In brief:

Softmaker, a German software vendor, has been selling the Windows version of its word processor and office suite for several years now. The company has attached great importance to the support of older hardware, and its products are well known for making low demands on hardware resources. No doubt partly a result of this focus, Softmaker has carved a niche for itself in the Pocket PC and Handheld PC markets. It has also made major inroads into the German education sector, with a claim of 35% of the installed base in German schools for the Windows version.

The Softmaker suite comprises Textmaker (word processor), Planmaker (spreadsheet) and Presentations.

The beta version of Softmaker Office 2010 for Linux was launched in March 2010. The suite costs €69.95, and a free 30-day demonstration version (Microsoft compatibility limited to 7 days) is available for testing purposes.

Softmaker website

Plus points:

Gripes:

Compatibility:

Softmaker is no newcomer to the desktop office market and as such is well aware of the need for compatibility with Microsoft's products. Indeed, for many years, Softmaker gave the software away without the filters for Microsoft file formats, and charged money for the filters - a policy which speaks volumes. The importance attached to this compatibility clearly forms the backbone of the company's approach. File format compatibility with MS Word was already being billed as "almost complete" for the Beta version. In my opinion, OpenOffice.org still has the edge on compatibility with Microsoft's legacy binary formats (.doc and .xls), but some observers rate Textmaker's MS Word compatibility as being higher. The Presentation module can only read binary MS Powerpoint files, not the new .pptx format.

Language support:

Not tested

Conclusion:

Pitched as a low-price but fully featured commercial alternative to MS Office for the Linux platform, Textmaker is addressing the market that Applixware appears to have conceded by default, Corel WordPerfect spectacularly failed to conquer, Hancom has cornered in the Far East, and Sun, with StarOffice, regards as rightfully its own. Textmaker got off to an auspicious start, and with the launch of the 2010 beta, has stolen the lead again on StarOffice/OpenOffice.org with its ability to write to .docx.