Over the last 12 years KOffice has grown in scope and ambition pushing out both good and bad iterations and occasionally suffering from hyperbolic claims that it had no chance in hell of satisfying.
Version 2.2 of the suite, which comprises KWord, KPresent, KSpread, KPlato (project manager), Krita (image editor) and the prodigal Kexi (database), comes into a very changed world. Desktop applications now face serious competition from cloud-based offerings, Microsoft no longer seems indomitable, and mobile has become a vital platform. We put KOffice 2.2 through its paces - read on to find out more.
The KOffice interface opts for an Adobe-esque dock system rather than the Microsoft ribbon idea, and it works in a more sensible way than the multiple horizontal toolbars of its rivals.The docking system is vastly improved over the last version, with no more sections scrolling off the screen and far more consistency between applications.
Everything is quick to launch and snappy in use, though some of the more complex dialog boxes such as the Styles Manager take a few seconds to appear even on fast machines. In use it compares well with the equivalent applications from OpenOffice.org and beats MS Word hands down in most editing and creation tasks.
Kexi, the database application, makes a welcome return to the suite.
Importing documents from other applications is a little hit and miss but is much improved from the last versions. KWord even managed to accurately import a simple .docx file created in Word 2010 leaving both the layout and stylesheets intact. There were some strange screen artifacts that appeared when editing MS Word documents with complex styles embedded in them, but these resolved themselves during normal use.
The most reliable part of the KOffice suite in terms of interoperability is probably the Krita image editor, which tends to work with standard formats such as JPEG and GIF, though is unable to open recent Photoshop images. PDF import is also very good and gave a faithful rendering of extremely complex pages - faster than Photoshop manages the same job - though it loses bookmarks, hyperlinks and other interactive elements.
The re-introduction of Kexi is extremely welcome as it does small databases very well. The designer elements are not as comprehensive as OOo Base, but it is great if you want to create a database, build a usable form and begin populating it quickly. The use of tabs across the top to access the form designer, report designer etc makes for a intuitive experience. Some additional options to add more style to forms would be nice (end users like pretty things), but as a starting point Kexi is very impressive indeed.
Krita offers a decent set of tools and brilliant PDF support.
This version of KOffice is much improved, but whether this is enough now, with the growth of online office options, is debatable. KDE's social strategy means that in the future, adding cloud options - whether that's working with Google Docs, MS Live Office or whatever Facebook comes up with - shouldn't be too problematic. With the input of Nokia, which is now supporting the project as part of its mobile strategy, the developers seem to be intent on consolidating what's available rather than adding superfluous fluff and online storage is likely to be a big part of that.
KOffice remains a work in progress and there are some parts that may not be 100% complete. With that caveat, we advise you to try it out and help the developers make it even better.
Our verdict: An improved suite that has one eye on the future while consolidating the tools available now. 6/10
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