In brief:

Free/open source word processor. Popular with users of GNOME.

Abiword website

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Gripes:

Compatibility:

The GNOME AbiWord team appears to have made more progress in the filters department than its rivals at KDE. AbiWord has an impressive range of input and output filters for formats such as Applix, WordPerfect and even KWord. That this is a work in progress can be seen from the fact that there is as yet an import but no export filter for WordPerfect, and an export but no import filter for KWord. As a lightweight word processor, Abiword simply lacks a large part of Word's functionality and as such, cannot then be expected to be compatible with it. Given that limitation, it is surprisingly good.

Language support:

Integral spellcheckers are available for the following languages: Catalan, Czech, Danish, Swiss German, German, Greek, English (Australia, Canada, GB, Ireland, NZ, US, New Zealand, South Africa), Esperanto, Spanish (Spain, Mexico), Finnish, French (France, Canada, Switzerland), Hungarian, Irish, Galician, Italian, Latin, Lithuanian, Dutch, Norwegian (both varieties), Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Slovenian, Swedish and Ukranian.

Conclusion:

KWord and AbiWord are direct rivals in that they are closely associated with the KDE and GNOME desktops respectively. Otherwise, though, they are chalk and cheese. Abiword has traditionally been regarded as being too lightweight to compete with KWord and OpenOffice.org, but the development team has been quietly adding features, and it now boasts more advanced formatting features such as tables and styles (both compatible with MS Word's) and more novel features such as integrated support for Python scripting and even an integral dictionary (for foreign words, not simply for spelling checking). OpenOffice.org and Textmaker continue to lead Abiword in the Microsoft compatibility stakes, but if you want to do word processing on old, slow or otherwise limited hardware, Abiword is the one to go for. It can even serve as a handy viewer for MS Word/RTF files. Most importantly, if you haven't tried it for two or three years, it's worth another look.

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