By Nicholas Petreley
Publication Date: August 5, 1996 (Vol. 18, Issue 32)
Linux users, make room on your hard drives. Weighing in at more than 150MB of drive space, Applixware 4.2 for Red Hat Linux, from Red Hat Software Inc., is an engaging must-have application suite that deftly merges productivity applications with custom business-application development tools. If you're at a corporate site looking for an excuse to try Linux on the desktop, you can stop waiting: Applixware is it.
Applixware includes a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation graphics, drawing tools, database connectivity with drag-and-drop forms tools, and an object-oriented development environment; all are mail-enabled. It has not one but two e-mail clients, on e for SMTP e-mail, another for X.400 with connectivity to SMTP.
I recommend using the Red Hat Linux 3.0.3 distribution included with Applixware, because Red Hat bundles Metro Link Inc.'s Metro-X, the third-party X Windows accelerator, to circumvent Xfree86's notorious lack of video card support and X Windows installat ion glitches.
The Red Hat Package Manager, a free install/uninstall utility under the GNU public license, is also a gem. Windows 95 can only dream of having such a carefree way to install and uninstall Linux applications, including Applixware.
The individual modules run the gamut of features you'd expect in productivity applications. The interactive tutorials are a big help here. However, Applixware shows a bizarre feature gap here and there for such a complete package. It took 3 minutes to write my own macro to display word counts, for example. The presentation graphics program, Presents, is the only module to lack a frill I really miss -- the ability to animate the way items appear on a slide. In addition to the thesaurus and spelling ch ecker, there are a number of nice things in Applixware you won't find in Microsoft Office, though, such as advanced drawing tools and a dictionary.
Speaking of Office, OLE can move over, too. Applixware supports a number of ways to link embedded objects. You can create a hypertext link within a document that, when double-clicked, will take you to another place in the document. You can also embed o bjects from other applications, linked or not, just as in OLE (except that Applixware also lets you create live links between objects). Best of all, Applixware includes something called the Axnet Engine, which gives you the ability to create live links t hat are updated from data received across a network.
Built by elves
I found Applixware's custom HTML editor very useful. With a few exceptions, such as columns, it displays the page much the way you'll see it in a Web browser window, including highlighted hyperlinks. The custom macro editor is also a convenient central point for creating, compiling, and installing macros with or without custom dialog boxes.
You turn the modules into your own custom applications by creating new dialog boxes and editing macros, menus, toolbars, and keystrokes. Applixware's potent macro language, the Extended Language Facility, or ELF, includes a wealth of built-in Applixware macros -- if you can figure out where they are documented. (Apart from this one book, the online manuals are easy to find and navigate.)
Though customization is common to all modules, development reaches its apex in the object-oriented development environment, Applix Builder. This is clearly Applixware's trump card for mixed-corporate networked environments.
It doesn't hurt that Applixware is available on other platforms, such as Sun Solaris, Digital Unix (OSF/1), IBM's AIX, SGI Irix 5.2, SCO Unix, and Windows NT. (You must order them through Applix Inc., at http://www.applix.com, not through Red Hat.)
Nicholas Petreley is executive editor of Reviews & Testing. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The lowdown on Applixware components and features
* Applix Words: word processor, including near-WYSIWYG HTML editor, macro editor, compiler, and debugger
* Applix Presents: presentation graphics
* Applix Graphics: graphics and drawing tools
* Applix Spreadsheets: spreadsheet with live links
* Applix Mail: SMTP e-mail client
* Applix OpenMail: integrated X.400 e-mail client
* Applix Builder: object-oriented development tools, including visual forms editor
* Applix Real Time: engine to link applications via a network
* Applix Data: visual forms editor, including connectivity to Oracle, Sybase, Informix, and CA-Ingres databases
THE BOTTOM LINE: EXCELLENT
Applixware 4.2 for Red Hat Linux
Applixware is a must-have application suite for anyone who is serious about using or considering Linux as a productivity desktop or business-development OS. Microsoft Office users may miss a feature here and there, but they'll also discover many new ones absent in their current suite.
Pros: Numerous well-integrated, powerful productivity applications; offers real-time communication between applications; macro language; object-oriented custom applications development.
Cons: A few holes in the feature set that need to be filled.
Red Hat Software Inc., Durham, N.C.; (800) 546-7274, (203) 454-5500; fax: (203) 454-2582; email@example.com; http://www.redhat.com.
Price: $495 per user; student pricing is $269.
Platforms: Red Hat Linux 3.0.3 included, Red Hat supports Applixware on any current, reliable Linux distribution.
For more information on Applixware for Red Hat Linux, visit its information page.
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