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The No-Database Database

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A primer. Building Better Software

The Defense Department follows the Capability Mature Model ratings for software development, but not corporate America. Is CMM too hard, or just too unnecessary? The nonprofit Software Productivity Consortium, featured in this dossier, will help you find out.
Reader Question

Frank Burough, Associate Director of Bioinformatics for Elixir Pharmaceuticals, submitted two questions about Linux tools. We'll answer the first in this newsletter and the second next week. Mr. Burough writes:

"The most pressing need from my standpoint is an improved office suite for Linux. I use OpenOffice, and though it is a credible replacement for Microsoft Office, it could use improvement. Do better alternatives exist or are any in development?"

We contacted Larry Karnis, the president of Application Enhancements Inc., a Linux-focused consultancy in the Toronto area. Mr. Karnis writes:

"There are actually quite a few suites out there and, like OpenOffice, they are constantly being improved upon. Here are a few of the most popular packages and tools, both open source and commercial. (Note that few suites offer an e-mail client; most Linux distributions, however, already include an excellent e-mail client called Evolution.)

"OpenOffice, the de facto open-source office suite for Linux, was given to the open-source community by Sun Microsystems. The latest release, 1.1 beta, offers enhanced file format compatibility, improved PDF document-handling, Flash support, and support for XML and xHTML.

"If you need more power, take a look at StarOffice, Sun's commercial counterpart to OpenOffice. Like its freely available cousin, StarOffice has a word processor, presentation tool, drawing tool, math editor, and spreadsheet. And according to Sun, it's suitable for all but the most demanding users. StarOffice does improve on OpenOffice with better font-rendering and an integrated database tool, and other features. It's available on Solaris, Windows, and Linux, and costs from $79.95 for a single user to $25 per user for 10,000 or more licenses.

"Another office-suite contender, KOffice, is shipped with most current Linux releases, although it may not be installed by default. In addition to the standard word-processing, spreadsheet, and presentation tools, Koffice includes tools for vector-drawing, charting, photo-editing, and reporting, plus a formula editor and a database.

"The folks at GNOME distribute their office tools individually. The "suite" is made up of a word processor (AbiWord), spreadsheet (Gnumeric), Web browser (Galeon), and the politically incorrect but excellent Gimp image editor. GNOME also offers various drawing, diagramming, project-planning, and database tools.

"You can also download an open-source office suite from www.siag.nu. Siag Office (It sucks less! says software maker Siag) offers a spreadsheet, word processor, text editor, animation tool, file manager, and PostScript document viewer. The software is well integrated and takes up very little disk space. It works on most popular Linux releases.

"In the commercial world, a number of vendors have exited the Linux office-suite market: Corel no longer markets WordPerfect Office for Linux and Applix (now Vistasource) retired both its ApplixWare and Globe Productive software. However, Hancom, a small South Korean vendor, still offers its highly integrated entry-level office suite. Hancom Office consists of a word processor, spreadsheet, paint program, and presentation tool. (Mobile versions of the product are bundled with the Sharp Zaurus 5500, a Linux-powered PDA.) You can download the whole suite for $49.95 or just the spreadsheet tool for $12.95.

"This commercial exodus is far from surprising. As even the largest software companies are finding, it is very hard to compete with no-cost or low-cost alternatives."

Got a question? Send it to baselinetools@ziffdavis.com. If we publish it, we'll set you up with some free Baseline paraphernalia.
Information Access

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July 3, 2003

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