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AbiWord beats OpenOffice to a Grammar Checker 350

Posted by Hemos
from the hats-off dept.
msevior writes "The recently released AbiWord-2.4 (downloads for Linux, OSX and Windows here ) is the first Free Word Processor to offer an integrated Grammar Checker. We can can do this because we're a pure GPL'd application and so can easily collaborate with other Freely licensed applications like link-grammar, gtkmathview and itex2mml which provide AbiWord-2.4 with a superb Latex-based Math feature. Sun's license requirements for OpenOffice.Org make it much more difficult for such collaborations to occur."
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AbiWord beats OpenOffice to a Grammar Checker

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  • Usefulness? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Saturday October 15, 2005 @12:05PM (#13797544) Homepage Journal
    Yay for F/OSS bloatware! (No offense to the poster)

    Now if only they could have a floating thumb tack that gives you help whenever you don't need it.

    Do people honestly use grammar check? Hasn't it been proven that no grammar checker works well enough to provide a wide cover of the English language?

    Personally, when I write an article or something for wide dissemination, I'll send it to a group of writers I know and trust. Peer editing. They do the same when they need a human review. I'm sure there are websites to help others do similar swaps.

    The MS Word g/c pisses me off bigtime. I have to disable it or go crazy.

    For me, a grammar check is a bloat feature that doesn't add worth to a word processor. This is especially true for technical documents.

    Is this a feature needed solely to promote the package (like the "often used" cruise control on every car) to the masses?

    I'd rather have a thin distribution that works quickly without consuming massive amounts of RAM and processing power.

    Am I alone?
    • Re:Usefulness? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by free space (13714) on Saturday October 15, 2005 @12:15PM (#13797598)
      A grammar checker would be a good idea if:
      - It is well implemented, from what I hear, Wordperfect's Grammatik used to be almost always correct and very useful,as opposed to Word's grammar checker that 's here just so that Microsoft can say "we have a grammar checker"

      - It didn't try to 'improve your style'. I hate it whenever Word tries to encourage me not to use passive.Also my pet hate when Word underlines all my headers and says "fragment: consider revising" ...what the heck you dumb program! It's a freaking header! must all my headers be complete sentences?

      - It can be easily turned off, and doesnt fill your page with green lines under every sentence.

      it won't be as good as peer review or a professional proofreader, but it may spot that embarrasing mistake before you send that critical report to the customer at 11 pm..
      • It didn't try to 'improve your style'

        You typed "colour". Would you like me to change it to "color"?
      • Re:Usefulness? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by iangoldby (552781) on Saturday October 15, 2005 @12:37PM (#13797706) Homepage
        I hate it whenever Word tries to encourage me not to use passive.

        You can turn this off you know. If I had MS Word installed on this machine I'd tell you how, but I don't think it is too obscure.

        Personally, I find the grammer checker quite useful and I believe that the passive voice is Evil(TM). Most people who use passive seem to believe that they need to in order to take the focus away from the person doing the action, and that this is particularly important in scientific publications etc.

        All I can say in response is that there are a great many almost unreadable scientific papers out there that are over-wordy, constructed portacabin-like from pre-fabricated sentences, which contain nothing to keep the reader engaged. If that is the price of using the passive voice, then I don't think it is worth paying.

        Can I recommend you take a look at George Orwell's essay Politics and the English Language [google.co.uk]? Although written in 1946, he still has a lot that is relevant to say about writing clear and engaging english. (Sorry, I've gone off the original subject a little, but I think this essay should be required reading for anyone who does any kind of formal writing.)
        • Re:Usefulness? (Score:2, Insightful)

          by free space (13714)
          Thanks for the Orwell article, guy is a genius :)

          I agree with you on the evil of excessive use of passive ( and more so on the unreadablity of moderm scientific papers!).There is is no denying that clear,specific writing is very important.

          My problem with Word, however, is that it behaves towards writing style like the automaton it is, assuming that every passive voice is evil and marking it for review and so on, so I spend half my time shutting false alarms instead of fixing real problems in the document.
          Mi
        • Re:Usefulness? (Score:3, Informative)

          by Hatta (162192)
          All I can say in response is that there are a great many almost unreadable scientific papers out there that are over-wordy, constructed portacabin-like from pre-fabricated sentences, which contain nothing to keep the reader engaged.

          I disagree, it's the content that keeps one engaged in those academic papers. If you're interested in an experiment you're going to read it anyway, and you're going to be thankful it's written in a methodical manner. I don't need any literary flourishes in my materials and metho
        • Re:Usefulness? (Score:3, Informative)

          by dbIII (701233)

          Most people who use passive seem to believe that they need to in order to take the focus away from the person doing the action, and that this is particularly important in scientific publications etc.

          Consider a technical report into the causes of a plane crash - most of the thing will be in the passive voice. Another less passive way to write it would be "plane go bugger up", which is perfect english grammar in some regions but is unlikely to convey what the author wants the reader to know.

          Some fool will m

      • "I hate it whenever Word tries to encourage me not to use passive.Also my pet hate when Word underlines all my headers and says "fragment: consider revising" ...what the heck you dumb program! It's a freaking header! must all my headers be complete sentences?"

        Doing things such as writing complete sentences, not running on and avoiding using passive voice are useful if you would like people to read what you write and understanding it instead of throwing it in the trash.

        easier to read sentence are. fragments
      • Re:Usefulness? (Score:2, Interesting)

        by jonadab (583620)
        > A grammar checker would be a good idea if: It is well implemented, from what
        > I hear, Wordperfect's Grammatik used to be almost always correct

        I seriously doubt it, although I have not seen that specific one. However, grammar is notoriously AI-complete, and I have a really hard time imagining that grammar checking is any better solved than translation.

        The best grammar checkers available, as far as I am aware, are correct just about often enough to get a D in high school English class -- maybe a C if
      • Also my pet hate when Word underlines all my headers and says "fragment: consider revising" ...what the heck you dumb program! It's a freaking header! must all my headers be complete sentences?

        I don't see that.. maybe you should use a "Heading" style for headings. Word does have styles, though it makes it almost impossible to use consistently by all the user-friendly second guessing it does. But using heading styles has other benefits; it lets you see the document in outline form, for instance.

    • Re:Usefulness? (Score:2, Informative)

      by elebrin (844422)
      I agree.

      However, I use ABIword as my primary word processor. It loads faster in both Windows and Linux (for me), it consumes less memory, and the interface is a decent clone of Word, so that others have fewer problems with it when they use my machine.

      so... its benefits outweigh its problems for me.
    • Re:Usefulness? (Score:4, Informative)

      by agraupe (769778) on Saturday October 15, 2005 @12:37PM (#13797707) Journal
      Do you drive much on the highway? If so, I don't see how you could disparage the use of cruise control; there's nothing I hate more than someone floating between two different speeds, 20 km/h apart, and it's not like cruise control makes you a worse driver or something. Although for the average commuter, it's useless, it is crucial for the many 5-hour-plus drives I make.
    • by Julian Morrison (5575) on Saturday October 15, 2005 @12:38PM (#13797710)
      Actual uses of grammar check:

      - As a partner to spell check, find correctly spelled but misplaced words (eg: there and their).

      - Find common brain-farts such as reduplicated words.

      - Remind blame-ducking idiots that the passive verb makes their evasions obvious. Mistakes were made, my foot!

      - Point out incongruities and neologisms, which some people might not know aren't cultured english, such as excessive verbing of nouns.

      These are all tasks that require an ability to parse grammar, and they're actually useful.To call them "grammar checking" would be too strong, but I can't think of a better descriptive name.
    • I use a grammar checker as a final-final catch for stupid mistakes like 'the the' and other extraneous words which a spell check won't find. Yes, some of the suggestions it makes are ridiculous, circular or just plain unnecessary, but a couple of times it's picked up one of my silly errors and that makes it all worthwhile.

      Would I rely on a computer to correct and improve my grammar? No thanks. Ditto a spelling checker - I just use it for typos.
      • I use a grammar checker as a final-final catch for stupid mistakes like 'the the' and other extraneous words which a spell check won't find.

        Interesting. Most spellchecks I use (eg, text editors) DO flag duplicate words; however I see Word's doesn't, presuambly because it's part of it's Grammar check as you said.

    • Clearly, you have never used Corel WordPerfect. One of its strong points is a grammar checker that actually works. The sorry excuse for a grammar checker built into MS Word, is what convinced the world that it cna't be done. Just another example of MS Innovation (TM)... Cheers, Herman http://www.aerospacesoftware.com/linuxhowtos.html [aerospacesoftware.com]
    • Re:Usefulness? (Score:2, Informative)

      by megabyte405 (608258)
      Maybe you should take a peek at the package... Grammar Checking and Math Editing support are added as plugins. Most distributions provide plugins seperately, and if they don't you can just generally remove the plugin file. On Windows, the installer allows you to select precisely which plugins you want, when you get the separate plugin installers. We understand that part of the appeal of AbiWord is its small size and speed, and we won't comprimise that.

      As others have pointed out, a grammar check makes a
  • Sure (Score:5, Funny)

    by slashflood (697891) <flow@howflo[ ]om ['w.c' in gap]> on Saturday October 15, 2005 @12:05PM (#13797548) Homepage Journal
    [...] integrated Grammar Checker. We can can do this because [...]

    :-)
  • LaTeX (Score:2, Interesting)

    by poopdeville (841677)
    What does LaTeX have to do with checking English grammar?
  • Pfft. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 15, 2005 @12:07PM (#13797561)
    I'm laughing at all you AbiWord and OpenOffice users from my tower of Notepad!
  • by g_dunn (921640) on Saturday October 15, 2005 @12:10PM (#13797578)
    Even advanced grammar checkers still work very poorly compaired to sitting down, reading it yourself, and then having an english inclined friend do the same.

    I suppose LaTeX support is nice for the math geeks, though you would think that they are already using a program with support for it if they need it.
    • by Coryoth (254751) on Saturday October 15, 2005 @01:00PM (#13797802) Homepage Journal
      I suppose LaTeX support is nice for the math geeks, though you would think that they are already using a program with support for it if they need it.

      I am a math geek, and unsurprisingly I do indeed use LaTeX. I am quite happy to see the TeX style math support in AbiWord though: not for me, but for others. As a math geek I read a lot of math, and seeing the ugly, badly rendered, hard to read, amateurish garbage produced by some word processors pains me. I'm realistic though. There are a lot of people who only need a little math and aren't going to learn how to write documents in LaTeX just for that. To have someting like AbiWords new equation editing is a good thing: it doesn't render quite as well as LaTeX, but it is streets ahead MS Word and nicer than OO.o currently manages: it's actually somewhat readable.

      Personally I would prefer people use this OO.o macro [ucl.ac.be] which allows embedding of rendered LaTeX in an editable way, but to be fair you still need to know a little LaTeX to really be ale to use it (unlike AbiWord's offering).

      Jedidiah.
      • by Al Dimond (792444) on Saturday October 15, 2005 @01:44PM (#13797994) Journal
        Another great program for those that want nice equations (and nice documents in general) is LyX, which is essentially a GUI for building LaTeX. It has its own document format, but it compiles to TeX in order to generate output. As a college student I think it's great for quickly throwing together homework assignments with a mixture of text, equations, figures and code samples (I end up using it quite a bit in DSP classes). I don't think you really *have* to know anything about TeX to use LyX, unless you have specific requirements about how your document looks (for example, for courses in the humanities where I have to use MLA format... there's a LaTeX MLA package that I ended up having to modify becaue it was incorrect, and to use it within LyX you need to know a bit about how TeX works).
    • by ndogg (158021) <the DOT rhorn AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday October 15, 2005 @01:05PM (#13797823) Homepage Journal
      Grammar checkers are nice for catching the stupid mistakes like "We can
      can do this..."
    • Even advanced grammar checkers still work very poorly compaired to sitting down, reading it yourself, and then having an english inclined friend do the same.

      But out here in the real world, we don't often have the luxury of asking an English-inclined friend to doublecheck our work for us. If you had a job, and asked your coworkers to doublecheck your grammar on a simple document, you would probably get laughed at.

      I often need to write a document quickly. I doublecheck afterwards, but common typos (it's vs.
    • ven advanced grammar checkers still work very poorly compaired to sitting down, reading it yourself, and then having an english inclined friend do the same.

      What I find even better is to run my document through a text-to-speech program and listen to the grammar. Grammatical errors are much easier to catch by ear than by reading. It's too easy to skip plurals and verb inflection when you know what you should have written. But hearing it spoken makes that stuff obvious. Sometimes it helps catch long, awkwar

  • Microsoft Office beats AbiWord to a grammer check. More at 11.

    ...oh wait.
    • Unfortunately I have to agree. Nice step for Open Source but Microsoft Word is still my editor of choise. They just now are getting grammar? And their spell checkers are still luke warm, (spelled tomorrow tomarrow and Abiword couldn't come up with a suggestion). Microsoft office will fix a majority of things for me on the fly. And its usually right. For work, I would buy Office 03 on my own buck just to get the reviewer tracking features which make editing incredibly easier, particularly when having c
  • by pwagland (472537) on Saturday October 15, 2005 @12:14PM (#13797592) Journal
    From the Link Grammar website...
    As of December 2004, we are releasing the parser under a new license; the license allows unrestricted use in commercial applications, and is also compatible with the GNU GPL (General Public License). You can view the license here. We are also releasing version 4.1b, which is identical to version 4.1 (released in 2000) except that the licensing statements reflect the new license.
    Meaning that it is most likely no easier for abiword to include it than it is for openoffice to include it.
  • multiple languages (Score:2, Interesting)

    by marsperson (909862)
    One of the great things about open office writer is the possibility of installing as many spell checkers as you want, in any combination you want (unlike MS word, where if you're either stuck with combinations MS think should solve everybody's problems (english, french, spanish), or pay an arm and a leg for a third party add-on).

    So, does anyone know what localizations of Abi will include a grammar check?
    • At the moment, since we use the Link Grammar checker (see the link to the web site in the article), only English is supported. The program has been designed, however, so that additional grammar checkers could be added if suitable GPL or GPL-compatible programs were found.
  • by sonamchauhan (587356) <sonamc&gmail,com> on Saturday October 15, 2005 @12:17PM (#13797609) Journal
    From the Link Grammer link you provided:
    http://bobo.link.cs.cmu.edu/link/ [cmu.edu]
    As of December 2004, we are releasing the parser under a new license; the license allows unrestricted use in commercial applications, and is also compatible with the GNU GPL (General Public License). You can view the license here. We are also releasing version 4.1b, which is identical to version 4.1 (released in 2000) except that the licensing statements reflect the new license.

    Sun's license for OpenOffice is LGPL
    http://www.openoffice.org/license.html [openoffice.org]
    • How does Sun's license affect using LinkGrammer?

      You are of course perfectly free to make sonamchauhanoffice, incorporating code from openoffice.org and linkgrammar.

      However, because Sun bases its proprietary StarOffice on openoffice, code where the copyright can't be assigned to sun for relicensing is unlikely to make it into their repository.
  • Eh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DrXym (126579) on Saturday October 15, 2005 @12:28PM (#13797664)
    OpenOffice is LGPL'd and makes use of Mozilla, Java, Python and no doubt a large swathe of other libs and utilities. I don't see how the licence has been an impediment thus far.

    I'd be more concerned that if it were GPL'd that it couldn't use some or all of the above. Now arguably, OO does need to shed some pounds so if it dumped Python and / or Java that might be no bad thing, but that's a different topic altogether.

  • Oh, the hypocrisy... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by crazy blade (519548)

    ...mod me flamebait, but I can't help myself. So, what's happening here is that:

    The submitter praises GNOME's premier word processor in that it can surpass OpenOffice.org because it is GPL'ed, whereas the inflexible LGPL license of OpenOffice.org cripples development.

    And what license is it that GNOME's distributed under?

    Anyways, I don't get why the licensing issue was brought up, but let me state my congrats to the Abiword, GNOME and OpenOffice.org teams for their good work!

    • by Anthony Liguori (820979) on Saturday October 15, 2005 @01:42PM (#13797983) Homepage
      The submitter praises GNOME's premier word processor in that it can surpass OpenOffice.org because it is GPL'ed, whereas the inflexible LGPL license of OpenOffice.org cripples development.

      No, I think you (and most posters) misunderstand what the licensing issue is. The problem with OpenOffice.org is *not* that it's LGPL'd, but rather that for code to be integrated into OpenOffice.org, Sun requires you turn your copyright over to Sun. Very few existing Open Source projects are willing to do that--because frankly it's evil. This makes it very difficult for OpenOffice.org to integrate anything that isn't home grown.
      • by uhoreg (583723) on Saturday October 15, 2005 @02:56PM (#13798313) Homepage
        Sun requires you turn your copyright over to Sun.

        The FSF also requires you to assign your copyright to them if you contribute to some of their projects (such as emacs -- I know; I've contributed to emacs). And you have to sign a document saying that your work is your own, and that you have the right to assign copyright to them (i.e. your employer has no claim over the code). This is to make sure that any code that goes in is legit, or at least that if they get sued for copying someone's code, they can point to the document and say that it wasn't their fault.

        Of course, the free software community trusts the FSF a lot more than than they trust Sun.

  • by Eric Smith (4379) * <eric@brouhahaPASCAL.com minus language> on Saturday October 15, 2005 @12:29PM (#13797672) Homepage Journal
    ...have a GOOD grammar checker?
  • Even though GPL'd code can't be committed to OpenOffice.Org's main LGPL'd code base. Anyone can release a GPL only fork of the office suite with a built in GPL grammer checker.

    LGPL code can be inserted into GPL code but not the other way around.

  • Since the OSS "office" programs are moving to a common file format (.odt), having a healthy competition between the various offerings may end helping all of them. The more people who have a reason to switch away from M$-Orifice to an ODT application, the better the "market" is for all ODT applications. I'd really like to see the word processor "market" evolve to where the text editor "market" has been for the last couple of decades where there is still real choice in editors (my fave being NEdit).

    Perhaps t

  • Equation Editing (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SCHecklerX (229973) <thecaptain@captaincodo.net> on Saturday October 15, 2005 @12:37PM (#13797702) Homepage
    I dunno about MathML, since I've never used it, but the equation editor that comes with OO.org models itself after what Word Perfect had back in the early 90's. Much much more efficient to type equations this way vs. markup or gui tools. For example:
    x=sqrt((a+b)over(c+d))
    would render as you expect (dunno how to show the result easily in slashdot, sorry). Very powerful stuff, especially if you are trying to type equations from notes and such...no need to take your fingers off the keyboard.
  • by ChaoticCoyote (195677) on Saturday October 15, 2005 @12:38PM (#13797708) Homepage

    I'm a pro writer, so I live inside word processors. AbiWord is my tool of choice these daya on both Linux and Windows.

    I turn off real-time grammar checking, because it distracts me from the act of writing. In my experience, grammar checkers are often incorrect in their analysis, particularly if you write fiction and technical works (as I do.) Unusual terminology and structure can give these checkers indigestion.

    That isn't to say that I don't use grammar checkers. When I've completed a draft of an article, I often run the grammar checker manually to make certain I haven't missed anything obvious or silly. But I can't stand them in "real time", where I feel like I'm back in high school with the teacher looking over my shoulder and nit-picking every keystroke.

    • ``In my experience, grammar checkers are often incorrect in their analysis''

      And they probably always will be. Languages aren't purely rational, and this makes grammar checking an AI-hard problem. To fully judge whether the grammar of a sentence is correct, the checker would have to understand the sentence (at least partially). Even if you could get the checker to perfectly judge whether something is grammatical, there are always ungrammatical utterances you'll want to write.

      Of course, it still helps to catc
      • Of course, it still helps to catch the common cases of people mixing up 'it\'s' and 'its', 'you\'re' and 'your', 'then' and 'than', etc. etc.
        Heh. Common cases? Let's see... I wonder what you do for a living... puts(";-)");
    • by PCM2 (4486)

      I turn off real-time grammar checking, because it distracts me from the act of writing.

      True, true. Actually no -- speaking as a professional writer myself, I don't turn off grammar checking because most of my sentences pass with no difficulty. Typically when I see something with a wavy green underline, I stop and ask, "Really? Really really?" And then I think about it for a second -- which is good -- and then decide, "No, that's BS, this thing is totally braindead," and continue.

      But that's just it, tho

      • pcm2: But that's just it, though, you and I are professional writers. I want to hear from Joe Business Manager.

        I have yet to see any evidence that non-pro writers use spell checkers, much less grammar checkers. I just had a contract come in from a Big Name Company, and it's riddled with strange errors; I've received business and professional e-mails that make me cringe. My feeling is that many (most?) non-pros really don't care if their prose stinks. ;)

  • Abiword owns (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pardasaniman (585320) on Saturday October 15, 2005 @12:40PM (#13797713) Journal
    I just thought I'd drop my 2 cents and say that abiword is my favourite word processor.. It is so easy to use and fits in GNOME like a glove. OpenOffice really is a big mess code-wise. Abiword has much more volounteers than Openoffice. (OpenOffice devs are paid) I think in the long-run, Abiword (and Koffice) will be the office tools of choice because of the fact that they can move faster with their smaller code-base, as well as rely on other GPL tools more. Abiword is lightweight, and as a result keeps less prone the upgrade cycle. (YES, I'm referring to the linux upgrade cycle, the kind where applications continue to get bigger, and new computers are required.. It appears better than the windows one, but it is still an annoyance when I think that my 900Mhz computer has the same function which my 166mhz one used to. )
  • by RoLi (141856) on Saturday October 15, 2005 @12:40PM (#13797718)
    Is there a plan or rough schedule for OpenDocument support?
  • AbiWord would be awesome -- moreso now that it has a grammar checker -- if it didn't crash almost every time I try to open or save a document, and sometimes just because it feels like crashing randomly. Then there's the fact that no distro has the latest AbiWord build in its package tree.

    And to those who don't think a grammar checker is necessary: you don't do much writing, do you? Grammar checkers will not -- and never claimed to -- make anyone into a world-class writer. What they WILL do is catch typos th
    • Then there's the fact that no distro has the latest AbiWord build in its package tree. What are you talking about ? I'm apt-getting it as I write (version 2.4.1) on Ubuntu 5.10
    • Have you tried 2.4? Each release includes tons of bug fixes in addition to the features that we tout. In fact, if you don't install the grammar checking and other new plugins, the core of AbiWord has had many improvements on its own.

      Disclaimer: I'm the Win32 packager for AbiWord.
  • by mh101 (620659) on Saturday October 15, 2005 @01:30PM (#13797926)
    ...any chance of integrating the grammar-checking code into Slashdot? Or would the code melt-down from an overload after being installed here for more than 5 minutes?
  • by Free_Trial_Thinking (818686) on Saturday October 15, 2005 @01:37PM (#13797957)
    Here's an idea for a grammar checker, I believe it would be a version of a Markov chain.

    Take a huge corpus of grammatically correct text, use it to generate tables of what words follow each other. Then check the user's text against the tables. If your text isn't in there, then warn user that it may not be gramatical.

    Discuss, discuss

    P.S. Patent Pending ...

    (ha ha just kidding, patents aren't for software, silly rabbit)
  • "We can can do this because we're a pure GPL'd application" (my italics).
  • Nice to see (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Saturday October 15, 2005 @02:37PM (#13798221)
    I'm glad to see Abiword getting some attention. I've always preferred it (and it's natural associate, Gnumeric) to OpenOffice. They're faster, more responsive, and IMO just plain do a better job than OO.

    Abiword has a native Aqua port as well (wish Gnumeric did).
  • by mysticgoat (582871) on Saturday October 15, 2005 @03:05PM (#13798357) Homepage Journal

    An english grammar checker in OpenOffice will be useful when the english language acquires a good grammar. I don't see that happening for quite a while. In over 400 years of "modern english", it hasn't happened yet.

    In fact, since the number of people who now speak english as a second language greatly exceeds the number of native english speakers, the diversity of acceptable english expression is increasing. English has always been very open to importing new sentence structures as well as vocabulary from other sources. English is a healthy growing language, that is changing almost from year to year as it absorbs and transmogrifies what these new english speakers bring to the party.

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