Toy Box: Hegemony busters

Don't you wish you had a user interface that looked more like the one on Swordfish than the one you've got? Honestly, the guys in the movies get all the good-looking GUIs.

Don’t you wish you had a user interface that looked more like the one on Swordfish than the one you’ve got? Honestly, the guys in the movies get all the good-looking GUIs.

Those of you trying to work out how to avoid Microsoft’s Software Assurance plan and its attendant charges will no doubt have been badgered by the Linux brigade — an enthusiastic grouping not unlike the Barmy Army, only not as well dressed. The big problem with Linux has always been the lack of a desktop environment that the average non-technical end user can recognise and feel comfortable with. Office applications that don’t require retraining and use a GUI that staff are happy with is what KDE and OpenOffice are all about.

KDE (Konqueror Desktop Environment) offers a free office suite for Linux/Unix and slaps a happy Windows-like front end on it. There’s a disguised “start” button, icons along the toolbar at the bottom — even a system tray for you to clutter up. Or you can opt for a new look entirely with IceWM Themes. Version 3.1 is out now.

If you think a full Linux operation is too cutting-edge, OpenOffice could be seen as one step away from the Microsoft hegemony. OpenOffice can run on Windows as well as Macs or Linux-based machines. It’s smaller than your average Windows Office 2002 install, needing only 64MB of RAM and 250MB of disk space, and if you set the default save setting for word processing to .doc, your users will never know. Did I mention it uses an XML-based file format?

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