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?
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Being Oxygen, the user interface just looks so much nicer than either Impress or KPresenter 1.6
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.
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.
Bulleted lists are not quite right yet – if you use a large font then the decoration is small and not vertically centred (bug report).
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.