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The StartX Files: Anyware's Words

What's In a Name?

  • September 25, 2001
  • By Brian Proffitt

Before I was a married man, but after I was engaged, I spent a happy time trying to figure out what this woman I loved was all about. (It should be noted that after 12 years I still haven't the slightest clue.)

One of the things we discussed was the subject of children, which we both agreed we should have at some point in out lives. Being the ultimate planner that she is--this much I had figured out right away--she wanted to talk about names for our future children. And so, even though children would be years in our future, we sat down one starry night and figured out what the names might be.

Her first suggestion? Annette.

Now, this is not so odd, considering that I have a cousin with this same name and we have a strong tradition of passing names down in my family. To see why this might raise a problem, I invite you to say the first and last names together: Annette Proffitt.

Not wanting to subject our first daughter to an endless run of pun jibes all of her life, we decided not to use this name when the time came. A favor I will remind her off when she is a teenager and screaming about her dad's fuddy-duddy ways. It could have been much worse, I will remind her.

Names are important in human society. They convey instant meaning for the holder of the name. If someone calls your name in the middle of a crowded party, you will instantly be looking for the speaker, hoping at the very least they will offer to get you another drink.

Given the importance of names, I find myself asking this public question to VistaSource: if you're going to change the name of Applixware Office, why don't you get on with it already? For several months, this product has been labeled under the dual-moniker of Applixware Office 5.0 or Anyware Desktop for Linux--depending on which page of the VistaSource Web site you happen to be visiting. This is not to be confused with the AnywareOffice suite, which offers the same components as Applixware Office/Anyware Desktop, minus the database client and application development environment.

VistaSource has taken great pains to maintain some sort of continuity for old Applixware Office customers and potential new Anyware Desktop customers--to the point of great confusion for anyone not familiar with the background of these applications. For instance, when you visit the VistaSource online store after reading about all of the great features of Applixware Office 5.0 (which has its own page on the VistaSource Web site), you will not find a listing for the product under that name. Instead, you will only see product listings for Anyware Desktop 2.0 and older versions of Applixware Office in the online catalog. Just so you know, Anyware Desktop 2.0 is Applixware Office 5.0.

Normally, I would laud the efforts of maintaining continuity, but since the application itself has not been updated since April 24, 2000, I am kind of wondering how many former customers they are hoping to keep by maintaining the old name for so long. After all, the faithful masses will probably be aware of the name change by now. It seems a bit gimmicky (my new favorite term of disparagement) and, I fear, a bit desperate.

The reason for having a name change at all stems from the fact that VistaSource is strongly pushing its Anyware software series, a collection of desktop tools that can be run on a Linux machine or accessed over the Internet using the Anyware Application Server, and Anyware RealTime a set of data analysis tools aimed at the financial and business arena. Even if the line between all of their products is not entirely clear, it is clear that VistaSource has targeted the high-end business desktop in a big way.

For word processing needs, which is what this column is about, both AnywareOffice and Anyware Desktop feature the cleverly named Words. Before reviewing this product, I should tell you that in the intervening months since I first looked at the Words standalone product and now, there has been a change of marketing for this product.

Applixware Office and its core components fall into that odd little area of software known as commercial Linux software. There's no fooling around with GPL or BSD licenses here, folks. If you want the software, you will need to cough up the dough. This is an anathema to many dedicated free software folks, and it is likely to drive many of them away. But, whether you agree with VistaSource's strategy or not, you have to admire their no-compromise stance on this issue in a time when many software developers are pressured to open their source code.

What is a little harder to admire is the fact that you can no longer seem to purchase Words as a separate component. It used to be possible to pick up Words for $50 US. It appears that this is no longer the case. You can now only order the Anyware Desktop suite in its entirety, which runs for $99 US. Value wise, this is not such a bad deal, since you are getting all of the office suite components (Words, Spreadsheets, Graphics, Mail, Presents, Data, and the SHELF/Builder) instead of just Words. But, if you are not in the market for a full office suite this will be rather off-putting. What is also very weird is the fact that you can't seem to buy the AnywareOffice (the lite version of Anyware Desktop) either.

Words as a separate product will be sorely missed by users looking for a full-featured word processor. Because this is one of the better word processor offerings I have seen for Linux to date.

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