Good evening ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the war. The word processing war that is - in which a small, relatively poor band of students and revolutionaries wage a fierce battle against one of the world's most powerful corporations and one of the world's most steadfast standards.
(sounds like the lead-up to a powerful American medical drama or something)
Word processing is one of the biggest reasons people use computers - we like the ability to be able to copy and paste the same letter to 45 of our closest relatives/noders, and avoid the problems of having to write a single, personalised letter to each of them. We like the ability to disguise our ridiculously undecipherable handwriting with the latest truetype fonts and judicious use of underlining and bold highlighting to bring attention to particularly important paragraphs.
We like the ability to press delete if we've made a mistake, and to avoid the use of liquid paper. We like the way that you can embed little, cute lovehearts which, on Valentine's day, seek to give our loved ones that little signal that says - I care about you.
Well, I care about AbiWord.
Yes, that's quite strange, I admit, but it is not actually indicative of a longer term, strange fetish of some kind. Rather, I believe that AbiWord is the best word processor out there, and if anyone could be fond of a body of code, I believe for me it would be the source for AbiWord.
There is a reason for this. Biologically, I am a writer. Of course, this means that my natural opposite is a word processor - similar to the way that males and females fall in love, writers fall in love with word processors. Some people fell in love with Sun's StarWriter when it came out into the open source world - most people are in a life long relationship with Microsoft Word.
But there is a broader reason which is behind my love for AbiWord - and I will explain this now. Basically, the Microsoft doc standard, in which Microsoft Word files are encoded, is the publishing world's vision of an easy way to submit articles to editors. If you are serious about being a writer, you must submit files in the doc format - or risk having your editor call you up and abuse you in the middle of the night, when they is trying to lay out their page.
However - and this is important - only two operating systems support this format - the Mac OS, and the Microsoft variants of Windows. If you are looking to be a writer, and use Linux as your operating system, or the BeOS, or QNX, Solaris, True64, or indeed anything else, to put it mildly, you'd better head down the unemployment office and get a job as a bricklayer.
Microsoft has a monopoly on the writing industry, and while many writers and publishers complain about the standard, they all live with it.
However, some time ago, a new word processor came on to the scene, with the stated aim of achieving platform independence. AbiWord, published by the Abisource organisation, is a word processor which is currently under development under the GNU General Public License,
and is available under no less than 6 different operating systems. Windows NT/95/98, BeOS, Linux, Solaris, FreeBSD and QNX versions of Abiword are all available for download today.
What an outstanding contribution to the world! While word processors such as StarWriter and KWord are available for Unix variants, and Microsoft Word and a variety of others are available for Windows/Mac OS, you could run AbiWord on any different modern O/S that you could care to, and find the basic feature set available on each!
To look at, AbiWord is very similar to Microsoft Word. It includes all the common features such as an editing page, spell checking, formatting changes, picture insertion, and many others. You will not find as many advanced features in AbiWord as you might find in some other word processors, but this is merely a product of the fact that AbiWord is only at version 1.0.3.
So what does Abiword need to become a standard much the same as Microsoft Word? It needs the open source code poets, traditional journalists and writers out there to start using it, and telling other people about it. It needs volunteers to help develop it. It needs any common home user to bug-test it as the lead developers add more features.
If we are to achieve platform independence with any software, it has to come from the users themselves, demanding that other people take their choice of software to heart when considering standards.
And in 10 year's time? Maybe everyone will care about AbiWord ;)
- My original article published on http://www.linuxtoday.com.au