Tuesday, October 04, 2005
This post's featured project is AbiWord. As the name suggests, AbiWord is a word processing program similar to Microsoft Word and WordPerfect.
A little history, AbiWord is part of a larger project known as AbiSource, which was begun by the SourceGear Corporation. The goal of AbiSource is the development of a cross-platform, open source office suite. They started with the project's word processor, AbiWord.
SourceGear released the source code to AbiWord, and a development community formed around it. SourceGear no longer works on the project, but the developer community continues to improvement and enhance AbiWord.
If you are looking for a small, stable, but still feature-rich word processor, look no further than AbiWord. The main claim to fame for AbiWord is the shear number of operating systems it supports. Unix, Linux, Windows 95 or later, Mac OS X, BeOS, and QNX Neutrino 6.2 (whatever that is :->). It's designed in such a way that making ports to different OSes is easy. It's also easy to port AbiWord to different languages.
But, most of us don't worry about porting software, we just want something that works well and works now. AbiWord is that too. AbiWord is fully compatible with Microsoft Word files, and has filters for many other formats, like WordPerfect, OpenOffice.org's native format, HTML, RTF, and even Outlook Express email. Of course, you can always use AbiWord's own native format, which is based on XML.
AbiWord is not just a glorified text editor, either. AbiWord has advanced document layout options available for you. Tables, bullets, numbered lists, graphics, footnotes, endnotes, and styles can all be added to give your documents the professional and exciting look that you need them to have.
Common word processing features like spell-check, word count, and mail merge are all included, so updating a form letter or report with a database file or comma-separated/tabbed text files is a breeze.
Do you ever need to work in a language other than English? AbiWord has dictionaries available for over 30 languages, including some languages for which dictionaries are hard to find. And AbiWord can work with languages that are right-to-left as well as left-to-right, and supports them both in a single document.
How about server environments? Do you work on one? Do you think you ever might? If so, AbiWord works great for that too. AbiWord includes a powerful command line interface that allows you to generate form letters, print documents or convert documents to any file format AbiWord supports - all from the command line, if you are into that kind of thing.
AbiWord's System Requirements for the base program are so small, that it will amaze you. To run AbiWord on Microsoft Windows 95b or later, you need a 486dx or better processor, at least 16 MB RAM, and at least 10 MB of free HD space, (although the download is only 5 MB).
While the main AbiWord program is very compact and demands very few resources to run, the extensive plug-in architecture gives AbiWord the ability to be suited to your needs. The smaller base download is perfect for an environment with older hardware, or over-worked resources. But adding plug-ins just serves to increase the already impressive power of this small, free program.
The plug-in system was designed to give AbiWord all the functionality you expect from a modern word processor. Plug-ins include document filters, a thesaurus, image importers, a summarizer, and more.
To wrap things up, if you have MS Works and somehow didn't get MS Word, or if you use WordPerfect and want something small and light to work with Word documents, or if you just want something in between Word and WordPad, without having to pay a dime, you need AbiWord. And if you are building a system for someone else, and you want to give them a legal, powerful, lightweight word processor that won't kill their RAM, AbiWord is for you.
It's great for older or hand-me-down systems that are just used for basic computer functions. And it can be a life-saver if you have a bunch of Word or WordPerfect files, and don't have access to the actual programs. With as small of a footprint it has (mine, with all the plug-ins I could find on the website is just over 15MB), why not include AbiWord in all the systems you use, build, or sell?
You can learn more about AbiWord, and download the program and a bunch of optional plug-ins for it, at the AbiWord website.