A Review of OfficeReady Professional 4: Ready or Not?
OfficeReady Professional 4.0 is essentially an interface tool designed for the Microsoft Office suite. It’s only available for PCs and performs just about every function that one could imagine. For example, there are three basic categories; Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Within these categories one can find an extensive array of templates. Word contains more than 250 templates that can be used for a variety of applications including brochures, flyers, fax cover sheets, CD-DVD labels, eBooks, and photo sheets. Excel contains more than 75 templates that can be used for expense reports, balance sheets, sales forecasts, calendars, purchase orders, and retirement documents. PowerPoint contains more than 75 templates that follow a number of themes such as, earth, education, finance, nature, technology, and the Internet. All of these are embedded within a powerful engine that allows the user to construct professional looking documents. For more on this, see the “Features” later in this review.
Allume Systems, makers of Office Ready Professional 4.0, is a division of Smith Micro, the company that develops communication software for the wireless industry. According to its website, Smith Micro has been in business for over 20 years and has an impressive product portfolio. For example; Quick Link Mobile, Quick Link Mobile Enterprise, Quick Link Phone Manager, Quick Link Music, StuffIt, StuffIt Wireless, Spring Cleaning, CheckIt, Internet Cleanup, FAXstf, and Aquazone are all Smith Micro products. On the surface it’s unclear, however, how Allume Systems fits in to the picture–whether it was bought out by Smith Micro or is a spin-off company. Furthermore, the maturity of the Allume Systems product line was not readily apparent. Nevertheless, its parent company looks to be strong enough to assume that Allume Systems is not going anywhere soon.
Installation & Setup (4 out of 5)
The installation and setup of OfficeReady Professional 4.0 went smoothly. The dialog boxes contained professional looking graphics that were aestheticaly pleasing. The program even runs a nice Macromedia Flash player that gives a brief preview about finding templates, templates in general, custom templates as well as a host of other features. At any rate, the process was smooth, seamless and the instructions were clear. Even the novice user should be able to handle it easily. Overall, the installation was super easy and there were no surprises.
The user should make sure that they have a fast internet connection in order to download OfficeReady Professional 4.0. If one was forced to rely on something like DSL it could take very long. As a cautionary note, users should pay close attention not only to the system requirements but to the other requirements as well. For example, one could run into trouble if they didn’t have all of the latest patches and minimum Widows Office program requirements. These issues, however, are covered on templatezone.com and and other related websites. Finally, during the installation there is a page that attempts to get personal information. The user can opt out by simply providing a system name and leaving the other fields blank . Nevertheless, I find probes like these unwelcome these days.
User Interface (4 out of 5)
The user interface for OfficeReady Professional 4.0 is straight forward and amazingly easy to use. The reason for this is that there is a basic toolbar at the top with only three basic categories in a vertically oriented management field . Navigation for accessing Word, Excel and Power Point templates is on the left of the sreen. Immediately above this is a “View All Templates” selection which is the default display selection for the main window. Above that is a search utility. The main window displays twelve templates that are large enough to give the user an idea of what’s available. Scrolling down reveals more and more templates. The tool bar at the top is divided in half with “Manage Color Themes” in the left most position. Selecting this opens a window that provides a “Basic and Custom” color palate, the functionality to “Create a New Theme,” “Edit Existing Theme,” and “Import/Export a Theme.” To the right of “Manage Color Themes” is “PDF Roundtrip.” This opens a dropdown that offers two simple choices; “Convert Office to PDF” and “Convert PDF to Word.” Once selected, the former opens a simple window that provides two choices; “Select an existing MS Office file” or “Select a destination for you new PDF.” In the latter case, “Select an existing PDF file” and “Select a destination for your new document” are your options. Finally, to the right of “PDF Roundtrip” is “Printing For Less.” This is a browser utility that takes the user to the ‘Printing for Less’ website. In the top half of the tool bar and in smaller font is found “Tutorials,” “Profiles,” “Preferences,” and “Help”. These offer similarly friendly windows and selections. For example, “Tutorials” is a browser utility that takes the user to OfficeReady tutorials. “Profiles” opens a simple management window with the usual “Add,” “Edit,” “Delete,” and “Rename” functions for whatever profile information was entered during the installation process. “Preferences” is simply a management window containing “General” and “Import/Export” tabs each with easy to use check boxes. Finally, “Help” is also a browser utility that takes the user to OfficeReady help.
Considering all of the above, there would seem to be very little that one could do to improve the OfficeReady Professional 4.0 UI. Everything about it is straight forward providing a comfortable experience with all the functionality needed.
When OfficeReady Professional 4.0 opens the default display covers the operating system tool bar at the bottom of the window. Since there is also no apparent way to change this in “My Preferences,” the user has to minimize OfficeReady Professional 4.0 in order to work on other tasks.
Product Features (4 out of 5)
OfficeReady Professional 4.0 includes an extensive set of new and worthwhile features including the following:
· Color Theme Management.
This new feature allows the user to create color themes or use existing color themes from just about any source. A Color Picker provides the functionality necessary to select colors from any website, document, or logo. Then you can save those selections for application to any OfficeReady template.
· PDF Roundtrip.Provides the functionality necessary to create PDF files from Microsoft Word, Excel, Power Point, as well as Publisher files. Once created, the user can edit the file and then convert it back to PDF.
· Unique PhotoShop Shapes.This feature increases the creative range of the user by providing various shaped image borders such as curves, circles, slants and geometric shapes.
· Template Browser Interface.Allows the user to create a customized user interface in order to organize, find, and rate templates.
· Improved Excel Templates.An upgraded feature including more than 75 modifiable templates. Office Ready also has an impressive array of standard features including the following:
· Over 250 Word templates, over 75 Excel templates and over 75 Power Point templates.
· A PDF creator allowing the user to create PDF’s from any Word, Excel or Power Point file.
· Automatic Profiles that allow the user to insert a name, address, logo, or signature image into a document.
· A Photo Editor that allows the user to insert images and pictures from a computer, camera, or scanner into a document.
· Professional printing services allows the user to send documents to a low cost commercial printing company called Printing for Less.
Given the above, the new feature set and the standard feature set are very attractive and contain everything that one would expect in a product of this type, and even a little more.
The Excel templates are business oriented and cover six categories from Business Management to Sales and Marketing. The program needs to include more of these templates so that the user doesn’t have to go to templatezone to obtain more of them.
The Power Point templates cover eleven categories from “Earth Views” to “World Currency.” Each of these contains an average of eight templates. Those who do a lot of Power Point presentations will likely want more than this. Again, they should provide more of these with the program. Moreover, the templates that are provided don’t seem to be arranged in any particular order; e.g. from light background to dark back ground etc.
Overall, both Excel and Power Point are limited in both number and variety of templates therefore the program would be more attractive if more of these were provided.
Performance (5 out of 5)
Performance is flawless in a typical exercise of OfficeReady Professional 4.0. All functions occur quickly and with no apparent hang-ups. For example, template modifications such as Photo editing, inserting Photosockets, and adding notes can be performed without error. Managing color themes and applying them to any template also occurs quickly and error-free. The conversion from Microsoft Office to PDF and PDF to Word in the general case performs seamlessly also. Overall, OfficeReady Professional 4.0.’s internal integrity and external compatibility appear to be very tight.
The conversion from Word to PDF appears to hang up sometimes. In fairness though, this isn’t easy to reproduce. There were no format changes except in one case when OfficeReady Professional 4.0. didn’t convert a dotted line but just left white space instead.
Help & Support (5 out of 5)
The fact that OfficeReady Professional 4.0. offers free technical suppoort needs to be shouted from the roof tops. Both telephone and email support are available Monday through Friday from 9AM to 6PM Eastern Standard Time. Service is fairly quick and thankfully, there are very few buttons to push before you talk to a live person. Also available is an online support forum at the templatezone.com portal.
Price to Value (4 out of 5)
OfficeReady Professional 4.0 is affordable. The price to value is good and in the range of what one would expect for a product such as this.
OfficeReady Professional 4.0 is a worthwhile product that is easy to use, performs well, and has many desirable features. It’s a solid purchase for users who produce a lot of Word documents. It’s not as valuable for Excel and PowerPoint users. However, to offset this limitation, additional template packs for Excel and PowerPoint can be obtained from templatezone.com. Nevertheless, Allume Systems appears to be making strides with each new product release by adding new features and increasing the number of templates. Hopefully, the drawbacks mentioned will disappear with time.
Microsoft Word, Excel, Power Point, Adobe Acrobat, PDF Converter Professional, PDF Create! 4.