In this week's edition of the Road to KDE 4, we'll take a look at
the up and coming KWord 2.0 as part of the KOffice project. KWord 1.6.1 is
already a powerful KDE-integrated word processor, but with KDE 4
technologies, KWord 2.0 promises to be among the most powerful free word
processors available. Read on for more details.
KWord is part of the KOffice suite of applications which, with a few exceptions such as Kexi, has been visible thus far as a KDE-only application living under the shadow of the much larger OpenOffice.org suite. But this won't always be so, as the new KDE 4 technologies allow KOffice to exist as a native application on other platforms such as Windows and Mac OSX. Look out for more details on KDE support for these platforms in a future article.
One of the biggest assets of KOffice and KWord is its native support for the OASIS OpenDocument standard, which is shared by many office applications these days (including OpenOffice.org, Google Docs and others). Expect improved ODF document compatibility for KWord in the future as the developers strive for complete specification support.
Lets take a look at some screenshots from the development version of KWord. Notice the nice anti-aliasing of every element of the UI. On my system, it doesn't appear noticeably slower than KOffice 1.6.1. One of the most improved areas in KWord 2 is the text formatting and layouting, which definitely deserves some more exposure. It's not yet complete, but as you can see below, it's definitely much improved from previous versions. You really have to experience it yourself to appreciate how smooth moving, resizing and rotating Flake shapes is in this new version.
All manner of objects are being converted to the new Flake library, for instance KFormula elements, so you can insert nicely rendered math into your documents without any trouble. This support could make KWord as exciting to use for page layouts as KPresenter, as you are no longer restricted to dull, square document shapes. These changes should enable KWord 2 to behave as a respectable basic desktop publishing application.
Also noticeable in this early preview version is the lack of spell checking support, as this is being reworked for the upcoming Sonnet architecture for spelling and grammar corrections. (Which word did I misspell in my screenshot?)
But this is not the only improvement new to KOffice 2. Also in the works is scripting support for applications through the new and extensible scripting framework dubbed Kross. It has received a lot of work and looks to be one of the killer features of KOffice 2.
The following screenshot shows the new scripts menus in KWord:
Also notice how I moved the tear-off toolbars from the previous screenshot. I placed them by drag-and-drop, and they automatically tabbed up. This is all done very smoothly by Qt with no noticeable interface flickering.
Of course, the same scripting and rendering features have made their way into other KOffice apps as well. KSpread and scripting are a perfect fit, and there is a lot of power exposed to the advanced user.
For people interested in more details about Kross, check out this article on the development and usage of Kross in KSpread.
These are just some of the many improvements in the works for KWord and KOffice when the KDE 4 platform rolls out. Of course, these screenshots are of the development versions, which are quite unstable at the moment, but jugding by the level of activity today in the developer channels (like #koffice on irc.freenode.org) there is a large amount of momentum behind this release.
KOffice has a separate release schedule from KDE 4, so they may or may not release concurrently.