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Linux Applications Ready for Primetime!

August 1, 2003

Linux has always gotten a bad rap when it comes to productivity applications. Time and time again naysayers have complained that “Linux is a fine OS but what good is it if I can’t run Microsoft Office?”

Well fret no more. Apps on Linux have finally arrived! There’s been a slew of recent version 1.0 or higher releases of many Linux office applications.

Since I recently installed SuSE Linux 8.0, I’ve been neck-deep in all of them. So I felt that an IMHO column would be the perfect way to introduce some of these applications to people that might be considering giving Linux a shot on their desktops.

Soon, I hope to do a formal review of these apps, but read on and you’ll at least get a taste of what they have to offer.

Open Office Makes Its Debut
The Linux office suite that has caused the biggest splash so far is Open Office. Based on the venerable Star Office 5.2 code, Open Office is the open source answer to Microsoft Office. Open Office is celebrating its brand new 1.0 release. Unlike Microsoft Office, Open Office doesn’t cost a small fortune and does not require activation of any sort. You can install it on as many machines as you like and it never complains or stops working.

Open Office includes a word processor (Writer), spreadsheet (Calc), drawing (Draw) and presentation program (Impress). You won’t get all the bells and whistles as in MS Office XP, but you will get a highly useable, stable office suite (and who really uses all of the junk in Office XP anyway?). Writer (which I used to write this column) does a very good job handling Microsoft Word documents. I’ve had no problems opening large Word documents or saving work in Word format.

Not running Linux yet? Not to worry, you can download the Windows version of Open Office instead. Open Office might just help you get the job done while still keeping a few bucks in your pocket instead of in Microsoft’s.

Open Office 1.0

KOffice Rocks the KDE Desktop!
KDE, the popular Linux desktop, has its own suite of applications. KOffice features a strong selection of applications. Here’s a list from the KOffice site:

* KWord – A frame-based word processor
* KSpread – A powerful spreadsheet application.
* KPresenter – A full-featured presentation program.
* Kivio – A Visio®-style flowcharting application.
* Kontour – A vector drawing application
* Krita – A raster-based image manipulation program like The GIMP or Adobe© Photoshop®.
* Kugar – A tool for generating business quality reports.
* KChart – An integrated graph and chart drawing tool.

Most of the Koffice apps have reached or passed the version 1.0 stage. Some are nearing the 1.2 stage and provide a robust, stable office suite for KDE users. Most of the Koffice apps are slicker looking than their Open Office counterparts. You’ll have to decide which is right for you. My recommendation is to download both sets of apps and try them out before making a choice.

KOffice 1.1

Evolution and Kmail: Linux’s answer to Outlook
One of Microsoft Office’s big claims to fame is Outlook’s email and organizer client. An ingenious Outlook clone called Evolution is now available for Linux. Evolution looks, feels, and in some cases behaves quite similarly to Microsoft Outlook. (Though we certainly hope it’s not as virus-prone!). You can even use Evolution as a Microsoft Exchange client with some additional software. Evolution provides one-stop-shopping for Linux users that need a do-it-all email and organizer client.

If email alone is what you need, then check out KMail. My personal favorite, KMail is the KDE counterpart to other email clients. It’s slick, stable and provides some features that Outlook doesn’t. For example, you can easily view HTML email without allowing it to “call home”, and you can even set up email filters to “bounce” mail back to spammers.

If a stand-alone email client is what you need then check out KMail. If you need an organizer as well, then you can use KDE’s Korganizer, which provides a calendar and to-do list, as well as scheduling functions. Unlike Evolution, Kmail and Korganizer are separate.

Evolution 1.0

KMail 1.4

KOrganizer 3.0

File Sharing in Linux
Not to be outdone by file sharing programs like KaZaA and Gnucleus in Windows, Linux has its own file sharing apps. And, although still early for these apps, some of them are looking pretty good! Qtella is an open source client for the Gnutella network. Qtella’s interface is clean, simple-to-use, and does a great job as a front-end for the Gnutella network. Gtk-gnutella is another gnutella client. Not quite as slick as Qtella, but still very functional. Although neither of these apps is at 1.0 yet, they are still quite stable and useable. It won’t be long before they reach the 1.0 stage.

Qtella .52

Gtk-gnutella .85

Browser Bonanza!
While most people using Windows seem to be opting to go with its default browser, Linux users seem to crave more options. No OS provides a wider array of browsers than Linux. The major Linux browsers include Galeon, Opera, Konqueror, Netscape, and Mozilla.

Galeon is a gnome browser that does one thing and one thing only–it browses the Web. You won’t find a newsreader, email client, or other bloated features in Galeon. Instead you’ll find a fast, light, and easy-to-use browser. And once you start using Galeon’s tabbed browsing, you won’t ever want to bother with having multiple browser windows all over your desktop again.

Opera and Mozilla are both top-of-the-line browsers. Mozilla is just about ready for its long awaited 1.0 release and Opera is fast and light. You really can’t go wrong with either of them at this point. Konqueror is KDE’s answer to Internet Explorer–its built-in to the KDE desktop and functions as a file explorer as well as a browser. Konqi is also a superb browser. My favorite right now, though, is Galeon. But you really can’t go wrong with any of these browsers, they’re all very good.

Mozilla 1.0 RC2

Galeon 1.2.1

Opera 6.0

Konqueror 3.0

Linux Users Rejoice!
We’ve seen an amazing amount of progress happen in application development for Linux (and this is just a small sampling of Linux apps, not a comprehensive list). The old chestnut about Linux not having applications can finally be put to rest, once and for all. Can you imagine where these applications will be in a year or two? In my humble opinion, it’s a great time to be Linux user!

Will you be giving any of these apps a shot on your desktop? Post your comments.


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