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ABIWORD: A GREAT OPEN SOURCE WORD PROCESSOR

Updated on May 6, 2013

Microsoft Word is the most used word processor in use today. But many people don’t want to drop $120 (or more) on a piece of software, especially if they won’t use it often. Or what if your a Linux user... there is no version of Word for your operating system. What you need is a free, open sourced word processor. A popular option is to turn to LibreOffice or OpenOffice Writer. However, for the past few days, I have been playing around with a standalone word processor called Abiword, and I have to say there is not much not to like.

Out of the Box

Abiword is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux (I personally tested the Linux version using Ubuntu 13.04). The first thing you notice out of the box is how fast this program boots up. Even on older computers and netbooks, this word processor is lightning fast. It also loads files extremely quick; I opened the word file for my novel Escape to Freedom, which is a three hundred page novel. Abiword opened and uploaded the file in about four seconds. MS Word took twelve seconds to load the document. (I realize most people will never have a need to open such a large document, but I thought this would be a great way to test the speed of this program.)

The speed is not limited to booting and opening files; the program is lightning fast with keyboard input as well. When using MS Word, the screen often lags three or four characters behind my keystrokes. However, I found it impossible to type faster than Abiword. This program is simply lightning fast!

Abiword has a great user interface. I personally like the tabbed interface of the 2007 and up Microsoft products, but for a menu style interface, Abiword is done quite well. The toolbars are well thought out and contain the most commonly used functions. Even better is the fact that the bars are not cramped and confusing like LibreOffice (one of my biggest complaints about that program). Of course, one can go to the drop down menu for all of the functions of this processor, and once again, everything seems well thought out and organized.

Screenshot of Abiword in use

I opened many different file types, watching for errors and glitches. Most opened without a hitch; the only glitch I noticed was with .docx format. While the entire document loaded, the heading and title format were not retained. This is personally something I would like to see fixed, as .docx is a format I use quite often (I personally prefer it to .doc and .odt).

Speaking of formats, there are a whole host of formats that you can save to besides the native Abiword format. The only one that seemed to be missing from the list is... you guessed it... Microsoft’s .docx format. I tried saving documents to various formats and then opening them with other programs, and only had one problem. It seems that Abiword is the only program that can open the .abw format, which is Abiword’s native format. (However, since so many formats are available, this isn’t much of an issue.) Abiword also has a great option for saving a copy of a document in multiple formats. This is something I have long said MS Word should have in addition to the “save as” feature.

Features

Abiword has nearly every feature that one would expect from a modern word processor. While it would take too long to talk about every feature, let me point out some of the highlights.

  • Styles Like MS Word and several other word processors, Abiword has the option to use styles. While only a few styles are preprogrammed in, there is an option to import styles, which allowed me to quickly add my most commonly used styles from MS Word. Creating and editing styles is also easy to do, thanks to a simple, well thought out style menu. While LibreOffice and OpenOffice both use styles, the style menus are confusing and difficult to use; Abiword does it much better.
  • Formatting Anything one could ask for in formatting is here. There are a wide variety of fonts available, as well as options for font and highlighting color. Footnotes, endnotes, headers, and footers are all supported. Tabs, spacing, columns, and alignment... all standard stuff... are easily adjustable.
  • Inserting Objects A wide variety of objects can be inserted into documents. Tables, Table of Contents, footnotes, endnotes, headers, footers, hyperlinks and pictures are all supported. You can also edit pictures with Gimp, a very nice feature.
  • Full screen mode For those who are easily distracted, this mode is for you. Click on the F11 key, and the document consumes the entire viewing area. I gave this a try while writing this review, and I have to say that it’s a great asset when trying to stay focused.
  • Spell check Like most word processors, a spell check is included. I found the dictionary to be pretty extensive, and only had to words occasionally. I was disappointed in that there is no grammar check, although I have found most grammar programs to be lacking.
  • Review and edit As a writer who often has others review and make comments on his work, I was happy to see that Abiword allows for markup and comments. Like MS Word, you can show or hide revisions, as well as sort through the revisions, either accepting or rejecting the changes. Better yet, those revisions and comments can be saved and viewed on other word processors like LibreOffice and MS Word, which makes Abiword very effective for collaboration.

Collaboration

Abicollab is what I consider to be the greatest feature of this word processor. Simply put, this collaboration feature trumps not only Google Docs but every other collaboration software available. After registering (for free) at the Abicollab site, you can upload documents for collaboration. You are able to create groups of collaborators, as well as keep a list of contacts through the site. There is even an option to get the rss feed of your documents.

Here is the great feature of Abicollab... changes are made in real time. Now for the person who is simply typing up a letter, this may not seem like a big deal. But to a writer like me, or someone who is working on a business or scientific document that has many collaborators, this can represent a huge increase in efficiency. For example, when I was going through the editing process of my last novel, I emailed the document to my editor and then waited a week while he made revisions. He then sent it back to me, I reviewed the revisions, and then sent it back with what I had accepted and rejected, as well as a few changes I thought of. We went back and forth like this for a few weeks. Had we used Abicollab, I could have been reviewing his revisions as he made them, and the time savings would have been enormous.

I think it is easy to see that Abiword has all of the features the average user could want. I would even go so far as to say it would be a great tool for writers and other professionals who only need a word processor. While LibreOffice and MS Office are better tools for those who need all the features of an office suite, you have to give credit to the creators of Abiword for a solid, cross platform word processor with tons of features. Give it a try!

I hope you have enjoyed this hub. Please feel free to leave comments and questions below.

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    • profile image

      John Mayor 

      2 years ago

      (Attention!"... please remove the earlier submission!... and then replace same with this newest rendition!... and lastly, remove this very line from this second attempt!)

      I prefer a Monospace font over any and all Proportional fonts!... i.e., the two MAIN FONT CATEGORIES into which all other fonts can-- and should!-- be grouped! But... there's a systemic problem with how FOSS-based Text Formatting suites (leaving aside, Closed Source/ Closedware suites!) render Monospace, when incorporating Superscript or Subscript (SS/ SS), graphic boxes, and images (but, etc.!)!

      Why... in a Monospace Format... when placing superscript (or subscript) characters in LibreOffice (but also, in other FOSS-based programs such as Apache OpenOffice, and AbiWord!), does the "normal point size" typed below and above the line I'm working on, not line up with the "normal point size" I'm ON? And so, for example, if I type 10 Xes in 12point (and the 12point, being the larger "normal point size" I'm using), then the word "house painter" (e.g.) in superscript... and then type 5 more 12point Xes to the right of my SS/ SS... then go down one line, and type 12point Xes until I reach the last 12point X typed above... the last 12point X on the second line, won't align with the last X typed above! A "squeeze-play" has occurred with the SS/ SS characters... wherewith, the 12point vertical spacial alignment to the right of the SS/ SS is no longer contiguous with the 12point vertical spacial justification on the left of the SS/ SS, or below it! In other words, the SS/ SS has created its own vertical spacial justification!... AND D-MN THE VERTICAL SPACIAL JUSTIFICATION OF THE NORMAL POINT SIZE ON THE SCREEN!... AND THUS, D-MN FULL MONOSPACE ALIGNMENT! And... to be clear... it doesn't matter what larger point size one is using!... the invoking of SS/ SS on one's computer screen will mean a failure of the alignment of the larger point size!

      IF I'M IN MONOSPACE, THE "NORMAL POINT SIZE" SHOULD BE IN ALIGNMENT THROUGHOUT THE PAGE!... WHETHER I'M USING SS/ SS, OR OTHERWISE (and that goes for the inclusion of boxes around "normal point size" text, and/ or SS/ SS... i.e., if I add a vertical bar to form a box, the normal point size to the left or right of the bar, SHOULD ALIGN IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE NORMAL POINT SIZE BELOW, OR ABOVE THE BAR!-- AND REGARDLESS OF THE ADDITION OF SS/ SS!)! Otherwise, what's the point of adopting Monospace to effect-- in part-- the display mechanics of a typewriter (and the use of the latest software that renders the look and feel-- if you will-- of old-style typewriter fonts; the "bleeding" of keystrokes on one's computer screen that some developers have fashioned-- and, linked to the actual pressure one uses when hitting one's keyboard; the ability to backwards, and "overtype" one's already typed text-- and with varying keys; and, software that enables the "clicking sound" of a typewriter's keys!) when the alignment of SS/ SS, and graphic boxes, have been neglected in relation to the normal point size being used in the Monospace Environment (and thereby, ELIMINATING THE MOST NOTABLE FEATURE OF OF A MECHANICAL TYPEWRITER'S CHARACTERISTICS!... i.e., 100% MONOSPACE ALIGNMENT!)? H--l... my typewriter aligns better than that!... and, for both SS/ SS, and boxes!

      And yes... I know that the SS/ SS-- as such-- with a typewriter, is THE SAME as that of/ for the fixed point size of the "normal text"! But arguing that, misses the point! And that is, that the typewriter affords-- due to its fixed mechanics-- 100% CHARACTER ALIGNMENT FOR BOTH NORMAL POINT SIZE CHARACTERS, AND, SS/ SS (IN ADDITION, TO INCORPORATED GRAPHIC BOXES!... that may be fashioned from a mechanical typewriter's "underscore symbol" and the "single quote symbol"!)! And that, to me-- at least-- is the QUINTESSENTIAL DEFINITION OF TRUE MONOSPACE!... and, the reason why many (if not!... why MOST!) desire Monospace! But, regardless of this PREREQUISITE STANDARD DEFINITION of what SHOULD constitute TRUE MONOSPACE... AND, DESPITE THE ADOPTED RATIONALE BY MANY (AND IF NOT... BY MOST!) USERS FOR USING MONOSPACE!... Text Formatting Apps have gone on to subvert that definition (e.g., Apache's OpenOffice, and AbiWord!... among others!), in favour of a "hybrid version"!... i.e., part Monospace, AND PART NONSENSE!

      And by this, I don't mean to suggest that digital SS/ SS must be the SAME SIZE as that found within a mechanical typewriter! That's silly! But... that afterupon placing SS/ SS text adjoining the normal point size on screen, the normal point size should be in alignment with the normal point size elsewhere on the page! And I'm not saying that the glyphs themselves aren't Monospace!... but, that their overall alignment in relation to each other, isn't! And so, what's the point of referring to a given font as Monospace, when their alignment together, is forsaken!

      And just because the SS/ SS within a Text Formatting App may, itself, be Monospace, doesn't mean that its application in relation to the larger normal point size, is-- in fact-- adhering to the Monospace Environment of the larger point size (and as found in the operation of a mechanical typewriter)! And, just because a vertical or horizontal bar composing/ comprising a graphic box around the normal point size on a given screen is not regarded as "synonymous" with the "alphanumeric, and grammatic family of characters" of a given larger point size, and Font (and apart from... but in addition to... the issue of SS/ SS!), doesn't mean that the graphic box elements should be "estranged" from, and adversely affecting (once invoked) the larger normal point size chosen! The consistent alignment one achieves with a single or double quotation mark and underscore character found within a mechanical typewriter (both vertical, and horizontal!... and, regardless of the "default mechanics" unique to a typewriter!), should be the same consistent alignment achieved with a Text Formatting App (in Monospace!) used in conjunction with a PC (the differences between the size of the SS/ SS characters within a mechanical typewriter, versus that found on a computer screen, NOTWITHSTANDING!)! ANYTHING INCLUDED WITHIN A MONOSPACE ENVIRONMENT (IMAGES, DINGBATS, OR WHATEVER!) ON A COMPUTER SCREEN, MUST BE CONFINED TO (I.E., CALIBRATED WITHIN THE PARAMETERS OF!... OR CONSISTENT WITH!) THE VERTICAL SPACIAL ALLOTMENT ASSIGNED TO THE NORMAL (LARGER) POINT SIZE SYMBOLS/ CHARACTERS/ TEXT ENTERED ON ONE'S SCREEN! And so, if an IMAGE requires-- let's say-- 30 and a 1/4 normal point size characters for its width (leaving aside... for the moment... the image's height!)... and the image begins at the leftmost side of the screen... then the placement of the next normal size character to the right of the image (whether at the top right of the image, or somewhere below this to the bottom right of the image!), should begin-- MUST BEGIN!-- at the "Monospace Coordinate" "31 (whatever the normal point size... save, for a point size wherewith the characters are too large!... and thus, a scaled-up '31st character' could not be entered!)"!... not "30 and 1/2", "30 and 3/4"... and so on... WHICH WOULD BRING THE NORMAL (LARGER) POINT SIZE ABOVE, OR BELOW, OUT OF VERTICAL ALIGNMENT! The normal point size text should dictate-- MUST DICTATE!-- how the SS/ SS, image... or whatever!... will be framed!-- MUST BE FRAMED! THE NORMAL (LARGER) POINT SIZE, SHOULD BE THE GUIDE-- TEMPLATE!-- WITH WHICH TO ALIGN EVERYTHING ELSE ON A GIVEN SCREEN IN A MONOSPACE ENVIRONMENT!... PERIOD!

      And, it would be just as disconcerting to find, that an image (or SS/ SS, or graphic box) has adversely impacted on the HORIZONTAL ALIGNMENT in a Monospace Environment!... i.e., to find, that the HORIZONTAL SYMMETRY of normal point size lines of text has been compromised, once an image (or whatever) has been invoked! And... as would be the case, with a mechanical typewriter!

      Lastly, because of the problems cited above, I cannot use LibreOffice (or any other Office Suite with the same issue!... and e.g., Apache's OpenOffice, or AbiWord!) AT ALL! I... for my purposes (and for users like me!)... require TRUE MONOSPACE !

    • AJReissig profile imageAUTHOR

      Alex J. Reissig 

      5 years ago from New Richmond, Ohio

      I don't know. Until I read your comment, I had never heard of Zotero; had to look it up. From what I read about it, Zotero isn't that widely used, so I don't know that it would be a hindrance to many people.

    • profile image

      Wert 

      5 years ago

      It's pretty useless to a lot of folks until there's a Zotero plugin.

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