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The StartX Files: Word to the Wise: gwp - page 2

The Paradox of Being Cool

  • October 2, 2001
  • By Brian Proffitt

This week's word processor it actually the application that prompted this little rant. gwp, the GNOME word processor that used be be called XWord (not to be confused with Xword, a crossword compiler for X), is one of those applications that needs to be compiled. No RPM or DEB packages here, kids. Just pure tarball and a session with gmake is all that's needed. Or so the enclosed directions indicated.

After moving a few .sh files around and confirming that I did indeed have gnome-print and libxml on my SuSE 7.2 install, I was finally able to get gwp to compile error-free and running.

To call gwp the GNOME Word Processor, which is what the acronym means, seems a bit generous. gwp was originally a part of the Hungry Programmers project, a collection of software that includes Lesstif. Somewhere along the line, gwp got pulled into the GNOME Project, presumably to enhance the GNOME Project's productivity tools. At least, that's what it says on the gwp Web site.

When you try to find gwp on the GNOME software map, you will find it buried not within the Productivity category, but within the Miscellaneous section, along with 142 other assorted applications. Hardly an auspicious location. It makes me wonder, frankly, just what being pulled into the GNOME Project means. After all, it's no secret that AbiWord is the star of the GNOME Office suite, and there seems to be no mention of the gwp application anywhere on GNOME's Web site. In fact, the GNOME Web site cheerfully refers you back to the Hungry Programmer's site for downloading the software. (The solution to this Mobius Loop is to visit the Hungry Programmer's FTP site.)

Not exactly helpful.

Part of the problem here may be in the dual nature of the gwp application itself. At first glance, gwp's most likely counterpart is seemingly gnotepad, Kedit, or WordPad (in the Windows realm). And for that kind of functionality, gwp can serve you well. It has a clean interface for font management and paragraph alignment and it is just the thing to pop off the quick note or two.

Where the real power of gwp is supposed to comes in is with its capabilities to produce documents in its XML-based native file format. Using XML (eXtensible Markup Language), gwp can move beyond the traditional typesetting methodology of creating text documents and into a structured-document format. In structured documents, chapter headings are always given the same style, based on the fact that they are chapter headings. Looks become secondary to the structure of the document.

Does gwp pull its XML alter ego off? Sad to say, no. Style controls are not at your fingertips on the interface and I kept getting a consistent set of errors when the fonts tried to load. Some deep research on this problem came up with a three-year-old message on a mailing list that recommended a switch to Debian, which I thought was a bit cynical to say the least.

Nor does it look like gwp will be enhanced in the near future. The last update of the application was in 1999, with no sign of activity in the near future.

There are some indications that gwp still lives on in one form or another. Hints have been found that gwp's XML capabilities may be getting some new life in the Bonobo component model, if only to work with Gnumeric's XML-based file format.

gwp appears to be one of those many Linux applications that got off to a fair start but was then co-opted by a larger product and essentially removed from the software realm for the purposes of using it for parts. This is one of the consequences of working with a notoriously free software environment--one that we see every day. I would have liked to see what would have come from continued development on gwp. As a documentation specialist, the world could always use more XML tools.

Available from: http://terror.hungry.com/products/gwp/, ftp://ftp.hungry.com/pub/hungry/gwp/
Versions reviewed: gwp 0.3.2
License: GPL
Cost: Free

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