Word Processor Review

by Rick Jelliffe

DonationCoder.com has a very good Word Processor Review by Zaine Ridling, divided into three tiers: Major Word Processors (Open Office, Office 2007, Word Perfect), Second Tier Word Processors (AbiWord, EIOffice, etc.) and Online Word Processors (Google Docs, etc.) that is well worth reading for an idea of the capabilities of each. The final Pro and Con tables are handy.

The predictable quibble I have is that the reviewer apparently believes that application features are disconnected from save formats. So while he opens with If ever a maxim fit, one size does not fit all applies accurately to word processors and diligently mentions the different feature sets of the different applications, these different features never need to save any information that ODF cannot handle, it seems.

I think the best resolutions is that if a document does use some features that a format cannot handle, the application should alert the user who can choose the appropriate format. For Office 2010, for example, a user could set ODF to be the default default, and OpenXML can be the fidelity default, for example. I think that is one good way to reconcile the basic ODF-wasn't-designed-for-our-feature-set issue with the we-want-ODF-as-our-default-format issue. Rather than panicking 'It is impossible to use ODF because it doesn't support all these things" (which is clearly true for many, but hopefully not for most Office documents, presumably following one of the standard statistical patterns) on the one hand, or chanting "ODF gives you everything you need" on the other hand (which similarly is hopefully true for most, but certainly not all Office documents)

It would be interesting to also include the word processors from Adobe (FrameMaker), IBM and Lotus as well. And it would be interesting to also include validation reports where the XML-in-ZIP save formats were validated against their standard schemas, since validity is a great tool for determining whether an application is doing the right thing,


Steve Loughran
2007-07-22 03:29:58
For assessing fidelity, it may be an interesting experiment to see how reliably they print what you intend on various printers. Certainly I wouldn't use google docs for direct printing of anything where layout mattered, as it goes through the browser; maybe their to-PDF chain works better.

That is is they print at all. I got burned by visio 2003 not exporting to .EPS or CGM, which means its artwork wont import into Frame, which means you can't use it in books. Visio 2002 does have the feature, but of course you need to resave all your 2003 files into visio 2002 format.

As an aside, the reviews blame OOs startup delays on Java. Java is still optional on OOo, so that can't be the (sole) cause.

Rick Jelliffe
2007-07-22 06:40:28
Steve: That is a good issue too. I always thought that IEs printing was inadequate, presumably crippled to reduce competition with Word.

Most major PC applications start up at boot time, and stay in the background, so that formally opening the application doesn't require loading into memory and initialization. Swings and roundabouts. I have been using a dual screen, so that I can keep key applications open all the time.

Bruce D'Arcus
2007-07-22 09:41:33
Actually, he's a bit sloppy with facts. I'm the co-project lead for the OOo bibliographic projects, but a) I would not call the existing support anything but a toy (he says it provides excellent academic support, and that's wrong), and b) he chastises MS (rightly) for some things they do wrong in their Word 2007 citation support, but then contrasts that with how we do it at OOo. The error is that support of the ZOOM API and such does not currently exist; we are planning to add it.
Steve Loughran
2007-07-22 13:13:42
Rick: I dont encourage quick-launch apps to autorun -it makes your app start faster, but windows itself tales forever. I think it may be more to DLL tuning in MSWORD to load the least it needs, advanced linker setup and other tricks that only Win32 experts in redmond understand.

Bruce: Neither MSWord or OOo do references and bibliographies adequate for academic or 600 page books -LaTeX still sets the lead here. Tony Hey, MS VP for HPC/grid stuff gave a talk at a Grid conf in May, in which he bemoaned that even he couldn't get the office team to do an 'office for scientists', because there werent enough scientists for it to be relevant in the mass market Office targets -"how many millions of scientists are there?". But the real question is "how many millions of people need decent biblios, big book support and the like" -the need is there.

Rick Jelliffe
2007-07-22 13:55:35
Steve: What I found in a little test last year was that for a medium-large document Word renders the first page ASAP, but then locks the interface while the rest of the document is read. So the time to start work with the document was less than with Open Office, but the time to start editing was less different.

Bruce: I wonder if there is some XML-based solution there (i.e. using XForms in ODF and Custom XML Mapping in Open XML?

Bruce D'Arcus
2007-07-22 17:01:40
Steve: yeah, it seems to me the current support in Word 2007 is designed for students. I don't think they really talked to any scholars. But they do have a decent foundation on which to build.

Rick: I'm not sure what you mean, but I guess you're referring to how best to implement the citation support?

In ODF/OOo, we'll be using the new RDF-based metadata support coming in ODF 1.2. So not unlike MS, we'll use a custom field and custom metadata of sorts. The difference will be that the source data and the fields will be encoded in RDF, and so there'll be a standard model behind it.

I think many of us would like to rip out the current support from OOo and defer more to third-party apps like the Firefox-based Zotero.

The thing that the MS team that implemented citation support in Word 2007 doesn't seem to get is that for scholars, bibliographic data is often more critical than even their documents; so forcing people to create and edit the data from within a word-processor isn't really practical. But still, XForms may well provide a mechanism to do that if necessary.

2007-07-28 19:29:53
MSFT is a v2 or v3 company. The first round of bibliographies was basic and did something, but not a whole lot. But it had to go in alongside massive changes in UI and everything else that changed in 2007. And, more importantly, they can't totally kill the market for EndNote without fear of harming their partner ecosystem or even engendering a lawsuit. Maybe their current approach is good enough? Provide the student version of bibliography for free and let a partner provide the pro version until a major competitor (OOo) forces them to add it to the base product.

They already did something similar for equations, and I'm really happy with the result in Word2007, but I wish it had come sooner.

Rick Jelliffe
2007-07-29 03:51:50
This week (July 26 2007) ComputerWorld has a set of reviews Review roundup: Dumping Microsoft Office for an alternative suite and in January 2007 they had a review of Online Word Processors
2007-09-01 13:34:07
I missed this way back from nksingh:

"... And, more importantly, they can't totally kill the market for EndNote without fear of harming their partner ecosystem or even engendering a lawsuit."

An interesting irony: one monopolist (ISI) complaining about another (MS).

Well, MS does have some API hooks for citations and bibliographies so that in an ideal world third-parties still have opportunities. But they need to provide better baseline support so that one doesn't have to rely on extension just to get the most basic formatting right.

I've blogged about some of this here and and more generally here.

psu calculator
2008-04-05 21:25:00
"This week (July 26 2007) ComputerWorld has a set of reviews Review roundup: Dumping Microsoft Office for an alternative suite and in January 2007 they had a review of Online Word Processors"


2008-05-11 19:21:59
great work