The FreeBSD 'zine

April 2000 : Software Reviews

Applixware - An overview
by Joel Sutton <[email protected]>

One of the main problems that main stream users have with FreeBSD is that it does not come bundled with any easy to use, graphically based, office integration tools.

Due to the software vendors licensing restrictions, it isn't really possible to include products of this nature on the FreeBSD CD's. So to fill this gap, the ports collection provides a few different packages.

The most popular of these packages, Star Office and WordPerfect, are actually the Linux versions running on top of the FreeBSD Linux emulation. Whilst this is satisfactory for personal use, the stability isn't quite 100% yet (but it's getting closer every day). This is fine for limited and/or personal use but if you've got some commercial requirements then things get trickier.

Fortunately for us, not too long ago, Walnut Creek teamed up with Applix and developed Applixware Office for FreeBSD.

"Applixware Office for FreeBSD is a fully integrated, cross platform suite of adaptive applications and tools for the real-time enterprise."

This review is intended to be a general overview of Applixware Office's features. Unfortunately I can't cover the whole suite, in depth, because it's just too darn big.

User Requirements

As always, any given individual is likely to have different needs and requirements to other individuals. However, in the authors experience, these are some of the most common:

  • Native FreeBSD binary support
  • The ability to work on data files of various types, quickly and effectively
  • A tool set which is simple to use and easy to learn


Applixware Office for FreeBSD seems to be one of the few commercial software packages available for FreeBSD in native binary format.

One of the most common questions I get asked, when talking about Applixware, is "Will it import data files from Microsoft Word"? Fortunately Applixware offers some pretty comprehensive Office 97 data exchange facilities. Documents imported into Applix Words retain the correct formatting that was applied in Word 97.

Exporting Applix Words documents back to Word 97 is nothing short of disappointing. At this stage, the only way back to Word 97 is via RTF files so you instantly loose quite a bit of style sheet information as well as some layout options.

Being an X based application, it's quite intuitive. Most functions are where you'd usually look for them if you were using MS Word or Corel Word Perfect. Being a less mature product, it's easy to find little user interface quirks (sometimes things happen that you don't quite expect). These are, however, fairly minimal and I found it quite easy to adapt after a bit of trial and error.

It also comes with an excellent manual. It is well written, not too technical and full of diagrammatic examples.

Buying Applixware encourages other commercial developers to code for FreeBSD. More commercial software encourages more users to take the plunge into the world of FreeBSD as they feel that they'll be able to find tools to get the job done (usually they're not aware of the Open Source world at this point).

Applixware Office for FreeBSD is bundled with the following applications:

  • Applix Words
  • Applix HTML Author
  • Applix Spreadsheets
  • Applix Graphics
  • Applix Presents
  • Applix Mail
  • Applix Data
  • Applix Builder
  • The Extension Language Facility (ELF)
  • Over 3000 built-in macros

Workstation Requirements

  • Pentium 133 CPU
  • 64MB RAM (20MB available real memory & 15MB swap)
  • 150MB available hard drive space
  • Working FreeBSD & XFree installation

If you've got a relatively new workstation then you shouldn't have a problem running Applixware. Older machines will tend to struggle under the load (especially if you're running one of the more complicated windows managers like KDE) but usable results can be obtained if you've got plenty of physical memory.


Applixware is an affordable alternative for a UNIX based commercial office integration suite. It includes a variety of different products and is readily available from FreeBSD Mall and Walnut Creek CD-ROM.

On a functionality level it is adequate. If you've done some larger documents in Microsoft Word, you've probably gotten used to some of it's nice features (such as the outline editor). These aren't really available in Applix Words. But if you just need to write up a few reports and letters, do a quick presentation or knock together a simple spreadsheet, then Applixware can do the job.

If you've got the funds, I encourage you to head on down to FreeBSD Mall and order your copy. Not only will you be getting a good up and coming office suite, you'll be supporting the FreeBSD cause.

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