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This page is an overview of AbiWord. AbiWord is part of AbiSuite.



AbiWord is a free word processing program similar to Microsoft® Word. It is suitable for a wide variety of word processing tasks.

AbiWord is unique among word processors in its drive to become a fully cross-platform word processor. The source code is carefully written so that AbiWord will run on virtually any operating system with a minimum of time spent on porting. This combined with its support for internationalization (the ability to run AbiWord in many languages) enables AbiWord to provide Word Processing for everybody. It can import several file formats including OpenDocument ODT.

Native formats

Formats Supported Natively by AbiWord either currently or inprocess.

  • native AbiWord (.abw)
  • AbiWord template file (.awt)
  • GZipped AbiWord (.zabw)
  • Rich text format (.rtf) - include metadata support.
  • Rich text format for old applications (.rtf)
  • XHTML 1.0 (.html)
  • Microsoft Word (.doc) (limited support, better to use rtf)
  • Text (.txt, .text)
  • Encoded text (.txt, .text) - text with special characters beyond ascii. Most often these are accented characters.
  • Can save but not read LaTeX.

In addition plugins can be added to support other formats. Plugins includes support for PalmDOC which can be read on many eBook Readers.

ABW format

ABW is an XML compliant format. Files can be stored in XML or compressed into GZIP format. The extension is changed to reflect the storage method.


Here is the essential information about the Abiword file format:

  • Abiword (.abw) documents are XML—thus, you can view the document in a plain text editor and see the structure—see aside, below
  • Abiword (.zabw or .abw.gz) documents are Gzip Compressed XML.
  • the DTD is referenced inside every document, although the DTD is apparently very much out-of-date.

Unlike other XML versions used for documents this file format contains everything in one file including stylesheets and metadata.

Sample text

This document contains the text: This word is bold.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE abiword PUBLIC "-//ABISOURCE//DTD AWML 1.0 Strict//EN"
<abiword template="false" styles="unlocked"  
 xmlns:math="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML" xid-max="2" 
 xmlns:dc="http://purl.org/dc/elements/1.1/" fileformat="1.0"  
 xmlns:xlink="http://www.w3.org/1999/xlink" version="0.99.2" xml:space="preserve" 
 props="dom-dir:ltr; document-footnote-restart-section:0;  
 document-endnote-type:numeric; document-endnote-place-enddoc:1; 
 document-endnote-initial:1; lang:en-US; document-endnote-restart-section:0; 
 document-footnote-restart-page:0; document-footnote-type:numeric; 
 document-footnote-initial:1; document-endnote-place-endsection:0">

<m key="dc.format">application/x-abiword</m>
<m key="abiword.generator">AbiWord</m>
<history version="1" edit-time="62" last-saved="1228521545"  
<version id="1" started="1228521545" uid="b2ba6abc-c328-11dd-90a9-a11565aba146"  
 auto="0" top-xid="2"/>
<s type="P" name="Normal" followedby="Current Settings" 
 props="font-family:Times New Roman; margin-top:0pt; color:000000; 
 margin-left:0pt; text-position:normal; widows:2; font-style:normal; 
 text-indent:0in; font-variant:normal; font-weight:normal; margin-right:0pt; 
 font-size:12pt; text-decoration:none; margin-bottom:0pt; line-height:1.0; 
 bgcolor:transparent; text-align:left; font-stretch:normal"/>
<pagesize pagetype="Letter" orientation="portrait" width="8.500000" 
 height="11.000000" units="in" page-scale="1.000000"/>
<section xid="1" props="page-margin-footer:0.5in; page-margin-header:0.5in">
<p style="Normal" xid="2">
<c props="lang:en-US">This </c><c props="font-weight:bold; 
 lang:en-US">word</c><c props="lang:en-US"> is bold.</c></p>

Additional metadata will be added in Dublin core format if present. Support is similar to what MS Word has.


Identifying characters at the start of the file are:

  • Hex: 1F 8B 08 00 00 00 00 00 00 0B for ZABW

For more information

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