OfficeReady Professional 4.0 by KMT Software claims to be a virtual panacea for doing template work in Microsoft Office Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. A user can select, modify, or create a template for the visual elements of these Office documents.
OfficeReady Professional 4.0 seems to be ideal for an organization that needs to produce all of its forms, documents, and other assets in uniformity. It enables the unification of the company’s or organization’s “look” and “identity”.
OfficeReady Professional 4.0 comes with more than 250 Microsoft Word Templates, more than 75 Microsoft Excel Templates, and in excess of 75 Microsoft PowerPoint Templates.
In this review I’ll take a look at what OfficeReady Professional 4.0 can really do for you and whether it does what it’s supposed to. OfficeReady Professional 4.0 is of particular interest to me because I’ve always been pretty good at making visually interesting documents in Microsoft Word, Small Business Accounting 2006, and Office Accounting 2007. It will be interesting to see how OfficeReady Professional 4.0 stacks up against these three powerhouses.
Price to Value (4 out of 5)
KMT Software has two versions of OfficeReady Professional 4.0; Pro at $69.95 and Deluxe at $49.95. There are “Template Packs” which largely contain more of the same types of templates which come with the OfficeReady installations.
It appears that the biggest difference between the Pro and Deluxe versions is that the Deluxe version lacks PDF roundtrip capabilities and comes with fewer templates.
In this review I’m using the “Pro” version. Consider that in Microsoft Office you can manually create document templates and get virtually the same results that you can with OfficeReady Professional 4.0. Of course, with OfficeReady Professional 4.0 you have the theme browser, the Color Theme Manager, the image editor, and PDF roundtrip capabilities. No doubt it’s easier to create document templates with the head start OfficeReady Professional 4.0 gives you.
I didn’t really factor in the value of the hundreds of forms since I didn’t see a single one that I’d be comfortable using for myself or a client. Except a few, they were all kind of corny and had that clip art feel that was so prevalent in years past. That style has thankfully begun to disappear.
I don’t think that the massive supply of templates in OfficeReady Professional 4.0 is really that much of a benefit. I would rather have a fraction of them if they were of better quality.
Installation & Setup (5 out of 5)
Setup for OfficeReady Professional 4.0 was great and utilized the InstallShield installer. The installer is well designed to provide you with installation options such as features and file locations. You can also install it as a demo or an unlocked version. The installer was a little hefty, weighing in at 145 MB for the initial download but there are quite a few printable format images in the supplied templates. It installed smoothly and had the familiar “unlock code” type of activation.
User Interface (3 out of 5)
The first time OfficeReady Professional 4.0 launches, you will be prompted to create a profile which will become your default profile. As you use the document templates data from this profile you can insert them automatically into the documents you create. The application consists mainly of the Template Browser window which allows you to browse through the collection of templates, make changes to them, and use the various other features built into OfficeReady Professional 4.0. The UI is generally well laid-out, intuitive, and responsive.
I wasn’t very impressed with how OfficeReady Professional 4.0 integrated into word 2007’s Ribbon (that’s what they’re calling the toolbar now). While using the buttons I found them to be relatively non-intuitive. Furthermore, they mixed in with buttons installed with other applications instead of having a better group delineation.
I also found the link at the bottom of the left pane of the Template Browser (Get More Templates) and the link at the upper right of the Template Browser (Print For Less) slightly distasteful. I have a problem with applications that I buy which have any kind of advertising in them. I don’t even like it when my printer properties dialog offers to help me order more ink. I can tolerate free applications selling me stuff, but paid applications are another story.
Product Features (4 out of 5)
Besides the Template Browser, OfficeReady Professional 4.0 has these notable features:
- PDF Roundtrip.This handy feature allows you to save a word document as a PDF. You can also open PDF documents as if they were Word documents, edit them, and then save them in PDF, or Word format.
- Automatic Profiles. Profiles contain your personal and/or business information. This information is then automatically inserted into corresponding fields in the templates to personalize your document. By setting up a profile, you will avoid needing to type in your information into every template. Whether or not you automatically apply your profile each time you create a new document is optional.
- Photo Editor. Surprisingly, OfficeReady Professional 4.0 has a photo editor built right in. It’s better than Microsoft Paint and since it’s designed for the type of photo editing one would encounter while working with a document template it’s fairly efficient. Although it’s not a replacement for a stand-alone photo editor like Photoshop.
- Photo Sockets. This is a unique concept and helpful in creating visual impact in your documents. The Photo Socket is similar to an “Auto Shape” type of vector shape you can insert in Word, but they act as a mask so you can turn your rectangular photos into circles, ovals, and other shapes.
- Color Themes. By using Color Themes a user can radically change the color scheme of a document template. The built-in Color Manager lets you pick any color from your documents, images and photos. By using this method you can quickly and easily create a color theme for a document that will perfectly match the logo and/or other document elements. Color Themes can also be imported and exported to be used on other computers running OfficeReady.
Oddly, the weakest feature of OfficeReady Professional 4.0 is the template set that comes with it. It would seem to me that there aren’t too many organizations that could use them as they are “out of the box.” Any organization that would wish to use these templates professionally would either edit the supplied templates heavily or replace them entirely.
Performance (5 out of 5)
OfficeReady Professional 4.0 ran as expected on my 1.5 GHz Celeron M laptop with 512MB of ram and Office 2007 on Windows XP.
Help & Support (2 out of 5)
Help is available through the Template Browser window and OfficeReady installs a link to the same “help” file on the start menu’s OfficeReady entry. This help file is a frameset containing the menu and documentation for the product as well as links to some video tutorials and other assets.
There’s also forum, FAQ, and email support available on the company’s internet support site.
Help documentation was apparently out of sync with the application version I was using. For instance, when I looked under “Working With Word Documents” at the “Adding Embellishments” page, the instructions were to set the insertion point in the Word Document and click the “Add PhotoSocket” button on the Office Ready toolbar. Then the instructions show an Embellishments folder, which is something that’s supposed to be available in the “Platinum” edition.
That sent me back to the sales pages for OfficeReady to look for the price of that version. There is no Platinum version available, and from my experimentations there is no “Embellishment” available within the user interface for the product at all.
Another thing I didn’t like about the documentation is that the video tutorials were video only with no sound. Instead of a voice-over on the videos they use callouts which are out of sync with the mouse movements in the video just enough to be a little confusing.
I think the developers should look more closely into providing a better integration with Office 2007’s Ribbon.
As a framework for making and controlling templates and themes for Office documents OfficeReady Professional 4.0 is a pretty good application. It’s obvious that the designers configured a multi-user situation since they built in the Profile Manager into it. Based on the default templates that come with it, the application can handle, organize, and provide fast access to the templates. I’m particularly pleased to see the keyword facility to aid in finding the template you want quickly.
While I’m definitely not in love with any of the stock templates, they would serve as a good beginning for users who want to customize them or make their own. The fact that the Excel templates are set up to do calculations right out of the box means you can wring some additional value out of the application.
I’m giving it a tepid “thumbs-up”. If the application designers would hire a graphics person to make some really fantastic cutting-edge Office document templates, clear out some of the dead wood in the supplied collection, get rid of the “sales oriented” aspects of the user interface, and improve the help and tutorial documents the endorsement would be much stronger.