Corel Corp. has significantly improved its spreadsheet program, Quattro Pro 9, but fails to go far enough to make it a standout against Microsoft Excel.

Any Quattro Pro 9 work sheet can have up to 1 million rows and 18,278 columns, though no one is likely to create a spreadsheet that big.

Corel has added Dynamic Cross Tab Reports that easily summarize and recalculate data and are handy for reaching certain points within huge amounts of data.

Quattro Pro can post data online much like Microsoft Excel's PivotTable. Unfortunately, I ended up with data in the wrong place several times because of the confusing interface.

The two leading spreadsheets' files are compatible. My tests brought Excel files into Quattro Pro with little difficulty. On occasion some bit of formatting would get lost in translation, but that was much more of a problem when importing Quattro Pro files back into Excel.

I especially liked the new Go To box, which simplified finding cells by name, by recent edits or by locked status. Another setting would automatically expand cells as necessary while I typed.

Interestingly, though, I had problems doing simple things such as moving to the next line of text within a cell. There is a process for this, but most of the shortcuts are counterintuitive.

Quattro Pro has some far-reaching extras, such as the ability to use euro currency values. A feature that might come in handy is the ability for two users to work on a spreadsheet simultaneously, for example, while talking on the telephone. They could change values and evaluate the results with immediate feedback.

Quattro Pro can save multiple versions of a document in the same file for easy review in one session. The new QuickFilter command mimics Excel's AutoFilter but fails to work as well.

To give Corel credit, there are more than 100 new functions in its library for configuring spreadsheets. The program can total by adding all the subtotal fields and can be told to ignore either negative or positive values in a range of data fields.

One big thing Corel did right was to make the Quattro Pro interface resemble the rest of the WordPerfect Office 2000 suite. Launching Quattro Pro had been like visiting Mars compared with earthbound programs. Now the buttons, menu bars and commands look and work the same.

Quattro Pro has become less of an anchor holding down its office suite. It is far from a streamlined hull yet, however, because some functions are just too difficult to use. If spreadsheets are not your priority in an office suite, Quattro Pro will probably suit your needs once you have read the instruction manual. Expect a longer-than-average learning curve.

QUATTRO PRO 9

Spreadsheet in Corel WordPerfect Office 2000

Corel Corp.

Ottawa

Telephone: 1-888-267-3548

Web address: www.corel.com

Price: $117

Grade: B-

PRO:

+ Dynamic Cross Tab Reports help manage data

CON:

- Long learning curve

Real-life requirements: Windows 95 or higher, 200-MHz or faster Pentium MMX, 32MB of RAM, 220MB of free storage space for entire suite