It’s become typical to prepare at least as much money for Windows and Office as for the actual new office PC when buying one. These costs have gone a bit out of hand, especially in our shaky economic environment, which has caused an expansion in applications and internet services offering (some of) the functionality of the benchmark Microsoft Office suite. We’ve already reviewed some of them, and one of the latest additions to the fold is Office Suite 2012, made by the Chinese Kingsoft. According to the latter company, Office Suite has been present on the market for more than 20 years already, but we can’t say we’ve noticed its rise in the overall market share (except maybe in China).
Kingsoft Office Suite 2012 has one free and two commercial versions, or as they call them: Free, Standard and Professional. They’re supposedly tailored to fit every budget. Unlike most similar Office suites, Kingsoft hasn’t bothered to offer a fully-fledged solution, as the latter should contain an e-mail client and a database manager in addition to the standard text, spreadsheet and presentation editing applications. However, this doesn’t imply reduced functionality, as serious database work is never done in Access anyway, and there’s a plethora of free e-mail clients that do such a good job at managing your e-mails that they match, if not surpass, Outlook.
As for supported formats, the situation is similar to that of other free solutions. Saving files in the latest Microsoft formats (.docx, .xlsx and .pptx) is still absent, but opening and reading of all sorts of documents is no problem at all, albeit with a varying degree of compatibility. Documents are displayed in tabs, which greatly enhances document manipulation. The export-to-PDF option is present, as well as support for macros and VBA (commercial versions only), and of course, spellcheck.
The first application we tested was the Word clone, named Writer. We don’t mean to insult anyone by using the word “clone”, but if someone changed the name and appearance of the desktop icon, we definitely wouldn’t notice the difference between the two programs. Writer has managed to copy their role model’s interface to the last bit; the free version offers an interface identical to Word 2003, while commercial versions add the Ribbon, a feature of Word 2007 and 2010. These two interface options are available in other Kingsoft Office applications too.
Our test document in .doc format had a header and footer, images, bits of text in various colours and fonts, WordArt objects, as well as an elementary chart. Bar the small error in colour display in the footer, we wouldn’t be able to notice any difference between Word and Writer, which shows that the Chinese team have mastered the translation of the old .doc format very well. Even LibreOffice Writer managed to get the footer colour wrong, but the latter also mishandled the WordArt objects, something that Kingsoft’s competitor managed to pull off flawlessly.
The next challenge came in the form of a .docx document, with identical content as the previous file. Writer got the footer colour wrong again and was unable to display three images inside the chart, but still fared much better than LibreOffice Writer, which failed this test comprehensively – it couldn’t display the image chart, the WordArt object, the image next to it, text formatting was modified, and the footer colour different. Kingsoft Writer proves to be much more precise than the corresponding LibreOffice application, but not flawless; it’s obvious that there will have to be more work on the new, as of yet insufficiently supported, .docx format.
It’s clear that Kingsoft’s programmers oriented most of their attention to the text processing application (admittedly by far the most used one), which left the other two segments less optimised. Opening an .xls spreadsheet shows several issues compared to the original Excel format. Kingsoft Spreadsheets positioned our image/graph/text box/angled text spreadsheet in a rather imprecise manner. Furthermore, it seemed as if the application had “run out” of colour, as the cell backgrounds didn’t keep their original colour, instead switching to the usual white. The angled red relief text was displayed as black and in normal orientation, with no relief texture whatsoever, while formatting of some parts of the second text was slightly off. LibreOffice Calc gave an almost identical result as Kingsoft Spreadsheets, but it managed to display the angled text at an angle, albeit without the relief and original colour.
The identical spreadsheet in .xlsx format brought up the same issues in Kingsoft Spreadsheets as its .xls counterpart, with an additional problem in the form of graph style, which looked flat and with thinner lines. LibreOffice Calc was closer to the original result once more, but both free applications can only be said to have fulfilled the very basic requirements in spreadsheet management and mathematical functions, while fine formatting and graphically rich elements are still inevitably tied to Excel.
Another solid application from the Kingsoft suite is Presentation. Its testing required a .ppt presentation consisting of a single slide with images, charts, links, sound clips and boxed text. Kingsoft Presentation managed to display the said presentation identically to Microsoft’s PowerPoint, while LibreOffice Impress disappointed once more, failing to display one image and the boxed text. If you’re really into splitting hairs, the only flaw on the Kingsoft side is that the footer date was displayed in a changed format (dd/mm/yyyy instead of dd.mm.yyyy), but this probably has more to do with the settings of the application itself.
The newer .pptx format made us regret all the nice words we said on account of Presentation. It’s incredible that the same program that handled .ppt almost perfectly would make .pptx look so criminally bad. The chart display fails in every way, with even the font getting the appearance of something used in a cartoon rather than a presentation, and we’re talking about Arial! Certain images couldn’t be displayed, and the blue angled text with a texture was displayed horizontally, with a replaced font and in white. Unfortunately, too many errors for the program to get a passing grade. For comparison’s sake, LibreOffice Impress displayed all elements, even the image that it “forgot” to load in the previous test. Its only issues were the wrong footer position, the blue angled text with a texture (which turned white and without any texturing), as well as chart colour and formatting.
One interesting fact is that Kingsoft seems to be following the latest trends closely, so they’ve released a free version of their suite for Android devices. All three applications from the desktop version are present – Writer, Presentation and Spreadsheets, with a large number of functions that may come in handy in the relatively limited working environment of a smartphone. As far as formats are concerned, it’s possible to edit .doc, .docx and .txt text files, .xls and .xlsx spreadsheets, .ppt and .pptx presentations; .pdf files are supported solely in read-only mode. User comments are overwhelmingly positive, and the average grade given to the app is rather high (4.4 out of 5), so we definitely recommend this Office suite to anyone who needs to view and edit documents frequently while on the go, as long as their phone is running on Android 2.1 or higher.
Kingsoft Office Suite is a pretty good choice if you don’t care much about a large number of additional tools, database management, e-mail client and general interoperability between applications offered by Microsoft Office (and to a certain extent, LibreOffice). Low minimum hardware requirements (Pentium II, 128 MB RAM, Windows 2000) tells us that Kingsoft Office Suite is fitter for older computers, such as those largely in use in private and state-run companies alike.
|Name||Office Suite 2012|
|Pack content||Writer, Spreadsheets, Presentation|
|Price||Free; 49.95 USD (Standard); 69.95 USD (Professional)|
|Size||82.5 - 101.9 MB|
The star of this suite is definitely Writer, which works best and is the most decent replacement for Word, while Presentation and Spreadsheets make it through (just!) and are able to cater for the needs of an average user. If we compare this one with the competing free suite, LibreOffice, we have to give advantage to our Chinese buddies from Kingsoft, as their products have better general compatibility with Microsoft Office formats, open much faster, consume fewer system resources and take up less space, offering more functionality on the whole for the same amount of money, i.e. none. Of course, we’re referring entirely to the free version of the suite, as we believe that the ribbon interface, macro support and several fine-tune settings are hardly worth the 70$ needed to purchase the Professional version.