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My Conclusion

So which Linux word processor should you use?

The good news is that this doesn't have to be an either-or decision. Having TextMaker and even setting it as the default .doc application doesn't preclude the use of OO-Writer for the things that it does better than TextMaker. If you are running Linux, you've got OO-Writer whether you asked for it or not; you will have to remove it if you don't want to look at it on your desktop. I can't think of any reason for removing it; there's no law against having more than one word processor any more than there is against having two paint programs. You can even work on a document with both OO-Writer and TextMaker at the same time, if you're careful.

The real question is, "Is TextMaker worth the extra $50 and, for dialup users, the download time?"

The answer has to depend on what you use it for. For run-of-the-mill word-processing tasks, there is very little difference between the two other than UI. OO seems to be marginally superior in compatibility with Word, but YMMV even here.

If you are content with OO-Writer, you probably have no compelling reason to switch. If you are not content with OO-Writer, download TextMaker, especially if you've tried a few other Linux word-processing apps and they just weren't what you needed.

If you work with words for a living on Linux (I don't just mean as a professional writer, but, for instance, if you do lots of reports in the context of your job), you probably should download the 17MB 30-day demo and buy it if it meets your needs.

Remember with respect to problems that these people are improving the product rapidly. If you have a problem with it, you paid for it—tell them.

Word-processor development teams need to pay very careful attention to their competitors, including MS Word, with particular emphasis on UIs, feature sets, and interoperability. A world in which all word processors pretty much do the same things pretty much the same way and don't have issues moving between apps and OSs may seem boring, but if you work with words and get paid, you don't want excitement from your word processor.

There is one major difference between working with Windows and Linux documents to be aware of, especially if you are a relatively new Linux user. A Windows app takes control over the document you're working on with it. The Linux apps I've seen so far don't. The screenshots of all three desktops were taken of the same document (which I was editing in TextMaker) at the same time. The Windows Word view of the document was running in a Windows window via Win4Lin, in a virtual Windows environment with no knowledge of any Linux applications working with that document. Be careful about document changes when you are doing this: Do the final save in whatever primary document-processing application you are working in.

Tip sheet:

For a quick comparison between OO-Writer and TextMaker, here's some food for thought:

  • OO-Writer is installed with most Linux distributions; you must download TextMaker for $50.

  • TextMaker opens much faster than OO-Writer.

  • When importing lists from Word to TextMaker, bullets look strange; they look normal in OO-Writer.

  • TextMaker has trouble with lists pasted from the keyboard; OO-Writer doesn't.

  • Strikethrough text doesn't always stay that way in OO-Writer when the document is reopened in Word; TextMaker doesn't have this problem.

  • Highlighted text generated in OO-Writer or TextMaker can't be turned off from MS Word. A workaround user is possible but awkward.

  • TextMaker does not have OO-Writer's nonrelocatable left toolbar. For me, the TextMaker UI is Word done right.

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