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ThinkFree Office: Will Operating Systems Become Irrelevant? - page 2

Turning Applications Into Web Services

  • March 9, 2000
  • By William Wong

ThinkFree's initial suite of applications include Filer, Write, Calc and Show. In this section we take a look at the general look-and-feel of the suite as well as the individual components. The version we tested has some unimplemented features but updates were being provided even as the review was in progress. In terms of deficiencies, I concentrated on features that were not targeted for the final release.

ThinkFree's applications have an interface that looks a lot like Microsoft Office. This includes menus, toolbars and icons. It is not an exact match, and Microsoft Office has many more features and hence many more menu items and buttons, but the similarity is readily apparent.

This similarity extends to the file filters as well. ThinkFree has three major targets for the data files used with its applications. The first format is the native ThinkFree file format. The second is Microsoft Office DOC format, and the third is HTML for improved web-based publishing. I found the Office filters to be below par but steadily improving. Exporting and importing a file did not always result in the same presentation. Still, content always seemed to make it from one format to another--just the styles were inconsistent. Of course, there was often loss of information when converting Microsoft Office files that utilized features not found in ThinkFree's offering, but this is to be expected.

Two items crop up in the applications file and directory interface: support for encrypted files and support for online storage.

Encryption support is basic. It can be applied when a file is saved and a 4- to 8-character password provides the encryption key. It is not strong encryption, but it works and should be sufficient for general use.

Online storage shows up as an additional folder at the drive list level when connected to ThinkFree's Internet site. A connection is initiated with a simple button click. Once a connection is made, file browsing, renaming and access are consistent with any other local storage.

ThinkFree's Filer application is comparable to Microsoft Windows 98's Windows Explorer. It handles file-management chores well, and it starts applications based on file type when a file is opened. A toolbar on the left provides access to the other ThinkFree applications. This approach will be sufficient until the number of supported applications grows.

Write is modeled after Microsoft Word and even has a similar style system. While not as feature-rich as Word or other popular word processors such as Corel's WordPerfect, Write is more than sufficient for writing letters and generating HTML pages. It even has decent table support. Headers and footers, page numbering and even bullets and numbers were operational. The link to HTML is clear with the View HTML Source menu item and a Frame menu. Scripts and applets are also supported.

The main concern I have is Write's current dependence on metric and screen-based units. English units would be preferable for the U.S. market, but a choice would be best. Consistent units across the board would be preferable to a mixed bag. Printing was no problem, although only the default printer can be used. Color is supported.

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