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The Best Office Suite on the Planet

10/01/2012

It has been a long long long wait, but finally we’re nearly there. When there was all this hype with OpenOffice and then lattery it was LibraOffice, (sadly not much talk of Symphony which is better than both). Koffice, the free office suite for the KDE desktop sat quietly in the background, a little update here and there but suffering badly in my opinion to the whole shift from KDE3 to KDE4  (in my opinion that was badly managed and KDE lots a lot of momentum, development and apps)

But I think Koffice was the best alternative to Microsoft Office and in many ways better. Kwords, as it was then, was such a simple word processor with such enormous power, being Frame based, it allowed some very very complex layouts, akin to desktop publishing apps, that were so easy to produce and manage.

But here we here, finally Koffice suite, Calligra as it is known now is available for Windows. Not only that, but the build in windows is installable and usable right now – Using Calligra in KDE involvs faffing about with logging into a development desktop, where so little else seems to work right now it hardly seems worth doing. Calligra 2.4 isn’t yet properly working for KDE but it is for windows.’

The Calligra Icons Look Stunning in WindowsThe suite includes really fantastic applications, Krita and Kexi for Image editing and database deveopment are actually brilliant. Krita has long been, in my opinion so nearly as good as photoshop (for average users) as Photoshop, easily wiping the floor with GIMP which is still suffering from the most awful interface that I’ve never gotten used to. Tables, I havne’t used much, nor Plan the planning and project management application and I’ve only had a brief look at Stage, the presentation, Powerpoint alternative. but that looks very impressive. Words I will use the most and it is with such joy that i will be able to use it in windows and as it’s been such a long time since I last used KDE I will be delighted to be able to use it on all my computers soon. Koffice as it was, had something that Openoffice, Libraoffice and Abiword just don’t have, they were "enjoyable" to use. I can’t really define it any more than, but they just "felt right" to use and I found them pleasurable to use, unlike LIbraOffice that I find a frustrating at some many points.. The layout and menus just don’t seem to be where I think they should be and I find myself hunting for them. Somehow the Calligra team seem to think like me and everything was just where I knew it would be.

The New app Icons look Stunning

Sadly the same can’t be said for the font handling, it’s terrible, really really awful, almost unusably badly awful. (oddly that is the one thing I think is consistently poor in KDE is font rendering, even with full anti-aliasing it just looks a bit dire everywhere)

However, it is beta.. you couldn’t use it for real world work yet, the font rendering is just to awful and as yet I haven’t found antything that suggests it’s tweakable and my god it’s unstable and as yet I haven’t managed to save a single document.

Click to see it LARGE

Side by Side with Wordpad, you can see how poor the font rendering is just terrible. I didn’t use Wordpad for any other reason than to compare fonts, Feature Wise Wordpad can’t do a fraction of the things that Calligra will be able to do (when it stay up long enough)

Calligra does a superb job of hiding the complexity of the document elements until you need them, Lots of user bitch about Microsoft and Ribbon interface, personally I quite like it, but I do agree that finding this is tough. Openoffice just stick everything for you to get in lost in, Symphony tames it down and makes it useful. Calligra, hides it beautifully.. in some ways a little too much in that at first glance it looks like nothing more an unstable version of notepad. But Words is truly epic in it’s layout ability. If you have battled with getting a picture "just so" in Word, or a paragraph to line up with another element in just that paricular way but find yourself pulling your hair out as elements just all over the place or the page goes haywire. Calligra will solve that, it’s frame based approach means you can add elements to each other, inside each other, around in or linked and you can control the look and feel exactly… well you will be able to when it’s a bit more stable.

Compared to how nice (and mostly stable) it is in KDE, Here I’ve just added a couple of frames within frames so you can get an idea of what I mean, nothing fancy at this stage, just a quick example.
[note that font rendering is so much better, still a bit flaky with some fonts but it can look good]

Most people will never use the advanced features, just like most people don’t use them in any other word processor at the moment. Stable, no, no no no no, it’s anything but. Usable. no no no again no, if you could save a document it would help somewhat but as it stand now, in windows it’s kind of just a bit pointless. (the other apps seem to work better though). However, give it a little bit of time and momentum and with a bit of luck you should be able to use it and enjoy using it as much I used to and hope to again.

Of all the Wordprocessors I’ve ever used, Wordstar, Locoscript, Wordperfect for Dos, Wordperfect for Windows, Word, Symphony, Star Office, Open Office, Claris, LibraOffice, Abiword and all the combinations in between, Koffice has been the one I’ve enjoyed using the most and I am so looking forward to using again soon. Maybe you will too. (just be patient with it at the moment, it’s still early days for the Windows version)

Next step is to use it for my latest C.V. …..

More info on the Windows build here
http://dot.kde.org/2012/01/07/calligra-suite-windows-testing-version-released

The Main Calligra Suite site is here
http://calligra-suite.org/

The Project Neon builds for Kubuntu and latest KDE here
https://wiki.kubuntu.org/Kubuntu/ProjectNeon

This blog post written with Qumana… overall as a blog writer it’s …. meh… well it’s a java app and therefore you know before you open it that it’s probably going to look crap and not be that great and well.. well it’s ok.. but Blogilo is much better and more feature rich already. (although this does generate cleaner and better HTML)

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