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The Start X Files: Between the Sheets with HancomSheet - page 2

The Quest for an Original Idea

  • January 10, 2002
  • By Brian Proffitt

HancomSheet has quite a few problems going for it right out of the gate, particularly for an application that is being marketed for Linux users.

First off, the application is not free. Meaning as in neither beer nor software freedom. A rarity in the Linux world, HancomLinux has opted to release the HancomOffice suite as a for-pay, closed source package. And the application does cost money. You can't acquire any of the HancomOffice components separately; you have to get the whole suite, which costs $49.95 US. (At the time of this writing, the suite was selling for $24.95 US on the HancomLinux Web site.)

While I am not opposed to paying for good software, the fact that you can't download a demo to examine is a bit of a bugaboo. In fact, you can't download any version of HancomOffice, full or otherwise. If you have managed to make the leap past these first obstacles, be forewarned that if you purchase HancomOffice, you're going to have to wait for the boxed set of software to be delivered to you.

I am not naive enough to think that suggesting HancomLinux alter its license to something more open is akin to spitting at a forest fire. But restructuring the actual delivery method into something a lot of Linux users won't choke on would not be a bad place to start.

Unfortunately, if I were basing the decision to get HancomOffice solely on what I have seen in HancomSheet, I would say all of these obstacles are moot. In other words, don't buy HancomOffice for this spreadsheet application.

While HancomSheet was very quick in the KDE environment (nearly as fast as Gnumeric in GNOME), speed is not enough to save this application from the status of mediocre at best.

One glaring problem was the way HancomSheet has you enter functions. In other apps, some sort of drop-down list in the toolbar is typically used to insert a function into a cell. Then, you can usually click on individual cells or a range of cells to enter the values into the function. In HancomSheet, you have no such luxury. Instead, you have to lurch through a Function Wizard to accomplish this.

You can type functions in manually and then use the mouse to click on cells for value entry, but you have to make sure you have your cursor in between the parentheses of the function in the input line and be pressing Ctrl while you click on the cells. The whole thing felt cumbersome, as did entering data across a row. Instead of hitting the Tab key to move across a row after entering data in a cell, you have to use the mouse to click the adjacent cell. This was a huge time-waster, especially when I was entering text values and both my hands were on the keyboard.

HancomSheet is a study in a lot of flash but not a lot of substance. I found that many of the heavy-hitter tools, such as data analysis, charts, and a killer pivot table-like tool called ezTable did very well in terms of ease of use and speed. The charts were especially robust and easy to configure.

But I did not like the fact that there were only 183 functions included with HancomSheet, and each sheet only contained 16,384 rows and 512 columns. This last figure means that there are only 8,288,608 cells for an HancomSheet sheet, exactly half of what a Gnumeric sheet can hold.

Another limiting factor was HancomSheet's inability to open up any non-native formats except Excel. Granted, it accomplished this fairly well, but there are a lot of other apps out there Linux users could share files with besides Excel. Fortunately, delimited text files can be pulled in, though that does not help for formatting.

For something based on Qt, I was expecting better integration with the KDE desktop. The application's fonts were not well rendered, and I could not immediately access the same fonts KDE could for my documents. I ended up manually copying my font files over to HancomOffice's font directory to get HancomSheet to see my fonts, which I thought was rather silly, since I am now taking up double the disk space up just to get fonts visible in HancomOffice.

Stability was not a problem for large files with lots of calculations, but there were two separate segfault incidents when I was entering function values with the mouse.

Over and over, I found examples of how HancomSheet seemed to be loaded with lots of fancy goodies, but a strong lack of attention was paid to the basics of the app itself. Having already reviewed HancomWord and found that to be a higher quality application, I suspect that HancomLinux has put a lot of its eggs into that basket. HancomSheet looks and feels like an afterthought and I cannot recommend it as a worthwhile spreadsheet.

Available from: http://www.hancom.com/
Version reviewed: HancomSheet for Linux 2.0
License: Proprietary
Cost: $24.95 US (for HancomOffice 2.0)

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