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Jul 19, 2001, 06:08 (91 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Dennis E. Powell)

As is often the case, it's a week of surprises and changes of direction around the Linux world and Dennis Powell catches us up on a few of them. Read about how KWord may be ready to be your word processor, Caldera's abdication of the desktop, the problems with (and a possible solution for) root-privilege-requiring CD burners, the sense behind SuSE's design, and just a bit about William Gates III: Organ Grinder:

"One thing that can't be denied about the Linux universe: It's never short of surprises.

Some of them are bad, as in the reports this week that gave rise to the mental image of a cartoon in which one William Gates III was dressed as an organ grinder, standing there grinding his organ and looking on approvingly as a little monkey danced and collected coins for him in a colorful tin cup. About which I have no more to say -- freedom means the ability to do whatever you want to do with anyone who will agree to do it with you, but it also means my ability to think of the whole enterprise as superfluous.

Some of them are good, such as what I found when I opened my latest build -- code from about a week ago -- of KWord. It is now not just usable but nice to use. It is not utterly complete, but as I write this in it I'm developing an affection for the thing. This is important. Here's why.

Time was, a word processor was either a word processor or Word Perfect, a fiendishly clever scheme whereby lawyers, who were just about the only ones who used it, could justify inflating their billable hours. ("You don't think it took 59 hours just to type up your will? Well, okay, you try to do it. Here's our word processor. Good luck.") There were a few advanced features, but nothing that couldn't be figured out by anyone bright enough not to end up dancing for Bill Gates. But word processors have grown far more complicated. They offer all kinds of things, often hidden in obscure places. Some actually require you to learn a programming language and cook up your own features.

This flexibility is on the whole laudable, but one of its side effects is that choosing a word processor has become a major commitment, because to take full advantage of it there's a lot to learn. KWord, in my view, has reached the level of development where it is now worthy of that commitment. Problem is, for the most part it doesn't really require that commitment. For instance, a moment ago I thought I'd take a look to see if there is a word count available, one feature out with which I cannot live. It was the very first place I looked (File > Statistics) and it worked."

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