KOffice 2.2: Is It Ready Yet?

KOffice 2.2 was recently released and can be “used for real work”. Conveniently, just after 2.2 was released, I found myself needing to put together a presentation for Akademy – so what to use?

Competition

PowerPoint is ok-ish but requires using Windows and doesn’t save in an open format (ODP or PDF). OpenOffice Impress – well, it doesn’t impress. I find the interface clunky and counter-intuitive, resizing images is fiddly, mysterious ugly lines appear around graphics on some machines on which I need to run it and, lacking the network transparency of a KDE app, I can’t work on remote documents via fish, but have to make a local copy (it even has the cheek to claim that opening a remote document is not possible on Linux).

KPresenter 2.2.0

KPresenter 2.2.0

I already had a play with KOffice 2.0 when it came out, but – as the KOffice team made clear at the time – that was really just a technology preview and not stable or featureful enough for day to day use. KOffice 2.1 was also advertised as not ready for general use, but I decided to give it a go and found KWord 2.1 perfectly adequate for the simple tasks I threw at it (I use LaTeX for big docs). I also had a bit of a play with KPresenter 2.1 and was quite impressed, but the only presentation I needed to work on was an adaptation of an older one from OpenOffice Impress that didn’t import well into KPresenter so I stuck with Impress.

This time, however, I decided to give KPresenter a go. So, a few hours later (spread over several days) I have a shiny, new, graphics-heavy presentation produced in KPresenter.

Quick verdict

Is KPresenter ready? Well I didn’t manage to crash it (and I normally manage to crash presentation apps) and found only a few irritations. For my personal use case, at present, there’s nothing better.

Nice points

Configurability and convenience

KPresenter, like all the KOffice apps has a highly configurable interface so that I was able to move tools around to exactly where I found them most convenient. It even shows and hides toolboxes depending on whether you’re moving shapes around or editing texts – which is nice to keep the interface relevant although having things disappear is a bit disconcerting to start with.

Shapes in KPresenter

Shapes in KPresenter

Shapes

Like the rest of KOffice, shapes are the tool used to add images, text boxes and – well – everything. But it’s in KPresenter that they really seem to shine. Images in particular are easily placed, resized and bordered without right-clicking or drilling down through multiple menus. Items can be grouped and raised and lowered easily and I did a lot of drawing right in the app itself.

There’s also a nice set of default shapes to use, including the ubiquitous ‘gearhead’ figures and speech bubbles that are themselves easily configurable.

Beauty

Being Oxygen, the user interface just looks so much nicer than either Impress or KPresenter 1.6

Some quibbles

Colour selection

The colour selector has a checkbox (on by default?) that hides colours with poor contrast. I didn’t notice this and since it hid black I accidentally made a number of components dark brown instead, something I had to fix later. Personally, I’d rather have the full choice of colours all the time, but it is easy to set it to your personal preference.

PDF export doesn't match page to slide by default

PDF export doesn't match page to slide by default

PDF export

KPresenter has a simple to use PDF export function, simply choose it from the file menu and choose a file name. However, the default settings produce a PDF with portrait pages with the landscape slide centred on the page with big margins – not very useful if you want to produce a PDF to use in the presentation (for example if the presentation PC might not have KPresenter on it).

You can however work around this by instead choosing to print the document to PDF and manually setting up a page with the correct aspect ratio and no margins – it’s not difficult, just takes a bit longer.

And yes, there’s a bug report.

Lists

Bulleted lists are not quite right yet – if you use a large font then the decoration is small and not vertically centred (bug report).

Conclusion

Overall, on the basis of my experience with KPresenter – and a brief play with KWord and KSpread – I think KOffice 2.2 is definitely worth a look and, yes, it is ready for real work. Even with the niggles outlined above, KPresenter will now be my application of choice for preparing presentations – I find it the most comfortable application to use for this task on any platform. Of course, depending on your particular needs, your views may differ.

KOffice is very exciting right now. It has always been – for me – the nicest office suite to actually use, but in the old days it was held back by a lack of some advanced features, a file format that no one else used and limited import and export capabilities. Now that it has standardised on OpenDocument, is able to import proprietary formats and seems to be developing quickly the future looks bright.

20 Responses to “KOffice 2.2: Is It Ready Yet?”

  • Gaël says:

    I’d love to use koffice for the same reasons as you, but I have to live in a complete M$ work world around me, except for me and a few colleagues. Therefore I cannot live without full M$ formats import/export. Even OO is not always enough and I then have to try to find a machine with Windows… :-(
    So, I know it’s not (was not ?) a goal of the KOffice team, but I think that to gain any momentum, koffice will have to be able to natively import and export their file formats.

    • Stu says:

      I guess I’m in a lucky position in that I only ever get/have to send quite simple MS docs (some scientists I work with use them for paper drafting, but they never bother with much formatting leaving that to the journals).

      The better solution is for MS to get serious about the ODF support that they are bringing in to Office. If they really do it properly then that will be the best interchange format and ODF would also benefit from another large active participant. However, I remain skeptical :-(

      • Gaël says:

        I doubt a lot M$ will do that. I can be wrong but I suppose they will do all they can to pretend support it and just implement it with slight differences making it unusable. Their strategy has always been to oblige people to stay with their software. For them, interoperability means loosing market share.

        • Stu says:

          Yep, the only way it will happen is if some big customers (governments, really) demand it/switch to alternatives. Then it makes economic sense to do ODF properly.

  • bufalo_1973 says:

    Maybe what should do the KOffice team is to build the file filters as systemwide filters, so every KDE app could use them and improve them too. Something like a KIO but instead of network protocols, file formats. It would be nice if you could call a .DOC file by an URL like filedoc://path/to/the/file/FileToLoad.DOC (filedoc for .DOC, filexls for .XLS and so on).

  • slangkamp says:

    @Gaël: Nokia has been sponsoring the development of MS Office import filter and they made great progress. Perfect support is practically impossible.

    @bufalo_1973: Converting the file isn’t a big problem. But the other apps would still have to open the converted file. I don’t see much need outside KOffice yet.

    • Gaël says:

      Yes, I know. But up to now (to my knowledge) the emphasis was just on the import filter for the N900 viewer. Export was not worked on. I hope I’m wrong or that it is the next step.

  • Cyril says:

    I would like to test KWord more thoroughly, but without highly configurable tables and footnotes (no at all), which I need for my scientific writings just as much as titles and paragraphs, I simply can’t write more than simple letters.
    I’m hoping for 2.3.

    • Stu says:

      Seriously, I think it has to be LaTeX for that kind of thing. Sure, it would be great if KWord could do all that, but neither OpenOffice Writer nor MS Word can do that for me (well enough) either.

      Tables I think are an acknowledge work in progress still (I do’t have a ref for that, but have an idea I read it somewhere)

      • Cyril says:

        I tried to get into LaTeX before starting to write my dissertation, but I just don’t understand that technical language, although I really tried and I hate to care about formatting hundreds of examples. :-/

        Yes, tables are basically there, and I think there’ll be much progress, but now I can’t find some important functions (invisible or partially invisible borders, auto-optimalization) yet.

        • Stu says:

          Fair enough. Like with most tools that have a bit of a learning curve you have to take a decision on whether the time spent learning will be worth it in the end – and it probably isn’t for everyone.

          Tools like Kile and LyX make it a lot easier though

  • Fri13 says:

    It is nice how KOffice has evolved. It is one of the rare office applications what has great UI, actually it is almost only one.

    I noticed a bug in the ODF support what renders KWord useless for me. I share lots of files between OO.o users and the documents are very specific about the fonts and words placements.

    The KWord has with same font settings and page marginals 8 letters shorter space. I was so happy when now in 2.2 they managed to get fonts look actually good in it. But I can not share (or touch) any of the ODF files what I get because the text size does not match with the other applications what use ODF!

    • Stu says:

      Hmm, I hadn’t noticed that. You’ve made a bug report?
      But I guess it could be something quite deep (Qt?) or of course it might be an OO.o issue – how would you work out which one is ‘right’ anyway?

    • Casper Boemann says:

      This is fixed in trunk and will be part of 2.3

  • Randall says:

    One thing that I’d like to see in KPresenter in the future is not a clone of M$-PPT but a whole new kind of presentation tool. Specially in the field of effects and animation, where i can do resizing animation, scaling animation and other nice animations that would not really limit the user imagination in creating presentation.

    KOffice devs, nice work. :)

    • Stu says:

      Yep, one of the things I have liked and do like about KOffice is that it doesn’t feel like just a clone. KWord for example has quite an unusual approach to wordprocessing with its frame-based setup although the nice thing is you can also pretty much ignore that for simple docs

  • jospoortvliet says:

    Ha, Stu, you’re completely right. I’ve used both OO.o and KPresenter for my talk at LinuxTag, in the end KPresenter did things right and OO.o screwed up ;-)

    I even managed to create my presentation in about an hour in KPresenter, which is really nice, and the end result is pretty good. So points for the KO team!

    • Stu says:

      Yep :-) I don’t mean to dismiss OpenOffice completely – it has made my life on Linux a lot easier and probably I’d otherwise have needed MS Office in a VM for a lot of tasks.

      I’m still using Writer and Calc quite a lot, especially the latter, though some of that is probably just inertia.

  • Vamp898 says:

    Microsoft Office 2007 and later have to fully support ODT Format

    so if you work in a M$ Environment you should be able to work flawless with ODT (which works on OOo and MS Office)

    So no Problems with KOffice too

    • Stu says:

      ‘Should’ and ‘can’ are however two different things. Even OOo and KOffice have differences in their reading of the format and MS Office has some major issues still, particularly with spreadsheets.
      However, I’ve found the Sun ODF plugin for MS Office to be pretty decent so far…