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GNU is Not Unix Software Technology

AbiCollab Takes On Google Docs and Zoho Writer 82

msevior writes "Just released today, the free software AbiWord word processor, employed by the One Laptop Per Child project, tightly integrates with a new collaboration Web site to enable easy real-time collaborative editing of documents. also enables documents to be stored online, allows format conversion on the fly, stores the history of the docs in svn, provides direct links to HTML-ized docs that update as you save them, and allows easy sharing of docs amongst friends and groups. All in all, new competition for Google Docs and Zoho Writer, but featuring a real word processor rather than an app in a browser."
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AbiCollab Takes On Google Docs and Zoho Writer

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  • Slashvertisement! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by shashark ( 836922 ) * on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @08:07AM (#29895377)
    "...but featuring a real word processor rather than an app in a browser"
    Seriously, what on earth is that supposed to mean ?
    • It means that whoever wrote it either doesn't know what a word processor is, or is talking out of the wrong orifice.

    • by 1155 ( 538047 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @08:17AM (#29895457) Homepage

      It means the person who wrote this is sick of web "applications", and prefers desktop applications. Like most sane people.

      • Re:Slashvertisement! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by shashark ( 836922 ) * on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @08:28AM (#29895523)
        I'll tell you what my problems are with that statement:
        1: If the suggested app is a desktop app, why compare it with Google docs or Zoho docs ?
        2: The whole premise of 'taking on google docs' without having browser as a delivery mode doesn't make sense. Google docs is popular [if at all] NOT because it has more features - it is popular because it can work from within a browser. Get what I mean ? No downloads, no clients, no 'need to take my machine or harddrive with me' - get it ?
        3: I'm assuming the features touted here are present in Microsoft Word through Sharepoint and/or Groove [never used both though]. So what's so innovative about this app ?

        Seriously, anyone ?
        • Re:Slashvertisement! (Score:5, Informative)

          by msevior ( 145103 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @08:45AM (#29895651)

          In answer to your questions:
          1. Because it allows collaborative editing for documents hosted on a website. Press "save" in abiword of a document loaded from the site and it is saved back to the site. Just like google docs and zoho.

          2. Because some people do need to work together to create documents. Ever had a document emailed to you that requested changes? Now you just connect straight on the service.

          3. Your assumption is incorrect. Sharepoint does not allow the deep, instant collaboration between arbitrarily sized collection of people provided by abiword+abiword. Certainly not at the price offered by ether ($0.00).

          One of the most touted features of OLPC is the "Write" word processor which allows children to work on documents together. Now everyone with a Windows or Linux computer can do that in a fully fledged word processor.

          • So it is like Office Live Toolbar?

            • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

              by uwog ( 707498 )
              No, MS Word does now allow collaborative editing of Word documents (they do for spreadsheets and presentations).
          • by ljw1004 ( 764174 )

            Microsoft Word+Sharepoint allows collaborative editing of documents, with an arbitrary number of people, although not simultaneous editing.

            Microsoft One-Note allows collaborative simultaneous editing of documents.

            • "

              Microsoft Word+Sharepoint allows collaborative editing of documents, with an arbitrary number of people, although not simultaneous editing.

              Microsoft One-Note allows collaborative simultaneous editing of documents.

              Not for free. Now does it?

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Daengbo ( 523424 )

          It's really more about the real-time collab aspect than the web app part. Abiword has had collab for a while, but it was kind of difficult to set up. Hopefully, AbiCollab makes this process simpler. Eventually, I'd like to see the collab move toward Telepathy so that I can just use my contact list and connect that way. The revisions and everything sound awesome, though.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by msevior ( 145103 )

            Eventually, I'd like to see the collab move toward Telepathy so that I can just use my contact list and connect that way.

            Yes. We're quite a way along the path to getting a fully fledged telepathy backend working. Like all these things in Free Software, we could do with more resources. We finally got the web interface all sorted out though, so now it's released.

            You are right in that the website has lots of additional and useful features. Like having the full history of the document and extremely easy web pub

            • I want to love Abi, and I have worked with it for short periods several times over the last ten years, but I never stay. Sorry about that. I just always end up needing something that Abi doesn't have.

              I appreciate all the work you and the rest of the team has done, and I feel truly sad that OO.o took all the headlines from Abiword (and Gnumeric, and KOffice). I think we (the FOSS community) would be further along right now if OO.o hadn't been released.

              I know that you're understaffed and don't get the media c

        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          "No downloads, no clients"

          What do you think an app in a browser is? It's downloaded code running inside a client.

    • by int69h ( 60728 )

      I thought the poster was pretty clear. Not everyone is anxious to return to the dumb terminal days, and apparently the poster is one of those people.

    • by RobotRunAmok ( 595286 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @08:26AM (#29895513)

      The submitter, msevior, is one of the Abiword devs, long-term.

      I used Abiword several years back. I think I used every linux word processor ever made for a while several years back. Finally settled with Open's. Think it was because of compatibility issues with the rest of the world (the Real one, the one I live in) who used MS, I honestly can't recall. Has Abiword gotten better in that regard? I do know that I'm a bit too far down the road with Open, which has garnered a satisfying momentum and robustness in its own right, to switch now. Unless Abiword is a helluva lot less expensive than Open. Oh yeah, they're both free. Never mind.

      • by Rhaban ( 987410 )

        Unless Abiword is a helluva lot less expensive than Open. Oh yeah, they're both free. Never mind.

        That's infinitely less expensive!

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        OpenOffice does seem to have better compatibility -- though, oddly, AbiWord seems to create much cleaner, more human-readable ODT files than OpenOffice.

        The main advantage is that AbiWord was much lighter, partly because it's just a word processor. I used to use AbiWord for word processing, Gnumeric for spreadsheets, etc. Which doesn't matter to me anymore, now that OpenOffice starts in about two seconds for me, cold or hot.

        The main other advantage of OpenOffice was stability -- AbiWord used to crash a lot,

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by R.Mo_Robert ( 737913 )

      "...but featuring a real word processor rather than an app in a browser" Seriously, what on earth is that supposed to mean ?

      This isn't a slashvertisement; by "app in a browser," they mean the dazzling display of massive AJAX that is characteristic of Google Apps. AbiCollab is not this; if you looked into it more, you'd see you actually need a plug-in to make this work.

      Thus, AbiCollab really isn't an "app in the browser" in the traditional sense of a Web application--it's a desktop application hosted by a Web browser via a plug-in. That is what they meant. Of course, whether this is a good or bad thing is another story, since unl

      • As anonymous posted before, the "plugin" is not a web browser plugin. AbiWord is a regular application. AbiCollab is a recent feature (debuted in 2.6, much improved in 2.8) allowing real-time collaboration between as many people as you want, over a variety of protocols. is a new web service that offers remote document storage, history, conversion, etc, that can also produce ".abicollab" files that, when saved and opened by your local copy of AbiWord (which is what happens when you click the

    • I wouldn't say it is a slashvertisement, it isn't even commercial. It presents a new product that does something in a slightly different way than existing ones. I would welcome more presentations of young, "innovative" startup software ideas instead of circling around Google, Microsoft and Apple.

    • Read it as, "It's Office Live, but not Microsoft!"

      Though, I'd like to see a good argument that Google Docs isn't a "real" word processor. Did I just imagine it?

  • by RMH101 ( 636144 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @08:28AM (#29895531)
    Seriously, "collaborative whiteboards" and multi-user editing environments have been around since early Netscape Communicator days - but does anyone actually use or want them? Sure, a system for checking out documents so several people can make changes, but simultaneous editing of documents - what's the use case for them? Who's asking for this? Who's even using it?
    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      by 7-Vodka ( 195504 )
    • Works great during a teleconference when you're actually trying to get something done together (and not just useless reports).
      • by RMH101 ( 636144 )
        As opposed to something more useful, like WebEx or Live Meeting?
        • Can you simultaneously edit real documents (any document abiword can open, so that's a huge amount and variety), fully featured (every feature AbiWord supports) at the same time - with parties not necessarily looking at the same part of the document (aka, not simple screen-sharing), and so on with those apps? You can with AbiWord. Use it with your voice or voice/video teleconference, sure, but putting a real word-processor in everyone's hands is powerful.

    • by excelsior_gr ( 969383 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @08:55AM (#29895751)
      Have you ever tried to write a document like an article with many co-authors, an interdisciplinary project report or proposal? Being able to simultaneously change the document saves a LOT of time. Over here, we go with LaTeX and SVN.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      If you have ever worked on a large project with multiple inputs, you'd know about the current problems and how much of a godsend collab environments are.

      Prototyping with such interfaces is incredibly useful. (if the interface itself is good)
      Designers, article writers, magazines, project management, programming, etc.

      Also, please remember that collaborative editing doesn't mean people making penis drawings over your most recent edit...

    • by Metsys ( 718186 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @09:14AM (#29895965)

      We are.

      We've been having to use Gobby for collaborative writing because it's the only secure way for us to do writing sessions online. Sure, having some text formatting in a program like that would be nice, but we've been copying the Gobby sessions over to our Wiki and the formatting is done there anyway, so there isn't much of a need for that but it still would be nice for future projects.

      Even down the road when we can afford to relocate and work in the same building instead of having all our studio members living in different states, we are still going to do our writing sessions with some kind of real-time collaborative writing software. You have no idea how much easier it is to make changes yourself instead of pointing at someone's screen telling them what to type, or how much faster you can both write when you can both be working on different parts of the script at the same time, or having someone edit your mistakes immediately. When you are actually discussing the story constantly with a co-writer, you really want software like this.

      As for whiteboards, we'd really like to have the same real-time collaborative editing that we enjoy with Gobby for our design and art production as well. We've tried things like OpenCanvas or those online paint chat applications, and nothing really cuts it. So for that we are settling with VNC and uploading the files to each other when we need to do some serious red-lining.

    • Actually, collaborative, multi-user editing environments have been around a bit longer than "Netscape Communicator days". It was the purpose of that Berners-Lee fellpw's application, 'The World Wide Web'.

      • by RMH101 ( 636144 )
        Well, yes. I first came across them in the early 90s whilst a student presented with unfettered access to the WWW whilst at the University of Leeds - where I attended a talk about what the web was going to do for us all, hosted by Tim Berners-Lee. A very nice guy from what I remember. I picked Communicator as an example of when it was hitting what passed for the mainstream...
    • Right, emailing documents and files across is enough for everyone. Oh, nevermind that is limited to 10/20 MB. Oh, you end up a mess of versions. Not everyone can setup and use a VCS, particularly not end-users.

    • When we were trying to plan our wedding from two different countries, collaborative documents were extremely useful. We could both add things, review what the other was doing, and keep everything in a single place. It kept everything simple and easy.

      While not everyone needs collaborative editing, it is extremely useful in some situations.

    • I do it on google docs all time time. Phone + real time changes:

      -- OK I basically agree with your tables except I'd change A to B

      or with code review:

      -- I highlighted the lines I had questions about, and then comments get added live

  • by frith01 ( 1118539 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @08:30AM (#29895561)

    This app only works as long as the website is functional, and they will get to see a copy of anything you do. This would only be a useful alternative
    if there was a separate deployable web-service that could be INTERNALLY hosted.

    The main reason for us not using google apps is that the documents would be vulnerable to privacy issues. This solution does not fix that problem.
    If you have access to external web site, you might as well use a web based app.

  • ...who finds that Google Docs sucks big-time? Compared to Zoho's, Google Docs does not come close save for is new equation editor. Who disagrees?

    • What? There is a new equation editor in Google Docs? Cool. Gotta check it out!

      (Apologies for ignoring your plug for Zoho. Maybe you shouldn't have mentioned the shiny equation editor.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AP31R0N ( 723649 )

      i've found GDocs useful for sharing, but not a viable competitor to MSO or ever OO.o (in terms of features). Based on your post, i've created a Zoho account and will give it a try. i use GDocs mostly for its integration into all my other Google stuff. It's convenient to be in my GMail account and then hit Documents, and there i am. Getting my friends to go to yet another site to share stuff might annoy me and my friends, as made up as they are.

      What i'd really love is for docs and email to be seamless *c

      • by toastar ( 573882 )
        OMG I GOT MY WAVE ACCOUNT YESTERDAY!!!!! and yes with a little spit shine and polish wave will eventually be what groove should of been. these guys are just catching up with Google Docs? welcome to 2007?
    • by Daengbo ( 523424 )

      I tried to move from G.A. to Zoho, but Zoho ate my work three times in two days.I showed up at my presentations only to find the files were corrupted on Zoho's servers. That takes away the only reason to use a web-based office app.

    • by drizek ( 1481461 )

      The whole point of using a web based document editor is convenience. Google Docs is the most convenient, and for when I want features, I use Pages on my mac or Word 2007 on my desktop or if I'm in the mood. The point is, Zoho won't ever get anywhere near the features of full on desktop apps, and won't be as convenient as Google.

    • I hear you.

      I'm currently working with a company that uses Google Docs for everything, and I've come to the conclusion that Google Docs itself is one of the major reasons that they've completely failed to ship a product despite 4 years of continuous effort (I know this sounds a bizarre thing to say, but it's true). Google docs is wonderful and seductive for collaboration, but it is worse than useless for writing any kind of serious documentation. It lacks so many serious features it destroys the integri

  • WTF, I tried creating a document"BAM" I get blank. I tried again BAM blank. Frantically hit backspace to go to slashdot. Woohoo Both the documents there. I tried to view the document. WTF is a collabnet document. Nice try but a lame attempt.
    • by uwog ( 707498 )
      Creating a new document creates... well.. an empty blank document! You can edit it with abiword, and then after a save it is non-blank :)
  • If there were a remotely current version of AbiWord for OS X. Sadly that part of their development dropped by the wayside quite some time ago.

    AbiWord is currently at 2.8 for Windows and Linux, but 2.4.x for OS X. That is two major versions behind, and call be crazy but I kinda want some of the things that have been added.

    I used to use AbiWord a lot. It was small and fast and mimiced the way Office did it's tool pallets on the Mac. So AbiWord would be where documents tented to start with me, when formatt

    • I came here to say exactly this. AbiWord is so far behind on the Mac, it makes me a bit ashamed to think I used to recommend it for opening those old PC WordPerfect documents.

      Graphical glitches, obvious bugs, and general failure all around.

    • We've only got one mac dev, and his ability and desire to work on the port varies. On the plus side, he recently gave it a lot of love, and the source is getting there but not quite ready for you slashdotters to go bang on it :-P If you've got any os x dev skills, drop by the mailing list and lend a hand.

      • Good to hear it is still being worked on. I too loved it and was a nearly full time user in the past. A worthy upgrade would be great.
  • Does this mean that Abiword may finally fix the bugs that make it a bloody pain to use? I swear, every time I've tried it, it was like pulling teeth.

  • I'm just waiting for EyeOS 2.0 ( []) to come out. Look at the preview of EyeDocs ( []) ... and with the right configuration it can save OpenDocument files.

    Best of's self hosted!

Kill Ugly Processor Architectures - Karl Lehenbauer