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The StartX Files: Word to the Wise: Wrapping Up and Picking a Winner - page 4

None Dare Call it Settling

  • November 30, 2001
  • By Brian Proffitt

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

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.

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. Speaking as a documentation specialist, the world could always use more XML tools.

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