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AbiWord: The Underappreciated Word Processor - page 2

Collaboration, Speed, Simplicity

  • May 25, 2010
  • By Joe Brockmeier

One of the most important features of any word processor is how it handles the formats you need. Are you writing for yourself? Your co-workers? Clients? This is what has made Microsoft Word a "safe" choice for years. Everybody, for some values of everybody, has Word — at least in the business and educational settings. Compatibility with Word's Doc format is mandatory for many users because it's required to share with co-workers, family, fellow students, etc.

Here's where AbiWord may fall down a bit. It supports a spectacular variety of formats, but its support for Microsoft Word Doc and DocX is not quite as good as OpenOffice.org Writer. For instance, AbiWord happily imported DocX content and got most of the formatting and such right in a simple document — and even handled the revisions pretty well.

Importing more complex Word documents with tables and heavy formatting is another story. AbiWord doesn't handle those documents terribly well at all. It will import many files without complaint, but the rendered version looks very little like the original.

AbiWord's Open Document Format support is OK for importing, but it seems to annoy OpenOffice.org when exporting. Using AbiWord to export ODF, OpenOffice.org would complain that the file was "corrupted." Whether this is a flaw on the OpenOffice.org or AbiWord side is unclear, but it should be noted that you might run into some compatibility issues sending a ODF document to an OO.org user.

Finally, AbiWord has some support for niche formats like ClarisWorks, Applix, and PsiWord that you might not find elsewhere. It outputs to formats I've never heard of, which may be very useful if you need to save as MIF.

The long and short of it is, AbiWord may not be the top dog when it comes to mainstream document compatibility. But it holds its own pretty well.

Summary

Is AbiWord right for you? The best way to find out is to install it and try it for yourself. It depends much on how you use a word processor. If you're writing material to share with Microsoft Office users, OpenOffice.org is probably a better bet. But if you're writing material solo, or if you have the opportunity to recommend AbiWord to your collaborators, that's a different story.

AbiWord is a nice, light, word processor that has just the right balance between features and simplicity. If you want a simple and effective word processor that stays out of your way, AbiWord is an excellent choice.

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