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See also: last week's On the Desktop page.

Note: An asterisk (*) denotes a proprietary product, (w) denotes WINE based tools.

Office Suites
Ability (*)(w)
Anywhere Desktop (*)
(formerly "Applixware")
GNOME Office
StarOffice / OpenOffice
Siag Office
WordPerfect Office 2000 (*)(w)

Java / Web Office Suites
ThinkFree Office (*)
Teamware Office (*)
Cybozu Office (*)

Desktop Publishing
iceSculptor (*)
Maxwell Word Processor
Mediascape Artstream (*)

Web Browsers
Netscape (*)
Opera (*)

Handheld Tools
Palm Pilot Resources
Pilot Link

On The Desktop

Commercial page layout update. I checked in with Mediascape's CEO Howard Luby this week to ask about their page layout package, Artstream.

We're still plugging along here. We have been posting updates, but unfortunately it's mainly been to fix problems that have been caused by XFree86 4.0 bugs, and new differences in the Mandrake and RedHat distributions. We hope to stabilize on RedHat 6.2, Mandrake 7.2 and XFree86 4.02 or nVidia X/OpenGL drivers in the next couple of weeks. After that we get to work on features again.

We've been getting some good feedback from our early adopters. They've expressed interest in features from trapping, separation and imposition, to Flash output. Soon we'll at least be on par with our Irix version, then we'll start piling on the features [to the Linux version].

And while we're on the subject of page layout, have you looked at Chilliware's iceSculptor package? I saw it at LinuxWorld but couldn't really tell if it was a real page layout package or not. My take, after looking at the downloadable demonstration version, is that iceSculptor is sort of a layout/word processor hybrid. At the moment it lacks text along a curve and has a few glaring user interface problems.

Chilliware had one of the fanciest booths in New York this past February at the LinuxWorld Expo, and their plans include a suite of desktop applications aimed at the individual user - a real applications company in the Linux marketplace. The question is whether they can deliver on their promises.

LinuxWorld reported on iceSculptor this week, stating they thought it shows promise and immaturity. Author Joshua Drake went on from there to say

I also noticed some inconsistencies with the product on launch. It honored the color scheme that I set up with KDE, but did not honor the text style settings. The text on the menu bar was about two sizes larger than the text I have on all other windows. At startup, the software presents you with a single-framed window that appears to be drawn incorrectly. Creating a new document is simple: just click on the now-industry-standard icon that looks like a blank piece of paper, and you are prompted to specify the type of document you would like to work with.

The author had quite a few problems getting the package to run under his KDE-based system, including problems with running on AMD processors. I, however, was able to bring up the demo package, which I pulled from Chilliware's website in RPM format, on the first try. Then again, I live under FVWM with the KDE and GNOME libs installed but without the GNOME or KDE environments running. It appears he had a bad package distribution, since the package he pulled from their website also appeared to work.

While LinuxWorld mentioned briefly that CorelDraw has been around longer than iceSculptor, I have to say that really isn't much of an advantage. Wine-based applications just don't cut it. Native is where it's at, and Chilliware's products are Qt-based, Linux native applications.

Besides Corel's recent fizzle, the only other possible page layout tool for Linux was coming from Deneba. Like CorelDraw, their Mac and Windows-based Canvas package had been ported to Linux via Wine. But late last year, a note from their support group informed me that the Linux version was on indefinite hold.

In the meantime, users continue to wait for a real page layout solution for the desktop.

Late Mozilla = Opera acceptance. It appears that the 1.0 release of Mozilla has moved out to the 4th quarter of 2001, assuming a worst case scenario (which isn't as unlikely as it seems in the software business). While free software has many advantages, many projects seem to have forgotten the "release often" rule. Long cycles for projects like Mozilla (4 years to the 1.0 release) and GIMP (2 years between 1.0 and the next major release of 1.2) leave ordinary users wondering just where the added value of open source really lives.

The truth is that large scale open source projects are constrained by the same rules proprietary software has lived by for years: difficult standards compliance verification, backtracking to the design phase when implementations show limitations in original designs and poorly defined production goals. From a developers perspective, none of these problems are impossible to solve, they're just not made any easier with open sourced code.

But whatever the developmental issues, end users are primarily interested in products that are available now and meet their current needs. While they might be willing to wait for future promised features, they won't be using beta or prerelease products during the intervening period. This moves user acceptance cycles - where users begin to build loyalty to a product - out even further and give competitors, either open source or commercial, a chance to earn users loyalty.

So while Mozilla lags behind in order to get things just right, alternatives like the cross-platform, commercial Opera browser and the open source Galeon and Konqueror browsers make big gains. In my own testing, I've found Opera to be quite stable and easy to use. Minor nits with how it imports my existing Netscape bookmarks (it sorts them when I don't want them sorted) are easy to overlook when nearly all the sites I normally visit are presented accurately. Konqueror and Galeon are on my radar screens due in no small part to very positive comments from local users groups. I just have to find a free hour to put together a test system where I can install both GNOME and KDE in their full glory.

In the meantime, I'll continue to watch all of these browsers in the hopes that one of them will be both easy to use and aesthetically soothing. In other words, a browser that bans any site that opens windows on my desktop without my request from any future contact with me. I don't ask for much.

Desktop Environments

Talking with Gael Duval of Linux Mandrake about GNOME (LinuxPower). LinuxPower interviews Gael Duval of Linux Mandrake about their involvement in the GNOME Foundation. "The problem is that GNOME and KDE are very different by nature: they don't use the same graphical libs, they don't offer the same programming API, and they are not really designed to communicate with each other even if some progress have been made in this last area. As a result, applications written with GNOME libraries or KDE libraries won't run on all Linux distributions because some of them install only KDE, the others only GNOME etc. In Mandrake, a common installation provides both KDE and GNOME libs and users appreciate that because they can run all the Linux apps they find on the net, regardless of the graphical environment they prefer!"

Evolution's latest mutations (LinuxWorld). Joe Barr looks at the latest in the evolutionary lines of Evolution in this LinuxWorld expose. "I wrote an inquiry to the development team and Evolution's project lead, Ettore Perazzoli, responded that the summary page lets you add plug-in applets to summarize how much mail you have waiting, remind you of appointments from your calendar app, or perhaps show you the latest Slashdot headlines. It's going to be much more useful than I had imagined."

GNOME 1.4 Beta 2. GNOME 1.4 Beta 2 was released late last night (or was it early this morning?) to testers interested in helping shake down the upcoming 1.4 release. Additionally, the GNOME Fifth Toe 1.4 Beta 2 is released, which is a collection of packages that are not part of the GNOME core.

Red Carpet 0.9.1 Released. Ximian pushed a new release of Red Carpet to the servers this past week. While the release is welcome, users on the bleeding edge will need to note that this release won't work with the latest RPM, version 4.0.2, installed.

GNOME to Conquer Denmark. Details of the speaker lineup for the GUADEC conference in Denmark, April 6-8, have been posted on the GNOME News site.

Release plan for KDE 2.1.1 (KDE Dot News). Plans for the next stable release of KDE, release 2.1.1, have been posted on KDE Dot News.

Printing Mania: New KDE Printing Architecture Unveiled (KDE Dot News). Like most Unix systems, printing under KDE has never been a strong point. KDE Dot News looks at developer Michael Goffioul's attempts to change that situation. "Special emphasis is put on CUPS (Common Unix Printing System). The API is identical to the Qt API to enable developers to make use of it easily, but is significantly more flexible and configurable. For example, developers can easily add additional configuration pages to the print dialog to configure application-specific printing options, and can add filters to the printing structure to process the output."

GNUstep Weekly Update, February 25th. The GNUstep weekly update for the week ending February 25th arrived this morning. Issues covered include French and Italian localisation, updates to the GUI frontend library (gnustep-gui) and some documentation updates to the Java Interface for GNUstep (aka JIGS). "GNUstep is a set of general-purpose Objective-C libraries based on the OpenStep standard developed by NeXT (now Apple) Inc", to quote Freshmeat.

System G desktop manager for Linux. Another entry in the desktop file managmenet category, System G, has reached version 2.0 according to news from the maker of the software, New Planet Software, Inc.

Office Applications

Why You Should Support AbiWord (LinuxToday.com.au). This LinuxToday.au author likes Abiword. "What an outstanding contribution to the open source world! While word processors such as StarWriter (part of OpenOffice), KWord are available for Unix Variants, and Microsoft Word and a variety of others are available for Windows and the Mac OS, you could run AbiWord on any different modern OS that you could care to, and find the basic feature set available on each!"

Desktop Applications

Appgen implements new business model. Appgen Business Software, Inc. announced the formation of Appgen Personal Software, LLC which, along with Appgen Business Software, Inc., will jointly market business and personal financial management products as "The Appgen Software Companies". The Appgen Software Companies will sell prepackaged products directly to consumers of business and personal financial software.

HealthEdge Brings Home Healthcare to the Linux World. FireLogic, Inc. announced today the release of the first of its HealthEngage Technology Platform products, HealthEngage-Asthma. HealthEngage-Asthma is a software application that allows users to track their health data.

Loki at March conferences. Loki developers Sam Lantinga and Bernd Kreimeier will be giving a talk at the upcoming Game Developers Conference March 20-24 in San Jose. Also Loki President Scott Draeker will speak at the Colorado Linux Info Quest on March 30th.

Section Editor: Michael J. Hammel

March 8, 2001

Note: An asterisk (*) denotes a proprietary product, (w) denotes WINE based tools.

Desktop Environments

Window Managers (WM's)

Minimalist Environments

Widget Sets

Desktop Graphics
CorelDRAW (*)(w)
Photogenics (*)

Windows on Linux

Kids S/W
Linux For Kids

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