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13. How to generate something worth printing.

Here we get into a real rat's-nest of software. Basically, Linux can run many types of binaries with varying degrees of success: Linux/x86, Linux/Alpha, Linux/Sparc, Linux/foo, iBCS, Win16/Win32s (with dosemu and, someday, with Wine), Mac/68k (with Executor), and Java. I'll just discuss native Linux and common Unix software, except to say that WordPerfect for SCO, and quite probably other commercial word processing software, runs fine under Linux's iBCS emulation, as does anything in pure Java (the Corel Office for Java Preview looked quite promising).

For Linux itself, choices are mostly limited to those available for Unix in general:

13.1 Markup languages

Most markup languages are more suitable for large or repetitive projects, where you want the computer to control the layout of the text to make things uniform. Trying to make a pretty sign in a markup language would probably hurt...


This was one of the first Unix markup languages. Man pages are the most common examples of things formatted in *roff macros; many people swear by them, but nroff has, to me at least, a more arcane syntax than needed, and probably makes a poor choice for new works. It is worth knowing, though, that you can typeset a man page directly into postscript with groff. Most man commands will do this for you with man -t foo | lpr.


TeX, and the macro package LaTeX, are one of the most widely used markup languages on Unix. Technical works are frequently written in LaTeX because it greatly simplifies the layout issues and is still one of the few text processing systems to support mathematics both completely and well. TeX's output format is dvi, and is converted to PostScript or Hewlett Packard's PCL with dvips or dvilj.


There is at least one free sgml parser available for Unix and Linux; it forms the basis of Linuxdoc-SGML's homegrown document system. It can support other DTD's, as well.


Someone suggested that for simple projects, it may suffice to write it in HTML and print it out using Netscape. I disagree, but YMMV.

13.2 WYSIWYG Word Processors

There is no longer any shortage of WYSIWYG word processing software. Several complete office suites are available, including one that's free for personal use (StarOffice).


A German company is distributing StarOffice 3.1 (as opposed to the newer version 4) on the net free for Linux. This full-blown office suite has all the features you'd expect, and you can't beat the price. There's a mini-HOWTO out there which describes how to obtain and install it. It generates PostScript or PCL, so should work with most any printer that works otherwise on Linux.


LyX is a front-end to LaTeX which looks very promising. See the LyX Homepage for more information.

The Andrew User Interface System

AUIS includes ez, a WYSIWYG-style editor with most basic word processor features, HTML capabilities, and full MIME email and newsgroup support.

Commercial offerings

At least Caldera and Red Hat ship packages containing the usual office apps like a WYSIWYGish word processor and a spreadsheet. I would assume they do a dandy job, but I've never used them. I think Caldera also ships Sun's WABI, so you could probably run something like MS Office under that if you had to integrate with other folks' files.

Jeff Phillips <> uses Caldera's WordPerfect for Linux (on Slackware, of all things) and says that it works well. It apparently includes built-in printer support, as one would expect. Caldera should have info on

RedHat ships a suite called Applixware; you can find their web site at

Other vendors feel free to drop me a line with your offerings.

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