Hancom Office 2.01 is the latest version from the Korean company Hancom Linux, released only a few days ago. The company used to offer a Windows version of their product, but they have since completely focused on the Linux platform, even though their product is pretty portable as it is based almost solely in the Qt 3 tooklkit. In latest news, Hancom has canned their Professional version of their office suite (contained more applications in assosiation with TheKompany), and they now going with the Standard version, which is the version we review today. Update: From the Hancom press release: “200 Million Arabic Speakers Finally Have an Affordable, High-Quality Alternative to Microsoft – And Save 90% in the Process.”
The Hancom Office 2.0 Standard package the company sent me comes in a DVD case, which includes a CD and two printed pages, an installation page and a registration one. Installation under Red Hat or Mandrake should go very smoothly indeed; all you have to do is mount your CDrom and run the installation script. The installation is graphical and very easy to use.
However, under my Linux distribution, Gentoo Linux, I run into a problem where the “install-m” executable wouldn’t start, because it could not find the libqt.so.3 library. As it turns out, because Gentoo Linux is optimized for utter speed, it installs the multithreaded version of Qt, libqt-mt.so.3, but not the libqt.so.3 one. Either creating a file linking to the multithreaded version of the library or copying the included in the Hancom cd /lib/libqt.so.3 file on your /usr/lib/, should fix any of these problems. However, I noticed that only half of the four Qt 3-based Hancom applications actually worked with my multithreaded library (and in fact worked better than the one Hancom suggests), while the rest worked only with their included library version.
Installation takes about 400 MB on your hard drive and, as I already mentioned, as long you are using a more standard Linux, it should go just fine.
The Office Suite
Hancom Office comes with Word 6.0, Word 5.2, Sheet, Presenter and Painter. Loading the HancomShell2 executable will open a little Hancom Launcher, as you can see it in the screenshots. If you wish to place icons on your desktop, the Hancom CD includes them. Dragging and dropping the icons from the CD to you KDE desktop will create ready made icon launchers for the Hancom applications.
Hancom Word 6 is the one really big advancement in Hancom Office when compared to previous versions. This is indeed a very powerful word processor and it includes a number of good features such as Styles, clip art gallery along with the included shape paint tools, full featured table, columns support and more. Word 6 is what I would consider a pretty good “personal DTP” application for Linux as well. It has a powerfull layout engine, and it handles images pretty well. Another advantage of the application is that it “understands” and handles Japanese, Chinese and other Asian languages incredibly well, in addition to English.
On the downside of the whole impression I got from Word 6 is that it would not anti-alias my TTF web fonts (no matter which Qt library I used with it). Erik Park from Hancom timely replied to my question about AA support saying “HancomWord has not available the feature due to the speed problem in displaying the fonts”, which comes in agreement with my personal conclusion about FreeType’s general lack of speed when rendering in AA. Also, trying to use other TTF fonts involves painful manual effort on the user’s part, it gets extremely slow when it renders more complex pages, and it has a number of bugs still in it. However, I think all these issues will eventually get ironed out. I hope that the interface designers read this article, as the whole UI is at best confusing in places or overcrowded with options that do not always make sense in English. For example, in the Advanced tab of the Format/Paragraph dialog, there is an area/header called “etc” and there is checkbox next to the option “With Next Paragraph.” I don’t think that the caption explains what that really does.
Hancom Word 6 can load and save text, the Hancom prorprierty file format, rtf and html. It can read Microsoft Word .doc format, but it can’t save it. Its .doc compatibility is not too bad either. I tested 4-5 Microsoft documents I had handy on my XP partition, and it rendered them much better than WordPad itself (sorry, I do not own Microsoft Word to make a better comparison for you). I would say that its .doc compatibility is comparable to the latest AbiWord, but I did find some glitches with the support for special characters, eg. the “Copyright” character.
Word 5.2 is the previous version of Hancom Word 6, but it is still included in the package, probably because 6.0 is not as stable or finished yet. Version 5.2 is good for basic editing, and it also supports .doc, but it not as near as full-featured and powerful as the 6.0 version. It is faster and less memory hungry than version 6, though
The Hancom Sheet is a nice spreadsheet application, and if it was more stable, it would have been great. It can read and write both .xls and its native spreadsheet format. However, it can’t read .csv and comma delimeted files. The feature I like most is its Chart dialog, which is indeed full of options and many kinds of chart types. It is funny how obvious it is that the Sheet was programmed by people who probably do not have much contact with the guys programming the Word 6.0. The interface and style is different and the widgets are different. So much for consistency along the suite. Also, even if the Sheet does not really need it, it supports antialias in fonts, while Word 6.0 was refusing AA on my PC. However, adding additional TTF fonts on Hancom would work well on Word 6.0, but it will immediately crash the Sheet when trying to type.
I really liked the Presenter. The presentation application (which had yet a different widget style ;), can load and save Microsoft .ppt and its own native format. There is quite a number of templates to use. You can insert multimedia objects to your presentations, like mpeg, mp3 and wave sound, and clipart or other images. If there was a single thing I found a bit uncomfortable with Presenter was the slideshow keys. When in full screen (SlideShow mode), I could scroll between the slides using PgUp and PgDn instead of SpaceBar. Last time I used PowerPoint on Windows, it was scrolling with the SpaceBar and I found that key to be more “natural” than the page up/down keys.
As for the Painter, I bet it was programmed by the same team who did Presenter. Same widget style and same resizing bugs. 🙂
I believe that the Painter is, maybe along with Word 6, the best two tools for the whole suite, however Painter is much more stable than Word. Painter supports Layers, it has some very good tools for selection, drawing, many kind of brushes and styles for the bucket tool. This is an excellent office painting application, and I can even say it has more features than it may be needed in an office environment. I am very happy with its feature set, and if I have to find some downsides, it would again have to do with AA fonts (when writting to an image its font is AA but when you release the tool it reverts back to non-AA), slow drawing when using bigger size brush with the paint tool, not many filters and not smoothed (billinear) image resizing algorithm.
The app can even do animated gifs! But it can’t read or write tiffs or .psd. But it fully supports bmp, xpm, png, gif, jpg and pcx among other file formats. Incorporated you will also find the ability to capture the Linux desktop.
This (latest) version that Hancom Office sent me two weeks ago still contains critical bugs, but it was very usable. This office suite is a good and fresh alternative to Star Office, but the company will need to work more on unify and clean up the UI throughout the suite and add better support for QT, which will give the application some goodies for “free,” such as automatic recognition for the TTF fonts installed on the system and full anti-alias support.
If you are after an office suite that can do presentations and handlle image manipulation in a very satisfactory manner, this is the office suite for you. Word 6 is extremely powerfull (as I said, it is almost like a “lite” DTP) and it will find its place at everyone’s desktop if it will be truly finished.
The demo version of the suite is about 57 MB, you can all download it and have a look to the product. The suite will have a strong competition with OpenOffice (to be released next month), but I believe that Hancom will have a winner if they manage to bring the product is a more “clean” state before the OpenOffice folks do. Also, marketing their (superb) Painter application will also definately help their cause.
Overall: 7.5 / 10