Monday, December 20, 2004

Open file formats and AbiWord 2.2.2 for OS X

As an author, I own licenses for Microsoft Office for Windows and the Mac. Still, I try to avoid the use of Word as much as I can because of the horrible Microsoft closed file formats. Frankly, I can not understand how large companies and governments can justify the use of closed source proprietary file formats.

When I primarily used SuSE Linux for my desktop, as long as I had a truetype font server set up correctly, I was very happy using OpenOffice.org. (Strangely, OOo runs really well on Windows - go figure.)

Now that I have almost completely converted my business over to using Macs with OS X, I have found myself grudgingly using Word for the Mac (which is quite good). OOo under X11 on the Mac is usable, but far from perfect. I think that the people working on the NeoOfficeJ project (OOo running natively on OS X using Aqua) are doing a great job (I donated money at their site today - in my own interest to encourage people whose work I use!) and I find NeoOfficeJ to be very usable and getting better. In the future, NeoOfficeJ is likely to be my standard writing tool.

I gave AbiWord another look tonight - they have a minor version release since my last look. I liked what I saw:
  • AbiWord file format is clear and easy to parse XML
  • Light weight - loads in a few seconds even on my old iBook
  • Handles imported graphics well - I just save OmniGraffle drawings as TIFF first
  • Seems to generate tables of contents well (but no index building features - needed for very long documents)
I intend to give AbiWord a fair trial. If I do have to occasionally keep using Word for a while on my Macs, at least OOo has a great batch feature: searches nested directories for Word documents and generates OOo XML document files. In a few minutes in batch mode I can generate OOo XML format files for all of the Word documents on my system.

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