KOffice Makes Gains but Lags Behind Other Options

KOffice 1.3 makes notable improvements over previous versions, but enterprises considering the suite as a Microsoft Corp.

KOffice 1.3 makes notable improvements over previous versions, but enterprises considering the suite as a Microsoft Corp. Office alternative should look at more-capable proprietary software, such as Evermore Integrated Office, or other open-source offerings.

Despite KOffices improvements—including several important bug fixes—the suite is still no match for Sun Microsystems Inc.s StarOffice or OpenOffice.orgs OpenOffice 1.0 in the enterprise computing space. The KOffice suites biggest limitation is that, unlike StarOffice and OpenOffice, it does not support macros. Users of Microsoft Word or Excel macros, therefore, are out of luck.

KOffices main applications include KWord, a word processing and desktop publishing application; KSpread, a table-oriented spreadsheet application; and KPresenter, a presentation program. The Kivio flowchart program, Karbon14 vector drawing program, KFormula formula editor, KChart drawing program and Kugar database report creator round out the latest version.

The biggest strength of KOffice, by far, is its components interoperability: It is possible to embed every KOffice component in another component. For example, we easily inserted a KChart drawing into a KWord document.

The Krita image manipulation program and the Kexi database management tool, although not included in the Release Candidate 1 edition we tested, are planned for future versions, according to the KOffice user group.

We obtained our test copy of KOffice 1.3 RC1 from the KDE FTP Web site by downloading the source code. We used Konstruct, an open-source build system that downloads defined source Tape Archive files, checks their integrity and then builds and installs them. (For Labs look at Konstruct, go to www.eWEEK.com/labslinks).

Because we were running an earlier version of KDE, Konstruct automatically downloaded, built and installed the KDE 3.2 Beta 1 build needed to run KOffice 1.3.

In eWEEK Labs tests, KWord, KSpread and KPresenter generally did a good job of opening and displaying Microsoft file formats. Certain features, such as a table of contents from a Microsoft Office document, were rendered a little roughly, however. We also ran into problems maintaining the column width from our stories formatted in eWEEK templates.

KOffice documents are natively zipped for storage. Inside these files, KOffice data is stored in XML files while pictures are stored as binary data.

KOffice files cannot be saved in the .doc file format—something OpenOffice is able to do. Instead, files must be saved in the .rtf file format to ensure compatibility with Word.

The XML tags used by KOffices applications are private to KOffice. However, Version 1.4 will switch to the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards file format for its major applications. This will enable users to ditch their OpenOffice.org import filters and use the export filters as a compatibility layer for older- version KOffice documents.

Were glad to see the KOffice contributors make this decision because it builds momentum behind a nonproprietary, multivendor format.