April 17, 2014

Word to the Wise: Reviewing Linux Word Processors - page 6

Introducing Our Series

  • May 4, 2000
  • By Michael Hall

Maxwell is the project of three programmers who initially planned to release it as commercial software. For whatever reason, they decided not to do so, and have instead released the source to their project under the GNU copyleft.

The fact that Maxwell is released under the GPL, doesn't have a commercial interest standing behind it, and appears to be under active development makes it unusual among the word processors we chose to give primary focus.

Maxwell is another word processor clearly still under development. Though it included some features that would be useful for the high-end functionality we tested for, it didn't include multicolumn layout and seemed to have only primitive graphics tools. We were able to resize a graphic we included with the text, but couldn't control how text flowed around the graphic, for instance.

As a midlevel word processor, Maxwell began to show more serious promise, though it's still missing the ability to mail merge. It does have a convenient "envelope button" that allows for the creation of envelopes with one click. There's also some support for tables and diagrams. We had some trouble with using some of these features and managed to induce a crash with the diagram tool.

In terms of file exchange, Maxwell is unable to do much more than save and read files in its native format, plain ASCII, or Rich Text Format (RTF).

On the low end, Maxwell will likely meet the needs of just about anybody who needs nothing more than simple papers or letters. We were able to format headers and footers, though we couldn't discover how to automate page numbering. The control for line-spacing and color control of the text was straightforward enough.

Interface and Use
Maxwell was a little hard to warm up to. There are quite a few toolbar buttons, which are not documented with pop-up help, a staple of just about any GUI no matter how clear the interface's designers might think their icon choices were. Since there's usually no harm in exploring, we tried a few out and got fairly clear dialogs for search, replace, jump-to-page, and file saving. Some toolbar buttons are linked to functions that are either unimplemented or broken. Considering the nature of the project, this isn't surprising.

Search, replace, copy, cut, and paste functions all behaved as expected throughout our test run, giving Maxwell a comfortable enough feel.

In general, the program was responsive and fast, but suffered from the occasional lockup and a couple of crashes.

Maxwell is a word processor for those who have fairly light needs and are interested in following an ongoing project or contributing bug reports and feature requests. Novice users and people with serious productivity needs should avoid Maxwell.

If development continues on this project, a solid foundation is clearly present, and it's easy to imagine Maxwell eventually becoming something of a favorite because of its free software license and open development.

Homepage: http://www.eeyore-mule.demon.co.uk/
License: GNU General Public License
Cost: Free to download in binary or source form


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