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 AbiWord - Frequently Asked Questions

Open Source Strategy Overview

What is Open Source software?
Open Source software differs from traditional proprietary software in that the source code (the underlying instructions which make the software function) is available as well as the application itself. For most users, the availability of source code is of no immediate benefit; however everyone benefits from higher quality software produced as a result of many individuals making improvements to the original software. For more information about the concept of Open Source, visitwww.opensource.org

Why is it free?
We want everyone to use our product.

AbiSource is not shareware. You are not obligated, morally, legally or otherwise, to pay for using our products, ever. Please use our software, and please pass copies to everyone you know so that they can use it as well.

We have no hidden agenda.

What's the catch?
No catch. You don't have to make any compromises. Our products are always being improved. Initial releases may come out with only the essentials, but as Open Source software matures, it becomes as full-featured as the offerings from the leading proprietary vendors. Releasing our software as Open Source allows us to attain a higher level of quality than our closed source counterparts.

Will it work on my computer?
AbiWord works on several different kinds of computers. Versions are available for Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows NT. Versions for Linux work with Intel, Alpha, and LinuxPPC architectures. There are also versions available for BeOS, Solaris and FreeBSD. Currently, AbiWord does not work on a Macintosh.

Is there support?
In the future, AbiSource will provide official technical support for all of our products. Currently, support is available by signing up for the AbiWord user mailing list. Send a message to abiword-user-request@abisource.com with "subscribe" in the message body. To reduce spam traffic to this list, only its members can submit messages; you need to subscribe to it to send mail. We also host archives of this list.

The AbiWord user mailing list is designed to facilitate discussion among users of AbiWord. The list is monitored by various AbiSource project members. You may use this list to:

  • post questions,
  • suggest features, or
  • carry on nearly any discussion which is directly related to AbiWord.

Please remember that this mailing list is a public forum and your postings may be read by many people.

AbiWord Product Specifics.

What features are available in AbiWord?
Currently, there is quick list of features on the products page. For an extensive look at AbiWord features, you can check out the AbiWord feature matrix. We also have a similar document cross-referenced by operating system Try AbiWord and see for yourself. It's a fast download, and the software is very easy to use.

Some menu items say to add code at a certain line. How do I do that?
This message is an indication that the dialog in question has not been added yet. As an Open Source project, everyone is encouraged to join in the development effort. This message is a reminder to those knowledgeable in programming languages such as C that their contributions are wanted. If you don't understand the specific instructions in this message, don't worry about it; be patient and these features will continue to appear with each successive release.

How do I change languages in AbiWord?
AbiWord can work with menus and strings translated into many different languages by changing an option. As there is no options dialog yet, changing languages requires hand-editing of the options file. For Linux and FreeBSD, this file is in your home directory in a hidden directory named .AbiSuite. For Windows, the file is usually in the Windows directory in a directory named AbiSuite. The file itself is named AbiWord.profile. Modify this file as follows:

  • Find all occurences of the word _builtin_ and change it to custom
  • Find three lines that typicall end with values="En-US". These three lines begin with MenuLabelSet, StringSet, and ToolbarLabelSet. Change each of these three lines to a different value, such as Fr-FR for french.
  • Save the document, and relaunch AbiWord. All menus and strings should now be in your language of choice.
Currently supported languages are
  • Ca-ES: Catalan
  • Cs-CZ: Czech
  • Da-DK: Danish
  • Du-NL: Dutch
  • Fi-FI: Finnish
  • Fr-FR: French
  • De-DE: German
  • Hu-HU: Hungarian
  • Id-ID: Indonesian
  • It-IT: Italian
  • Nb-NO: Norwegian Bokmål
  • Nn-NO: Norwegian Nynorsk
  • Pl-PL: Polish
  • Pt-PT: Portuguese
  • Sv-SV: Swedish

I like using AbiWord in my native language. Why do I still see some English in the product?
Translations for AbiWord are provided by conscientious individuals all over the world who enjoy using AbiWord in their native language, just as you. As AbiWord continues to develop new features, occasionally there is a small time lag between when a new dialog or menu appears, and when all the new translated words can be submitted. You can help the translation effort by contacting the person responsible for your particular translation. To do so, look in your AbiWord directory for a folder named "strings". Find the file associated with your language in that directory, and open it with an editor such as vi or notepad. At the top of that page, you will find the name and email of the person who is maintaining the translation.

If I type in another language, how do I have spell check work for that language?
Your AbiWord distribution contains a file called american.hash. This is a dictionary of English words. By replacing this dictionary with one from your language of choice, spell check will then mark only those words misspelled for the language you choose. A comprehensive list of available dictionaries is at http://fmg-www.cs.ucla.edu/geoff/ispell-dictionaries.html

When I try to install AbiWord on Windows, I get an error about missing COMCTL32.DLL.
COMCTL32.DLL is a Windows library AbiWord needs to run. Some older versions of Windows did not have this library. You can get it free from Microsoft at http://www.microsoft.com/msdownload/ieplatform/ie/comctrlx86.asp.

How do I use True Type fonts for AbiWord on Linux?
AbiWord supports TrueType fonts in GNU/Linux. However your system must already have a properly configured TrueType font server. To find out how to configure your font server to use TrueType fonts, or how to install a separate TrueType font server, please read the LDP Font HOWTO.
In particular the section Making Fonts Available to X.

Please also refer to the "Customizing Fonts for Unix in AbiWord" Document.
Be aware that fonts will only appear in AbiWord if they exist in or are symlinked to the AbiWord fonts directory: /usr/share/AbiSuite/fonts

Certain font names are critical to the operation of AbiWord, notably "Times New Roman". If you want to use Microsoft's core fonts in AbiWord and the core fonts are already properly installed in a separate directory, such as (this is just an example): /usr/share/fonts/MSCoreFonts
Then to make those fonts available to AbiWord, delete or move the current fonts in /usr/share/AbiSuite/fonts and type (as root): ln -s /usr/share/fonts/MSCoreFonts/* /usr/share/AbiSuite/fonts If the fonts are already properly installed it doesn't appear necessary to update the fonts.dir and fonts.scale files (i.e. they can be left as symlinks). AbiWord should now detect the Microsoft core fonts. If you want to know how to install Microsoft's core fonts, which are freely available and redistributable with certain restrictions, download them from here: http://www.microsoft.com/truetype/fontpack/
Microsoft stipulates you can only distribute the fonts as Windows executables. It is fortunate that decoding these executables is possible under Linux: http://www.kyz.uklinux.net/cabextract.php3

Once all the TrueType fonts are extracted into a (separate) directory of your choosing you just (this explanation may be Redhat 6.2+ specific):
(a) execute ttmkfdir (the True Type make font directory)
(b) execute "chkfontpath --add (directory of the fonts)", or edit /etc/X11/fs/config manually.
(c) Optional: Put the Microsoft core fonts at the top of the directories list in /etc/X11/fs/config.

Then restart the font server: /etc/rc.d/init.d/xfs restart The Microsoft core fonts will now be properly installed and you can make the fonts available to AbiWord by symlinking as explained above.

I get an error message "AbiWord could not load [-*-Times New Roman-regular-r-*-*-*-0-*-*-*-*-*-*]"

If you recieve the message "AbiWord could not load the following font or fontset from the X Window System display server, [-*-Times New Roman-regular-r-*-*-*-0-*-*-*-*-*-*]" or something similar try the following, add the line Load "type1" to your /etc/X11/XF86Config or XF86Config-4 file.You will need to do this as root.

You may also want to try the following command if you still have problems
/usr/sbin/chkfontpath -a /usr/share/AbiSuite/fonts. Again, you will need to do this as root.

How do I enable vi and Emacs key bindings in AbiWord?
For the hardcore computer geeks out there, AbiWord is built with the ability to select arbitrary keybindings. First, you must enable this feature, which is currently awkward. You will need to edit the file ~/.AbiSuite/AbiWord.Profile. If there is a line in the Select tag reading scheme="_builtin_", you should change the _builtin_ to _custom_. If the file does not have a Scheme tag with the line name="_custom_", you should add <Scheme name="_custom_" /> to the file. Now, add a line reading KeyBindingsCycle="1" to this tag before the closing /. You can switch between these different modes by pressing F12. The status bar will indicate the current keybinding mode is in use. Please note that not all vi or emacs keys are implemented, but most are. If there is a particular vi or emacs keybinding that you find is missing, remember that everyone is encouraged to join in the development process, and this might be a chance for you to make a contribution.

What features are planned for future versions of Abiword?
We are planning to release a 1.0 version soon, and that will have several more features that users are eagerly awaiting. For a more complete view, see our

Abiword has crashed! What can I do?
If you are using the Linux version, then it will have automatically made a backup of your file prior to crashing. To use the backup, open another Abiword, and open the back file. Please also submit details of your crash to
Bugzilla. Be sure to follow the Bug Writing Guidelines, at the very least, tell us what you were last doing when AbiWord crashed, and, after you file the bug, attach an AbiWord document we can use to reproduce the crash if applicable.

My imported Microsoft Word(TM) document has some formating errors. Whats wrong?
We try very hard to make our import filters perfect, but they can sometimes make errors, as this type of document is remarkably difficult to import flawlessly. Please contact us on our
website so that we can try and resolve the problem. You also might want to check to see if there is a new version of Abiword available, as we are improving our import filters all the time. It is recommended that unless you really need to save in the *.doc format, that you save or request the file as *.rtf format, as this is much more portable. Saving as a *.doc is planned for a future release.

Now that StarOffice is going to be GPLed, how does that affect you?
We will try to work with them as closely as possible, in order to get a oommon file format. However, we will keep working, in order to provide a small and functional word processor.

Is it possible to import KWord documents?
Not yet. This is planned for a future release. We hope to use a file format compatable with Abiword, KWord and StarWord.

Is it possible to compile AbiWord on Windows?
Yes. If you want to try out the latest and greatest features or bug fixes the devolopers are working on, or would like to help with AbiWord for Windows development, compiling on Windows is possible. You must have Microsoft Visual C++ 5.0 or greater and the Cygwin Tools. For detailed instructions see the Building AbiWord on Windows HOWTO. Be sure to follow the instructions carefully.


Questions not in the FAQ
If there are any questions which are not answered in this FAQ, please visit the AbiSource site.

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