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Learning Debian GNU/Linux

Learning Debian GNU/Linux

By Bill McCarty
1st Edition September 1999
1-56592-705-2, Order Number: 7052
360 pages, $34.95 , Includes CD-ROM

Previous: 7.5 Setting the System Time and Time Zone Chapter 8 Next: 8.2 Other Approaches to Desktop Computing

8. Using Linux Applications and Clients

This chapter describes how you can use Linux for common desktop computing tasks. You'll learn about popular desktop suites and applications. This chapter also introduces VMWare, a program that lets you run Microsoft Windows and Linux simultaneously, and WINE, a program that lets you run some Microsoft applictions under Linux.

The Debian Project is firmly committed to including only truly Open Source software in its main distribution. Not all the programs mentioned in this chapter and the next meet the Open Source definition. Part of the beauty of Linux, though, is the ease with which it can be enhanced. The Contributed and Non-free archives on the Debian site include a wealth of additional software, and some programs are available direct from third party providers.

8.1 Linux Desktop Applications

Not long ago, running Linux meant abandoning your easy-to-use WYSIWYG word processor or configuring your system for dual boot, so that you could boot Microsoft Windows or IBM OS/2 to access friendly and familiar desktop applications. At that time, Linux supported no robust, full-featured graphical desktop suites.

Today, Linux supports several desktop suites; several more are under development. Apparently, if rumors are to be believed, even Microsoft is considering adapting their Office desktop suite to run under Linux. Whether or not Linux users can expect to soon run Microsoft Office for Linux (or whatever name Microsoft might give this potential product), Linux users who prefer to avoid other operating systems can now do so without compromising their ability to produce first-rate documents, spreadsheets, and graphics.

This section describes the three most popular desktop applications for Linux:

  • Applix Applixware

  • Corel WordPerfect for Linux

  • Sun's StarOffice

In addition, this section briefly describes other desktop options:

  • Angoss SmartWare

  • Axene Xclamation

  • KOffice

  • Lotus eSuite

  • Quadratron Cliq

  • TeX

The final section presents two entirely different approaches to desktop computing:

  • The VMware virtual platform, which lets you run Windows and Linux simultaneously on a single computer

  • WINE, which lets you run DOS and Windows programs under Linux

8.1.1 Applix Applixware

Applix distributes Applixware, a desktop suite available for a variety of platforms, including Microsoft Windows 9x, Microsoft Windows NT, and several varieties of UNIX, including Linux. Applixware is commercial software, but much less expensive than Microsoft Word. Currently, Applixware for Linux is priced at $99 (US); you can purchase it from the Applix web site, Print documentation and support programs are also available, at additional cost. If you prefer to try before buying, you can download a feature-disabled demo version; however, the download is quite large (over 38 MB) and therefore time-consuming (over 3 hours at 28.8 Kbps) unless you have a high-speed connection to the Internet.

Applixware includes eight main components:

  • Words, a WYSIWYG word processor

  • Spreadsheets, a graphical spreadsheet application

  • Presents, a presentation graphics application

  • Graphics, a drawing, charting, and graphics editing application

  • Mail, an email client

  • HTML Author, an application for authoring web documents

  • Data, an application for accessing data held in Oracle, Informix, Sybase, or CA-Ingres databases

  • Builder, an application development environment for decision support systems Running Applixware

Once you've installed Applixware, you can run it by starting X and using a terminal window to issue the following commands:


If you installed Applixware to a directory other than /opt/applix, you'll need to adapt the second command accordingly.

When Applixware starts up, it displays a window containing the Applixware main menu, shown in Figure 8.1. From the toolbar of the main menu, you can simply click to launch Words, Graphics and Presents, Spreadsheets, Mail, or Data. Alternatively, you can click on the asterisk icon, causing Applixware to display a menu, as shown in Figure 8.2.

Figure 8.1: The Applixware main menu

Figure 8.1

Figure 8.2: The Applixware application menu

Figure 8.2

Figure 8.3 shows the Words application. Words includes a spelling checker and supports document templates, tables, multimedia, and live links to Applixware and third-party documents. Moreover, it lets you import and export a variety of document formats, including Microsoft Word 2.0, 6.0, 7.0/95, and 97.

Figure 8.3: The Words application

Figure 8.3

Figure 8.4 shows the Presents application, which lets you create presentations in a way that resembles that provided by Microsoft PowerPoint. Presents provides features such as transitions and animation, HTML export, and templates. Its drawing tools let you draw lines, curves, and shapes, and perform other operations, such as rotations and fills. Presents can also import and export PowerPoint presentations and a variety of other document types.

Although a Linux application, such as Words or Presents, may be able to import a Microsoft Office document, the application may not be able to handle the full range of document and object types that can be embedded in an Office document. Some document and object types, for example, require access to a host application that runs only under Microsoft Windows.

Moreover, some Linux applications do not currently support all the styles and options of their Office counterparts. For example, if a document uses Microsoft's Visual Basic for Applications, the document will probably not function correctly under Linux.

If you plan on moving documents to and from Office, you may want to save your documents in a portable format (such as RTF), rather than a Microsoft proprietary format. This will significantly improve the chances that your document will work correctly both in Windows and Linux.

Figure 8.4: The Presents application

Figure 8.4

Figure 8.5 shows the Spreadsheets application, which provides functions similar to those of Microsoft Excel. Spreadsheets lets you create ordinary spreadsheets as well as 3D charts and sheets, and supports live links to objects created by Applixware and third-party applications, including Applix Data, which provides access to relational databases. Spreadsheets implements Applix's Extension Language Facility (ELF), which lets you add custom functions to the hundreds of built-in functions. Spreadsheets can import and export a variety of document types, including Lotus 1-2-3 (WKS, WK1, WK3, and WK4 files) and Microsoft Excel 3.0, 4.0, 5.0, 7.0/95, and 97.

Figure 8.5: The Spreadsheets application

Figure 8.5

8.1.2 StarOffice

Another popular Linux desktop suite is StarOffice, a product of Sun Microsystems. StarOffice is available free of charge from Sun's web site, The download is about 70 MB, requiring over 6 hours at 28.8 Kbps. The office suite is also available on CD-ROM, for a cost of $9.95 plus shipping and handling.

StarOffice includes an extensive range of applications, including:

  • StarDesktop, a file manager and desktop

  • StarWriter, a word processor

  • StarCalc, a spreadsheet application

  • StarDraw, a drawing application

  • StarImpress, a presentation graphics application

  • StarBase, a relational database

  • StarSchedule, a personal organizer that keeps track of events, tasks, contacts, and projects

  • StarMail, an email client

  • StarDiscussion, an Internet newsgroup reader

  • SharChart, a business graphics application

  • StarImage, an image editor that provides many special effects

  • StarMath, a formula editor Installing StarOffice

To install StarOffice from a StarOffice CD-ROM, log in, mount the CD-ROM, change to the directory that is the mount point of the CD-ROM device, change to the Office50/english/prod_lnx subdirectory, and issue the setup command:

su -
mount -t iso9660 /dev/cdrom /cdrom 
cd /cdrom/Office50/english/prod_lnx

The install program will guide you through the installation process.

If you have downloaded the personal edition, you have a tar file, rather than a CD-ROM diskette. The tar file has a name similar to so501_01.tar. Change to the directory in which you saved the tar file (for example, /download) and issue the following commands:

tar xvf so501_01.tar
cd so501_inst

If you saved your tar file using a name other than so501_01.tar, you'll need to adapt the first and second commands accordingly. As when you install from CD-ROM diskette, the install program will guide you through the installation process.

Whether you're installing from CD-ROM diskette or a downloaded file, you should check the README file in the Office50 directory for additional information and instructions that will help you install and use StarOffice. Running StarOffice

Once you have installed StarOffice, you can run it by starting X and using a terminal window to issue the following commands:


If you installed StarOffice into a directory other than /opt/Office50, you'll need to adapt the first command accordingly.

When StarOffice loads, it automatically launches the StarDesktop application, as shown in Figure 8.6. StarDesktop resembles Windows Explorer and the GNOME File Manager. It lets you point, click, drag, and drop to open and manage document files and folders.

Figure 8.6: StarDesktop

Figure 8.6

Figure 8.7 shows StarWriter, StarOffice's word processor. StarWriter provides PGP-encrypted email and other features not found in Microsoft Office 97. Like Applixware's Words, it imports and exports a variety of document types, including Microsoft Word 97.

Figure 8.7: StarWriter

Figure 8.7

Figure 8.8 shows StarImpress, the presentation graphics application included in StarOffice. Like Applixware's Presents, StarImpress imports and exports a variety of document types, including PowerPoint 97. StarImpress provides templates, animation and transitions, 3D effects, charts, and many other features.

Figure 8.8: StarImpress

Figure 8.8

Figure 8.9 shows StarDraw, StarOffice's drawing program. StarDraw provides a wide range of drawing tools and effects, and works with a variety of file types, including even Windows Metafile (WMF).

Figure 8.9: StarDraw

Figure 8.9

In addition to the bread-and-butter applications provided by Applixware, StarOffice provides several smaller, but quite useful, applications. For example, Figure 8.10 shows StarSchedule, which can help you keep track of the tasks on your to do list.

Figure 8.10: StarSchedule

Figure 8.10

8.1.3 Corel WordPerfect for Linux

Another popular desktop application is Corel's WordPerfect for Linux, available free of charge for personal use from Corel's web site, WordPerfect is more a word processor than a complete desktop suite; for example, no spreadsheet application accompanies it. However, WordPerfect does provide many functions and features, including:

  • a file manager

  • drawing and charting

  • spreadsheet functions in tables

  • HTML authoring

A personal retail version (currently available for $69.95 US) adds features such as:

  • advanced drawing and charting functions

  • version control

  • clipart images, photos, textures, templates, and fonts

The downloadable version is about 24 MB in size, about a 2 hour download at 28.8 Kbps. Installing WordPerfect for Linux

To install the downloaded version of WordPerfect for Linux, change to the directory that contains the downloaded file and issue the following command:


Then start X, open a terminal window, and issue the following commands:

cd /download
tar zxvf wp.tgz

If your downloaded file has a name other than wp.tgz or if it resides in a directory other than /download, you'll need to adapt these commands accordingly.

The install program will guide you through the installation process.

To install the CD-ROM version of WordPerfect for Linux, follow the instructions that accompany the CD-ROM.

Some web sites, including the Corel web site, may provide WordPerfect for Linux as an uncompressed file. If the tar command fails with an error message indicating that the file is not in the gzip format, use the following command to unpack the file:

tar xvf wp.tgz Running WordPerfect for Linux

Once you've installed WordPerfect for Linux, you can run it by starting X and using a terminal window to issue the command:


Figure 8.11 shows WordPerfect for Linux in operation.

Figure 8.11: WordPerfect for Linux

Figure 8.11

8.1.4 Other Desktop Applications

Table 8.1 describes some other desktop applications available for Linux. Notable among these is TeX, a freely available desktop publishing package of unsurpassed power. Because of its powerful and sophisticated handling of formulas and mathematical notation, TeX is a favorite among scientists and mathematicians.

Table 8.1: Other Desktop Applications for Linux


Web site


Angoss SmartWare

Includes a word processor, spreadsheet, and relational database. Print- and save-disabled demo version available for free download. Registration fee $50 (US).

Axene Office

Includes a word processor, desktop publishing application, and spreadsheet. Linux license $49 (US). Printed manuals $60 (US) per application.


GPLed desktop suite. Currently in alpha release.

Lotus eSuite home.nsf/tabs/esuite1

Java applets that provide a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation graphics, project scheduler, chart, SQL/JDBC, and CGI gateway. Single-user license $127 (US).

Quadratron Cliq

Character-based desktop suite. Single-user license $49 (US).


GPLed desktop publishing application. Sophisticated and powerful but somewhat cumbersome to use.

Previous: 7.5 Setting the System Time and Time Zone Learning Debian GNU/Linux Next: 8.2 Other Approaches to Desktop Computing
7.5 Setting the System Time and Time Zone Book Index 8.2 Other Approaches to Desktop Computing

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