Tom's Definitive Linux Software Roundup: Office Applications

Presentations

Unlike word processors and spreadsheets, presentation software doesn't have a single industry leader to compare to. While Microsoft Office PowerPoint probably has the largest install base, Apple's Keynote is far ahead in terms of features and quality. Unfortunately, as with the rest of Apple's iWork suite, Keynote only runs in OS X on Apple hardware. Therefore, we will not be using it as a comparison product.

And, as with spreadsheets and word processors, presentation apps were tested using a .ppt test file that I found online. Note that I did open up this category to include apps that do not support .ppt files. As a result of mobile devices and the advent of bootable flash drives, those giving presentations shouldn't worry too much about compatibility with any proprietary format. For that reason, backward compatibility was not considered mandatory.

OO.o Impress (v.3.0.1)

Among the presentation apps for Linux, OO.o Impress is the most closely related to PowerPoint. It imported the test .ppt file flawlessly with transitions, objects, and all. Impress also tailors your presentation to overhead projector transparencies, traditional slides, screens, and even paper, furthering its usefulness, independent of medium.

If you don't already have PowerPoint, save yourself some cash by using Impress instead. But jump back to reality here. Being on par with PowerPoint is really just a tie for second place. Any shop serious about presentations no doubt has an Apple lying around for running KeyNote. Bottom line: Impress is really the only viable presentation software for Linux, if coming from PowerPoint.




SoftMaker Presentations (2008 Trial Edition)

SoftMaker Presentations opened the test .ppt file, but it confused numbered lists with bulleted lists. This is by far the most lacking app in SoftMaker's Office suite, both in terms of compatibility and feature set.

SoftMaker Presentations has a paltry number of options compared to PowerPoint or Impress. However, it is much more user-friendly than the other apps listed here. You can add text, tables, or pictures into any box other than title boxes simply by clicking the corresponding icons within the blank object boxes. I can see how somebody who doesn't need complicated slides or hasn't used PowerPoint in many years would get by just fine with this app.




KPresenter (v.1.6.3)

KPresenter is the only presentation application that does not open MS PowerPoint files. While that's not a deal-breaker, its lack of template variety is. This app is not user-friendly, and if you've spend time in PowerPoint, you will not feel at ease with KPresenter. The layout, functions, and steps needed to create a new presentation in this app seem alien in almost every way.

Compounding its user-unfriendliness is the document structure sidebar, which breaks slides into their various components (text, tables, pictures). While this could come in handy for large documents, as it does in KWord, it seems totally unnecessary for single slides.

One positive that I noticed was the crispness of text and objects when played in full-screen slideshow mode. Unless you're planning on running KDE and using the rest of KOffice, pass on KPresenter, especially if you're used to PowerPoint.

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  • And don't bother looking for any anti-virus becuase you don't need it or cracks for your software becuase almost all app are free !!!!!!!
    -5
  • ... for my laptop @ work the only licensed thing are win7hp and KAV... all other apps are free... infrerecorder, inkskape, OOo and so on...
    5
  • Open Office and the other open source software are great for what they are, but try replacing Access 2007 or 2010 with something open source, and you'll be tearing your hair out.
    0
  • I assume that OO 3.0.1 is what you have in the repositories - was that the reason for testing the older version (version 3.2 came out two months ago)?
    1
  • bloody llamaOpen Office and the other open source software are great for what they are, but try replacing Access 2007 or 2010 with something open source, and you'll be tearing your hair out.


    This is very true, I love Open Office and for my home use it does 100% of what I would use MS Office for, that being said if I had to run a business on it I am afraid it would be worth it to pony up the dough for an MS product.
    1
  • Tom's Hardware omitted the best performing, most comprehensive, free and Open Source Accounting ERP software available for download. It's called "xTuple ERP PostBooks Edition" and utilizes PostgreSQL. This software is capable of running anything from a small to large business. Link: http://www.xtuple.org
    -3
  • We installed Linux and OOo into one of our offices (sort of an experiment to cut costs) and it was a riot. Not that Linux and OOo are bad, it's just that the power of habit is too strong to break when Windows and Linux are concerned. Windows and OS/X... not so much apparently.
    -3
  • Open Source is the future. ...... companies that profit millions or billions off of proprietary software. They are what hold us back.
    5
  • killerclickWindows and OS/X... not so much apparently.

    Well it's not like Office on Windows and Mac are vastly different, I'd hope that users would feel comfortable using the exact same software...

    I must attest to the uselessness of OOo Calc though. It needs a ground-up rewrite. It's slow to load and process even a small to moderately sized amount of data and charts are slow to redraw when altered. I have not tested GNUMeric enough to comment on that but it's supposedly alot faster.

    I'm interested in looking at those project management programs. There's also OpenProj to add to the list.
    2
  • hmm ... not my area of software, I try to avoid office apps as much as I can, but last time I worked in Writer/Calc it was slow and unresponsive. The best thing in Writer was the TeX like equation editor, way better than what MS had to offer. I think they made some progress on OOo since that time, so I'd have to test.
    0
  • Adding Inkscape to the productivity set and you've got a really strong offer.

    A note about Scribus: I don't how rich set of PDF tools MS Publisher has, but with Scribus you're able to create active PDF elements, optional JavaScript control of these elements, without having to buy Adobe editing software. In contrast to Adobe's software (I think this still applies) you can create whatever you want from a clean sheet. It looks simpler but when you start to dig deeper there are tons of options and possibilities.

    When it comes to productivity it's hard to beat LaTeX. Word processors are clumsy beasts, not automatically producing good documents. Linux is a better platform for LaTeX.
    3
  • Scribus almost as good as MS Publisher? What are you smoking?!

    OK, to be fair, quality-wise there are three products at the top: Quark Xpress, MS Publisher and Scribus. However...
    - MS Publisher sucks when you send the file to a print shop: they don't like it. They scoff at it. It sucks for professional jobs. I cite my print agent here.
    - the Postscript and colour management code in MS Publisher is so far from the two others that, if you want reliable results, ... you simply won't use it. Scribus allows you to manually set the colour space of each and every element on your document, which is a MUST for professional printing, and has so many PDF export options (including a debugger, a MUST to ensure no transparency elements remain on the document and that all glyphs in custom fonts are exported with it).

    Scribus is bare when you open it: that's NORMAL. You want to see the documents, not the template collections MS Publisher feeds you.

    Next, Koffice and its document explorer: that's what Navigator in OOo is for. It used to be open by default in OOo, but MS Word users got so distracted by it they asked OOo to have it closed by default in version 2.0. Koffice didn't get the message.

    Font rendering in OOo: A complete rewrite happened between versions 2.4 and 3.1. 3.0 had most of the code in place, but it was deactivated. Versions 3.1.1 and 3.2 have nicely hinted, antialiased output.

    Database front-ends: OOo base has one very nice feature, in that it can draw interfaces on top of external databases. While Access allows you to create all-in-one files (forms and data in the same package), Base allows you to create forms that are actually Writer documents hitting on, say, a MySQL DB.

    Spreadsheet: Calc is the part that got the most work in version 3.2. You may actually forget about older versions, OOo Calc 3.2 is a different app altogether.

    Grisbi has one nice thing going for it: it's developed in cooperation with the French Ministry of Finance (through APRIL). GNU Cash is more US-based. If you're not French, Grisbi has no advantage over GNU Cash. If you are, though, Grisbi is damn cool.
    4
  • randomizerWell it's not like Office on Windows and Mac are vastly different, I'd hope that users would feel comfortable using the exact same software...I must attest to the uselessness of OOo Calc though. It needs a ground-up rewrite. It's slow to load and process even a small to moderately sized amount of data and charts are slow to redraw when altered. I have not tested GNUMeric enough to comment on that but it's supposedly alot faster.I'm interested in looking at those project management programs. There's also OpenProj to add to the list.

    Doh! Good catch, yeah it looks like OpenProj should have been here. This story has been in the system so long I forgot to give you a heads up that it came out today. Next time I'll be sure to link you to the preview before it hits.
    0
  • jsowocI assume that OO 3.0.1 is what you have in the repositories - was that the reason for testing the older version (version 3.2 came out two months ago)?

    The office suites and the word procs, spreadsheets, and presentation apps were done first - like several months ago before Communications Apps published - Ubuntu 9.04 repos. Good news is that the links are to the latest stable versions, so ya'll might not have the issues I did with the older versions.
    0
  • "But what value has MS Office really added in the past decade?"
    As opposed to OpenOffice.org (which I really HAVE used extensively), MS Office loads much quicker. But the main plus that OpenOffice.org just can't overcome is the huge MS collection of clipart, photos, etc. I tried importing OpenClipart into OpenOffice, but there's no way to search it, and so you have to scroll through thousands of images to find the one you're looking for. Not fun. Creating cards with Word? Developing a website with Expression Web? I need that clipart!
    -1
  • mitch074Spreadsheet: Calc is the part that got the most work in version 3.2. You may actually forget about older versions, OOo Calc 3.2 is a different app altogether.

    And it's still horribly slow. For production environments you'd spend more time waiting for it to redraw a chart than you would actually getting work done. I have little or no problem with other OOo components (bar subjective preferences) but Calc just isn't up to par performance-wise. The addition of antialiasing was a much-needed feature so it's good that they added that. Charts (particularly line graphs) without AA are hideous to say the least.

    adamoveraDoh! Good catch, yeah it looks like OpenProj should have been here. This story has been in the system so long I forgot to give you a heads up that it came out today. Next time I'll be sure to link you to the preview before it hits.

    Haha, no problem. I'll just bug you more often to see if there's anything in the pipe :D
    -1
  • I love Linux articles! However, besides that...nice article Adam and the references to the others. I will have to read them later :D
    -1
  • TjikAdding Inkscape to the productivity set and you've got a really strong offer.A note about Scribus: I don't how rich set of PDF tools MS Publisher has, but with Scribus you're able to create active PDF elements, optional JavaScript control of these elements, without having to buy Adobe editing software. In contrast to Adobe's software (I think this still applies) you can create whatever you want from a clean sheet. It looks simpler but when you start to dig deeper there are tons of options and possibilities.When it comes to productivity it's hard to beat LaTeX. Word processors are clumsy beasts, not automatically producing good documents. Linux is a better platform for LaTeX.

    Inkscape is in the next segment - Multimedia Apps (Video/Audio/Images). I'm sure if I used Scribus more that I would find more positives to it, but ease-of-use is a big issue for people coming from the MS sandbox, and the thing about publisher was "Oh snap, it's who's birthday today?!?" and within five minutes you've made a card. But hey, Scribus is the only game in town and not bad at all considering the price tag, especially since Publisher is now $170 (considerably more than it was when I used it - like double!).
    0
  • For normal user, perhaps OpenOffice is a good alternative.
    But I feel MS Office product have more stuff and you really appreciate it when you know how to use it.

    I have tried OpenOffice since everyone said is a good alternative.
    After few tests, I perfer paid for something good than a open source.
    -Things like Access turn very badly. (weird format understand by OpenOffice only. You can't do multi-platform db.)
    -MS Doc have some notable differency. Just open the same .doc in MS Office and OpenOffice, you'll find many differency. This could be really trouble some when you want the same thing everywhere.

    But my point is just on "most valuable MS Office Product" (Word, Excel and Access). You can use alternative like OpenOffice for others products.
    0
  • MiharuJust open the same .doc in MS Office and OpenOffice, you'll find many differency.

    Unfortunately that's because the developers have to reverse engineer the format due to its proprietary nature. If something like OpenDocument Format was used there would be no such cross-compatibility issues because the standard is there to read by anyone, including Microsoft. But so far MS have refused to implement OpenDocument properly.
    0