The first beta of the KOffice 1.4
release was announced on April
29, so we thought we'd take a look at this release and see how KOffice
was shaping up. How does KOffice 1.4 stack up against the competition,
namely OpenOffice.org and standalone applications like Gnumeric, Abiword and the
Since the release is still in beta, we were checking for features compared
to the other suites, but ignored any stability issues. To try out KOffice
we downloaded the "Klax" live
CD. There are also binary
packages and source code. We also compiled KOffice beta1 on Ubuntu
"Hoary" with no problems.
Since support for the Open
Document Format is one of the big features in KOffice 1.4, we decided
to test that out first. Unfortunately, we didn't have much luck. We started
by opening a document in OOWriter (from one of the OpenOffice.org 2 preview
releases from Ubuntu's package repository) and then saving it in the Open
Document Format. KWord refused to open the document, complaining about the
paper size. When we tried opening a document from KWord, saved in the Open
Document Format, it also failed. KWord had no trouble opening other file
types, including Microsoft Word, which is more likely to be found in the
wild at the moment anyway.
Next we tried out KSpread and KPresenter using some PowerPoint documents we
found online using Google and the Gnumeric testing
spreadsheets. Unfortunately, KSpread and KPresenter are a bit less
capable than OpenOffice.org or Gnumeric when it comes to handling these
documents. The test spreadsheets showed that KSpread doesn't implement many
of the functions that are available in Gnumeric and OpenOffice.org
Calc. KPresenter had trouble with the Microsoft PowerPoint document, only
displaying the text for the slide show and badly mangling the text
KWord, KSpread and KPresenter are fine for creating original documents, but
users may wish to look to OpenOffice.org or Gnumeric and AbiWord for
exchanging documents with users of Microsoft Office or OpenOffice.org.
We did like Kivio, the KOffice diagram and flowchart program. It comes with
a hefty selection of stencils, and the interface is clean and easy to
use. The beta is a bit unstable, but we expect that problem will be taken
care of before the final release.
Two applications that make their debut with the 1.4 release are Krita and
Kexi. Krita is an image editing application, and Kexi is a database
management application. Krita looks promising, though it doesn't seem quite
as full-featured as The Gimp just yet. It offers a much different interface
than the Gimp and is a bit crowded at first, making it a bit difficult to
work on larger images. Krita does allow the user to open new windows with
the same image, but this is also a bit less than optimal.
Kexi could be the Access-like application that many Linux users are looking
for. It's a bit rough around the edges at the moment, but it could be the
answer for many Linux users who want to create simple databases that do not
require MySQL or PostgreSQL backend.
KOffice also includes KChart, Karbon14, KFormula and Kugar. Kugar is an
application for generating "business quality reports." KChart is, as the
name suggests, an application for generating charts. It can be used as a
standalone application or within KSpread. It offers a fairly extensive
variety of chart types, including bar charts, polar charts, and "ring"
charts. Karbon14 is a Illustrator-like application. We didn't get time to
test it extensively.
Users who are interested in test-driving KOffice should check out the
"Klax" live CD -- it's a relatively small download and offers the full
range of KOffice apps and the KDE 3.4 desktop. The final KOffice 1.4
release is slated
In all, it looks like the KOffice 1.4 release will be a significant move
forward for KOffice. In some ways, several of the KOffice components are
still a way behind the other free office applications in terms of document
format support and features, but the suite does provide a usable
alternative for Linux users who don't require extensive Microsoft Office
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