Word processing is an important part of work – and not just office work; everyone needs word processors at some point. This is the first article in the series ‘Best Open Source Apps’ and here I will talk about the most popular open source word processors for GNU/Linux: AbiWord, Calligra Words and LibreOffice Writer. I didn’t take OpenOffice Writer because it is not all that different from LibreOffice Writer.
The factors I’ve considered for each contender are:
- Ease of use and intuitiveness
- Support for ODT, DOCX and PDF formats (because at times you just can’t avoid DOCX, no matter what.)
- Interoperability (how a file created in one word processor renders in another.)
Here’s what I did to test them out:
- I created a file in each of them from scratch.
- Added some headings, an image and a table, and tried to play with each of these elements, to determine the user-friendliness. (Don’t look at the contents of my file. They won’t make sense to everyone.)
- Saved it in ODT, DOCX and PDF formats and tried to open each of them in different apps. Additionally, for AbiWord, I also tried its native ABW format.
AbiWord is a part of the so-called GNOME Office. Thanks to its resource-friendliness, it comes preinstalled in most Xfce and LXDE distros. Obviously, it’s a GTK+ app, but unlike others of its kind, it looks rather ugly when run on KDE — since it doesn’t seem to follow the GTK+ style set in KDE’s settings. For some reason, horizontal touchpad scrolling also doesn’t work.
AbiWord might be lightweight, but that does not mean it lacks features. It has a traditional menu-based interface, and has all the options you might expect: Headers and Footers, Footnotes, Styles, PDF Export, Mail Merge, etc. However, to keep things light, it avoids interactive UI in favour of the conventional button-based UI.
For example, the Format Table dialog allows border editing via buttons for enabling/disabling the borders for the selected cell(s). This can get complicated at times, if you have an oddball table like the one above.
One thing I particularly liked was the Create and Modify Styles dialog. It shows only those styles which you have used in the document, thus getting rid of the clutter.
Now, I saved this file in ABW, ODT, DOCX and PDF formats, and opened it in different apps.
The ABW format is supported only in AbiWord, so obviously, it works fine.