your screen when you start it up, from which you can do basic file management, editing, formatting and printing tasks. This auxiliary program is less sanitary in its installation process, too. It copies its files into the WordPerfect directory where they are difficult to distinguish from the regular WordPerfect files.
To run Perfectly Simple, you type "PS" instead of "WP" and it calls up WordPerfect after it loads itself into memory.
There is no training mode, but some on-screen explanations are provided. Performance is noticeably slower than Ko-Pilot. Some of WordPerfect's more advanced features cannot be reached from Perfectly Simple's menus, such as creation of tables of text, tables of contents, indexes or formatting text into multiple columns.
There are 10 major choices on the Perfectly Simple main menu, some branching into additional choices. They cover the basics for using WordPerfect and are easily understood. The choices are: Paper Size, Begin/Resume Typing, Manage Files, Format, Edit, Comment/Search/Cursor, Dictionary/Thesaurus, Print/View File, Erase Working File and Exit Word Processor.
But I question whether Perfectly Simple really makes using WordPerfect 5.1 much easier than that version's own menus. If you don't have 5.1, you're probably better off spending your money upgrading to the current version before deciding to buy Perfectly Simple -- or even Ko-Pilot for that matter.Richard O'Reilly designs microcomputer applications for the Los Angeles Times. Readers' comments are welcomed, but the author cannot respond individually to letters. Write to Richard O'Reilly, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, Calif. 90053.