It’s been some time since I wrote the 2019 version of this post covering Linux word processor products. Much has changed in the world of Linux word processors and not for the better in some cases.
This is still the tried and true project it has been for many years. Keep it simple. It’s my go-to when I have to create RTF documentation files for software projects. Why RTF? Because that form was designed to play with with source code management systems like Git. It’s not a full office suite nor is it a robust word processor. This is for when you need to get the words down with spell-checking in a distraction free manner. It will always be installed on the computer of a professional writer.
Many believed this word processor to be left for dead. It finally had an update in July of 2021. When you look at the release notes you see my previous mention of it is mostly confirmed. One dude made all changes but one. I will give him kudos for his devotion to the project. There was a time when even journalists gave praise to AbiWord. That time is not now. Once again it crashed trying to load the test document which is a version of my Phallus of AGILE book. Once again it crashed. It did, however, claim to have gotten to 98% importing/loading the file. It did load my Christmas letter and it still has no concept of how to place text around an image.
Makes a lot of claims to greatness on its Web site. I will admit, being able to edit PDF files would be nice. I wouldn’t need Master PDF Edit. (That’s a fine product by the way.)
The commercial licensing (yes, there is a free version, that’s what I tested) isn’t unreasonable. Roughly $30/yr for a handful of machines. Given all of the claims being made that seemed sweet!
It did okay with some of the early files. My resume which uses some template I found on-line that forces me to only edit it on Windows loaded, though looked a bit odd. I think this had more to do with my being unfamiliar with the editing layout than anything else.
The test document failed spectacularly. Well, I don’t know if it failed. I started loading it. Took a bathroom break. Downloaded FreeOffice. Went over to another machine and applied updates to two different Ubuntu VMs. Installed FreeOffice on the test machine. Finally I killed off WPS. I have no ide if it would have ever completed.
I almost didn’t try this. They are using FlatHub so it is not something one would discover in a repo. Flathub and releasing via Flatpak solves many problems. It creates others. Had I not chosen Elementary for the test machine I wouldn’t have even heard about this. Elementary is the first (as far as I know) Linux distro to standardize on Flatpak.
- it is based on Ubuntu
- I paid them $10 to download Elementary when I set that machine up
- you can open a terminal and install some things from the command line.
You cannot do a full update from the command line because sudo apt-get update doesn’t deal with the flatpaks. Yes, there is probably a command line tool to update flatpaks, I just haven’t bothered to look for it.
While this may look okay, it has a loooong way to go. Part of this is due to Flatpak packaging. The projected download size was 800 MEG. Once I started it I could not access the directory on my NAS (Network Attached Storage) I had been using with everything else. Grumbling I copied the directory to my HOME on the test computer. Nah, couldn’t get to that. Moved the directory under Documents which seemed to be the only place O2O would look. Nah, could only see the O2O directory under Documents. Dragged the directory underneath the O2O and finally I could see it.
My resume is in DOCX format. Tried to load it. “Oh, we’re sorry, we only support ODT and HTML.” Fine! I decided to start small, just my Christmas letter which starts out with a picture of the cat that showed up here. What a tragedy! It doesn’t understand how to size images. That picture was shrunk down to a nice small image in the actual file. It was nearly a full page when I opened the file with O2O.
LibreOffice is the default word processor on many Linux distros. This gives it kind of a Microsoft Word presence in the Linux desktop world. It’s what’s already there and free. The quality of LibreOffice has basically fallen off a cliff. Massive busted changes are pushed out on a regular basis. It’s gotten to the point that if you open a document that had images and footnotes and some page headings and was created with a two-plus year old version of LO in a current version you can’t be certain it won’t corrupted the file. The display will definitely be trashed. I think they’ve changed image handling something like five times in the past seven years.
Stability is not a word in the LibreOffice dictionary.
The QA team tends to close bugs at will and gets indignant when you tell them the bug they flagged your bug as a duplicate of has nothing to do with your bug. You can even prove the “fix” didn’t fix anything in your bug, but they close it anyway.
Part of what started this post is the fact LO has become unusable for regular writing. It’s being run too much like other failing OpenSource projects. No matter how it works, just ship it. At least that’s what it feels like when you pull up an older document to make a minor change.
What Linux Distros Need To Do
This has gotten to the point that all desktop Linux distros need to stop pre-loading it. Debian should even consider removing LO from its official repositories. Hey, I understand the history, I was there.
- SUN wrote OpenOffice to showcase Java. (Most of OO was written in C/C++ though.)
- SUN was possibly the worst run company in the world of IT. Evil Oracle Empire bought the scrap metal after the wreck.
- Never get in bed with Oracle or Microsoft, you’ll catch Corporate AIDS and die every time. Hasty fork to LibreOffice.
- Lots of effort, lots of work, lots of clean-up, lots of purging of Java to get rid of all the memory issues.
- It’s-what-we-had Syndrome.
You see Canonical and many other Linux vendors are trying to get corporate America to switch their desktop OS. There’s a golden opportunity coming up as Microsoft is trying to abandon computers more than four years old with Windows 11. What Canonical and the other make-money-from-Linux companies haven’t figured out is it is not about price.
Corporate America can’t switch to an office package that is a shifting sand dune in high wind. They need an office package that will let them open and edit documents ten-plus years old. It has to display these documents the same way. It can’t look perfect when they save it then when they come back seven years later have it look like something wretched up on the screen. Corporate America puts a lot of images with captions in their documentation these days. You can’t keep re-writing that just because you want to re-write it.
Being the default word processor/office package on many Linux distros has gone to their head and not in a good way. Loyalty is misplaced here.
At first blush version 7.2 appeared to have loaded my latest resume, but not really. You will understand more when you see later pictures.
You know, I seem to remember the OnlyOffice crowd asking for several of my book files after my 2019 post. I thought they were just trying to scam some free books and get even with me by posting them for free on-line somewhere. When I opened my Christmas letter I was pleasantly surprised. There appeared to be an image border issue.
I’m not certain this is their fault. It might well be LO didn’t bother saving the border information or didn’t save it properly now that they changed image handling again. This is something that changed while I was writing my Phallus of AGILE book which is why I’m giving OO the benefit of the doubt.
I told you LO only appeared to load my resume correctly. This is sweet. That is from a not-too-simple template I found online. Please compare this image with what LO loaded.
I really hope you go back and look at the 2019 post. OnlyOffice has made some pretty great strides since then. If you have multiple monitors you should have the 2019 post open in one and this post open in another when comparing OnlyOffice.
Not messed up anywhere near as bad this time. They just have a problem with caption positioning.
This isn’t mangled like it was previously.
If they manage to fix the caption problem and the problem with losing the running page heading justification, they should have a rock solid word processor.
The border margin issue is consistent when there are no captions to hide it so I’m going to guess that LO didn’t write the proper stuff to the file.
You really need two monitors and the old post open for this one as well. I seem to remember these people requesting “files to test with” after the 2019 post. I was underwhelmed in 2019. There seemed to be a lack of polish.
They gave it a new paint job and did some serious work under the hood.
They handle captions correctly and really cleaned up the font rendering. Notice that they don’t have the border margin issue? What may not be obvious is that both of these images managed to be on the same page like they are supposed to be. That didn’t happen with OnlyOffice due to the mishandled captions.
For some reason they didn’t properly import the justification of the line number in the running page heading.
Yes, when all else fails RTFM (Read The Fine Manual). The ingenious and infuriating “we gotta make money with this” strategy was to make image captions and tables part of the commercial product, not the free one. Since almost all significant school documents want captions on images citing sources, students will need to get a commercial license. They do have a $30 subscription allowing you to install it on five computers and five Android devices so if five college buddies all chip in $6 they could swing it. Personally I would opt for the $100 one time purchase professional thing.
Did not test
- creating a shiny new document with running page headings, different for left and right pages
- inserting an image with a caption
- the ability to create and print envelopes
- the pdf export function most of them claimed to have
- insertion of footnotes
Honestly, I thought half a day on this was more than enough. Most Linux distros have a “PDF Printer” installed these days so you can simply “print” to that printer and it will create a PDF file on disk for you. Having PDF export in the application is nice, but today we have other solutions if the functionality is needed.
You just cannot get a commercial quality product unless there is a commercial version of it. For those of you wanting to hold up Linux keep in mind that businesses have commercial support contracts for the server versions. When it gets fixed for the server it’s fixed for your desktop. The things that are wretched in most Linux distros are the things that don’t have a money spigot customers can turn off.
When you are working for free there is no incentive to work hard.
I realize that some Linux distros have a severe dislike for anything with a commercial version being in their repos (yet they commercially sell support contracts so the prostitutes need to stop calling the street walkers whores) but they need to start putting some of this stuff not only in the repos but loaded in the default desktop. It’s long past time to dump LibreOffice as the default office package in your distro. The complete lack of stability with the office package is why Linux never made it as the corporate desktop.
First Place: FreeOffice
Yes, it’s annoying to have them nag you about upgrading to a commercial version. (Perhaps that stops after a few days?) Yes, not having captions or tables in the free version sucks.
They do not have a high end package and $30 for a five license bundle isn’t exorbitant price. What remains to be seen is how flexible they are on management. As a Linux user I routinely wipe my primary machine to put a new distro on. They need to have a remote license management Web page where I can de-activate the license on a machine I’m about to re-install. UltraEdit had this once they supported Linux. It was nice.
Note: When I finish writing and posting this I’m buying the $100 professional license. They fixed enough for me to do that.
Second Place: OnlyOffice
Quite frankly I’m astounded with just how much this word processor improved. They don’t have a commercial desktop version for “a regular Joe.” They are focused on selling Enterprise collaboration services. This desktop version is just kind of fall-out from that. Good fall-out though.
Third Place: FocusWriter
Unless the developer of FocusWriter does something incredibly stupid, it will always have an entry in this list. Of all the stuff I looked at this one chose to be “just a word processor” for a serious writer. People who don’t write for a living or don’t write really long novel sized documents simply cannot understand the appeal of distraction free writing.
WordPerfect didn’t become the best selling DOS based word processor by accident. It was a solid product with a distraction free blue screen. Poke around and you can even find a WordPerfect theme for FocusWriter.
Not much gets added to FocusWriter and not much changes. It is a good and stable tool.