ThinkFree Office

ThinkFree Office provides a cross-platform Java-based office suite for

Linux, Windows, and MacOS. ThinkFree aims for the application service

provider market to provide applications that are available anywhere, so

long as you have an Internet connection.

Once started, the main interface appears as a file browser that

includes an icon for the ThinkFree Cyberdrive, an online storage area

on a ThinkFree server. For people who work on many different computers

throughout the day, this type of online storage can be really helpful;

however, it also raises security, privacy, and longevity issues. Do you

trust the company to be around years from now? (On the plus side,

ThinkFree has been around for some time already and has apparently

weathered the high-tech downturn.)

The file browser, which looks like Windows Explorer, provides a common

interface across all platforms supported by the suite. The rest of the

main window includes icons to launch ThinkFree Write, ThinkFree Calc,

and ThinkFree Show.

Being most interested in a word processor, and having used Microsoft

Word for many years, I tried out ThinkFree Write with some trepidation.

Upon loading some complex word documents, I was amazed at the display's

similarity to MS Word. To reassure myself, I downloaded the Windows

version and ran MS Word side-by-side with ThinkFree Office. (Note that

as of this writing, the Windows version is 1.7 and the Linux version is

at 1.5.)

On Linux, ThinkFree Office 1.5 requires IBM's 1.18 Java runtime engine,

old by most anyone's standards. The newer ThinkFree, when released for

Linux, should support more recent runtime engines. The Linux offline

version, therefore, came as two RPM package files: one for the IBM Java

engine and one for ThinkFree Office. Installation on the GNOME desktop

placed a new entry in the Applications menu as seamlessly as the

Windows installation.

Tables, even ones with shaded blocks, appeared exactly like Word. After

years of "almost" compatibility, ThinkFree looks really good. ThinkFree

Write does have some problems though. Simple page numbers appeared

incorrectly and in the wrong font, obscuring other text. An MS Word-

generated table of contents was formatted in large text that wrapped

each line and section headings, using simple formats, appeared indented

far more than in Word (where the section headers appeared flush to the

left margin). All Word art fails to translate into ThinkFree Write and

I did not see any Word revision marks, nor could I find a way to view

them.

Menus and toolbars appear much like those in Microsoft Word.

Performance, though, was sluggish, as is true for almost all Java

graphical applications.

ThinkFree Calc called up Excel spreadsheets with similar results. Other

than some slight font differences, it was hard to tell this was not

Microsoft Excel. ThinkFree Show, however, had some difficulty opening a

PowerPoint slide show. My test PowerPoint file had some graphics for a

new company organizational chart and all the lines between the boxes

were drawn in the wrong locations.

Designed around a subscription service, ThinkFree office can be

downloaded from http://www.thinkfree.com. I used the offline installer,

which you can download from

http://www.thinkfree.com/login/download_linux.jsp. As a subscription

service, prices are listed at http://www.thinkfree.com/login/login.jsp.

A one-year subscription of the ThinkFree Office Standard Edition costs

$49.95 US. That did not seem unreasonable and comes with 20 MB of

online storage. On the ThinkFree site, you can register for a 30-day

trial subscription and run ThinkFree Office in offline mode 29 times

before you must sign up with their service, but that should be long

enough to give you an idea of whether you want to use the suite.

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