Integrated Office Review
On one of my recent trips to China, I noticed in the news that there was a big push in the IT part of the Chinese government to settle on a standard for office software. One of the leading contenders was a Chinese company I had not heard of before that was making some very impressive inroads. I realized that the Chinese government might be a tad biased toward a company from China but I kept on hearing more and more about how good this software was so after the last trip, I looked it up and discovered that it had a contact on these shores who got me a copy to take a look at.
Evermore Integrated Office (EIO) is a new office product consisting of a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation graphics program all built into a single module from Wuxi Evermore Software, Inc, www.evermoresw.com. It is a direct
replacement for Microsoft Office Standard and is designed to give you all the functionality of MS Office in an open source Java environment with versions for both Windows 98 and above, and Red Hat Linux. The version I got for my Windows XP test system was the 2004-A.
This new office programs installs very quickly and effortlessly. The only updating that took place quickly was the Java runtime that was required as part of the programs but then again, when you have a system like this that is also ported to the Linux systems as well as written in Java, you will find a lot of common ground in how it works and is developed. I fired up Evermore Office and decided to write the review and the first thing I noticed was how familiar the icons, and look and feel of the program is. Almost like am I working in Microsoft Word or am I in EIOffice as it calls itself.
You see a few different icons on the desktop but the typing is all the same. It is that easy to get started. One thing I noticed was that each of the modules are pretty well integrated with each other. You can start with a text document and convert it to a spreadsheet or presentation graphics very quickly. You really have just one program to deal with for all three applications and each one stores the file in the same format with the .eio extension.
Lots of similar features and a few new ones abound in the program and as you work, you keep coming up with something new. Auto Completion is one feature and what is interesting about it is that as I type the letters "comp", it wants to fill it out with "Company Signature". If you go to Tools, and then Auto Correct, then hit the Auto Text tab, you will see all the words that are auto completed for you and since I tend to type the word computer a lot, I will remove "Company Signature" . Or, you can ignore it as you just type along if you keep going, it just continues to watch for that as well as misspellings.
working with documents, what may be different is that it does not store them in
"My Documents" but in the EIO_Binders
The program while maintaining the look and feel of Word still offers a lot of differences besides how files are stored. You can create PDF files directly from within your document simply by doing a file save as and picking the .pdf format. You can also save a document in a web html format as well. Pulling in other documents is quite easy as well. I pulled in a complicated Excel spreadsheet and I wouldn't know the difference. The text viewed on screen is a little different even though I am using the same font but it actually loads it right next to my working document. I have one instance of the program running but handling both types of documents at the same time. For the next test, I pulled in a complicated Word Perfect document that I had been having trouble in getting it input into Microsoft Word and I was a bit worried as when I went to open it, it would not show up in the folder until I told EIO to look at all the files. Once selected, it came in very cleanly and looked like it should. The acid test for me was whether I could convert that difficult document into a web page and it succeeded far better than it did under word.
Another interesting difference is the use of the Navigation pane that often looks like the tall narrow window that sometimes opens up when you click on a help subject in Word. It gives you an overview of all the documents and files you are working with in the same document. It is kind of like having the spreadsheet, presentation program, and document all in a single folder that you work on all at the same time. Certainly a different concept to work with. One reason for this is that the different office applications are all saved in the same file format so it is much easier for the program to work with the different components and to integrate them all in the same document.
I had thought that the fonts were looking a bit odd until I took that same document to another computer and looked and discovered that it looked just fine. I don't think that had been a problem before but was it the Java installation doing this, the software, the monitor, or just me. Hard telling.
The more you use this product, the more features you find that are there available to you. Examples include an entire Math and Science editor that will pop up where the navigation pane sits on the left side of the screen. You can use them for your calculations or build them into the document that you are working on. In this case, I just grabbed one of the samples and moved it into my document. You use the picture toolbar to position the text in your document or presentation. If you click on the format for that object, you get a very clear and easy to use dialog box that gives you your options for placing the text and image.
What is interesting is that this product comes from China. When you consider the high price of Microsoft Office and the need to be compatible with MS Office, and the need for something to support millions of computers there, it only makes sense that a Chinese company develop their own product. This program comes from Wuxi City, near Shanghai China.
In just browsing
the rogram, as you can see, I
Like in Word, just hover a mouse over any icon to get the name of the icon and the help files look pretty extensive. Any seasoned Word user will not have any troubles at all getting right to work with EIO and in the short testing I have done, has performed very well and without any trouble at all. Another powerful feature of this integrated package is the Paste Link. With it, if you take material from one document and insert it in another (like a consolidated sales report for example), each place you Paste Link it to retains the dynamic part of that link so if you change the underlying information, each subsequent location is also updated automatically. And this includes calculations, charts, and graphs as well.
There have been a couple of quirks that might be problems in formatting text. The first I noticed is when you insert a picture, if it goes over a boundary, it might disappear on you. One other time, I closed a document and opened it back up and one of the images I had inserted was gone. Another time I wanted to make bold a title line and it turned the entire document bold even though they were both part of the same page and not formatted differently. And finally, one other time I had indented some text on both sides and tried to change formatting on that section and it changed it for the entire document even though I selected only that part of the text. More good news is that it did take a couple of my more complicated documents and convert them to Word without any hitches at all on my two test computers so I feel quite confident in its handling of those documents and was really pleased with how they came out in Word. I would also like to see some file conversion features for documents from Word Perfect for example. Having done all that, I found that when I sent files back to Microsoft Word from Evermore, they came out perfectly.
So the real question comes in whether you should consider EIO for your office program of choice? It seems quite well integrated to me and the program is easy to use. Any Microsoft Office user will have no difficulty in getting up to speed quickly. It does not have the Outlook or Access portions of Office that the power user may want but for most offices, you will find that this program handles everything you want to do just fine. You might check it out at www.evermoresw.com. If you are looking for low cost alternatives to an office productivity suite, you can look at the Open Source office from www.openoffice.org. Another option would be the Star Office suite from Sun available at http://www.sun.com/software/star/staroffice/index.xml.
Other office type products are also available from Corel with their Word Perfect Suite, and from IBM with Lotus SmartSuite. Of the other alternatives to Office, I am most impressed with Word Perfect.
If you want something that is really compatible with MS Office, then I think the EIOffice program is for you. As you can see from this document, it is easy to integrate graphics and diagrams, and was easy to put together. They have an interesting licensing program but for home users, you can pay $149 for a single computer that comes with free tech support and upgrades for a year. A family license is available for three computers for a cost of $398 and that includes free upgrades and tech support for five years. That is probably the best deal going.
This program seems to run well on my test system even when I have a lot of things going on at the same time and as I get used to the newer options and flexibility in using it, I find that I like it very much and end up using it over my copy of Microsoft Office..
Robert Sanborn is a technology Writer for PC Lifeline. You can reach him through the net at firstname.lastname@example.org
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