AbiWord, Another step away from Hegemony
Refraining from software piracy isn't always easy. It requires a bit more in the way of effort to track down effective solutions that don't infringe upon copyright violation somehow. Luckily, the options in word processing are fairly extensive. OpenOffice is a great alternative that also allows your conscience a well-deserved break. The problem is, as of this writing, OpenOffice on the Mac is fuzzy, at best. And I do mean fuzzy. It runs using the X11 framework, and so lacks the polish of a native app, which also apparently extends to the graphics display therein. If there are any Mac coders out there, please help the OpenOffice team--this is a great product that deserves all the help it can get.
In the meantime, less well-known but by no means inferior comes the AbiWord program, a full-featured word processor for Mac, Linux and even Big Brother. I have since left MS Word gathering dust somewhere in a dark crack of my drive and have taken to AbiWord like a geek to coffee.
The interface is familiar to any who have used either OpenOffice or MS Word, with similar toolbars and even tear-off palettes containing formatting options. A particularly nice feature is the ability to save documents in nearly any format, from the .abw format of AbiWord, to .doc, OpenOffice's .sxw, .rtf, and a couple I didn't even recognize. Suffice it to say that you'll be able to open it from wherever you may find yourself. Perhaps the best part, though is the extremely small distribution size--less than 10 MB, allowing it to be run from a flash drive if necessary, and making it easy to carry all your particular settings and idiosyncratic macros with you anywhere.
The single glaring omission in this polished composition is a dictionary/thesaurus. Granted, this would increase the size of the download considerably, but as the program itself is only 10MB uncompressed, the inclusion of a dictionary and thesaurus would still keep the program to a very manageable size, even for running off a flash drive. Luckily, OS X Tiger has included a Dictionary widget, and AbiWord also comes with the built-in (easily with a right-click, no less) ability to search both Google and Wikipedia for highlighted text, nearly compensating for the lack of dictionary/thesaurus capability.
The open source community has given the world enough freeware and donation-ware that using pirated software shouldn't really be a necessity for anyone, no matter how it is justified, and AbiWord is a shining example of that. Download it today and drop MS Word forever. [Britt Godwin]