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The Extensive Word-processing Utilities in Linux

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You May Be Surprised to Know

Linux has within it several solutions for making documents, even large documents like books.

Linux tools generally have a philosophy of re-usability. While some of the newer products, like Open Office or Libre Office, are made to deliver the complete environments that computer users are used to, most Linux tools follow a more modular approach.

For example, in word processing the most common fundamental unit is the postscript file.

Postscript files are read and written by most of the word and image processing utilities. Postscript is a handy medium because it is so flexible.

Postscript -- The Underlying Standard

Postscript files are ASCII files, an you can load them into a text processor and actually read and even manipulate some of the control statements (if you know what you are doing). Postscript can also embody bit maps, but even these appear as a sequence of seemingly meaningless characters.

Products that directly output postscript files often use a vector type notation for characters, allowing the fonts to be re-written by a display or print utility to any size without distortion. Graphical information is usually bit mapped.

Open Office, Koffice, and even Abiword, the WYSIWYG word processors in Linux can all produce postscript output. Tex and LaTex produce an intermediate file type called a dvi file, but the dvips utility converts these files into postscript. And Lout, another text markup language, outputs postscript directly.

Even Graphics Utilities Can Use Postscript

Most graphics plotting packages in Linux, like Gri, pgplot, xmgrace, and gnuplot to name but a few, can all output postscript files. Xpaint, a Linux drawing program, and GIMP, an image rendering program can both import and export postscript files. The postscript utilities packages provides many programs for working directly with postscript files.

Many printers have a mode specifically for handling postscript files efficiently. And the gv utility is a handy postscript rendering and printing program for use with files produced by any of the numerous postscript file producers.

Linux is Rich, Not Poor, In Document Processing Capability

So if you thought a move to Linux would lead to a more limited capability for creating documents, you can rest at ease. Linux has at its disposal virtually all of the accumulated document handling products from the Unix world, as well as the newer WYSIWYG products more familiar to many users. Linux doesn't offer a reduced set of document tools, but a vastly expanded set.

You just have to be willing to learn about them.

The Google Option

If you are just wanting to try Linux and don't want the burden of perhaps installing an unfamiliar word processing or office product, you do have an interesting choice. If you don't have a Google email account, you can go to and sign up for a free Google email (Gmail) account. With the account you also get (free) about 15 GB of cloud disk space. This can be expanded to very large amounts of cloud space very inexpensively.

Once you have an account, you can go to Google in your web browser and select the Docs application. The application will open in your browser and present a modern, likely fairly familiar looking, word processing application. It is a highly functional application, able to import and export a number of popular document formats. You can create simple to complex documents, embed images, etc. You can print your document from the browser, and every change you make as you edit your document is automatically saved on your allocated cloud storage. If you run out of cloud storage, you can either choose to pay a small fee to greatly expand the storage, or download your documents to your local drive.

The Google Office products include the Documents application, a quality Spreadsheet application, and a Presentation application. All are accessable through most modern web browsers. Incidentally, that's any modern web browser on any operating system. It isn't a Linux only application, but available from most anywhere. So even if you try Google Office through Linux and decide that Linux isn't for you, you may find that Google Office is for you, even if going back to your previous operating system.