[ The opinions expressed by authors on Linux Today are their
own. They speak only for themselves and not for Linux Today.
It seems that whenever I suggest a Linux word processor to a
coworker or friend, they wait until I am finished describing all of
the features and then ask, "Can it import a Word document?"
Like it or not, you are eventually going to receive an email
attachment with the dreaded .doc extension. Unfortunately, much of
personal and business communication is currently conducted on
Windows machines through Excel spreadsheets, Word documents and
other proprietary file formats.
We all know closed standards are unreliable, and inherently
wrong. We know it causes bloated packets flying about like
cholesterol in the bloodstream of the collective Internet and
clogging the file systems on which they reside. Proprietary file
formats eradicate what we try to create: interoperability.
What we perceive as wrong, are the tactics that companies and
individuals have employed to keep users dependent on their software
long after their applications have stopped proving useful. For the
end user, the migration to a new application is painful. Many will
not use Linux because they are dependent on Microsoft Word.
As *nix enthusiasts, we often work in heterogeneous environments
and must be able to cope with other people's software choices. This
is more than a matter of courtesy, it is a matter of survival as
well. The selection and quality of office suites available for any
OS is one of the most critical aspects for adoption of that
platform on the desktop.
Currently Linux has StarOffice, Applixware, and KOffice as well
as a fleet of stand alone word processors such as AbiWord, Maxwell,
and WordPerfect 8.
While StarOffice is all but it's own desktop, and Applixware is
striving to integrate itself with the Linux desktop, none have made
as much progress as KOffice in the area of desktop integration. KDE
and KOffice have built up an enormous head of steam and development
is continuing at a very rapid pace.
I use the KDE desktop and am
anxiously awaiting the KDE team's next release, KDE2. KOffice will be included in KDE2 and
will contain a full office suite including Kword, Kspread, KChart,
KImageShop and many others.
KOffice will be able to do things never before seen in a Linux
environment thanks to things like the KParts component embedding
model and dcopserver which enables communication between programs.
Members of the KDE team are working on making filters for CSV,
RTF, Ms WinWord 97 and Ms Excel97 at this time. One metric for
judging the maturity of an office application is it's ability to
deal with non-native file formats. An application lacking this
ability will be hindered in an office or home environment.
This is where you, as an experienced programmer, come in. We can
use your help in expanding this effort if you want to become
involved. This is an extremely important phase and critical to the
adoption of Linux on the desktop.
Recently, Werner Trobin compiled a KOffice filter HOWTO
which explains exactly what is involved in creating these necessary
components. It is very easy to create the framework which KOffice
will use to tie in a document filter.
If you would like to write a filter or have knowledge of file
formats used by other programs, simply email email@example.com to let them know what
you would like to work on. They can help you get started and will
tell you if anyone else is attempting a particular filter. The
programming is not very hard and only requires learning to use a
couple of Qt classes from Troll Tech. With a little bit of work,
your code will be tied in with KOffice and KDE2. You can then sit
back and know that you've helped do the Right Thing (Tm).
Paul Oswald is a founding member of Spyre Group LLC as well as a full
time linux advocate. He is experienced with programming and
information technologies, and has been involved with Linux for five
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