Friday, 15 June 2007

Word Processor Reviews

There's an extensive review of word processing options over at which includes the two notable open source applications Writer and AbiWord.

The criticism of AbiWord is especially harsh but I think it's something they really need to take on board. I remember posting to the AbiWord development list about the program struggling to handle a reference I was writing for another open source project, and was told point blank not to expect AbiWord to handle anything more than basic documents. I was taken aback, to say the least.

The frustrating thing is, with a bit of care taken to make it more robust, AbiWord really has a lot of potential. It is not bloated like OOo Writer, it can gain innovative new features like AbiCollab. It can work well with other "Gnome Office" applications like Gnumeric. And it does - contrary to the statement of the review - support advanced things like equation editing (see 2.4.0 release notes).

The problem is, it is [in the open source arena] the little guy. The big players are backing the big boy, OOo Writer, and the Abi devs have been unable to take advantage of their position so far because they have not been able to make it robust enough to retain users. I just could not rely on it when I tried to adopt AbiWord earlier last year. User retention is everything in the software industry and especially so in open source software. No users, no community, no contributors.

My advice? Take the review criticism seriously. If there are false statements (such as the equation editing) then the problem is documentation. Otherwise, the criticisms are the major reasons people are not using AbiWord.