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      18.06.2010 16:28
      Very helpful



      Well worth considering as for simple document editing

      First things first: this review concentrates on the Abiword word processor, the program which is Abisource's main product, rather than dwelling too much on the site itself, but I will mention the latter too. I requested its addition to Dooyoo as "Abiword" under the Software category, but for whatever reason it was placed in Internet Site, and I have to respect that. Therefore, I will try to cover both aspects as best I can.

      In a nutshell, Abiword is a free and open source word processor, available for both Windows and Linux. If you run the former, then you can download an installer simply and quickly (it's under 8 MB) from the cleanly designed and generally well laid out Abisource site. If you're a Linux user then your distro's official repositories should contain it, and it's best to install from there. The site does provide some special packages for Ubuntu users, but as of the time of writing they hadn't added support for 10.04 and so I'd recommend going the depository route for them too. Mac users should note that only a rather outdated OS X version (2.4.5; the current for the other OSes is 2.8.6) is available.

      The aforementioned size of the Windows version should give you a clue as to why you might want to use Abiword over the undeniably more capable OpenOffice Writer: the larger program has all sorts of bells and whistles, and is not an application I'd want to be without, but it is a considerable resource hog in both disk space and memory terms. Abiword is a much simpler program, and in its base form does not even include a spelling dictionary as standard, though dictionaries for a number of languages are available on the Abisource site, at least for Windows; Linux users may need to use their repositories to install aspell and aspell-xx (where xx is the appropriate language's two-letter code). Its simplicity, though, makes it light and fast, and as such it works very well on old computers with limited resources to spare.

      If you're used to the expansive delights of OpenOffice, or indeed MS Office, you may experience a little bit of culture shock upon loading Abiword. The main screen is pretty bare, with only a few of the most important editing options shown in the toolbar, though a surprisingly large number of extras are lurking in the menus. In theory you can also add plugins, though the otherwise good Abisource site falls down with a thump here: the "Plugins" page consists of one line and a link, which if followed takes you to a poorly laid out and confusing table, below which is a link which takes you back to the "Plugins" page!

      Thankfully everyday editing can be carried out perfectly successfully without adding anything, especially once you have the spellchecker dictionary sorted out. If you're conversing with somebody using a different program, Abiword can handle a wide range of file formats, and at least with documents making use of only straightforward formatting you shouldn't have any real problems zipping documents back and forth with users of other packages. It can even deal with a few formats that OpenOffice can't, most notably for me the ".psiword" format used by Psion handheld computers; this is actually the main reason I use Abiword on my desktop PC!

      There's not really a great deal more to say about the word processor itself - if you want to work with simple documents and want something less space-hungry than the giant packages then this is it - so I'll briefly return to Abisource. As you would expect with open source, there is a page dealing with licensing: Abiword is distributed under the GPL General Public License [sic], so if you think of an interesting modification you are free to make it and distribute it - but there are quite strong restrictions on using the trademarked name "Abiword" (and a few other related words) in any derivative works, so do make sure you read that part of the site if you're thinking of doing just that!

      Overall, this is a program which fills a few niches rather than being a jack-of-all-trades, we-thought-of-everything word processor; if you want that and don't want to pay, then OpenOffice is still far and away the best choice. But if you're just dealing with simple stuff, especially if your hardware is struggling with bigger programs, then Abiword shouldn't let you down. The site, like the program, looks pleasant on the eye despite being quite simple, but it could do with being updated a bit (the "Abicalc" spreadsheet proposal seems to be dead; use Gnumeric instead) and that horrible Plugins section desperately wants fixing. A few rough edges with both program and site, then, but nevertheless they make a worthwhile pairing.


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