Updated: August 10, 2013
Kingsoft Office is a Chinese cross-platform office suite, running on Windows, Linux and Android. Most people are probably not aware of this product, as it has mostly catered to the Chinese market, in Chinese, for a long while, under a name of WPS Office. Branded KSOffice or KSO, and with English support, it is slowly making its way worldwide.
I decided to have a look and see whether it can bring merit to the somewhat troublesome office market, dominated mostly by Microsoft Office. And while alternatives are good and true, the big problem remains the compatibility between formats and sharing files with clueless people. Then again, new things can sometimes be quite interesting.
I tested on Linux Mint Nadia, as it turns out. Finding the software is not the easiest, because of the lack of searchability of Chinese content on standard English search pages. The software homepage is nice and dandy, but you will struggle to find the Linux version there easily. Moreover, there are free and pro versions available, the latter with a nice price tag attached to it.Both Kingsoft Office Suite 2013 (version 9.x) and 2012 (version 8.x) are available, with the last year's release being cheaper, if you opt for the pro version. This review features the latest 9.x, which has only recently become public. Moreover, we have already seen this software in action in the office suite comparison article featured in the Netrunner Magazine, but now, it's time to elaborate.
After you download the installer, run it. At the moment, you only get a 32-bit Debian installer available, so your testing and fun will probably be limited to Debian or Ubuntu and such like. Furthermore, you will also have to install several 32-bit libraries, the same we did in Skype and Steam, to get this going. But it should be fine. You will be asked to choose the interface language. Notice the funny double word confirmation buttons. Finally, when you fire up the program, depending on the fonts you have, your system may complain about some of them missing and such.
I have to admit Kingsoft feels and looks very nice. It is fast and snappy. It also comes with a sleek tabbed interface, with the welcome page beckoning you to download online templates, somewhat like Microsoft Office 2013. You also have links to the support center and forum, and you can search around for what you want or need.
Kingsoft Office boasts a very much Microsoft-like ribbon interface, with would-be contextual menus. I have to say the implementation here feels even better than the original, even though I find the whole idea simply counterproductive.
You also get two types of menus - one the big, chunky drop-down system-like menu, with quick access to some of the basic functions, or the classic one, with options sorted into categories. It's a bit tricky clicking the right way and getting the one you want, but they are both there, whichever you choose.
But there's more. If you are not happy with the existing interface, you can easily change it. Click on the shirt-like icon in the top right corner, and you have the ability to switch between many skins. The skin manager offers classic and 2013 looks, the one called ongmani, which is quite like the Ribbon thingie, and there's rainbow, too. Moreover, you can make the menus look flat, like in Windows 8, so you get a plenty of customization.
However, you must restart the program for the skin change to take effect. The best part is, you can have different types of interface for the three programs. Writer, Spreadsheets and Presentation can all boasts different skins.
Overall, all three programs are crisp and clean and highly usable. You get a mix between pure Microsoft and something else, and it actually works a tad better than the original, so if you're well used to working with Microsoft products, you won't struggle here. Neither will LibreOffice users be disappointed. In this regard.
One not so strong side of this office suite is the limited range of file formats. For example, the Writer can save files in its own native one, text, HTML, as well as DOC, but not DOCX or ODT. Now, you can argue you do not need ODT, but DOCX seems like a must.
Kingsoft Office is a fairly refreshing departure from the more classic office suite scene. Then again, it is not. However, in trying to be much like Microsoft, this product achieves a strange fresh of uniqueness, a twist of improved ergonomics and better usability than the benchmark original. It's also fast, elegant and snappy, and highly customizable.
I am not sure if it's really that ripe for global markets, though. A lack of file format support is probably its biggest drawback, unless you aim lower, and do not need that much. Moreover, some tiny issues exist, and should be polished, to give an even smoother experience. All in all, not bad. Quite good. It will be interesting to see what happens. Perhaps this office suite might make the change where all others failed, and that is to break the Microsoft monopoly in this market. Or it might just remain a decent, uniquely identical alternative to the standard, familiar set of programs everyone uses. Dedoimedo out.