ThinkFree yesterday released a version of their software specifically for netbooks -- miniature notebooks whose lower screen resolution can make the user interface of regular software too large. ThinkFree consists of a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation software.
The Asus EEE netbook includes a version of OpenOffice customized for the small screen. It does have a few quirks, such as unwanted toolbars popping up automatically. So I thought I'd try ThinkFree free for 30 days, especially since it supports Microsoft's otherwise-incompatible DOCX format.
The Linux running on the Asus EEE is based on Debian Linux, so the easiest way to install software is to use a .deb (Debian) install file. But ThinkFree provides a .sh (shell script) install file, which isn't quite as straightforward. Here are the steps I took:
1. Download the Linux .sh file from the ThinkFree Web site (about 64MB).
2. Start the File Manager (Administrator), and then turn on the Execute permission like this:
- Right-click the .sh file.
- From the shortcut menu, choose Properties.
- Click the Permissions tab.
- Turn on Exec for all (Owner, Group, Others).
- Click OK.
3. Note the download folder (/home/user in my case).
4. Open the terminal in administrator mode: Launch |Applications | System | Administrator Tools | Console (Administrator).
5. Enter the administrator password (the password can be set in the Control Center: System Administration | Change Password).
6. Change to the download folder:
and then enter the following:
sh filename.sh -c
- sh -- command that runs scripts.
- filename.sh -- file name of the ThinkFree .sh file that you downloaded.
- -c -- forces installation even when the install script cannot find the OpenX graphics.
7. Answer the prompts as the appear during installation. Wait while many, many files are installed.
8. When done, you will find ThinkFree in Launch |Applications | Office | ThinkFree Mobile.
Almost Good Enough
ThinkFree is almost good enough for me to abandon OpenOffice. It has two features important to me: edit in full screen mode (to maximize the EEE's tiny screen) and real-time spell checking.
But missing is Web mode, where page margins are ignored, and the text flows to the width of the screen. This is necessary, because when I zoom into the page, the right edge of the page extends beyond the screen, cutting off some text. A workaround for ThinkFree is to move the right margin over by a couple of inches.
I'd also like to see real-time word counting, as provided by the word processor I used the most, Atlantis (from Rising Sun Solutions).
In the Cloud
A useful feature is that the software almost transparently saves files to the cloud -- 1GB of free disk space on ThinkFree's servers, which are hosted by Amazon. The Open and Save dialog boxes have two tabs: one for files stored on your computer; the second for files stored in the cloud.
Curiously, I could not access files from other computers on my local network through ThinkFree's file dialog boxes; perhaps the cloud is supposed to replace that. The idea is that the cloud makes files available to any computer, whether on the next desk or the next continent.
The drawbacks to saving to the cloud are two-fold: your computer needs an internet connection, and ThinkFree needs to stay in business.
Until the end of this month, ThinkFree is handing out free licenses to its software, after you fill out a user survey of reasonable length.