Refraining from software piracy isn’t always easy. It requires a bit more in the way of effort to track down effective solutions that don’t infringe upon copyright violation somehow. Luckily, the options in word processing are fairly extensive. OpenOffice is a great alternative that also allows your conscience a well-deserved break. The problem is, as of this writing, OpenOffice on the Mac is fuzzy, at best. And I do mean fuzzy. It runs using the X11 framework, and so lacks the polish of a native app, which also apparently extends to the graphics display therein. If there are any Mac coders out there, please help the OpenOffice team–this is a great product that deserves all the help it can get.
In the meantime, less well-known but by no means inferior comes the AbiWord program, a full-featured word processor for Mac, Linux and even Big Brother. I have since left MS Word gathering dust somewhere in a dark crack of my drive and have taken to AbiWord like a geek to coffee.
The interface is familiar to any who have used either OpenOffice or MS Word, with similar toolbars and even tear-off palettes containing formatting options. A particularly nice feature is the ability to save documents in nearly any format, from the .abw format of AbiWord, to .doc, OpenOffice’s .sxw, .rtf, and a couple I didn’t even recognize. Suffice it to say that you’ll be able to open it from wherever you may find yourself. Perhaps the best part, though is the extremely small distribution size–less than 10 MB, allowing it to be run from a flash drive if necessary, and making it easy to carry all your particular settings and idiosyncratic macros with you anywhere.
The single glaring omission in this polished composition is a dictionary/thesaurus. Granted, this would increase the size of the download considerably, but as the program itself is only 10MB uncompressed, the inclusion of a dictionary and thesaurus would still keep the program to a very manageable size, even for running off a flash drive. Luckily, OS X Tiger has included a Dictionary widget, and AbiWord also comes with the built-in (easily with a right-click, no less) ability to search both Google and Wikipedia for highlighted text, nearly compensating for the lack of dictionary/thesaurus capability.
The open source community has given the world enough freeware and donation-ware that using pirated software shouldn’t really be a necessity for anyone, no matter how it is justified, and AbiWord is a shining example of that. Download it today and drop MS Word forever. [Britt Godwin]