ThinkFree Office

By Eric Foster-Johnson, ITworld |  Opinion

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.

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