KOffice 2.0

The long-awaited upgrade to KOffice has arrived. It looks good and provides a great base for its future evolution.
Enhanced Graphical Capacity

Just as the Drawing toolbar added increased graphic capacity to the major OpenOffice.org applications, so dockers give KOffice applications more ability to handle pictures and primitives.

Some of this enhanced capacity is new, such as the calligraphy tool that resembles Inkscape's, or the availability of artistic text—graphical text that can follow angled or curving baselines. Similarly, the addition of ties or connectors gives KPresenter a large boost by adding the ability to create and manipulate organizational charts.

However, a good deal of the across-the-board graphical capacity is simply a reordering of existing tools to make them more accessible. For example, from the Add Shapes docker, you can not only select basic shapes, such as ties, chart, artistic text and text frames, but also choose from a miniature clip-art gallery that includes arrows, geometric shapes and callouts.

Figure 4. The Add Shape docker not only makes economical use of space, but also makes clear that everything you add to a document is treated the same way.

The vaguely named Styles docker provides a similar capacity for the backgrounds of objects. In a docker that is maybe 2" x .5" high on my laptop screen, the Styles docker gives you a selection of background colors, gradients, patterns and fills, or lets you remove them with a click of a button. These choices can be customized by selecting tools on the application pane, or sometimes, by making selections in other dockers.

As a side benefit, by having these graphical tools in most applications, KOffice also increases its common interface. The result is that both the applications in general and their new graphical capabilities in particular are quick to learn.

Making Old Concepts Clearer

Another advantage of KOffice 2.0's interface is that basic concepts often become clearer. This change is especially obvious in KWord.

In 1.6.3, the latest officially released version, KWord's frame tools provided a tree view of document structure rather like the OpenOffice.org Navigator. However, this view was locked in place and too narrow by default even when KWord was maximized. Nor were the arcane icons for different types of objects beside the tree view very helpful to users. As a result, most users I have talked to ignore them. Many confess to hiding the tree view to avoid being intimidated by them.

Figure 5. The document structure pane in earlier versions of KOffice confused as much as it enlightened. It's been replaced by dockers such as Add Shape.

Now, in KOffice 2.0, the concept of frames has been replaced with the less abstract and better-labeled ones of shapes—no doubt as a result of implementing the new Flake library. As in earlier releases, you still have to select a type then drag with the mouse in the editing window to create it, but now, with the default set of dockers, you are more likely to notice and use the tool.

Moreover, once you have created an object, you easily can use dockers like Geometry and Snapping to align and orient a shape or arrange it on a grid. Although the functionality is the same as in earlier releases, ease of use is far higher.

Just as important, because Add Shapes lists ties, charts, artistic text and pictures as possible selections, it reinforces the fact that all these possibilities are essentially the same kind of object so far as KOffice is concerned, and all can be manipulated in much the same way in the editing window. In other words, the Add Shapes docker makes clear a unifying concept in a way that separate sub-items in a menu or a collection of unconnected icons could never hope to match.

A second basic concept that becomes clearer in KOffice 2.0 is styles—the formatting equivalent of declaring a variable once and reusing it as needed. Most word processors have the concept of character and paragraph styles, but they vary widely in their emphasis on them. For instance, AbiWord and MS Office tend to make manual formatting more prominent, while OpenOffice.org requires the use of styles if you want to use many advanced features. In the past, KOffice has been closer to AbiWord than OpenOffice.org, including styles, but keeping them in the menus where they can be missed and their features buried several layers below the top menu.

By contrast, KOffice 2.0 edges closer to emphasizing styles. If you select the text tool from KWord's application pane, you have a Styles docker (not to be confused with the one for backgrounds that uses the same name) that places manual formatting of text and styles only a tab apart. At first, this arrangement might seem to give both approaches to formatting equal weight, but the truth is that styles have been so underemphasized that, just by making them more prominent, the Styles docker increases the chances that users will investigate the time-saving possibilities of working with styles. At the same time, unlike in OpenOffice.org, KOffice 2.0 does not compel users to switch from manual formatting if they choose not to.


-- Bruce Byfield (nanday)


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KOffice 2.0

bharadhwaj's picture

As usual viewpoints are varied as there are no of people who look at these, since this is more of a community (having a completely varied Likes & Dislikes). But, the people who are in the KOffice Project - are not working for the entire community, right ?? they are trying to improve what they have, to what they want, and ultimately what THEIR customers (users of LINUX & KDE environment) want.

Who are we to judge them, and instead, wish them good luck ?? Who ever is working on to improve what they have, are doing fine & do justice to them.

I am a new converted to Linux (have Ubunty (Jaunty) and Gnome - with OOO 3.0. Like most of the new ones, I like everything about LINUX. And PSSSST..... dont let your animosity between the TWO BIG GAINTS (GNOME & KDE) shown to us newbees.

To all the LINUX community - THANKS PEOPLE.

reinventing the wheel?

Anonymous's picture

Diversity in open source is always a good thing. There is no problem with "reinventing the wheel" because these various projects *Borrow from each other*! That's the beauty of open source. You don't see that in closed-source environments. With FOSS, everybody wins.

Why KOffice is a good idea, even though we have OpenOffice.org

Terrell Prude', Jr.'s picture

I understand the arguments for focusing on OpenOffice.org. It's a mighty fine office suite, and it lets us deal with those closed MS Office file formats (I use it every day). However, OO.o does like a lot of DRAM.

KOffice is better on less powerful gear, for example, these new netbooks. Why? It does that shared library thing really well. I've run KOffice on a 256MB, 400MHz Power Macintosh, and it was considerably snappier compared to OO.o. Way less swapping to disk.

Less feature-filled than OO.o? Yup, no doubt. No contest there. But is KOffice good enough for *most* people to do basic office productivity tasks (reports, spreadsheets, presentations) and such? Before, I'd have said no, because KOffice used a KOffice-specific file format (open, yes, but still KOffice-only). But now that it supports OpenDocument Format, my position has changed. Now I say, yep, it's good enough.


Does it make a sense?

Steffen's picture

Why do we need a other free office package?

KOffice lacks a lot of useful and needed features Open Office already provides. At the same time Open Office is suffering from missing developers. And could not be a real competitor of Microsoft.

The open source community should concentrate on one project and face the real challenge.

Well... We were there first

Anonymous's picture

Not actually totally the first: that was Andrew. Then came Siag. If you know about those two, you won't be surprised that people started working on a modern office suite for KDE. So KOffice got started.

Then we got Gnome Office (well, abiword and gnumeric), and then, finally, Sun opensourced StarOffice as OpenOffice.

And that's only the historical timeline: there are other differences:

* KOffice developers are almost all volunteers. (Recently a company was founded that now has two developers working on KOffice, but until a few weeks ago, it was 100% volunteer hackers having fun.)

* We have a small, agile codebase, so we can do weird experiments. KOffice is about 1.000.000 lines of code, or ten percent of OpenOffice -- for all our applications. Experiments are cool because then you can see whether another interface approach works.

* We help ODF "stay honest": we are the other independent free software implementation of ODF next to OOo, and that helps the standard improve a lot

* We have a different strategy: OOo is mostly a Microsoft Office clone. We want to create something that is more fun, more flexible and more geared towards the home user. Like Apple's iWork, though we don't copy anything from Apple directly.

* By now we have a great set of flexible core libraries. We are in the process of turning those libraries into something you might call "OfficeKit" -- a base to develop new apps on.

* We have some features nobody has, like the music shape. Other office suites allow you to add editable mathematical formulas to your document. We got that, but we also give you editable musical notation. That's unique -- and adding something like that is within the scope of a single summer of code project. Our API's are that easy.

* We have a unique set of applications that OOo doesn't have, like Krita, KPlato or Kivio (well, that one is in disrepair)

Does this satisfy you?

Boudewijn Rempt, Krita maintainer

Because OO sucks hairy

Anonymous's picture

Because OO sucks hairy donkey bawlz?

MCSE Alert!

Anonymous's picture

Like the title says....

forget it, BillG, this is Linux

Anonymous's picture

LOL, right, One Everything to Rule Them All! There are also too many clothing and shoe sizes, too many brands of bottled water, too many streets and highways, too many different vehicle types and brands, too many kinds of cute kitty cats and puppy dogs, and certainly too many diverse people. In fact I think we should take this a step further and have a Global Dictator who eliminates all choices in everything, and tells us what to do.

I'm starting to think this whole ridiculous "Linux has too many choices!" silliness is an organized astroturf campaign, just one more attack on Linux by a convicted illegal monopolist whose fundamental survival and business plan is based on destroying as many customer choices as possible.

The article itself is an excellent review of a good office suite that deserves more attention, and is surviving the complex KDE4.x migration in good shape.


Tuxly_Tuxford_McTuxtington's picture

I definitely agree with the second poster. Linux would have died a quick, quiet death long ago if it wasn't for the great range of choices that it offers. If everybody puts their weight behind Debian, then there would be no Ubuntu or Mint (Mint especially wouldn't fit with the Debian philosophy). Competition is great for innovation. Gnome vs. kde pushes everything ahead, as does rpm vs deb (mainly because I hate rpm and would probably shoot myself if forced to use it :). We can use linux on old computers because we've got the choice to run Openbox / XFCE / IceWM / whatever. On the other hand, eye candy junkies can load the latest kde.

If I didn't have the great choice that linux affords me, I'd stick with Windows (eww, I think I just threw up in my mouth a little).

Because I'm poor.

Anonymous's picture

Yep, living in poverty. So, some of us get a PIII with 128Mb RAM as our primary computer... And, as has been said - Oo sucks donkey bawlz on such a system. Emacs treats us well enough, but for some reason the professors in my web-based Information Science program don't like assignments coming in in plain text. Stupid Web 2.0 nutlickers, I know, I know. Anyway - Linux and FOSS is awesome because I can eat food instead of making payments on a new Dell...

Yes and no

KiL's picture

While having a lot of diversity is a Good Thing™ I also see the point that if there are too many people trying to reinvent the wheel, we might be wasting resources.

I don't think that KOffice is an office suite too much, but sometimes I wonder how utterly awesome the Linux desktop could be by now if we could combine the creativity and productivity of the GNOME and KDE community for one fully integrated desktop (and how cool it would be if all Linux application would have a really consistens look and feel).

Now we have the two big environments GNOME and KDE, and I think both are great and have their unique philosophies behind them, but now we also need to programme every application thinkable at least twice if we want to give it a truly "native" feel for either environment. I just can't help feeling that we do waste some resources there.