Linux

GNOME Office: Is it a viable office suite?

11 Nov/09

When you think about office suites, two names come to mind: Microsoft Office and OpenOffice. There is a good reason for that – they are the two powerhouses in the field. Of course there are alternatives. For Windows there is Softmaker Office and Lotus Symphony. For the Mac there is iWork. For Linux there is Softmaker Office, Lotus Symphony, KOffice and GNOME Office. Although the vast majority of Linux users depend upon OpenOffice for their office needs, the alternatives should not be overlooked.

But is GNOME office and alternative that you should overlook? More than likely most readers didn’t even know there was a GNOME office. And of those that have heard rumors of this suite, many probably didn’t even know it was ready for installation. It is. But the big question…is it worth try? In this article I will highlight the tools that make up GNOME Office and help you to decide if this suite is worth your time.

Installation

The first thing I should bring up is the installation. Previous incarnations of GNOME Office required the user to install the pieces separately. That has changed and now you can open up the GNOME Software Center and follow these steps:

  1. Search for ‘gnome office”.
  2. Select GNOME Office.
  3. Click the right-pointing arrow.
  4. Click the Install button.
  5. Enter your password.
  6. Sit back and watch the installation happen.

What GNOME office installs is the following (some may already be installed):

  • Abiword: Word processor
  • Gnumeric: Spreadsheet
  • Evolution: Email, contacts, calendar
  • Planner: Project manager
  • Inkscape: Vector graphics
  • XSane: Scanning

There are other tools that are supposed to be included with GNOME Office, but are not installed:

  • Gnucash: Finances.
  • gLables: Label designer
  • Glom: Database designer.

Why the above tools are listed on the GNOME Office official site and not installed I have no clue.  Of course those are simple enough to install, just by going to the Software Center and going through the same steps above.

Value of the applications

Instead of taking each piece apart and showing you how they work, I want to spend a little time on whether or not each application is a worthy usurper of your current tool. And since I do not know the tool you are using, the usurper is going to have to be pretty good.

Abiword: I have always wanted to like Abiword. And, in some instances I do. But the problem is that Abiword really stinks at document exchange. Abiword’s idea of formatting doesn’t always gel with another Office Suite’s idea. But I will say that Abiword has come a long, long way. And if you are just needing a simple word processor that is lightweight and fast, Abiword is a great alternative. Does it match the skills of OpenOffice? Not so much.

Gnumeric: Another tool that I have always wanted to like, but have been prevented from doing so because of its poor ability to work with other tools. Any spreadsheet that uses complex formulas or formatting will most likely wind up a bit of a mess in Gnumeric. But for basic spreadsheet use, Gnumeric will get the job done.

Evolution: If you are looking for a groupware suite to take the place of MS Outlook, this is where you need to go. Evolution is, without question, the best groupware suite available for Linux. It’s power, easy to use, reliable, and includes everything you need for a groupware suite. This is, by far, the best tool of the GNOME Office suite.

Planner: Because most office suites do not generally include a project management tool, planner is a surprising addition to the suite. Not only does planner bring a much needed tool to the office suite, it does so with aplomb.

Inkscape: There is only one office suite that includes a vector graphics application – OpenOffice. Inkscape brings to GNOME Office one tool that the competition can not touch. Inkscape is the best vector graphics tool for the Linux operating system. There is, however, a rather steep learning curve that comes with using Inkscape. So don’t expect to just jump into this tool without any idea of what you are doing.

XSane: You can read my article on Xscane (”Scanning in Linux with iScan and XSane.”) I think most readers will agree that XSane is an overly complex tool for a simple task. However, XSane can be made simple by simply closing all of the unnecessary windows.

The verdict

Although GNOME Office makes a valiant attempt at replacing your current office suite, it fails in too many categories to actually usurp the big dogs in this space. Now, if are in a situation where you are not having to trade documents with others and you do not need the power features of tools like Excel or Calc, and you don’t need a tool for presentations then GNOME Office might be your go-to suite of tools. Otherwise, stick with OpenOffice or MS Office.

What do you think? Is GNOME Office a worthy entry in the office suite category?

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