It has been said in the past that Linux’s acceptance as a desktop platform — or lack of acceptance for that manner, has been largely based upon the lack of commercial productivity applications.
Enter Applix — which for the past several years has been quietly producing a completely native and highly integrated office suite for Unix platforms. Recently, Applix spun off its applications division as VistaSource, which has released its first product, ApplixWare Office 5.0. While the functionality of ApplixWare Office 5.0 is pretty much the same as their previous versions, version 5.0 has been re-written to take direct advantage of the GTK 1.2.7 toolkit, the native user interface of GNOME. As far as we can tell, this is the first commercial end-user software package to do this. Not only is ApplixWare 5.0 visually appealing as a native GNOME application, but unlike its direct competitors in the Linux office suite business, it’s very resource efficient and fast.
At the Office
ApplixWare 5.0 is composed of six distinct applications: Words, Spreadsheets, Graphics, Presents, Data, and Mail. All of these are tied in by a single ApplixWare Office icon bar, which allows you to open files and import data from a single dialog interface.
In a general sense, all of these applications will provide the average user with most of the functionality they need to get their work done. Power users, on the other hand, will find it handy that ApplixWare Office’s functionality is made highly extensible by its own VB-like macro language known as SHELF. This allows users to write anything that they feel is missing in ApplixWare and plug it right into its own interface. Macro heads can find the resources at http://www.applixware.org.
Although ApplixWare’s extensibility capabilities are impressive, users may find it somewhat annoying that the applications lack standard features to which they may have become accustomed in other industry standard office suites. For example, as a professional writer, I found it rather strange that Words lacked a simple Word Count feature. While this was fairly easy to do, we feel that this lack of attention to basic capabilities is ApplixWare’s Achilles’ heel.
In addition to lacking some commonly accepted features, users migrating to Applixware on Linux from Microsoft Office on Windows may have problems dealing with ApplixWare’s weird user interface conventions. For example, Words underlines misspelled words as you write, much like Microsoft Word does. But to get a choice of corrections, you have to manually spell check the document. Huh? What’s the point of on the fly spell checking then?
Despite ApplixWare 5.0′s quirks and a couple of oversights, it is still the most native and best integrated office suite that you can purchase for Linux — and at a price of only $99, it’s also a very good buy. Given a bit more polish and attention to detail, and if Applix fills in its missing holes with pre-built SHELF extensions everybody wants, we think ApplixWare has a good shot at becoming the de facto productivity suite on Linux.