The thing about wordprocessors is not all wordprocessors are created equal. Some offer just barebones text editing, while others, like the leader MSword, are advanced enough to provide any writer with creature comforts like easy menus, great typography and spell-checkers that actually function on an academic level. Ubuntu Karmic comes with OpenOffice 3 (with docx support) and there is also the linux staple Abiword in the repos.
I was pleasantly surprised to find there are alternatives, like Oxygen Office Professional which is OpenOffice with Debian menus and added features, and NeoWin, which is OpenOffice with OSX menus. Both point towards an evolving ecosystem surrounding the OpenOffice suite which emphasises professional service over nuts and bolts computing. Don’t get me wrong, I am very happy that a free and open-source alternative to MSword exists, but I must admit, a desire to possess the same slick interface that MSword 2007 introduced. (Note: Another option is Siag Office, a free office package available on Unix which can be easily ported to Ubuntu. I also found wordgrinder, a console-based word-processor)
Surely it is time for the Ubuntu Community to come up with Human menus for the world’s number one open source wordprocessor? I don’t mean a new colour scheme. I mean the Human interface, the user aspect of computing which all too often gets lost in the abstractions of computer science and the pretensions of geekdom.
Asking the casual Ubuntu user to remove the ubuntu-desktop via a terminal in order to install Oxygen Office is a step many acolytes of open-source are unwilling to take. I myself have not yet plucked up the courage to take this radical step. Perhaps in a VM, where I can test for myself the consequences of taking the kind of advice that can quickly turn into a fresh install of a system, that yes, takes time to setup and maintain. A low-maintenance and less invasive approach to solving this problem of removing core libraries would seriously assist in driving wordprocessing evolution to new levels.
If after using OpenOffice, you still feel the urge to install MSword, there are ways to do this. After failing to get Office 2002 installed via Wine, (the installer fails despite my coaxing and overides), I got Office 2000 to install flawlessly.
Bordeaux appears to be a $20 commerical front-end to WINE which allows you to install Microsoft Office 2007 and earlier versions. There is also crossover linux from CodeWeavers. The Ubuntu Community also gives assistance with this helpful page. And also here. After a year spent MSword free, I must admit, I feel the urge to write again on MSword. Ooo just seems to bring out the geek in me. So here’s to the fender stratocaster of wordpressing. The wordprocessor that freed me from Wordperfect secretaries and the XYwrite blues.
The first wordprocessor I ever encountered was ZYwrite, which back in the day was available on a floppy disk for DOS. I soon learnt about the more advanced and commercial competition. WordPerfect for example was designed in a period, strange though it may seem, before the mouse became ubiquitous and suffered from the kind of weird key combinations one finds in Gnu Emacs. Nevertheless many secretaries quickly found themselves chained to the programme. I used to punt the joys of MSWord 5 (as opposed to the slower WinWord) and it became my wordprocessor of choice because of its easy menu layout and predictable handling of documents.
Formatting documents is a nightmare when you have to meet deadlines and instead find yourself reading arcane manuals and in some instances debugging a programme. Efficiency is the name of the game when it comes to journalism and copy writing. So after using MSword on Macintosh for a decade and a half, the programme had became a third-arm. Moving to Ubuntu Hardy was therefore like cutting off my leg. I still feel a little wounded, but realise the choice is between pirating software which I cannot afford, keeping up with a $$$-centric Apple system, or using Ubuntu and OpenOffice. Ooo as it is known, still suffers from the quixotical sense of WordPerfect geekiness. There are still too many arcane key combinations or esoteric, non-intuitive menus. I miss my icons, menu bar and visual reference points.