Originally Published: Thursday, 30 September 1999 Author: Scott Nipp
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Word Processing on Linux

Linux has always been touted as a well performing, incredibly stable server platform which is best suited to supplementing your existing server room. Lately Linux has been receiving appropriate recognition as a platform around which to base your server room, rather than something with which to supplement your other operating systems. Linux has also begun receiving acknowledgment as being "ready for the desktop." The desktop and laptop, however, are obviously the overwhelming bulk of PC computer installations worldwide. The power and stability of Linux can also be a boon to the average secretary, teacher, small business owner, etc. on the desktop as the platform on which to run the most common productivity application to date, word processors....

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Linux has always been touted as a well performing, incredibly stable server platform which is best suited to supplementing your existing server room. Lately Linux has been receiving appropriate recognition as a platform around which to base your server room, rather than something with which to supplement your other operating systems. Linux has also begun receiving acknowledgment as being "ready for the desktop." The desktop and laptop, however, are obviously the overwhelming bulk of PC computer installations worldwide. The power and stability of Linux can also be a boon to the average secretary, teacher, small business owner, etc. on the desktop as the platform on which to run the most common productivity application to date, word processors.

This is a market which shows great possibilities for helping to push Linux onto the desktop in many homes and organizations. Word processing encompasses everything from creating corporate by-laws to writing Aunt June a letter about her niece's birthday party. This variety has in turn led to a large variety in word processing software applications, including everything from the full-blown packages such as Microsoft Word and Corel WordPerfect to the countless small, lightweight shareware and freeware applications. The variety of applications allows users to choose the appropriate word processor for the job.

The choices of ways to create and edit text documents on Linux are virtually limitless. These choices range from the venerable vi text editor and the more current GUI applications such as Gedit to the full-blown applications like WordPerfect and StarOffice. Many people are perfectly happy to pick a single application to use for all text editing needs which is fine, but some people prefer to use a simpler, smaller application for some of the smaller text editing chores, to each his own. This is the beauty which these choices offer.

The big-time word processors however are certainly of much more interest to the corporate world. These applications offer spell checking and formatting features not available in the simpler text editors. These are the features which businesses need to make their documents look professional and eye-catching. The two most popular in this class would be Microsoft's Word, and Corel's WordPerfect. WordPerfect is the only one of these two which is available for Linux. There are rumors that Microsoft is working on a Linux port of Word, but this does not seem likely. WordPerfect offers all of the advanced features which a business would need in this type of application, including support for a large number of fonts, numerous formatting options, and a spell checker. WordPerfect also offers limited file compatibility with Microsoft's Word, as well as several other popular word processing applications. WordPerfect has another distinct advantage over Word; it is available on Linux, which gives it a larger potential market.

One other major underdog exists in the Linux word processing application arena: StarOffice. StarOffice shares many of the same features of both Word and WordPerfect, such as a spell checker, font support, formatting options, and file compatibility. StarOffice is also freely available due to its new licensing model since it was recently acquired by Sun Microsystems. StarOffice is also a complete "office suite" more comparable to Microsoft Office, or Corel WordPerfect Office than to Word or WordPerfect. This file compatibility, and free licensing makes StarOffice an extremely attractive option for home users and small businesses.

Word processing on a Linux platform is very mature compared to some other operating systems. This maturity extends all the way to some of the leading applications in this category, namely Corel's WordPerfect. The many choices available to Linux users also means not having to fire up a relatively large word processing package to edit simple text files and such. The stability and performance of Linux leads to a more stable, faster word processor which I would be inclined to say can be a benefit for anyone who uses a computer.

Scott Nipp is a Technical Analyst at Sprint Paranet. He spends his time there fighting the good fight, advocating Linux to his managers and customers.





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