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FOSS word processors compared: OOo Writer, AbiWord, and KWord

By Bruce Byfield on August 23, 2005 (8:00:00 AM)

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OpenOffice.org receives most of the attention among free and open source (FOSS) office suites, but users shouldn't forget that free software includes at least two other word processors: AbiWord, part of a projected GNOME Office, and KWord, part of the KOffice suite. From their inception, both have been playing catch-up with OpenOffice.org's Writer. But now, after several years of development, AbiWord and KWord are both reaching early maturity. How do Writer, AbiWord, and KWord compare?

To see, I installed the latest versions available in Debian packages: AbiWord 2.27-3, KWord 1.3.2, and the 1.9.121 build of the OpenOffice.org version 2 beta. I compared the three programs using some of the more common features of word processors as evaluation criteria:

  • Interface
  • Styles
  • Templates
  • Adding objects
  • Bulleted and numbered lists
  • Page layout, frames, and sections
  • Headers and footers
  • Tables
  • Indexes and tables of contents
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • File import and export
  • Unique features

The final results give an encouraging snapshot of the current state of free software word processors, while also showing how far each has to go in some areas.

The general interface

All three programs show the influence of Microsoft Word, and this influence is especially visible in Writer and AbiWord. Both these programs are likely to spark debate on the relative merits of having a common interface standard for common work flows and the copying of a non-ergonomic design. For example, does Writer really need to repeat Word's use of the confusingly similar Configuration and Options in the Tool menu? Similarly, must AbiWord imitate Word, in which changing a style requires drilling down several levels to the options?

Along with Word's influence, Writer adds several others. Adobe Acrobat's is visible in the PDF export dialog, while the wizards for adding fonts and dictionaries share a standard only with each other. Somewhere among these influences, presumably, Writer also shows traces of the original StarDivision design, although this influence seems to get weaker with each release, as the project tries to encourage Office users to make the switch.

AbiWord sports a clean, easy-to-see interface on the first level. However, users open windows and dialogs, the interface often appears less polished. The deeper interface is particularly prone to verbose text, where a concise phrase and a diagram would be clearer.

Some users may dislike the plastic look of KWord's icons. Yet, KWord's interface is generally less imitative and far cleaner than either Writer's or AbiWord's. Unlike the other two programs, KWord shows signs of someone actually rethinking the user interface. It opens faster than the other two programs because the first screen offers a selection of basic options for a user starting a word processor. Similarly, because frames are an important feature in KWord, the editing window has a Document Structure pane to keep track of multiple frames. On the whole, KWord does a good job of putting basic choices on the toolbar and saving complexities for the menu items. KWord's interface isn't perfect -- for example, the diagrams for choosing shadows for headers and footers are too small to be useful -- but it generally shows more thought than the interface of the other programs.

The Verdict: KWord wins the race for best interface, with AbiWord back a good ways, and Writer panting far in the rear.

AbiWord Interface
AbiWord - click to enlarge

Styles and their implementation

Like classes in object-oriented programming, word processor styles are tools that, in the hands of advanced users, become economically elegant. The emphasis that each program places on styles reveals its origins.

Designed like FrameMaker or PageMaker for creating long, heavily designed documents, Writer emphasizes styles from the start. The floating Styles and Formatting window pops open with the program and offers five types of styles -- paragraphs, character, frame, page, and lists -- all with the sort of detail that might be found in a desktop publishing program. Users can write short, plain documents without resorting to styles, but full access to many features requires users to embrace styles wholeheartedly.

By contrast, AbiWord and KWord are more willing to accommodate manual formatting. KWord does not even list styles anywhere on the toolbars. In fact, KWord offers only a dozen predefined styles, of which three are used automatically when a table of contents is created. AbiWord is more generous, offering three dozen styles. Both name their styles with a clarity that Writer often lacks; for example, they use Lower Roman List or Disc Bullets rather than Writer's Numbered1 and List 2.

Like most word processors, both AbiWord and KWord have settings for paragraph and character styles. These have mostly adequate options, although they are basic compared to Writer's.

Each program has some small quirks in these categories. AbiWord, for instance, treats superscripts and subscripts as font attributes for manual formatting and does not include them among character style options. Similarly, KWord's heading styles have outline numbering enabled by default. This practice might be useful for outlining, but it is obsolete for most other purposes.

AbiWord and KWord also have list styles that compare favorably with Writer's in their options for aligning and customizing bullets and numbers. KWord rounds off its styles with frame styles. Neither program has page styles or an equivalent to master pages, which makes different page layouts in both programs more difficult than in Writer.

Because they are not listed in the editing window, KWord is the hardest of the three programs in which to use styles. AbiWord has a floating window called the Stylist -- the old name for the Styles and Formatting window in Writer -- as well as a tool like Writer's for importing styles from another document, and a drop-down list on the first view of each style window for removing individual features without opening another window. This ease of use, however, is marred slightly by the long summary of features, and the fact that users cannot modify styles from AbiWord's Stylist.

Verdict: The decision is much closer than I expected. Writer is still strongest in styles because of the number of features that it includes with each style. However, AbiWord has closed the gap in recent releases, with KWord not far behind.

Templates

Like styles, templates are a way to save time by planning and re-using the structure of existing documents. All three programs avoid the difficulties caused in Word by letting users apply multiple templates to a document, or modify an existing template with changes from the current document.

The main difference among the programs is in the available selection. Writer offers none, although many can be downloaded from the OOoExtras site. KWord's default templates are based on page size and can be added to by selecting File > Create Template From Document. AbiWord's templates contain both content and structure that are suitable for consultants or small business. Their quality is much higher than generic templates used in most word processors. Unfortunately, the editing window doesn't include a way to add other templates to the list that appears when File > New using Template is selected. Instead, users must add templates either to their home directories or the directory in which AbiWord is installed. This is a minor but annoying task.

Verdict: In the area of templates, AbiWord and KWord tie. AbiWord would win if users could add more templates from within the program.

Adding objects

Writer supports the most types of objects. Its list includes several that are unsupported by AbiWord or KWord, such as hyperlinks, OLE objects (in Windows versions), and, new in version 2.0, movies and sounds in a variety of formats.

Other objects are supported by Writer and only one of the other two applications. Like Writer, KWord supports images from scanners. However, KWord offers fewer controls over scanners than Writer, which offers enough features to make it a replacement for xsane. Both Writer and KWord support formulas, thus sharing the advantages of being part of office applications that include formula editors. On the other hand, only Writer and AbiWord support inserted scripts.

All three programs support graphics adequately. However, users who like to reduce file size should know that AbiWord only embeds graphics and cannot simply link to them, while KWord describes linked graphics as "in-line." Neither AbiWord nor KWord allows linked graphics to be converted to embedded ones, as Writer does from Edit > Links.

Verdict: Here the finishing order is Writer, KWord, AbiWord. AbiWord's support of objects is basic, and remains one of its weakest points.

Bullets and numbered lists

AbiWord, KWord, and Writer all include detailed options for positioning bullets and numbers in relation to list items. In KWord, however, these options are available only as styles; from KWord's toolbar button, the only choice is the type of bullet or the numbering system.

When you cut and paste list items into new positions or create nested lists, they remain uncorrupted in KWord and Writer. In AbiWord, you can perform these routine tasks without problems only through the Formats > Bullets and Numbering window. This window has three buttons at the bottom: Start New List, Apply to Current List, and Attach to Previous List. Unless you use these buttons with selected items, any attempt at editing lists in AbiWord either corrupts the list or upsets indentation. The system works, but it is much clumsier than the equivalent tools in Writer and KWord.

Verdict: Writer and KWord are best with bullets, followed by AbiWord.

KWord Interface
KWord - click to enlarge

Page layout, frames, and sections

If styles are part of Writer's logic, then frames are part of KWord's. In fact, frames are so central to KWord's scheme of things that page templates are divided into Text Oriented and Page Layout categories, according to whether the design begins with a main frame. KWord also includes buttons on the left side of the editing window for working with frames, as well as a Document Structure pane for showing how frames are nested. Each frame can be extensively customized, and together frames can be used to quickly build documents of surprising complexity. Unfortunately, this emphasis is weakened by the lack of any concept of a page as a unit of design.

Writer has the opposite problem: It includes page styles, but its frames are harder to manage. A particularly difficult problem is connecting frames for text flow, especially when the frames involved are on separate pages. With its Document Structure pane and dialog, KWord manages this task far more easily.

Both KWord and Writer would receive boosts as desktop publishing programs if they included a means of repeating frames in the same position on more than one page.

As an alternative to text frames, Writer offers sections, which allow parts of a page to be quickly formatted differently from the rest. Writer sections can be password-protected or hidden, but the difference between sections and frames is poorly explained in OpenOffice.org documentation. With a little rethinking, Writer should be able to combine them.

In contrast to the other two programs, AbiWord's page layout options are limited to selecting a background image or color.

Verdict: Writer tops the page layout category for its page styles. If KWord added page styles or master pages, the decision would be tied. Although KWord frames have fewer design options, they are far easier to work with than Writer frames.

Headers and footers

AbiWord and KWord permit different headers and footers for the first page and for left and right pages, but no other variations. Otherwise, AbiWord has no header and footer options, and KWord has only a setting for the distance between from the main frame on the page.

Writer's header and footer options are limited with manual formatting to a single design. However, when you use page styles, Writer supports an unlimited number of header and footer designs. You can also select the position of each on the page, as well as any dividing line and shadow.

Verdict: Writer comes first, with KWord in second and AbiWord third.

Tables

Tables were once a weak point in Writer, but in Version 2.0 they have been improved considerably. They can now include nested tables, and cells that are straddle a page break. True to its desktop publishing aspirations, Writer includes a wealth of options for borders, backgrounds, and spacing, but no table styles -- only autoformats, which are less flexible.

AbiWord supports both nested tables and cells that break over a page. KWord supports neither. In both, though, users can customize borders and backgrounds, and, in KWord, users can save customizations as styles. AbiWord has the eccentricity of inserting rows only above the currently selected one, while in KWord, Table > Delete Table removes the entire table without having to select it.

Verdict: Writer's options put it at the top of the list for table functionality. AbiWord finishes second because basic flexibility is more important than formatting options.

Indexes and tables of contents

Only Writer supports indexes and allows detailed customization for a table of contents. AbiWord and KWord can only create a basic tables of contents from Heading 1-3 styles. AbiWord creates a table of contents at the current mouse position, while KWord creates it at the start of the document. The result in both programs includes leader dots between the listings and page numbers -- a classical example of failed design in typography. You can customize the results in both programs slightly by editing the styles used to create the listings. In KWord, this editing is a necessity when using US letter-sized paper, since the default results overrun the line and push the page number to the next page, regardless of the length of the entry.

Verdict: Writer easily beats the other applications at indexes and tables of contents. AbiWord is second, KWord third.

Footnotes and endnotes

Writer not only handles footnotes and endnotes easily, it also hyperlinks the number in the body of the text with the note. Both KWord and Writer have options for customizing numbering and the separator line between notes and the text body, which AbiWord lacks. These options are certainly needed in KWord, whose default separator line is thick and ugly.

Both Writer and AbiWord insert footnotes without trouble, updating numbering as notes are added between existing ones or moved. Writer even makes adjustments across pages. By contrast, AbiWord corrals footnotes on the page where they were originally added, claiming more space from the body text as needed.

Compared to the other two, KWord's footnotes are less reliable. Although footnote numbering in KWord can be edited without being corrupted, even a brief experiment shows problems ranging from the occasional number not being added in superscript in the body text to a reduce height for the footnote frame. More importantly, KWord is unable to expand the space for a footnote, either by moving part of it to another page or taking space from the body text. The spacing between footnotes and the body frame can be adjusted, but from Format > Page Layout rather than Insert > Footnote/Endnote.

Verdict: For footnotes and endnotes, Writer is best, followed by AbiWord, then KWord. AbiWord could do with more options, but its footnotes survive editing better than KWord's.

Import and export formats

All three programs share files with Microsoft Word reasonably well. In each program, the worst problem in simple documents is the addition of a few lines. AbiWord is especially useful for viewing email attachments in Word because of its quick opening time.

All three programs support HTML. Writer produces HTML for use with a style sheet, while AbiWord exports only to XHTML. In comparison, KWord not only supports both HTML and XHTML, it also includes a strict HTML option that produces version 4.01 HTML, which, apart from a few meta-tags, is the cleanest HTML I've seen in a word processor.

Support for other formats remains spotty in all three. Of the three programs, only KWord supports Lotus Ami Pro. KWord is also the only one that supports the others' formats.

Writer has the longest list of supported formats. In version 2.0, Writer can import WordPerfect files, but not export it. Other formats supported by Writer include AportisDoc, Simplified DocBook, and PocketWord, as well as earlier versions of its proprietary twin StarOffice.

By far the most important filter in Writer is its export to PDF. In version 2.0, this filter has been supercharged so that it now supports bookmarks and hyperlinks and gives users some control over how graphics are sampled in the output. Although all three word processors can use KDE's Print to File (PDF) option, Writer 2.0's export options are more advanced. KWord has the useful ability to load PDF files, even if it does tend to flip left and right on large graphics.

Verdict: Writer comes out on top again in the category of format compatibility for the number of filters and for the PDF filter specifically. KWord comes next, followed by AbiWord.

Writer Interface
OOo Writer - click to enlarge

Unique features

Both AbiWord and KWord share features with Writer that the other lacks. AbiWord and Writer both include revision tools and mail merge. Each also has outlining tools, although AbiWord's, called text folding, is primitive and requires repeated, inconvenient visits to Format > Bullets and Numbering. Conversely, KWord and Writer both have autocorrection, autotext, and notes, although KWord calls the last two expressions and comments, respectively.

Writer logs the largest number of features unshared by the others. Most of Writer's unique features have to do with long documents, such as indexes and master documents. Writer offers cross-references, although its system is clumsy because it does not use heading styles for bookmarks, and cross-references between files require inelegant kludges. Alone among the three programs, Writer also includes drawing tools good enough to do diagrams and annotate them.

Most of AbiWord's unique features are its plugins. More than either of the other programs, AbiWord puts other free resources to work. It lets you edit graphics, for example, in the GIMP. Other plugins in the Tools menu include links to Google, Wikipedia, and the URL Dictionary.

KWord's only unique feature is its ability to split the view.

Verdict: Writer offers the most unique features, followed by AbiWord, though if you don't need to create long documents, then you might want to reverse the order. KWord is out of the running.

Conclusion

Given the history and resources behind OpenOffice.org Writer, its victory in a review of features is not surprising. Neither AbiWord nor KWord should be the first choice for long documents, like manuals or doctoral theses. Still, they might do in a pinch, and both are suitable for daily use by students or office workers. Although AbiWord and KWord lack Writer's formidable array of options, they now have solid foundations to build on in many areas of word processing and document design. If they can add features without sacrificing response times, both AbiWord and KWord could challenge Writer's supremacy in a few more releases.

Bruce Byfield is a course designer and instructor, and a computer journalist who writes regularly for NewsForge and the Linux Journal Web site.

Bruce Byfield is a computer journalist who writes regularly for Linux.com.

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Comments

on FOSS word processors compared: OOo Writer, AbiWord, and KWord

Note: Comments are owned by the poster. We are not responsible for their content.

Why VMWare?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 24, 2005 04:37 AM
It looks like Xen or UML would of worked in this situation.

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Re:Why VMWare?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 24, 2005 07:54 PM
"would of" ?

You "of" seen this before? Perhaps it just that you "of" been listening to sloppy speech from those who "of" not learned to express themselves correctly.

We "of" had enough of this "of".

It is nearly as bad as the use of "of" by dickheads who don't know what a comma is for. e.g. "The United States' capital of Washington."

You *know* Washington doesn't *have* a capital - try replacing the "of" there with a comma and try using "have" in "would have" because poor old of is overworked and have is loafing on the sideline.

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agree with your point,

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 24, 2005 11:08 PM
but this was the most annoying post ever. Have any friends?

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Use comprable versions?

Posted by: diabme69 on August 24, 2005 06:35 AM
This appears to be a fairly biased article.... OpenOffice-1.9 is beta software, whereas KWord is 1.3.2 is a bit out of date with 1.4 being latest upstream stable, and abiword is far behind on your test, with latest upstream stable at 2.2.9, you using a 1.9.2 version? This article would be a whole lot better if you compared like products.

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Re:Use comprable versions?

Posted by: Bruce Byfield on August 24, 2005 09:35 AM
While preparing the article, I considered using the latest versions. Judging from the changelogs, using more recent versions of KWord and AbiWord wouldn't have changed anything In both programs, the recent changes have been chiefly bugfixes and micro improvements -- not the addition of major functionality of the sort discussed in the article.

For that matter, using OpenOffice.org 1.1.14 would only have changed a few details, too.

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Re:Use comprable versions?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 24, 2005 11:38 PM
Some users may dislike the plastic look of KWord's icons.


What's that to do with KWord? If you don't like your KDE icon set use a different one it's not like there are no alternatives.


KWord does not even list styles anywhere on the toolbars.


The styles dropdown is the first entry in the second row in your screenshot.

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Re:Use comprable versions?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 25, 2005 10:29 AM
I agree with you, too.

Also, I understand your tone. Illiteracy also gets on my nerves -- and I'm a foreigner. I'd be much more outraged were I from the USA.

Now, that said, I have quit criticising people. English is too broken to be properly learned. The guy is writing the word as it sounds ("of" is often confused with "have", it seems).

Some people need rules and English does not provide them (or provides hundreds which is the same).

Maybe we should be using Esperanto. It's far simpler.

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Re:Use comprable versions?

Posted by: Morten Juhl Johansen on August 25, 2005 07:07 PM
Still, it contrasts with the conclusion:
"The final results give an encouraging snapshot of the current state of free software word processors, while also showing how far each has to go in some areas."

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Theses

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 24, 2005 08:44 AM
Neither AbiWord nor KWord should be the first choice for long documents, like manuals or doctoral theses.

OO.o isn't a good choice for theses either. LaTeX is, by far, the best choice in this regard.

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Re:Theses

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 24, 2005 09:04 PM
again this LaTeX syndrome -- nobody writes with LaTeX... and the editors are (except maybe for LyX) pain to use (for non-technical users).

And after all, if one is producing a book-length text, there will be someone to produce the book (working for publisher) and LaTeX codes are pain in the "#¤ for the graphic designers to decipher -- you need the "#¤"# RTF for those big projects (unless you belong to the minority of people producing books for minority of people reading books).

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Re:Theses

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 24, 2005 09:31 PM
again this LaTeX syndrome

Again, this fear-of-LaTeX syndrome.
and the editors are (except maybe for LyX) pain to use

Try Kile (KDE) or TexNic Center (Windows). Piece of cake. Point and click. Want a double-relation arrow with text centered underneath it? Move the mouse to the arrows toolbar, and click on the one that looks like a double-relation arrow with text centered under it.


The document classes do most of the hard work for you, so you don't need to spend hours generating scary-looking formatting commands. All you do is select your class (ie. article, report), "begin" your document, and start typing. Can't dechiper those "strange" commands, like \heading or \alpha ? Can they be more intuitive?


nobody writes with LaTeX

Except for the entire scientific community. But if your world if filled with history majors, then I suppose you're correct.

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Re:Theses

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 24, 2005 10:16 PM
- 99% of people dont need any mathemathical symbols (what on earth is a double relation arrow?).
- I've tried Kile; I've tried TeXmacs
- well I wouldn't speak about "the entire scientific community" -- I know quite a few scientists, who wrote their PhDs with WP
- I can't write with LaTeX - if I need to write the code, I use emacs<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:-)
- but LyX is OK (only that I still have to do all the references by hand<nobr> <wbr></nobr>... converters dont work well enough).
- and I am a historian<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:-) using LyX!

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Re:Theses

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 25, 2005 02:58 AM

99% of people dont need any mathemathical symbols


Ahhh, "statistics" pulled straight from... well, who knows where? Since we're talking about theses here (not letters to grandma) and since CS, math, engineering, physics, chemistry, and even some fields of biology use mathematical notation, I'm curious as to how you justified a mere 1%.


I've tried Kile; I've tried TeXmacs.


Good for you. Now, what specific problems did you have with them? Why are they hard to use? Why are they unintuitive, or troublesome, or inferior than your word-processor of choice, other than the fact that you're probably already familiar with said word-processor. Anecdotes are fine and dandy, but seldom reinforce any concrete points in an argument.


I know quite a few scientists, who wrote their PhDs with WP


I'm sure there are many that have done so. I would be willing to make a sizeable wager that a greater majority -- like you, I have no numbers to support my assertion -- have used LaTeX when composing their theses.


and I am a historian<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:-) using LyX.


Now that *is* good to hear. It's good to know that LaTeX *is* being utilized outside of the scientific community, if it is *an appropriate tool to get the job done well*.

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Re:Theses

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 25, 2005 03:31 AM
>I've tried Kile; I've tried TeXmacs.
>
>Good for you. Now, what specific problems did you >have with them?

I couldnt find out fast enough, how to collapse the disturbing footnotes, that take often half of the page (including quotations in several languages). Could be my fault, but LyX does it easily and wordprocessors' WYSIAWYG does it automatically.

The proofreaders don't help with grammar / put the commas in place (important, when writing in a foreign language -- saves some of the money I have to pay for a human proofreader). The same problem remains of course with LyX.

>if it is *an appropriate tool to get the job done >well*.

It's ok for printing versions to be submitted for a seminar / university, but not for commercial presses in humanities, that is the final version.
Well, maybe after it supports jurabib and conversion to rtf supports jurabib...

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LaTeX in the Sciences

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 26, 2005 02:46 PM
I know quite a few scientists, who wrote their PhDs with WP

I'm sure there are many that have done so. I would be willing to make a sizeable wager that a greater majority -- like you, I have no numbers to support my assertion -- have used LaTeX when composing their theses.
LaTeX is heavily used in math, physics, and CS. Not so much in the other sciences. I'm a materials scientist at a major university & few of my peers use LaTeX unless they have to (to submit to APS journals and arxiv for example). And there are still leading journals who don't accept LaTeX. Many more will accept it, but say they prefer Word '97 format.

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Re:Theses

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 24, 2005 11:13 PM
But if your world if filled with history majors, then I suppose you're correct.


My friend's a history major and uses LaTeX. So keep those unfounded accusations against poor history majors to yourself. =)

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Re:Theses

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 24, 2005 10:16 PM
again this LaTeX syndrome -- nobody writes with LaTeX... and the editors are (except maybe for LyX) pain to use (for non-technical users).

I must be nobody then because I write with LaTeX. I also use Writer for documents where I need to exchange information with colleagues as it supports the Microsoft formats and Writer has enough support for structured documents to keep me happy (styles, cross-references, indexes, contents, etc.).

And after all, if one is producing a book-length text, there will be someone to produce the book (working for publisher) and LaTeX codes are pain in the "#¤ for the graphic designers to decipher -- you need the "#¤"# RTF for those big projects (unless you belong to the minority of people producing books for minority of people reading books).

For a (scientific/technical) book, you really owe it to yourself to learn LaTeX. The time you spend learning it will be paid back time-after-time as you develop your 1,000 page monstrousity and watch as your peers suffer MS Word crawling when the page size goes past 50 pages and reformats the entire document just because you changed the printer from one model to another. Or watch as someone carefully formats up their document on Windows 98 and discovers that viewing it on the same version of MS Office on Windows XP causes it to look totally different.

LaTeX excels because it allows you to concentrate on the CONTENTS of your document and not the layout. The layout can be tidied up later. Management of massive texts is easy with LaTeX and the output is professional print-ready for most enlightened tech publications. Often for technical work this can prove useful as it means that the author has control over the final layout rather than the typesetter which can avoid confusion.

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Re:Theses

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 24, 2005 10:39 PM
Technical writing is a marginal minority - look at the bookstores. Point is, that also when using a word processor, you dont have to concentrate on the formatting. Plain text is actually preferred by non-technical publishers to any formatting - unless you do mathematics/physics or other "hard stuff". This is something technically / mathematically oriented people dont understand.

And it was a horror for me to convert some 40 page articles from LaTeX to some acceptable format. And I had no problem at all using - dare I say it Word98 - for my 300+ pages thesis (using styles &c, and formatting it just before submitting it to the university).

There are some very specialiced uses - in addition to geekiness - to use LaTeX in humanities: like doing critical editions (with Ledmac). That's the reason I've learned to use LaTeX. But t is even more marginal publishing than tech/math.

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Re:Theses

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 25, 2005 05:06 AM
>> again this LaTeX syndrome -- nobody writes with LaTeX...

Hmmm, not sure you are right here. LaTeX is used more than you would think, at least in the academic world.

I personally discovered LaTeX not so long ago (1999) and I have to say that I cannot imagine to go back using Word, Wordstar or Wordperfect or even OOwriter.

When producing middle-sized to long documents, LaTeX is the real choice. It has a wealth of styles ready for you to use, and what you mean is what you get. The layout engine almost never fails in producing what you expect.

Want to see a nice document typeset with LaTeX ? Go and fetch the documentation of the www.polyxmass.org software suite. 200+ pages of colorful material.

I also have typeset my doctoral thesis with LaTeX and we have two female students in my lab starting their LaTeX-powered typesetting of their doctoral thesis. All biologists, not physicists... not geeky males neither...

If you are in Windows, use TeXnicCenter or MikTeX, if you are in GNU/Linux, just use emacs with auctex which provides a powerful latex-mode (in Debian GNU/Linux, using tetex*/latex* packages install all you need to be set).

Cheers,

Filippo Rusconi
A LaTeX-enthusiast biologist

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Re:Theses - joke misunderstood

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 25, 2005 07:54 PM
I have always thought that people use editors to write the documents (coded with latex-codes), that are processed with latex to produce dvi. Maybe someone really writes with latex, \irony{and I'm just so stupid that I don't know how to write with it.}

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Uniq Feature: Open PDFs + Edit!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 24, 2005 09:27 AM
Bruce,

looks like you are not aware of at least one uniq feature that is exclusive to KWord: it can open PDFs and edit them.

Cheers,
Kurt Pfeifle

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Re:Uniq Feature: Open PDFs + Edit!

Posted by: Bruce Byfield on August 24, 2005 09:41 AM
I mention that feature under Import and Export, but you're right -- I should have mentioned it under unique features, too.

Thanks for pointing that out.

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Re:Uniq Feature: Open PDFs + Edit!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 24, 2005 09:51 PM
What surprises me a bit is that KWord is not able to embed OLE-objects. I thought there was this GSF (Gnome Structured File) library, which is utilized by KWord to extract OLE-objects from files. Maybe the author did not install this library?

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Re:Uniq Feature: Open PDFs + Edit!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 25, 2005 02:25 AM
Writer can also split the view. Writer is also the only WP that offers a plug-in for Mozilla.

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Re:Uniq Feature: Open PDFs + Edit!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 26, 2005 12:19 AM
It is a mess to get it running but abiword can and has been embedded in Mozilla, it has even been embedded in Evolution.

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Long documents, like manuals or theses

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 24, 2005 10:37 AM
>Neither AbiWord nor KWord should be the first
>choice for long documents, like manuals or doctoral >theses.

I would be remiss if I allowed this statement to
pass without comment.
The implication is that OOO is suitable for long
documents.

Please do not create this mindset among your readers.

The Linux based program of choice for such tasks
is the incomparable and superlative Latex/Tex.

Accept no substitutes.
Take no prisoners.
Latex is the way.

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Re:Long documents, like manuals or theses

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 24, 2005 02:10 PM
I regard it as a trade-off thing:

While LaTex surely is a damned excellent for big publications (you don't write it, you "program" it, and the easiest way is to do it, well, the elegant way),

OOo is a really good choice for those who do not wish or even fear "programming" a publication.

And I think for medium-sized publications OOo indeed does its job, especially for non-techies.

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Re:Long documents, like manuals or theses

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 24, 2005 02:35 PM
LyX. No programming required.

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Re:Long documents, like manuals or theses

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 24, 2005 03:08 PM
"LyX. No programming required."

Yes, and just to add: without sacrificing support for large documents and typesetting beauty of LaTeX

Regards
Thomas

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A misconception

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 24, 2005 06:00 PM
While LaTex surely is a damned excellent for big publications

LaTeX is not just for big publications. A short paper which uses a lot of math formulas is also easiest in LaTeX.


The key difference between LaTeX and the GUI word-processors is that LaTeX does have a learning curve, whereas most people can be somewhat productive in a GUI word-processor immediately.


Personally, I never liked Lyx; it's neither fish nor fowl. It's not as totally intuitive as Writer or Abiword or Kword or MSWord, and it gets in the way of the experienced LaTeX user.

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Re:Long documents, like manuals or theses

Posted by: Joseph Cooper on August 24, 2005 07:37 PM
I have to ~program~ it?

What is this, 1985? Christ!

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Re:Long documents, like manuals or theses

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 24, 2005 08:47 PM
Indeed. This reminds me of the UNIX-HATERS Handbook.

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Re:Long documents, like manuals or theses

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 26, 2005 05:03 AM

It depends what you mean by "program". The bottom line is that if you have a document with a lot of math in it, you will get it done more quickly with LaTeX than with any other tool, and the finished doc will also look better. Provided, that is, that you are willing to think and learn, which you presumably would be if you were writing a doc with a lot of math in it.


If you measure human progress by the extent to which you can let your brain turn to mush through lack of exercise, you will not like LaTeX, and you'll never need it anyway.

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Re:Long documents, like manuals or theses

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 26, 2005 02:40 PM
MOST LaTeX users are quite productive just marking up their documents (no programming at all).

And there are GUIs that isolate you from the markup too. So if you have complaints about the way HTML & the web works, I guess you'd not like LaTeX either. Otherwise, it is reasonable.

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Re:Long documents, like manuals or theses

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 24, 2005 08:46 PM
I would agree with you when you talk about Math/Scientific Theses. However, that is not everyone. My brother would have balked when he was doing his Theology theses if I surgested using LaTeX, and for that matter, so would most English/Language/History students. LaTeX is only good for the technical proffesions, and writer is much better for the Humanities

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Re:Long documents, like manuals or theses

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 24, 2005 10:20 PM
Agreed. As a current history major, LaTeX would be overkill when all I need to format is a title page, footnotes, and the occasional italics.

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Re:Long documents, like manuals or theses

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 25, 2005 12:55 AM
I tried learning Tex/Latex and looked at the gui'fied versions but could not figure them out. I decided to go with OOo Writer. One of my major confusions regarded fonts and my need to use a truetype Greek font as well as a Hebrew one on occasion. That said, there is a section of my ca 350 page document that is comprised of jpg images of a manuscript I study. Each page of the manuscript has been divided into quarters and enlarged til it fits within the page boundaries. There are 80-some such pages. I've had nightmares trying to create and edit this section of my document under OOoWriter. Could this have been done, and how, with Latex?

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Re:Long documents, like manuals or theses

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 26, 2005 02:37 PM
One of my major confusions regarded fonts and my need to use a truetype Greek font as well as a Hebrew one on occasion.
<a href="http://sites.huji.ac.il/tex/newlatex_usage.txt" title="huji.ac.il">You didn't try too hard</a huji.ac.il>
That said, there is a section of my ca 350 page document that is comprised of jpg images of a manuscript I study....Could this have been done, and how, with Latex?
Trivially. You can specify graphics to insert & the size. You can even make a script to fill-in all of the filenames for you.

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Re:Long documents, like manuals or theses

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 26, 2005 02:27 PM
TYPESETTING in TeX is used by a handfull of people in the humanities. Bruce D'Arcus being a prime example (he's involved in the bibliography manager for OO.o writer). Writing Docbook XML or similar is dead-sexy, because you can get clean HTML or clean postscript/pdf in the end. Typesetting in any WYSIWYG app is lackluster.

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Re:Long documents, like manuals or theses

Posted by: Bruce Byfield on August 28, 2005 09:08 AM
Latex is a fine piece of software but that doesn't mean that it's the only tool that GNU/Linux users should use.

I've done about eight or nine documents of more than 150 pages in OpenOffice.org. One was 700 pages, and another was about 450. I had no problems whatsoever.

When I suggest that OOo is suitable for long documents, I mean exactly that.

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Softmaker for Linux.

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 24, 2005 10:45 AM
<a href="http://www.softmaker.com/" title="softmaker.com">http://www.softmaker.com/</a softmaker.com>
Fast. DOC-compatible.

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And not free

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 24, 2005 02:53 PM
in either sense of the word.

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Re:Softmaker for Linux.

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 25, 2005 05:38 AM
Textmaker 2002 is fast and offers many features (though less then OOo Writer), but its compatibility with<nobr> <wbr></nobr>.doc is not better than OOo Writers. Some docs may look better in Textmaker, other look better in OOo.

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Hmm...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 24, 2005 05:56 PM
I have used KWord, AbiWord and OpenOffice 1.1.1, 1.1.3 and 1.9 beta. I currently use 1.1.1 as my main writer in Linux, but I really like KWord. AbiWord is out of the running, as far as I can see.

KWord, even in the old, outdated version I use with SuSE 9.1/KDE 3.2.1 is my preference for export to<nobr> <wbr></nobr>.doc format, because it does a great job with paragraphs, compared to OO.o Writer. Try exporting to<nobr> <wbr></nobr>.doc from OO.o and see what happens when you open it on a machine with Orifice.

I still use OO.o because it's closer to Mariner Write on my Mac as far as the interface goes, and I need a consistent UI for a majority of my work.

In the end, I agree with the author, but he could have given KWord a little more than he did.

Now, would it be too hard to do a comparison of presentation software in Linux?

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Here is my experience

Posted by: ickusslime on August 24, 2005 08:42 PM
1. pull down<nobr> <wbr></nobr>.doc document from Microsoft website.
2. open file in OOo writer.
3. program crashes, reopen and format document to be read. close document without saving.
4. Open Microsoft<nobr> <wbr></nobr>.doc file with Kword.
5. fix formatting of document.
6. close document without saving.
7. Open Microsoft<nobr> <wbr></nobr>.doc file with Abiword.
8. read document with no fuss.

OOo is good sometimes, Kword can read almost anything. Abiword preserves formatting and graphics better in straight<nobr> <wbr></nobr>.doc files. But thats just my opinion. Compare the latest versions of everything as well.. dont pick older versions.

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Re:Here is my experience

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 24, 2005 09:51 PM
1. pull down<nobr> <wbr></nobr>.doc document from Microsoft website.

Says it all! Maybe you should tell the OOo people about this problem? Things will improve if people like you contribute to the community rather than bitch about it. Even if it's a simple "Look, this breaks when I do this."

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Tables and Formatting

Posted by: Charles Tryon on August 24, 2005 11:38 PM
Until recently, AbiWord had no concept of MS Word tables. They were "formatted" as a stream of text. Tables are actually supported pretty well now, but there are still things that get lost when looking at MS documents.


On the other hand, I am currently reading a DOC file in AbiWord that simply hung OOo 1.9.122, so YMMV. If I want something quick, I use AbiWord.


If you want to do word processing on an older system, then AbiWord is a lot lighter weight, and much less complicated for a relatively unsophisticated user.

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a feature comparison is interesting, but . . .

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 25, 2005 01:02 AM
Knowing how the feature list stacks up between these three is interesting, but stability is more crucial and can even make the feature list aspect moot. What is more important is to subject the three to a stress test and see which holds up better. Then it can be relevant to adress features. Hit them with some really complex documents like a 40 page table with varying font faces. My own personal stress tests led me to believe that both Abiword and KWord were quite far from being useable in my work. OOoWriter, though having its own limitations (e.g., not allowing page spanning table rows/columns, as you mention) fared much better

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internationalization

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 25, 2005 02:34 AM
Kword is far superior to OOfficeWriter for opening and editing documents written in Russian, in particular for cut-n-pasting them from say a webpage or another document.

I suspect that the same thing will hold true for other languages. Kword is better at handling such tasks than the anglo-centered OOwriter.

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Import/Export in Abiword

Posted by: Morten Juhl Johansen on August 25, 2005 07:02 PM
Abiword has import/export filters, which can be downloaded separately - presumably to keep a slim installation.
Therefore, a comparison based on the standard installation is not a precise indication of the import/export capabilities of the program.

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OpenDocument 1.0 misses as import/export format

Posted by: Claus Agerskov on August 25, 2005 09:25 PM

The new free and open standard for office application documents
<a href="http://www.oasis-open.org/committees/tc_home.php?wg_abbrev=office" title="oasis-open.org">OpenDocument 1.0</a oasis-open.org> is missing as the format you can import from or export to.



OpenOffice.org 2.0 and KOffice 1.4 will have this document format as the default format and the format is also supported by the European Union.

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Re:OpenDocument 1.0 misses as import/export format

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 27, 2005 09:09 AM
KOffice 1.4 does not and will not have OpenDocument as the default unless you set it to the default format yourself. While KOffice 1.4 supports the OpenDocument format it will not be the standard KOffice format until KOffice 1.5.

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System requirements

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 30, 2005 10:27 AM
I'd love it if there'd been a mention on what toll on the system these programs have, the most interesting being ram usage.

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