New AbiWord looks solid but suffers from age-old Linux problem

In this age of multi-core processors and 3-D desktops, some people still get work done on old resource-strapped single-core machines, thanks to programs like the AbiWord word processor. The latest stable AbiWord 2.6.0 release was unveiled last month, two years after the software's last stable release. Feature-wise, the little cross-platform word processor has closed the gap with heavyweight Writer, but it suffers from the oldest Linux ill of all -- it's a pain to install.

If you are used to compiling apps from source that might not sound like a big deal. I've been compiling AbiWord since I started using the editor's 0.7.x branch in early 2000. But this is 2008, and it doesn't seem fair to not release any precompiled binaries. AbiWord isn't the easiest of apps to compile, especially now, since most of its exciting new features are packaged as plugins that have to be compiled as well. The lack of documentation on the software's Web site doesn't help either.

AbiWord developers leave it to individual distributions to package and add the word processor in their respective repositories. Most distros add it to their testing or development branch. If you install AbiWord from these repos, you'll be installing a lot more than the word processor, since the process also upgrades a lot of key libraries as well. By contrast, Windows users only need to double-click two executables -- one to install AbiWord and another to handle the plugins.

But once you get AbiWord 2.6 running, it's be worth the effort.