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Another Office Alternative

michael posted more than 12 years ago | from the one-office-suite-to-bind-them-all dept.

Linux Business 214

MiTEG writes "The Washington Post has an article on a cheaper alternative to Microsoft's Office Suite, ThinkFree Office. Currently selling for $50, their product also includes a one year subscription to Cyberdrive, a 20 MB web file-storage service. While it's no StarOffice, this glowing review may help people realize that Microsoft is not the only option." 'Glowing review' probably isn't the right term to use, since the reviewer found quite a few faults.

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35. (-1)

GafTheHorseInTears (565684) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298773)

This "bearer of glad tidings" died as he lived and taught--not to "save mankind," but to show mankind how to live. It was a way of life that he bequeathed to man: his demeanour before the judges, before the officers, before his accusers--his demeanour on the cross. He does not resist; he does not defend his rights; he makes no effort to ward off the most extreme penalty--more, he invites it. . . And he prays, suffers and loves with those, in those, who do him evil . . . Not to defend one's self, not to show anger, not to lay blames. . . On the contrary, to submit even to the Evil One--to love him. . . .

sp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3298778)

so, you think you're clever or something?

faults? (1, Flamebait)

jeffy124 (453342) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298775)

since the reviewer found quite a few faults

Are you suggesting that Office XP has no faults?

Like setting when you setup spam filters in Outlook XP the "Send/Receive Button" stops working? Or how Word says "this document has macros, you have macros disabled. you need to enable macros to make them work" when the Doc doesnt have macros? I could probably find a few more if you'd like.......

Re:faults? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3298947)

Or like when they change the memory manager months into a kernel release, or they leave local exploits in ssh and zlib, yeah...

Hi (-1, Offtopic)

Troll McClure (571760) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298780)

Im Troll McClure!
Buy My book today!

Re:Hi (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3298786)

you stupid troll! you'll never earn your -1 bonus if you don't do some real trolling!

Re:Hi (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3298980)

Geez, at the very least work in a "You might remember me from such trolls as 'BSD is dying' and 'The Linux Gay Conspiracy'". You are lazy!

FP!!!!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3298782)

First Stupid Post!! Eat shit, muthas!!!

I'm underwhelmed (3, Interesting)

RatOmeter (468015) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298785)

"Less than glowing" review is right. To paraphrase the reviewer, it's buggy and slow.

My experience with Java, the language this app was written in, is limited to a little experimentation, web-based javascripts and using Limewire (the Gnutella client). Limewire is also an app that I would describe as buggy and slow, with emphasis on slow.

Does anyone else have an opinion on the suitability of Java in medium (Limewire) to large (thinkFree's product) desktop applications?

Re:I'm underwhelmed (2)

jeffy124 (453342) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298797)

ime, Java is slow with desktop apps. It's better geared for back-end stuff like webservers or database apps. I've used more than a few Java desktop apps that slow down as the document or whatever is being worked on gets larger. My guess is that it's the gui that slows things down, as text-mode apps feel like native apps after the start-up penalty. Now granted, I havent yet given 1.4 it's chance on the desktop, where many improvements to swing have been made, so we shall see how it goes....

Re:I'm underwhelmed (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3298866)

I have to concur with another poster - there's nothing inherently slow about Java. When you drill down to the runtime environment, each component is almost as fast as c++... The problem is that Java makes it really easy to write slow code - and pretty Java is usually slow java.

The trick is to keep in mind that 10% of the code is executed 90% of the time, so once you're done writing a Java app to be pretty, go back and performance tune it. Thus far, most programmers forget that step.

Re:I'm underwhelmed (2, Insightful)

jeffy124 (453342) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298985)

yeah, the other poster is correct - writing slow java code is easy to do. but as i said in my post above, text apps feel native once they get going. it's just been my experience that large gui apps are noticebly slower on Java 1.3. see my otehr post about why guis might be slower [] than text apps.

Re:I'm underwhelmed (3, Insightful)

phaze3000 (204500) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298802)

Javascript really has very little to do with Java, other than the first four letters and a small amount of syntax.

Java really needn't be slow, especially if using 1.2 or above. As for buggy, a program can have bugs whatever langauge it's written in, but the nature of Java maks them less likely than say, C.

Re:I'm underwhelmed (2, Interesting)

RatOmeter (468015) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298826)

"Javascript really has very little to do with Java" That pretty well shows the limit of my knowledge of Javascript :|

I have to agree with you on the "buggy" issue; I didn't mean to imply that Java code was inherently more buggy. One feature I really admire, is the portability of code... Sun has done a great job of keeping that feature in line.

Another poster said that GUI's are probably the slowest part of a desktop Java app. I've seen things that may support that position. If true, wouldn't that be the fault of the Java Runtime Engine?

Re:I'm underwhelmed (3, Informative)

jeffy124 (453342) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298862)

the reason swing is slow is because it has maintain prtability between windowing systems (GNOME vs KDE, for example) and OSs (like Windows vs Solaris). As a result, the code becomes a little bloated in getting everybody supported equally.

AWT, the original gui package, ran ok for the runtime environment it had, but was very feature limited, as they only implemented something everybody had.

Swing, OTOH, implementes every gui widget you can think of, and uses the Java 2D graphics package instead of the native windowing system (although that too has changed). When I said earlier that Swing was improved in 1.4, it was actually this 2D package that was improved.

Chances are high that the ThinkFree suite was implemented for Java 1.3 since 1.4 was just released within the past month or two.

Re:I'm underwhelmed (4, Insightful)

jdh28 (19903) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298975)

One feature I really admire, is the portability of code... Sun has done a great job of keeping that feature in line.

They obviously haven't done a good enough job for ThinkFree, since they're having to maintain separate Windows, Linux and Mac versions of the Office Suite.


Re:I'm underwhelmed (3, Insightful)

Bilbo (7015) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298847)

I've used some really big applications (as in, 400Meg memory footprint), and while it is slow on old hardware, it performs reasonably well. Just make sure you have lots of RAM, and a moderately fast CPU.

Really, the question is not so much the language (Java), as it is the people writing the application. You can write dog slow applications in any language. Java can be fast, but it takes time and effort, and some good tools to help you fine bottlenecks. (Think: "OptimizeIt")

Re:I'm underwhelmed (0)

posmon (516207) | more than 12 years ago | (#3299089)

so in essence, you're saying that if you get a faster computer, your program will run faster, but if you edit the code itself to run faster, your program will also run faster.


Re:I'm underwhelmed (-1, Troll)

Troll McClure (571760) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298888)

Hi, Im Troll McClure
You might remember me from such Trolls as

linux is for fags

*bsd is Dying

and the sucessful Penis bird saga
today im going to show you all how to perfect the basic "microsoft is better than linux" troll.
first of all find a story that debates servers, or scaleability or any such related topic. the more clean cut it is that the microsoft solution appears to be the wors the better, although you can always post on any story on slashdot, because it is full of open source Zealots.
next you commit a plausible comment, something like,

actually, for the area im working in nothing beats a microsoft solution for speed of deployment.
Then go on to say something about the time it takes to set up linux and how its not user freindly, and how
when we tried to implement the linux system it took us twice as long to configure, and the servers arent as reliable as they were
make up some more statistics here
to go further, comment on the unreliabilty of open sorce, the bad customer support and the fact that anybody could modify the code to hack your computer (it helps to display a misunderstanding of the GPL)
do not go too far, however, as it will become less believable.

Ive Been Troll Mclure

Re:I'm underwhelmed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3298951)

Mr. McClure, I have a crazy friend that says crazy things like "closed source software is bad for you". Is Richard^Wmy friend crazy, or what?

Re:I'm underwhelmed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3299049)

tell him that he is a loony and should be locked away in redmond until he realises his folly. use the methods i outlined above to convince him.
if this doesnt work, kill him
lots of love Troll McClure.

Re:I'm underwhelmed (-1, Offtopic)

October_30th (531777) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298986)

You have problems. Your boyfriend has problems. You both have problems. I do not. I have no problems. I have solutions. I have an army. I have weapons. I have a tank disguised as hay. I have a grain silo that contains a deadly nerve gas. I am immune to this gas. Your boyfriend is not. I have solutions.

Re:I'm underwhelmed (5, Insightful)

Bodrius (191265) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298895)

As a lot of people have to repeat every once in a while: Java != Javascript. Java has nothing to do with Javascript, actually (nothing more than with, say, CShell). The name of the latter was a marketing gimmick.

That said, Java earned a bad reputation from being used in Applets all over the Net, which are victims of every defect Java has (or at least used to have until very, very recently).

One of those defects is that Swing really, really sucks. Now, it's design may be great or not, and it may be full of design patterns or not, but it has been, up to 1.3, very "buggy and slow". You can cope with the buginess if you need to, but it will make it even slower.

AWT too, but at least AWT didn't claim it had fixed the problem when it did not.

Another defect, which is not exactly Java's, is that Applets on the web were mostly programming experiments by novices in both the language and programming. Java was hip, and everyone who had a webpage had to have an Applet. They were bound to be buggy. And the circumstances didn't help.

The world was exposed to millions of "Hello World" desktop applications brought online by Sun's Magnificent Hype Machine, programmed in a cranky and immature GUI library (AWT/early-Swing), with incompatible JVMs (Microsoft's), slowly downloaded to the client's machine through a 28.8K-56K modem... all increasing the amount of frustration when the "ClassNotFound" exception presents the user with a dazzling gray square.

Java is a nice language, but for desktop applications it's just not a great choice, unless 1.4 delivered the promise (I have yet to try it for desktop apps). But that promise was there with 1.3, and even with the birth of Swing.

I'm sure it is technically possible to use it for medium-big applications, there are plenty (big) IDEs written in Java that are very, very usable. I also hear very good comments about some non-Sun libraries, but I'm afraid no one really cares.

Java for the desktop is seen as the wrong solution to the problem, and will remain so for a long time even if they fix it, thanks to Sun's mistake. Java's place as the right solution seems to be on the server, where it's definitely not buggy nor terribly slow, with the desktop as a thin client (SOAP, JSP) implemented in something else.

Re:I'm underwhelmed (2, Insightful)

Curt Cox (199406) | more than 12 years ago | (#3299011)

Does anyone else have an opinion on the suitability of Java in medium (Limewire) to large (thinkFree's product) desktop applications?

Yes, Java is suitable for large desktop applications. I write them for a living, so I am somewhat knowledgeable, but quite biased. Although, what do you mean large? jEdit? Forte?

There are lots of ways to produce Java desktop apps, but since the original subject is ThinkFree, I'm only going to address Swing based apps.

Suitable in what way? Good coding habits, a roadmap for what the app should do, a complete understanding of the Java language, and a good knowledge of whatever Java APIs you will work with, are all very helpful if you want to produce a maintainable and reliable app. If you satisfy all of these requirements, you should be able to produce a desktop app that does what you want quickly.

I firmly believe "Make it work, then make it fast". Proper use of interfaces in Java is the key to turning a working implementation into a fast implementation.

Other than a moderate start-up cost, if a Swing based application is slow, that means that fixing bugs and adding more features has been more important to the developers than making the application faster/more responsive. Swing apps are very easy to develop, so Java is very suitable in that sense.

A very usable profiling option is available under java in all recent (1.2+?) JDKs. If a Swing app isn't fast, it hasn't gone through any iterations with a developer interested in making it fast.

Swing is single-threaded, and sometimes multilple threads are essential for responsiveness. I don't know of a language with better threading support than Java, but a multi-threaded program is generally harder to write and debug than a single-threaded one.

Re:I'm underwhelmed (2, Interesting)

RatOmeter (468015) | more than 12 years ago | (#3299088)

I'm beginning to see the light. 'til now, I'd only seen a very few (or recognized as such) real Java desktop apps. Poking around at Swing Sightings [] , I was surprised to find quite a few Java/GUI apps that look like fairly heavy hitters. I still have some reservations about the throughput of a busy Swing desktop application, but now I'm going to shut up until I've tried out a few more (IDEA [] looks good).

Office (2, Interesting)

tbx2000 (571687) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298790)

I dont fancy their chances of success. Its gonna be pretty hard to charge for an inferior office package, just ask the many fallen along the wayside in the past (smartsuite anyone?)
The real competetion to the Microsoft juggernaut in this sector has gotta be opensource, and more importantly, free (as in, free beer :) and good. No point in raising awareness of a Microsoft compeditor, if the compeditor doesnt have a good supporting case. It only makes M$ look good.

Good advertising! (2)

Bilbo (7015) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298792)

Hey - what a great way to advertise your product. Just get an article posted on Slashdot, and instantly get a few hundred thousand hits on your site!

(I wish them the best, though between MS, StarOffice, OpenOffice and many other less known Open Source alternatives, they've got a long hill to climb to get a foothold in this marketplace.)

Re:Good advertising! (1)

Skidge (316075) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298812)

It's not really that great of an advertisement. It's more like "Get an article pointing out many flaws and bugs about your product on Slashdot, and get your sight slashdotted in the process." Not really that great of a situation.

Though, it is considerably cheaper than Microsoft Office. If they can work out the bugs and slight incompatability problems, it would be a good thing. Especially the problems with printing. What company can get by without being able to properly print out their documents?

Re:Good advertising! (2)

Bilbo (7015) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298865)

Who was it that said, "There's no such thing as 'bad press'?"

Seriously, what I want is something that can open a Word doc email attachment, without taking forever to start up like StarOffice, and doesn't mutilate the format like AbiWord. Probably 90% of the time, I don't need to print things, but just have to be able to read what's in the attachment.

That being said, AbiWord still does a "good enough" job, so it would be hard to rationalize paying real $$$ for another marginally better alternative. On the other hand, if I can install on multiple machines... it might still be worth it!

Will likely not help. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3298796)

Ten years ago there where lots of alternatives to MS Office but they all died because MS Office in the end turned out to be the better one.

These products are to cheap for their makers to be able to compete, you need lots of money to keep a big professional staff working on it and you need lots of income to finance good marketing. With $50/license and likely not to many buyers I just can't see how they are going to be able to pull it off?

I wish them luck but it will not be easy.

Re:Will likely not help. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3299105)

> Ten years ago there where lots of alternatives to MS Office but they all died because MS Office in the end turned out to be the better one.

I'd disagree; Office turned out to be the one installed by default on most machines, so users had no incentives to go get another suite when they already had one.

Preinstallation is a huge advantage.

Alternatives (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3298803)

There are a list of alternatives at []

Too bad MS Office really IS the best. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3298804)

The worst part about all these MS Office competitors is that none of them are as good as MS Office. I use Linux exclusively (and have since around 1997) but I'd have to say without a doubt that the application I miss most has got to be Microsoft Word.

I know the slashdot sentiment is to hate on all things Microsoft, but it's easy to use and does damn near everything you'd want it to. Star Office and the rest just really aren't as nice.

I guess Linux isn't as polished, either, but when I'm developing, I prefer Linux to Windows by far. But when I'm writing, I prefer Word to anything else. Oh well.

Whine (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298885)

Never fear, Whine is here! You can have your Linux and eat your Words! {Whats Half Implemented, Never Executes?)

Personally, I feel that with every release, MS Word gets worse! I only wish there was something else. Unfortunately, his does not look like the answer to my prayers.

Re:Too bad MS Office really IS the best. (0, Troll)

Biggles_the_pilot (564535) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298887)

Miss Word? What, are you fucking insane? Word is a piece of over chromed crap. I hate that fucking program. What the fuck is it good for? Ooh, it makes nice and fancy things. Excel, now there's M$s one good piece of software. A spreadsheet with an easy easy easy script language (even if VBA itself is a piece of shit). But fuck that, there are better tools around. But seriously, what is it that Word is soooo good for. I fucking hate that piece of shit for writing.

Re:Too bad MS Office really IS the best. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3299024)

Well lets see, its not a fucking crap shoot everytime I send something to the printer, I can insert a spreadsheet into a document, and pictures, and visio charts, and anything else I want while you're still twisting your fingers aroung the keyboard using vi.

Re:Too bad MS Office really IS the best. (1, Insightful)

corps_inc (564368) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298957)

I guess you do not have time to test Office really good. However you turn around OpenOffice does make you finish job much sooner than M$.

I use Office on a daily routine, and to admit at first I was missing some things. Then I found out that this things are not missing, but hidden. As soon you come to point where they could be used, they pop up. Much better than word or excel that throw everything in your face.

I've been using M$Office and never got use more than 15% eventhough I wanted (either thing is not working or is made too stupid to be used).

The moment I started to use OpenOffice I was using about 2-3% of functions. In just two months I've come to a phase that M$ user could only dream on. Office can be fun.

Re:Too bad MS Office really IS the best. (0) (565364) | more than 12 years ago | (#3299026)

I must agree with it, for school I often have to make typed stuff. And for the basic MS Office (wich those suckers at school use) is OK, but when you want to make some advanced documents (like overlaping pictures, text & some nice effects) & still be able to EDIT the document without everything getting jumped to the other side of the doc. M$ Office REALLY sucks, long live Star/OpenOffice if it comes to that!

Re:Too bad MS Office really IS the best. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3299110)

> wich those suckers at school use

At least it comes with a good spell-checker.

By the way, your web site is a triumph. With your 'I highly recommend you do not user Internet Explorer'. Oh boy! You are a grade-A fucking retard!

Alternatives are not necessarily options (5, Insightful)

xiaix (247688) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298806)

I have evaluated every office suite that I have come across that provides an 'alternative' to office. So far the only one that has come close has been StarOffice 6. It seems there is always one vital feature lacking that keeps me from going to management with a proposal to standardize on (insert alternative here).

Either the max. spreadsheet is abysmally small (8k-16k rows), or there is no cross-tab reporting functionality, etc.. There is always something

I know that playing catch-up with Microsoft is a losing battle, but some features are essential. If it is available in Lotus, WordPerfect, and MS Office, you can be pretty sure there will be people who can not work without it.

I'd love to switch to a Microsoft free shop, but until I can go to management with solutions to every problem, and assurances that no functionality will be lost, I can't. Office suites are only one battle in the war, but it is one I should be able to win...

Re:Alternatives are not necessarily options (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3298956)

At least you don't have to compile it before you use it...

Another victory for Cheap Software (0, Interesting)

Anomolous Cow Herd (457746) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298808)

Yeah, it's a shitty Office knockoff that'll probably install spyware on your computer, but it COSTS LESS THAN OFFICE! Finally, we can cripple ourselves with an inferior knockoff, still pay money, still use Windows and still not have the source to fix things when they go wrong. And they will go wrong.

Honestly, are you alleged "professionals" here so poor that you can't even be bothered to pay for quality word processing software?

Re:Another victory for Cheap Software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3298942)

I use Letter Perfect 1.0 and it does everything a person would ever need in a TEXT document. Not supported any more, but small and decent. Word Perfect was bloatware, but all in all, if they has embraced Windblows(tm) , they would have garnered more of the market. Powerful, yes, but over kill for all but the most demanding Tech writing. Letter Perfect is the little brother that could.

Good luck, they'll need it. (1)

Control-Z (321144) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298811)

ThinkFree better have some good advertising or word of mouth to topple the MSOffice giant. I don't know if cost is a big issue for businesses that buy MS software the way mainframe people (used to?) buy IBM. The Corel Wordperfect Suite didn't cost much more than ThinkFree and where is it now?

And on a related note I'm proud to say I've never used MSWord, although I will admit to using Excel...

Re:Good luck, they'll need it. (1)

RatOmeter (468015) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298859)

I think the whole "ThinkFree Office" product is just a tag to lure you to their "CyberDrive" product. Their "20-megabyte Web file-storage service" is free for one year, then $30 anually thereafter should you continue to use it. And I think it's a product (web-based storage) that, in one form or another, has been tried and failed earn a profit (think X-drive). I very dubious about web storage as a product for a couple of reasons:

. security. Let someone else store my (potentially private) files and trust them to keep grubby cracker fingers out of it?
. I've got a 120 GB drive in my desktop at work, 80 GB at home and 30 GB in my notebook, what would I need 20 MB for?

I wish them luck, but a $50 productivity suite and a $30/yr 20MB storage service? I'm afraid they'll need to sell a shitload of each to do well.

CrossPlatform ? its seems to be based on Java =D (2)

Quazion (237706) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298817)

it runs on Windows, MacOS and Linux. and the needed specs dont seem to be to high..

Maybe i will try it later on..


"one year subscription to cyberdrive" (5, Funny)

3-State Bit (225583) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298824)

anyone know why people would normally pay cyberdrive for 20 megs of web storage, when yahoo gives you 30 megs [] for free?

Oh, and
Point 1: "Connect to Briefcase from your Windows desktop with the Yahoo! Drive Client. Drag and drop or save files directly to Briefcase from any application." (same page).

Point 2: on Linux you'd get the same functionality without running a foreign exe to modify your OS [!], but rather by mounting a ten-line Perl script of your own design, to proxy the http connection as though it were your web browser.

Point 3: This, incidentally, is why people use Windows.

Re:"one year subscription to cyberdrive" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3298851)

anyone know why people would normally pay cyberdrive for 20 megs of web storage, when yahoo gives you 30 megs [] for free?

It's obvious that Yahoo cannot afford to keep up its free services. Expect the "free 30 megs" to either become "3 free megs" or for them to start charging for it in the near future.

Re:"one year subscription to cyberdrive" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3298889)

yeah, like they did with their 6 megs of email storage, as opposed to hotmail's 2.

Re:"one year subscription to cyberdrive" (1)

mark_lybarger (199098) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298920)

yahoo is now charging 30$ a year for pop email access. how usefull is their service when you are forced to store the messages on their server? it's not long before they begin to charge for web storage space.

Re:"one year subscription to cyberdrive" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3298990)

obviously you've never parsed html.

Re:"one year subscription to cyberdrive" (1)

Cygnusx12 (524532) | more than 12 years ago | (#3299117)

Yahoo is only charging for use of their POP service, you can still use their webmail services to connect to your ISPs SMTP and POP services for free.

I'm not entirely sure, but I believe I've read that their rational was to cut down on spam.

Yahoo's only trying to keep up with the changing times. I think they've been "fair" so far in deciding what to charge for and what not to.

oops! (1)

Cygnusx12 (524532) | more than 12 years ago | (#3299138)

My apologies! I often associate POP3 and SMTP in the same baseket. I have only been able to connect to my ISPs POP services through Yahoo.. I didn't see an option to use my ISPs SMTP services. I stand corrected on this point!

Thinkfree? Name Change Proposal (5, Funny)

ReadParse (38517) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298828)

Maybe they ought to call themselves "ThinkFiftyDollars"... their name kind of suggests that it's free!


Re:Thinkfree? Name Change Proposal (3, Funny)

danielrose (460523) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298856)

No. No. No.
Their name simply means that everyone who uses the software, thinks it SHOULD be free.

ly (0)

praktike (543776) | more than 12 years ago | (#3299087)

...or better yet, the more correct "ThinkFreely"

File formats are more important (4, Interesting)

cheekymonkey_68 (156096) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298832)

I wish that the industry would get together an agree a usable file format that would be supported by all document processors even if they just settled on some SGML based format such as Xml.

Hmm imagine if every word processor used Xml for storage...that would be miles better than having every business use Word.

Look at WordPerfect, look at Lotus Word,they were both excellent word processors and the market leaders and look where it got them...

Microsoft eroded there market share using its by now commonly known tactics.

The problem is, right now we have Word and Pdf as being the only file formats of choice that are universally accepted.

Pdf is ok, but again the file format itself is proprietary

Word is especially bad not so much for its bloat, but for the bugs that never get fixed and worse of all Microsofts habit of changing the format frequently

Re:File formats are more important (2)

Sc00ter (99550) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298844)

What's wrong with RTF? It looks nice, and it works in almost everything.

Re:File formats are more important (1)

cheekymonkey_68 (156096) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298878)

Theres nothing wrong with Rtf pe se, its just that often people save Word documents as 'rtf' that only are only readable to other people with Word.

As of course Microsoft in its infinte wisdom has its own interpretation of Rtf and its not completely compatitble.

I was only arguing for Xml as an example, the problem is Microsofts stranglehold over the file formats.

There should be one format that covers all the basic features required of a word processor that all Word Processors should be able to save to exactly, with no 'adjustments' to the standard (Yes that means you Micro$oft).

The problem is getting everyone to agree to a baseline of features, having them accept a format that will all implement the same (yes even Micro$oft) and having the format agreed and specified without it looking like its been designed by a committee (The Motif syndrome)

Re:File formats are more important (2)

Sc00ter (99550) | more than 12 years ago | (#3299131)

Uhh, I use word, save stuff as RTF, and edit them in Abiword all the time. Never had a problem.

Re:File formats are more important (2)

3-State Bit (225583) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298879)

What's wrong with RTF? It looks nice, and it works in almost everything.

awhile ago there was a comment by an office worker who simply could not find anything better than ms word to keep versioning, and a consistent presentation. To the point that she used filters to modify word files as word files, even though she was working on linux.
Honestly, the reason you'll see some things online only in 1) post-script 2) pdf, is because nothing else "guarantees" the look you want. I wouldn't be surprised if the same rtf file paginates to whole pages more or less than the "original", depending on your client, printer driver, etc.
Basically, from what I understand, RTF isn't much better than HTML. Sure, my resume is in HTML: but I don't care if the text looks different on my potential-employer's computer from my own. This would be a different story if I were preparing a complex item to present (think complex interaction of columns, headings, inserted pictures with captions, everything only looking "just right" after major tweaking of 0.5 font points in order to fine-tune the /exact/ result: major disaster if your client has a different idea of how the document "should" look, based on the RTF "description".)

One last thing: this is also why people who research the question further than the woman I quoted above /always/ end up biting the bullet and learning LaTeX (or however the capitalization goes.) It separates content from presentation, and guarantees you presentation. Basically, it's like "post-script" above, only human-editable : it was designed as a type-setting language (for equations and such) but has grown to be the only open, not-subject-to-change, not licensed (unlike PDF, from what I understand) standard, besides post-script, that people use to fix an exact "look" without having to result to a screen-capture of print preview.

I haven't looked at all this in detail, however, and could be wrong.

This is an important question though, so anyone who knows more than I do, please post your thoughts!

Re:File formats are more important (4, Informative)

Evro (18923) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298863)

Pdf is ok, but again the file format itself is proprietary

PDF is not proprietary; it is an open standard [] . The problem with PDF is that it is not editable, so is not very useful for sending back and forth for editing purposes.

how cares, Microsoft wil change it anyway (0) (565364) | more than 12 years ago | (#3299068)

nice idea in theory, but as we all know even if a standard is standard Micro$oft won't follow it hundred procent and (surprise, suprise) it will only show up correctly under M$'s o-so great products. They did this with HTML, and if a standard like that will come they'll do it again, why? Couse they wan't every f***ing person to use (=buy and upgrade) their product. Do you know what kind of rubish Micro$oft MTML editors spit out? And how "compitable" M$ MTML viewers are with HTML, such a standard would be a BAD idea, couse Micro$oft WILL screw it, on the other hand if Micro$oft isn't allowed to screw it (by some kind of court), then it will be really good (not for Micro$oft ofcourse, but how cares about those suckers).

Office suites (2, Insightful)

olman (127310) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298833)

Sign of times, surely. Old Office suites are into nth generation and they've accumulated so much excess baggage that something written from scratch can actually compete.

From the article, it seems that this particular one is not quite ready for prime time yet. It's ok if the feature count doesn't include the kitchen sink, but what there is has to work. Especially if anyone would consider using it for work.

I suppose there will be the open-office people coming out of woodwork again. As if $50 would be excessive cost for a word processor, spreadsheet and an app to make simple slides. It is excessive if the apps do not quite work, like it says in the article.

No Database, No 'groupware' (2, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298834)

Sort of useless as an 'office suite' in the 'real' business world with out those..

ThinkFree is bad marketing (2, Interesting)

Bakajin (323365) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298837)

In addition to buggy software they are going to suffer from a marketting angle. If you have to pay for software, even if only a little, does "ThinkFree" really rub you the right way? And it doesn't have a great ring, nothing as simple as "Word", encoraging as "WordPerfect", or powerful as "StarOffice".

Also, the article said it lacks "the feature that flags possible misspellings". Does this mean no spell checking at all!? Or just the inline checking as you type? Lacking something as simple and basic as a spell checker is almost unforgivable. If it lacks as-you-type checking, I wonder if that could be a patent issue. I wouldn't be shocked.

Re:ThinkFree is bad marketing (2)

rtaylor (70602) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298923)

Even evolution will do the as-you-type checking, so it can't be that hard to implement.

Journalists!! (4, Insightful)

Tim Ward (514198) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298839)

That doesn't sound like a huge gap until you notice that -- oops -- the 1.7 version of ThinkFree Write has no word-count function.

I learnt many years ago that if you want a decent review of your word processor you MUST include a word count function.

Sure, the word count function is, for 99% of users, just bloat that they are never going to use, but reviewers get paid by the word for writing their reviews, and naturally try to write their reviews using the word processor under review, so if you don't include a word count function the entire review consists of a whine about the missing word count function.

(The same reviewer, oddly, seems to think that a missing spelling checker is no big deal. That's fair enough if s/he is a properly trained professional journalist and never uses words s/he can't spell and never makes typing mistakes, but for the other 99% of us ...)

Re:Journalists!! (2)

jd142 (129673) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298861)

The people who do a lot of writing, and subsequently need more than wordpad or kate, need 3 basic features: wordcount and endnotes/footnotes, and spellcheck. Why? Because the people who do a lot of writing tend to be either students, academics, or professional writers.

If a wordprocessor can't do those 3 things it is useless to me.

Re:Journalists and Students!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3298911)

Uh, Journos aren't the only ones with word count worries. Probably every student in the world needs to fill a quota.

I've got over 5000 words to write this week alone.

A word processor NEEDS a word counter. It is NOT bloat!

Re:Journalists and Students!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3299059)

well you should probably spend more time writing for school and less time bothering everyone here with that linux crap

Re:Journalists!! (0)

praktike (543776) | more than 12 years ago | (#3299112)

I learnt many years ago that if you want a decent review of your word processor you MUST include a word count function.

that's okay, just write a little java app that does it for you.

Major faults in the article.... (2, Informative)

palfrey (198640) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298860)

The open-source world has produced a few free Office-compatible suites, but they, in turn, don't run on either Windows or the Mac OS.

Hmm... let's see. OpenOffice for one. It's running quite happily on my Windows machine here. Only gripe I've ever had with it was it's conversion to StarOffice files so I could print them out on my Uni's printer (didn't handle the page margins, but I've never worked out how to get that sorted with StarOffice anyways)

We don't need new features (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3298869)

Are you using Office XP? Why did you upgrade? What are the features in Office XP that you absolutely need to get your work done that you didn't have in Office 2000?

Re:We don't need new features (0, Insightful)

October_30th (531777) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298881)

Like opening, modifying and saving the documents originally produced by clueless Office XP users (ie. clients) who cannot or will not save in a backward compatible format?

Re:We don't need new features (0)

corps_inc (564368) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298965)

And that option costs how much. I guess I'm going to write Save dialogs from now. It's quite a bussines

Re:We don't need new features (0)

October_30th (531777) | more than 12 years ago | (#3299000)

It costs less than losing the clients over something as trivial as this.

Glowing review? (2, Insightful)

shic (309152) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298882)

If that review was glowing... I'd hate to receive a scathing one!

The sad fact is that office applications are the most vital component of a business system. If someone intends to take the office application monopoly from MS, it is insufficient to be "almost as good" some of the time... there needs to be some dramatic benefit. I hope this will eventually arise in the form of a suite of productivity programs offering all the desirable features of recent MS Office suites but also offering a level of guarantee that the software will not become obsolete due to future enhancement of others' systems.

Competitors need to look at producing a reliable, functional, easy to use, feature rich alternative - as far as I'm aware that hasn't happened as yet.

Anyware Application Server (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3298883)

Anyware Application Server (Applixware in Java)
has been around for over a year,
strange nobody mentions it...

Re:Anyware Application Server (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3298890)

oops, forgot the link..

Re:Anyware Application Server (1)

PoiBoy (525770) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298914)

How does this compare to the regular version of Applixware?

I love Applixware, but I was under the impression that the company was halting further development of their office suite, mainly because of the plethora of free suites available cutting into sales.

Now that StarOffice, perhaps it's best rival, is going to cost money, maybe we'll see a revival of Applixware's popularity. Hope and pray, anyway.

Bloatware (1)

KevinGale (537574) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298886)

One of the main arguments against Office seems to be that it is bloated. Truth is that customers don't care about bloat. As long as it will run on their system it isn't an issue. However removing even one feature that they sometimes use is a major issue. To beat office you would need something more bloated that office. Even then the installed base and the bundling with new hardware would probably kill your chances. Open Software that doesn't care about making a profit is the best change in the long run.

Looking ahead... (2, Interesting)

jonathan_atkinson (90571) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298893)

" people realize that Microsoft is not the only option."

Yet when Microsoft moves Office XP to a subscription-based model (yes, yes, I know the XP subscription plan has been delayed in the USA [] [strange looking URL, but it does work], but it IS avaliable in other [] countries [] ), like ThinkFree already uses, I'm sure Slashdot will be the first to proclaim it as the beginning of the end.


Re:Looking ahead... cringing at the cost (2)

Reziac (43301) | more than 12 years ago | (#3299108)

I see from one of your links that the annual subscription rates are (NZ dollars) Microsoft Office Professional Subscription - $439 and Microsoft Office Small Business Subscription - $299.

Would someone please explain to me how this is more cost-effective than simply buying the suite and using it for even as little as TWO years??

No new stuff either.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3298906)

Really nobody recalls ThinkFree 2 ys ago?
it was FREE by then...

Now it should be called think50, till their next
upgrade think60,think100 etc until they disappear,
unplug your net archive with your precious documents
and run away with info collected on you by their
crammy pathetic java-written spyware... (they aren't even able to use a decent language but only a puppy one...sheesh!)

It is bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3298932)

It has flaws and the cost? There are other suites out there for free, Star Office, bloated and clunky and the 602 Pro suite and the list grows. Free is nice. Paying for something you can get an equivelent of for free is retarded. They will go TITS UP soon. Wubba!

Hard to switch (2)

totallygeek (263191) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298941)

The bank I work for every year has an alternative examination in which we bitch about what it costs to stay with Microsoft. We recently thought that we could escape it by switching to Citrix, and only buying a few Office licenses with a software metering system. Microsoft has changed their rules on this again, and if the client has access and ability to Office, they need a license. I have suggested StarOffice (that is what I run on the only Linux client in the bank), but it is hard to get people to focus on anything but Microsoft. I counter every objection:

We want a commercial alternative StarOffice is commercially available from Sun.
Training is an issue Hardly anyone uses all the features of Office, and StarOffice mimics Office almost perfectly (at least Office 97, which we run)

By the end of the meeting, the answer is to stay with Microsoft for no good reason -- does anyone else experience this?

Not just MS (2)

nuggz (69912) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298959)

Yes I deal with it.
CAD software is a biggie in Automotive.
They (Pick one, GM, Ford whoever) say "As of this date we will use X Package version X.X.X.
And thats it, you must submit CAD files in that format using that version of the software.
It is a pain, but that is the way it is done.

Why would anyone want an alternative to Office ? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3298952)

Office is pretty good at what it does, and most people get it bundled for free with their PC.

No open source alternatives? (1)

xcomputer_man (513295) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298963)

According to the article,

"The open-source world has produced a few free Office-compatible suites, but they, in turn, don't run on either Windows or the Mac OS."

But sir, I beg to disagree.

Both StarOffice (and its open source counterpart, OpenOffice) run on Windows, Linux and Solaris.

AbiWord, everyone's favorite lightweight word processor, runs on Windows, Mac OS X, XDarwin, FreeBSD, Linux and any other version of Unix.

So get your facts straight before jumping to conclusions =)

Cheap at twice the price (5, Insightful)

dgroskind (198819) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298966)

The article lists some basic MS Office features and says: It's a waste to use $480 worth of Office suite for such simple work.

It depends on how important the work is. A PowerPoint sales presentation may be worth thousands of dollars in sales, an Excel spreadsheet could manage a large budget, a Word document could be a report on an important project or a book manuscript. Any one of these examples would be worth more than $480 by itself. In fact, the time spent creating the document would exceed $480 many times over.

If what you do with an office suite isn't worth $480, maybe you should do something else that is.

Re:Cheap at twice the price (0)

corps_inc (564368) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298976)

In fact first good M$ defending comment. But still average user does not make thousands dollars sales. And check facts, how many users are your kind of users, and how many are common home users.

Still April Fools? (2, Funny)

dilute (74234) | more than 12 years ago | (#3298989)

I get it. The review was scheduled for April 1, but his editor made him use this word processor to write it, and it was a little SLOW. . .

The conclusion was is sucked ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3298998)

I'd like to see how these new versions look and feel before committing my own money to this product. Right now, it's too slow and too buggy.

Not only (2, Informative)

RageMachine (533546) | more than 12 years ago | (#3299002)

Not only does it require java, which is quite sluggish on 600mhz, but it also installed itself ,without asking, directly to C:. I don't use C for anything but the OS. I wanted it installed to D:\Program Files where I keep everything organized, and away from the OS. It was uninstalled immediatly.

IBM can help! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3299022)

We need to have an office suite for Linux which is as feature-rich and easy to use as M$ office. We also need to have proper advertising. IBM could deliver both!! IBM sure hell could develop a superb office suite on Linux which would even beat M$ office. This is where we need IBM now!

While it's no StarOffice (1)

JewFish (315210) | more than 12 years ago | (#3299091)

"it's no StarOffice" so in theory it should load in reasonable time? oh wait its written in java so scratch that idea

PC Mag reviewed several suites (2)

isdnip (49656) | more than 12 years ago | (#3299098)

A recent PC Magazine article (on line at,2997,s=1739&a=24249 , 0.asp , but note that Slash might mispost the URL so look under "reviews" ) reviewed several Office alteranatives, including Think Free. They didn't love it but did't hate it. Several other options, including Gobe Productive (now available for Windows), are also reviewed.

Oddly, their favorite was Corel Word Perfect Office 2002. They gave it five stars. But of the reader reviewers, one gave it five stars and the rest only ONE star (awful). Reason: Buggy as hell. Plus it took away some user control in favor of MS-like automation, which is not the way WP users like to operate.

more options is always better (1)

fabiolrs (536338) | more than 12 years ago | (#3299133)

Its good to know that there are many office suite options available in the market. Lets take as an example the processor market, both AMD and Intel are building better and better processor so they can take each other market shares... who wins? The users of course cause we are getting better and better products... the same is going on on office suite market, with more products available developers will build better software to gain user attention and we are going to win a lot with that cause well get better and cheaper softwares! :))

thats why monopoly sucks so much!
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