Q&A: Resources: Office

#office, #suite, #software, #books, #ebooks, #authors

Q: Why isn’t Calligra Office & Graphics Suite, another open source / free software, listed in your “Resources” section?

A: That is a fair question, and we will try to provide a sufficient explanation related to our standards.

First, there are more open source office (etc.) suites available than mentioned in our Resources section as alternatives to commercial counterparts. We cannot list all and stick to the best (by our judgment) that are freely available and meet the basic to advanced needs of authors. Our few non-free applications in some categories are for those who have difficulty with others listed. While Calligra certainly fits within these broad parameters, we consider it to have shortcomings.

Development has been spotty from what little we can determine superficially. Often it has added new applications and/or features before old ones are further refined. In news on their site, you will see large time gaps, and yet topics often reference sub-sub-versions vs. sub-versions or versions as a whole for what has been added or updated. In addition, installing Calligra is problematic, but we will look at this later.

The suite is also further fragmenting with such new applications as Author, which is said to allow working from a manuscript draft phase straight into EPUB for ebook distribution. This claim is undercut by the brief mention that other applications in the suite are still required to complete the mentioned process.

The multi-application process is cumbersome vs. LibreOffice and OpenOffice, which both have a plugin for direct export of an EPUB from the manuscript itself. Author has other shortcomings vs. higher coding capability of such programs as Scribus Sigil. We have tested this in comparison. While Author was convenient and easy to use, the built-in W3C code checking & correction were better in Scribus Sigil. The suite in general may seem fragmented to users experienced in EPUB compiling and publishing. Possibly the same for inexperienced users.

While this suite is available for installation in some Linux software repositories, it does not appear in all for the top 5 worldwide Linux distributions. It is true that OpenOffice by Apache is missing in nearly all such, but that is because it has some proprietary code. The Linux community at large tends to rejects such out of hand; we do not when open source (in part or whole) is precompiled, free, and freely available. Anyone wishing to use a suite, application, or utility that contains proprietary components (usually) has to install such manually. But even where Calligra is listed in a repository, the version is not always the current one found on its site.

All Linux repositories are curated one way or another for the protection of the community. Software is reviewed for reasonable stability as well as for malicious or suspicious code. Calligra does pass muster in the latter, and pristinely, but not in the former; this may (?) be why certain repositories are not adding the most current suite version. Where it does appear, user review ratings are below average to average at best.

When it comes to installing Calligra on Windows or OS X, both require compiling through scripts, and/or installation through scripts, and/or online installers. The former is highly problematic for most average users; the latter is unacceptable. Online installation from anywhere that does not at least use third-party curation is a risk and often does not allow users enough personal choice for what is installed. Not everyone needs every application in a suite. You are only able to see the result and what it might do to your system after installation into your system. In this, both LibreOffice and OpenOffice also fall short but…

Not every software suite is the best choice for everyone; we leave that ultimate arrogance to the commercial suite developers and their marketing departments. All those interested should look into all freely available options, regardless of their preferred operating system and its environment layer (which are separate references even in Windows and OS X). Learn more for yourself at Calligra.org.

N.D. Author Services [NDAS]

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