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.
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.
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.
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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