Friday, April 1, 2011

Abiword with ODT and Generic Track Changes

I've been hacking support for the proposed generic track changes for ODF into abiword recently. This means that you can generate and store documents with many revisions and see who added/deleted and modified what in which revision over time. Kind of handy for sending your professor the latest design for your perpetual motion machine and being able to see where they think your design might be too optimistic ;)

Anyway, both the branch of abiword and a test suite are up on github to allow anyone to grab it, prod it in the guts, and see how things might operate. Be aware that this is a work in progress right now, and I might commit stuff which is still a work in progress.

The code is at
The test suite is at

The following instructions will build abiword from the change tracking code on github. The build will install into /tmp and will not interfere with an abiword which is installed from your Linux distribution's package system. Both abiword builds will be available to you.

$ mkdir tmp
$ cd ./tmp
$ git clone
$ cd ./odf-2011-track-changes-git-svn
$ ./
$ ./configure --enable-debug \
--enable-collab-backend-service \
--enable-clipart \
--enable-templates \
--prefix=/tmp/abiword-install-odfct \
$ time nice make -j5
$ make install
$ /tmp/abiword-install-odfct/bin/abiword

The download can be done in reasonable time over ADSL, on an Intel Q6600 the make took about 4 minutes. You might like to adjust the -j on the make line to suit your core count. Notice that since everything is installed into /tmp you don't have to run the install as root either. You will get debugging output in the console when using abiword built this way, but that's what you want when running dev code right?

Starting to use change tracking is really easy now too. Though I need to convince somebody who can create clipart to make new icons for revision handling, so the arrow in the below points to the main toolbar icon you want to know about. The icon directly to the right of it will let you select a revision to see from a list.

At first, the additional icons to the right of will not be visible to you as they are only useful when you are using track changes. Each time you click the icon with the arrow pointed at it, abiword will ask to to name a new revision. This makes it nice and simple to create a 5-10 revision test document to play with ODT and Change tracking. Note that abiword can save the change tracking information in it's native abw format as well as ODT. In fact, that is what the core of the test suite linked above does; convert between these formats and make sure that nothing is lost in translations. This way you get to know that abiword can write *and* read back its ODT files without loosing precious information.

No comments: