February 23, 2019

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Free as in Software and PictureBooks

  • April 25, 2001
  • By Dennis E. Powell

My objections to HancomOffice 1.0 were many and in my mind conclusive: The word processor exhibited some of the worst screen font rendering I had ever seen. The word processor (which is, after all, my chief interest in office suite or standalone application) was a WINE port of a Windows application, while the other parts of the suite were written to QT, meaning that they were near-native KDE applications. But they weren't statically compiled, meaning that they screwed up my existing QT with whatever they were compiled against.

The new version does not screw up my existing QT.

HancomOffice comprises four applications: Word, Sheet, Painter, and Presenter, plus a shell application not unlike the icon bar rendered by Applixware Office (or Staroffice 3.0, for those keeping track). As I understand it, the difficulty in bringing Word over to QT comes from the fact that it was initially developed for languages that use two-byte characters, as many far Eastern languages do. This is a pity.

HancomWord, as it is called, uses TrueType typefaces. What else does? KDE with typeface anti-aliasing enabled. But because it is a Windows port, Word cannot take advantage of this. As a result, what is a very full-featured word processor is awfully hard on the eyes.

It takes a little getting used to, though nothing as bad as, say, WordPerfect, my nominee for the worst word processor ever to be taken seriously. It defaults to a whole garden of toolbars, every bit as complicated as those in, say, the late, lamented Klyx. But nobody would have much trouble figuring them out.

And it offers more prebuilt layouts than any word processor I've ever seen. It apparently figures that the user has a color printer and deep pockets, because many of the layouts feature all kinds of artwork in color; they'd drain color cartridges in short order.

On the downside, the window furniture, which is to say titlebar, toolbar icons, and so on, are purely creatures of screen resolution and therefore were sized for the lowest common denominator, VGA. They're minuscule at, say, 1280x960.

The other applications do take advantage of such features as the installed QT offers, but here things start to get pretty flaky. Opening any of the QT-based applications on my machine invoked for some reason the XScreensavers I have running over KDE. Moving the mouse got my desktop, and the application, but this experience does not impart confidence. Occasionally Klipper, the KDE clipboard manager, would open a window that could not be closed without exiting X, at which point the console characters were replaced with something undecipherable. Typing "startx" got me back to a normal XFree86, but the experience added to the already diminished confidence I had in the product.

After that, things went further downhill. Uninstalling HancomOffice via the conveniently provided program did work, though now my console characterset was trashed and XScreensavers start twice during KDE startup and every few seconds of inactivity thereafter. A reboot seems to have restored order. And now, upon closer inspection, I find that HancomOffice was apparently programmed to QT-1.44, in that the uninstall didn't bother to remove a hand full of libqt 1.44 stuff from /usr/lib.

Maybe it's experience, or maybe they've gotten more careful, but this time I seem to have recovered from HancomOffice in less than five minutes; it took more than a day last time.

Sadly, I still cannot, obviously, recommend HancomOffice.

In defense of the Hamcom developers, though, I must note that I've heard from a lot of people, including free software developers, that putting together a binary package of just about anything is really tough to do nowadays. The reason is that distributions have settled on all kinds of disparate defaults, goofy package managers, odd locations for things, essentially proprietary configuration methods, and other things designed to make you dependent on them and them alone.

The lack of a standard Linux (as well as some other things that may or may not be surmountable) are the death of HancomOffice, at least in the Western world. But unless it is established and established soon, the lack of a standard Linux will be the death of the rest of us who think of Linux as a desktop operating system.

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