08 December, 2011

Calligra...

While Calligra 2.4 did not make it as part of openSUSE 12.1, its latest beta is available in the KDE:UpdatedApps repository and I hope Tumbleweed will pick it up too. I'm quite excited about this release and I'd like to share why!


Little intro

As you might or might not know, Calligra is the result of a split of the KWord maintainer with the rest of the KOffice team. The ODF based Suite has a wide range of applications. From Krita, the most versatile and usable sketching and painting application on Linux (click for an experts opinion), and Kexi, the most powerful and complete database tool available as Free Software - to Words, Karbon and Stage. These last, as well as all the other applications in Calligra, are far less mature than Krita and Kexi. The team has been limiting their scope, focusing on getting them stable and usable while skipping on features.

But despite lacking quite some features, these apps are OK for the basics. And they have excellent ODF support as well as the best DOCX support available outside of MS Office. Not that I like that format - but you unfortunately need to be able to open it if you want to work with non-linux users these days...

The most interesting part of Calligra is its architecture. Calligra developers call Calligra 'the webKit of office suites' because the applications are only a thin layer over the powerful core. This design has proven itself when the Calligra developers ported their applications to platforms like Nokia's N9 (where it ships as standard office suite) and KDE's Plasma Active. There are currently four distinct GUI's for Calligra Core!


What's exciting

For me, the exciting part about Calligra is that it's fast and easy to use. OpenOffice.org and later LibreOffice always suffered from performance and stability issues and the betas of Calligra have been extremely nice in those regards. The UI is also a delight compared to the competition. Words has a few nice improvements compared to the previous version and it's far more useable on a small, wide screen laptop. As I only write basic documents and don't use fancy features in my presentations, Words and Stage suit me quite nicely - while keeping my rather slow laptop from cranking up the cooling fan.

Potential

More importantly, for me at least, is that when working with Calligra, you feel potential. It takes innovative approaches to user interface elements and thanks to its design, anyone could whip up a new interface in a short time. This is what Free Software needs - a powerful base to innovate on! If you think you can do better with an Office UI, whip something up in QML (javascript)...

Stage

The app I use most is Stage, the presentation tool. It works quite comfortable compared to the competition, faster and more stable too. The coolest thing I was looking forward is the Infinite Canvas support in Stage, which will allow it to do Prezi-like presentations. Would be great to have such a cool feature in a proper presentation app instead of needing flash or having to build SVG files by hand... Unfortunately it's not there now but planned for the next release.

Getting it

You can get Calligra stuff for openSUSE by just clicking here (One Click Install)or by adding the KDE:UpdatedApps repository by hand. Currently it's all at Beta 3 but of course newer versions will be packaged in no-time!

Nightly builds

I've been trying to build packages pulling the code directly from git in OBS but I'm not smart enough to use this cool feature :(

Help or tips are appreciated. This stuff does not seem to be documented anywhere, at least not n00b-style. If I manage to get this working I promise to write a 'how-to' to turn an OBS project using a 'fixed' tarball into a 'nightly building' thing pulling directly from a SCM - there are quite a number of projects who would probably love this. I'll also try and provide nightly-build Calligra packages for other distro's.