Use alternative office applications

The office suite provided with Ubuntu, OpenOffice.org, is certainly comprehensive. However, it's not the only set of office applications available for Ubuntu. Here are some alternatives you might like to try—all are just a download away via Synaptic.

• Abiword: Abiword is a word processor that ties in tightly with the GNOME desktop look and feel. It understands most common document file formats, including Microsoft Word, and supports all of the common ease-of-use features you might be used to, such as live spell-checking, WYSIWYG page formatting, font previews, mail merge, and more. As is typical with open source applications, a plugin structure is utilized, meaning that function add-ins are available—for more details of the plugins that are available, see http://www.abisource.com/wiki/PluginMatrix.

Abiword can be installed by using Synaptic to search for and install the abiword-gnome package. You should also add-in the useful abiword-plugins package, which automatically installs a hand-

Figure 3.50: Abiword word processor (see Tip 284, on the previous page)

Figure 3.50: Abiword word processor (see Tip 284, on the previous page)

ful of the more useful plugins, including a thesaurus tool (most of the plugins, once installed, can be found on the Tools menu). Once installed, you'll find Abiword on the Applications ^ Office menu. For an example taken from my test PC, see Figure 3.50.

• Gnumeric: In many ways Gnumeric is the spreadsheet equivalent of Abiword, being closely tied-in to the GNOME look and feel (hence the name, pronounced the same hard G as "GNOME"). It too features excellent file format support, being able to read the pervasive Microsoft Excel spreadsheet type (although, unfortunately, it doesn't understand Visual Basic macros; for that you'll need to use OpenOffice.org). However, most of the useful mathematical functions from Excel are included and Gnumeric also features a plugin structure, so its usability can be expanded. Gnu-meric also claims to be more accurate than its competitors—apparently, a recent report found that Gnumeric was even more accurate than Excel when it came to statistical analysis! See the Gnumeric website for more information: http://www.gnome.org/projects/gnumeric.

Gnumeric can be installed by using Synaptic to search for and install the gnumeric package. Once installed it can be found on the Applications ^ Office menu.

• Koffice: It's probably fair to call Koffice the KDE Desktop Project's equivalent of OpenOffice.org but that isn't to say that it's a clone. It's a completely separate project, and in many ways exceeds the boundaries set by OpenOffice.org. Included in the Koffice suite are a word processor (KWord), a spreadsheet (KSpread), a presentations package (KPresenter—notice a naming theme here?), a database application (Kexi), a flowcharting application, like Microsoft Visio (Kivio), a drawing application (Karbon14), a bitmap image editor (Krita), and a project management tool (KPlato). Phew! And I haven't mentioned several support applications, such as KChart, which is a graphing and charting tool.

All the applications are designed to work under KDE but operate fine under the GNOME desktop of Ubuntu, although their look and feel is sufficiently different to be a little off-putting at first. Additionally, some applications take a rather unorthodox approach to usability—KWord is based around the concept of frames, for example, like the Windows application Adobe FrameMaker. However, each of the applications include just about every function you would expect, and each understands the relevant Microsoft Office file format. It's well worth spending some time to explore their features.

To install Koffice, use Synaptic to search for and install the koffice package. Note that a lot of support packages will be added and the total size of download is large. Once the suite has installed, the applications can be found on the Applications ^ Office menu.

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