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.comment: The Developers Haven't Heard - page 2

Don' Need No Steenkin' Distribution

  • April 3, 2001
  • By Dennis E. Powell

I mentioned the performance of miracles. There are many very good KDE developers, and some brilliant ones, but very few make it seem as effortless as does David Faure. It is as though he can just arrive at a particularly thorny project, wave his magic keyboard over it, and that which was inscrutable becomes clear. I may be overstating, but if I am it's only by a little.

His latest miracle involves KWord, which I think any objective observer would say has been badly broken. To the credit of the developers, no one was claiming, really, that it wasn't; but as things stood Kword was in no immediate danger of filling the void in Linux word processors.

QT-3.0 will involve some improvements in text handling that are not much short of a quantum leap. Problem is, or was, that QT-3.0 is still over the horizon, and KWord needed fixing today. So David Faure backported the QT-3.0 richtext handling for use in KWord.

"That was actually a piece of cake," he explained to me in an email message. "The real work was rebuilding KWord around it (and implementing the document/view separation that doesn't exist in QT), and credits go to Reggie [Stadlbauer, one of the Trolls, originator of KWord more than two years ago, and like David one of the nicest guys in the world] for making this very powerful richtext stuff in the first place."

The difference, at least here, was the difference between a KWord that was unusable, and one that is already good for things. Bear in mind that it is not yet by any means a finished product. But a lot of stuff has been happening there. KWord's handling of big documents has become slicker, file storage has improved so that a given document is now smaller, bullets now exist, and margins are more controllable. KPresenter parts can now be embedded in KWord documents.

Still to come, though this must await QT-3.0, is bi-directional text editing, necessary for languages that read right to left. This is so reliant upon features that will be in QT-3.0 that there was no way to backport it without bringing most of QT along, which carried its own problems, obviously.

KWord is still by no means a finished product; it's not even especially close. A lot of issues remain, and there is always the problem of filters, because unless and until everyone uses KWord, document interchange requires filtering. But it's a huge step forward.

Meanwhile, in Sunny California

To the extent that I can take measure of the Linux community, there's a broad mood of acceptance and even welcoming, except from especially vocal and zealous iconoclasts, of commercial application software as an entry among the choices available to Linux users. I think that this is a Very Good Thing, and I think that it's a tragedy that whatever drove, for instance, FrameMaker from the Linux arena did so. The best I can tell, the wider Linux community wants an open operating system and the tools to create applications, but is perfectly happy for there to be commercial, closed-source applications. This acceptance, to the extent that it is fostered and comes to thrive, will mean much in the long-term success of Linux not just as an operating system but as a desktop operating system. Not everybody can code for free forever.

A beneficiary of this acceptance, and I think a worthy one, is theKompany.com, which at any given moment is at work on a world of applications, most of which promote Linux on the desktop. This week it released the second beta of its Aethera program, an integrated email and contact management suite. Added are support for imap servers and mbox storage, as well as the beginnings of some crucial internal tunings and some user interface improvements.

Also coming out this week is the second beta of Kapital, theKompany.com's Quicken replacement for KDE. Bugs have been fixed, but in my estimation the crucial new feature is importation of Quicken-generated QIF files, which does much to ease migration from Windows to the Linux desktop. It, too, has some changes in its user interface. Plans call for Kapital to be released in late summer. Unlike most of theKompany.com's projects, Kapital is not open source. (Which, before you criticize, leads to a consideration: when you were calling upon Intuit to produce Quicken for Linux, did you expect them to open source it?)

But wait -- there's more: Kivio 1.0 is near. This is theKompany.com's flowcharting application, a Visio killer, that will be part of KOffice, with additional stencil sets available for sale, though users may of course develop their own. Also due is the first beta of ReKall, a database application for KDE.

For developers, beta three of KDE Studio Gold, an integrated development environment, and QScintilla, a port of the popular Scintella source code editing environment to QT, will be along shortly.

If Linux on the desktop is a nonstarter, theKompany.com hasn't heard about it, either.

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