AbiWord – the more-daring, skinny little sister of LibreOffice Writer.

AbiWord_logo I want to like AbiWord, I really do. I am happy that it exists — giving LibreOffice a little competition in the open-source world. I like that it tries things that other word processors don’t.

It has a number of features making it theoretically better than LibreOffice but I have never gotten AbiWord to work properly — at least not well enough to be suitable for a work environment.

This is unfortunate because AbiWord has some great things going for it.


Even though AbiWord has been around a long time (since 1998) it has not suffered much from blaot. AbiWord is good for older computers and often comes bundled with lightweight versions of Linux instead of LibreOffice.

I always keep it installed because it doesn’t take up much disk space. If LibreOffice or MS Word feel sluggish on your aging computer, AbiWord might feel zippy.

Exporting documents to other formats.

It offers more native exporting features than even some commercial products. When my Palm Pilot was my primary eBook reader, I appreciated AbiWord’s native PalmDoc export abilities. This feature worked so well that, in some ways, I still miss my Palm for reading on-the-run.

These days, AbiWord is one of the few word processors that exports natively to ePub. I got so excited about this feature that I spent about two days trying to get it to work. I finally gave up and went back to using Sigil. I don’t mind a little learning curve but this is just too much.

Even so, if you have a specific need to export to — let’s say — MapInfo Interchange Format then AbiWord might be very useful for you.

Collaboration tools

abicollab_logoAbiWord also integrated collaboration tools which could be very useful. AbiWord integrates very well with the free AbiCollab document server. While I have not used this service extensively, it worked flawlessly in my testing.

One immediate advantage of using AbiWord for collaboration is that you can avoid all the advertisements and other distractions of the Internet. You will need to go to AbiCollab to set up your account and to manage your groups of collaborators but, after that, you can just stay within AbiWord.

A less obvious advantage of using AbiWord for collaboration is security. Unlike, let’s say, Google Docs, AbiWord allows you to keep your documents on your school’s intranet or your own private server. Your local intranet would be especially private and suitable for working on sensitive issues like policies or students which you would not want on the open Internet.

(Click here for a side-note about security.)

RDF – so bleeding edge, I don’t understand it

AbiWord also actively supports Resource Description Framework (RDF) which, to be honest, I barely understand even though I spent some time trying. My impression is that RDF is the next level of stylesheets. Anyway, if you understand RDF, then you may be interested in AbiWord.

So, I give AbiWord an enthusiastic “possibly useful” recommendation. I would also encourage you download and use AbiWord just to support this ambitious project.


Tool: AbiWord
Description: a lightweight, stand-alone word processor with powerful export and collaboration features
License: GNU (free and open source)
Rating: possibly useful