Reviewed: KOffice 2.0

Apps

Free software is often developed with the mantra 'release early, release often'. This is a great idea, because new tools can be tested, trialled and critiqued as they're developed, rather than waiting for some arbitrary point of readiness.

Which brings us to KOffice 2.0, the latest productivity package designed specifically for KDE. Like the completely rewritten KDE 4 release, KOffice 2.0 has been let loose in a state that isn't quite ready for production use. Read on for our views of the new release from the KOffice camp...

The package consists of word processor (KWord), project manager (KPlato), spreadsheet app (KSpread) and presentation tool (KPresenter), plus two drawing editors (Karbon 14 and Krita). If you're missing Kexi or the formula editor, these are destined to return in version 2.1, but the Kivio flowchart package is currently without a maintainer, so it may not be updated to run on KDE 4.

The main release should, if things go as planned, be the first in a family of KOffice releases, with specific packages aimed at the education market, kids and other sectors. This is all possible, the developers say, because of the new modular nature of the suite's core.

Changing ways

We grabbed the Kubuntu version of the software from official sources and installed it on a fairly standard Dell laptop. We experienced quite a few problems trying to run it under Gnome, but switching to KDE (as you'd expect) made things a lot more stable. KOffice's launch speed is comparable with that of OpenOffice.org 3.1, and its rendering is beautifully smooth, even when shifting around large blended objects.

Also worthy of note is the move to sidebar docks - KOffice 2.0 tries to do something new by putting a lot of tools to hand in a small space. It mainly works, although the dock can get crowded if you try to do too much.

KOffice 2.0's docks aren't aware of your screen's height, so opening too many will tend to push the window off the bottom edge of your monitor.

KOffice 2.0's docks aren't aware of your screen's height, so opening too many will tend to push the window off the bottom edge of your monitor.

As the suite matures towards a consumer-focused release, we hope the developers will work on the default layouts, because at the moment these aren't consistent across applications, nor are they ordered in the most usable way. For instance, the Insert dock is on the right in KWord and KSpread, but inexplicably jumps to the left in KPresenter. These are simple problems to modify yourself, but consistency would be helpful.

Importing different formats is also still largely hit and miss, tending towards miss for DOC, XLS or PPT formats. The developers have said that MS Office support is not a priority - but it probably should be if KOffice is going to break out of its niche.

The path less trodden

KOffice as a suite is heading into interesting territory, but the apps themselves vary in their success. The UI strives for unity, and this is both good and bad. Good because most things appear in a similar space; bad because often that's the wrong place. A case in point is the text tool in Krita. It should be in the main toolbox (akin to Gimp and Photoshop), but instead it's hidden away in the Shapes dock.

Except for Krita, KOffice frequently refused to render JPEG files as anything other than grey squares.

Except for Krita, KOffice frequently refused to render JPEG files as anything other than grey squares.

Changing the fonts with the Artistic Text tool is also unnecessarily complicated because it relies upon the Shape Properties dock, but this doesn't appear automatically and there are no hints in the suite or documentation to suggest this is what you need. It all leads to the feeling that the new KOffice isn't ready for the masses just yet.

However, many of the elements in KOffice 2.0 show great promise and we look forward to testing the suite once more when it's ready.

Our verdict: A promising but incomplete suite. We're waiting for the full version. 6/10.

Your views wanted

Do you use KOffice? If not, what features do you think are lacking that would make you want to try it out?

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Your comments

The ability to import/export

The ability to import/export other office formats is a must. Until this happens, openoffice will remain in it's place.

So, basically, 2.0 isn't 1.0

So, basically, 2.0 isn't 1.0 quality yet (meaning fully featured and ready for release)? Why didn't they release it as 2.0pre or even 1.9 then?

Ah, thought I'd be using OO

I thought once I got around to adding an office suite to KDE that it probably be OO. Tried it and it isn't bad: runs good, can find most commands quickly enough. Really like Krita as Inkscape on my KDE for some reason just runs dog slow. I don't mind this being called 2.0 since the functionality is there for the most part but I would like to see KDE applications have naming syncronicity. Why not call this Koffice 4.0?

Why the arbitrary numbers issue

OK lets call this KOffice 3,456,434.5b. They called it 2.0 and stated that it is not for consumer use. They also did this with KDE 4.0 but not as loudly or strong where they asked distros to NOT include it and boom KDE 4 is crap to the end users. Distros and users need to read the release REAM MEs. Don't be mad if they didn't use the model number system standard AKA THERE IS NO STANDARD.

Read the warnings and reasoning not the numbers. To me x.0 always me use as a preview since M$ taught me about ALL of their x.0 products. I think this should not be a review but a preview. They state that this is not ready for end users and so did your review.

This review should have a lower number, in fact it shouldn't even have a number. In the future never use numbers for reviews make people READ. You are all good enough writters to just let your words do the talking. One persons 8/10 could be another persons 5/10 due to thier needs. Numbers just cloud things and not clearify anything. Just my two cents. Don't drink the metacritic Koolaide.

MS Office Support

Sadly, this has to be supported before Koffice can be seriously considered in any work environment :-(

I use OO.org at work and it even opens MS Office 2007 documents from their original formats, not just the ODF ones.

MS Office support not always essential

For the vast majority of word processing that I do, I do not need MS Office support; nor do millions of people round the world in countries which do not have MS products in their language.

Since it is now possible to get add-ins for MS Office that convert ODF files to and from MS formats, lack of MS support in KOffice2 is not a barrier to using it.

The real question is why MS does not support international standards, not why KOffice doesn't support proprietary ones.

X.o is always a bit raw

>OK lets call this KOffice 3,456,434.5b. They called it 2.0 and stated that it is not for consumer use. They also did this with KDE 4.0 but not as loudly or strong where they asked distros to NOT include it and boom KDE 4 is crap to the end users. Distros and users need to read the release REAM MEs. Don't be mad if they didn't use the model number system standard AKA THERE IS NO STANDARD.

If there IS a standard, then the standard would be to have an x.0 version that is raw, and not yet ready for users.

Another example of this was KDE 4.0.

Other interesting examples of this are: KDE 3.0, GNOME 2.0 and Windows 3.0

Yes, Windows. And GNOME. And also, some x.0 versions of Office.

All were exactly the same. All were a bit raw and not really ready for users.

The only surprising thing is that somehow people seem to be trying to give KDE and KDE applications alone a bad rap for this.

KSpread

For me spreadsheet is most important application in office suite. It seem to be highly underestimated when looking at KOffice discussions and their changelogs. They should consider moving resources from stuff like KRita which is in pretty good shape to KSpread which is completely crap and useless now (poor cells drag/drop support, frequent crashes, odd, non practical 32kX32k sheet size (which should be rather 1kX4M having the same # of cells), do not import even mid complicated (with graphs) .ods files created in Ooo Calc, not mentioning xls'es, etc.).
I value their commitment for uniforming, shapes concept etc., but it goes too deeply I think. The hell, I do not open spreadsheet to draw the pictures, so why I see those tools in KSpread?! When I open spreadsheet I want to see big SUM button, in Editor big FONT selection tools, and eventually in Graphic program drawing tools - but not all of them in every program!
Well, shapes may be available in every program just in case - that's good, but this does not mean they should be visible on default screen everywhere. I'm using computers about 20 years already, and I do not recall any need to draw something in spreadsheet or place calculation sheet inside free hand drawing.
Please learn from MS, we don't need to love the company, but Office 2007 interface that I have to use at work is state of art for me. For most of the time I have everything I need just under the mouse or not far from it.
I would love seeing such kind of interfaces in oss world.
Mybe Qt 5, who knows.
And regarding Kexi. It uses SQLite internally, but why it can't open plain sqlite files created by other applications (because of missing some kexi* meta tables)?
It could be quite nice sqlite data browser and reporting application.

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