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CrossOver Office 1.0 Review

April 2002

I've been around the block when it comes to Linux office suites. I think I've tried them all. I've been using StarOffice since version 4.0, I've used WordPerfect since 7.0, and have even used Kword and AbiWord to do some school assignments. I recently purchased ApplixOffice 5.0 and own 4.4.2 as well, though I really haven't used them much. Finally, I've used Gnumeric to do some rather sophisticated spreadsheet work.

All of this because Windows is not my preferred Operating System. Through all of this I have had to occasionally use Windows and Office anyway. I had to prepare a complex document of several hundred pages for a computer course, and the only proper option was to use Word. I've been in business courses that have required funny add-ons to Excel, PowerPoint and more. To accommodate this, I have purchased VMWare as well as Win4Lin. While I haven't used Windows on my desktop machine for several years, I have still had to jump through hoops, as well as occasionally falling back on Office all the same.

When CodeWeavers announced CrossOver Office I was quite intrigued. As luck would have it, my girlfriend was wanting to make the transition to Linux at the same time. I bit the bullet, shelled out money (again) to buy this brand-new product. And it was the right thing for me to do.

Right now I am typing this in Word97. I don't need to, I could use any of the programs I've mentioned above, but sadly, in my opinion this is the best option for word processing in Linux.

The machine that I'm typing this on is a Compaq Preario 705CA. It is an Athlon4 1GHz with 256 MB of RAM. On this machine, MS Word starts faster with the wine emulation than everything mentioned above except for AbiWord.

Despite the advances of StarOffice 6.0, it is still dog-slow1. On my last PC, a 900MHz Athlon with 768MB of RAM, it wasn't as noticeable. However, on this laptop with "only" 256MB of RAM, OpenOffice 641d takes about 33 seconds to launch initially, and about 9 seconds to launch subsequently. The UI is slow, it is inconsistent with either KDE, Gnome, or XFCE (my preferred DE.) Believe it or not, Kword 1.2beta1 under KDE 3.0 with objprelinking enabled is almost exactly as fast as OpenOffice 641d. Now it's beta, so the speed will likely improve, but it is still very slow. AbiWord, while marginally faster than Word97, certainly lacks the features of Word.

Now don't get me wrong, I quite like StarOffice. It was one of the applications that got me through the last few years. I have high hopes for Koffice, and I've followed AbiWord since about version 0.5. I really like it. In fact, it's my favorite word processor, and the team behind it is quite remarkable. However, it certainly isn't ready to prepare 200 page documents that need to be collaboratively written by people from diverse backgrounds. For this I actually needed Word. I really hate to say it, but it's the truth.

As for Corel WordPerfect, I own 8.0 and 2000. I actually worked for Corel in 1999 and helped QA very early builds of WPO2000 for Linux. (I still have the Alpha 1 CD as a souvenir.) 2000 has never worked well for me. The WINE work they did was very impressive, but they released too early, and the product was slow and buggy. As they haven't maintained it, it can now no longer be installed without major tinkering. The font server they shipped with uses the same port as XFS, so it doesn't play well with Xfree86 4.0. They never patched this, and the CDs, book, and fancy box basically collect dust. WP 8.0 has faired better for me, but the fonts are awful, and if I'm going to be tied to a closed format anyway, I might as well use the one that everyone else can deal with. This also eliminates ApplixOffice for me too. While it seems decent, the product doesn't even seem as high-quality or compatible as AbiWord and Gnumeric, plus the format is closed.

On the other hand, Office97 running under CodeWeaver's CrossOver runs great. It's fast, it integrates well with KDE and Gnome, it's stable, and the fonts are even right. Their CrossOver product is very well done. You even forget that this is Word for Windows you are using. As an added bonus, you can use other Windows programs too.

Office Suite Times

I have a 1GHz Athlon laptop with 256MB of RAM. OO.o 1.0 and the older StarOffice 5.2 launch slower than MS Office 97 using Codeweaver's Crossover Office.

Not just a little slower, a _lot_ slower. Here are some times that I just took on my system. The 90 page doc was a word doc, but I saved it out as an sxw file so that OOo isn't slowed down by importing it.

Initial startup: 8 seconds
Subsequent: 2
Subsequent while loading a 90 page complex doc: 3

Initial startup: 27 seconds
Subsequent: 8
Subsequent while loading a 90 page complex doc: 18

Don't get me wrong. I love OOo. I've been using StarOffice under Linux since version 4.0 and have done many complex documents with it. However, it's still _very_ slow. People used to blame this on the integrated desktop. While OOo /SO6 may have dumped it, it's still loading _everything_ on startup.