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How to read (and write) the ".doc" for free

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If it is true that Mac OS X rhymes with * nix, it is equally true that this relationship is having, among its "side effects", the one very welcome to bring dozens of "Open" solutions also on our new platform.

A range of proposals that is unprecedented in the twenty-year history of the Macintosh and which takes the form of Open Source programs of great quality, efficacy and why not, which are also competitive on the economic side (when not completely free). conjunction that we present, capable of uniting the elusive, changeable, ". doc" format, anti-standard par excellence, with the word "free", an authentic chimera when it comes to proprietary formats.

The first, "AbiWord", a complete word processing, which has existed for a long time for the various Linux distributions, whose strength lies in being completely free. For its correct functioning under our Mac OS X, it is essential to install an XWindow manager in advance, such as the XDarwin + OroborOSX pair (procedure fully described in a tutorial by Rudy Belcastro).

It is easy to imagine that, since it is a port of an original project for other operating systems, it will be necessary to take into account a poor integration with Mac OS X, on which, however, it relies: the keyboard shortcuts will no longer be the same , you will not be able to take advantage of your own fonts collections and you will have to do without the "cut & paste" to and from other applications (not to mention the "drag & drop"). Too bad that we could define venial, in comparison to the cost at which the software is offered: zero.

The interface, although it diverges deeply from the harmonious and colorful style of Aqua, follows the classic one of many competing products, so that users are not confused by "extravagant" push-button panels and can be immediately productive, having all the controls at hand , exactly where they are expected to be.The import of Word documents, even complex and containing images, occurred in a substantially correct form, preserving formatting and styles (with the limit already said of fonts). In one case the figures present in a document have been slightly moved, but, however, AbiWord has made a better figure than the AppleWorks 6.2.4 and MacLinkPlus pair, which, in the same document, have completely "forgotten" the attached images.

In the period in which we used this wordprocessor, even to write this same test, we were sorry to discover that not all the menu tools are working, ie the most interesting built-in self-translation functions, as suggested by the items "use Babelfish or Free Translation" they can call up the special online services. My Canon S400, moreover, is not recognized by the software, preventing printing directly from within AbiWord.

In any case, you can try the strengths and weaknesses of the package yourself, by downloading it directly from the website, at a cost of 13 MB of download. There are also a number of dictionaries, in different languages, which offer a "plus", which is really not negligible.

Indeed, for those who have the very limited need to read only the contents of the ".doc" files, without taking care of colors, fonts and various tinsel, they could consider another tool that is completely free: the AntiWordService.

It is a module (a "service" to be precise) that enables any application written according to Cocoa specifications, to read Word documents showing only the text. The very quick installation, by moving the element to the "~ / Library / Services" subfolder, if it already exists, otherwise you will be asked to create one in that position with that given name. Excellent, for all those cases in which an "inexperienced computer" pays us homage to a document that contains only written text, without the obligation to make long maneuvers to open the file. Small size (300 KBytes) allows you to transform the TextEdit supplied with Mac OS X in an instrument with an extra gear. Must try!

Already filled in and ready to use, downloading it from here.