Office suite

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An office suite is a group of applications including at least a word processor, spreadsheet and a presentation program. The 'professional' editions usually feature a database program as well. Often basic drawing programs and other graphics programs, contact management etc. are added. For more information, see wikipedia's article.

Choice of office suite

Your choice of an office suite will be determined by

Most Linux distributions come with an office suite 'out of the box', which will have been selected to fit in with the distribution's general purpose and look.

If the user decides to depart from their distribution's choice of office suite, then they may obtain an alternative from their distribution's repository, or from the office suite's website.

A deciding factor for many users is the need or desire for optimal compatibility with Microsoft Office and other proprietary or non-proprietary formats. StarOffIce, and its open source sibling OpenOffice offer perhaps the best ability to cope with importing and exporting such files.

Some users may need specific programs, like an equation editor or database package, to be part of their office suite, or they may have a specific requirement of what an application can do, for example, handle javascript. The various office suites offer varying features, with OpenOffice probably providing the most at the expense of size and system requirements, whilst a user who only wishes to write text documents would be satisfied with Abiword.

User preference is also a factor in that each office suite has its own way of achieving various productivity tasks. Each office suite has its own look and approach to common tasks. For example, KOffice's word processor, Kword, uses frames, which is a fundamentally different approach than that taken by the other choices.

Formats and OpenDocument standardization

Each office suite has its own file format, or way of encoding the data of a given document. Whilst the applications in a given office suite are obviously capable of reading and writing their own native formats, import and export filters are necessitated to use one office suite to read or write files produced by another. Depending also on the complexity of the document in question, these filters vary in their capabilities, from causing minor document layout errors to outright corruption or failure. Furthermore, the development and use of these filters raises legal and moral issues concerning patent infringement.

Whilst compatibility with other office suites remains a defining factor in the choice of one of them, the OpenDocument format, an xml based international standard, reduces the need for import and export filters and increases compatibility between the various suites. All of the applications listed here support the OpenDocument format.

Specific applications

See also