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Suites for the Sweet: KOffice - page 3

Starting from Scratch: KOffice for KDE

  • May 16, 2000
  • By Dennis E. Powell

The most complete of the KOffice applications is KWord, which is a frame-based word processor that seeks to incorporate the best features of many commercial word processors, with more than a touch of desktop publisher thrown in. It offers a number of prebuilt document templates with the ability to add others, links to other KOffice applications for the creation and importation of spreadsheet or graphical data, and a profusion of toolbars that can be turned off as desired, with no particular loss of functionality, in that the actions they provide are all available from menus as well. It's shown in Figure 2.

The usefulness of KWord was recently enhanced through the addition of a zoom function; before that, it was too small to be of much use on high-resolution installations. Its toolbars are fully populated, unlike some other KOffice parts, though not all of the functions are yet fully supported. But there's enough here to make it clear that any feature a user is likely to need will be provided, though some features are currently a little awkward.

For instance, the search-and-replace function employs the familiar KDE tabbed settings dialog--but the search string and the replace string are located on separate pages. And in the initial beta, the filters provided for saving in other formats are limited to html and plain text, and the HTML filter does not produce formatting that is readable by anything else. This means that for now the exchange of highly formatted documents can take place only with other KWord beta users.

That having been said, most of KWord works, works well, and is stable. Enough of the rest is at least hinted at that the user can see the beginnings of a truly exciting product; with greater import-export filter support it will likely become the word processor of choice among Linux users.

Kspread
KOffice's spreadsheet part seeks to provide all the features of popular commercial spreadsheets while maintaining data interchangeability with the other KOffice applications. Its import-export filters are more complete than those of KWord, and despite the lack of toolbar icons (there are menu items for the actions they provide), it is well along in its development. It has been less stable here than KWord is, but in an early beta this could just as easily be the fault of my system as it is of KSpread. Of particular interest to academic users is the full formula editor, which is available to other KOffice parts as well. It's shown in Figure 3.

KChart and Kgraph
As a standalone application, KChart--like other chartmakers--would probably provoke shrugs from the wider variety of users. But fitting as it does ever so nicely between KSpread and KPresenter, it is a wonderful tool for adding to reports and presentations. It allows the user to create just about any imaginable kind of chart, with live links to the underlying data, such that when the applications involved are open, a change in the data in one will be reflected in the others. In combination with the other KOffice parts, it is the suite's contribution to "powerful presentations" (which presumably exist because the phrase is so frequently used, but which like the Loch Ness monster cannot be relied upon). All the basic charting functions are currently enabled; the more elaborate ones are in development, with some nearly complete and some in early stages. It currently supports only its native file format. (We show KChart in Figure 4.)

KGraph is, unsurprisingly, to graphs as KChart is to charts. It accepts data from, for instance, KSpread, and produces live graphs for export to any of the other KOffice applications.

Kpresenter
Making use of the other KOffice parts in addition to code unique to itself, KPresenter lets you create, preview, rearrange, and, ultimately, run group presentations, HTML slideshows, and multimedia demos. It offers some templates to get the user started, but one is not limited to using them. It currently writes only its own file format, though filters for exchange with other presentation applications are in the works, and it will read some PowerPoint files.

KImageShop and Killustrator
KOffice provides two image makers and manipulators, KImageShop and KIllustrator. The former edits bitmap graphics, while the latter does vector drawing.

KImageShop as currently iterated starts up, gets part way there, and crashes here. When working, it will support a variety of bitmap graphics formats and will allow pixel editing and other advanced features common to popular standalone bitmap editors.

KIllustrator is designed to serve as a KDE-native replacement for such programs as the popular CorelDRAW!. It is highly functional already, though the ability to perform functions such as converting bitmaps to vector drawings are not there yet (which is not surprising -- this alone would require an enormous amount of highly complex code). It provides all the customary drawing tools, and it works. It currently reads and writes only its own file format. Those accustomed to using drawing programs will feel comfortable here; those who like me have never mastered a good drawing app will remain clueless with KIllustrator--which does, after all, provide only the tools; talent is issued elsewhere.

 

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