AbiWord: Support Expectations

As AbiWord evolves, it becomes a serious alternative to commercial products for more and more people. We see the download counts increase for each new release, and the volume of traffic on the mailing lists is growing. That's lovely, of course. We work on AbiWord as a volunteer effort, so whenever a new user finds "our baby" worthwile, we rejoice.

Unfortunately, it's not all roses we receive. With wider public interest and more users, there's bound to be people who are disappointed in AbiWord. We believe, however, that it's only because most newcomers do not realize what to expect - hopefully this text will set that right.

The Development Team

Many users probably don't realize it, but the development team driving AbiWord forward is very small for the complex product that a word processor is.

The main force behind AbiWord is delivered by fewer than a dozen people. Consider that we do support, web site maintenance, documentation, feature enhancements, debugging, and maintenance of 3-4 different platform frontends (a large part of the AbiWord core can be used on all platforms, but the visual frontend differs between platforms such as Windows and Linux).

There are more people (probably another dozen) pitching in with translation, release engineering (preparing AbiWord for users), BugZilla triaging ("BugZilla" is the bug database used to keep track of known problems, "triaging" the process of prioritizing/verifying bugs) and other necessary tasks.

So we're always looking for new people to help. And while (unfortunately) a common misconception is that a project like AbiWord would only benefit from more programmers, it is not the case! Whatever your ability, we'll be able to use it. If you are interested in spending a little time making AbiWord a better word processor, please don't hesitate to join the developer mailing list and offer your services.

AbiWord Features and Polish

As AbiWord is getting more powerful and usable, we attract more and more users who expect the same feature set and product polish as they'll find in a commercial product such as Microsoft Word. Which is, in a simple word, absurd.

Not that we don't want to get there, you understand, but it's simply not a reasonable comparison. Microsoft has spent who knows how many man-hours worth of development on Word (probably more than a million), and can spend a fortune on getting good documentation written, new features, debugging, installation process made smooth and generally polish the thing till it shines. In comparison, AbiWord development is driven solely by a small group's volunteer effort. We work on AbiWord after work and in the weekends when "life" doesn't demand our attention elsewhere. We do it for fun.

Do not read that as an excuse for why AbiWord lacks in comparison with other products. Do read it as an explanation for why you should expect nothing more from AbiWord than it actually delivers. We're sure you'll agree (after having your bias readjusted and mulling it over for a bit) that it's quite a lot you get, AbiWord being a free (zero cost) and open source word processor.


AbiWord releases are also put together by volunteers. This means that there's usually only prebuilt binaries available for a few select platforms. While we would like to see AbiWord prebuilts for all the platforms (and OS revisions) AbiWord runs on, it's simply not possible since the volunteers doing the release only have access to a subset of those platforms.

Specifically about library dependencies: depending on the volunteer's machine configuration, the AbiWord binary may require you to install additional or newer libraries before it will work. If so, the installation instructions should contain the necessary information for you to find those libraries. Please do not complain about the need for these libraries - just as you might dislike installing/upgrading the libraries, the volunteer doing the release may dislike removing/downgrading the libraries on her machine.

If you find that there are no prebuilt binaries for your platform/configuration, and are willing to help provide prebuilts for coming releases, please join the developer mailing list and offer your services. It is not a requirement that you are a programmer, but there may be a requirement for (commercial) development tools which not everyone would have access to. If you have the time and tools, we can probably guide you through the process, even if you don't have the knowledge.

Bugs and Feature Requests

If you find that AbiWord does not cater for your needs, please look in the BugZilla database to see if anyone has requested the feature you need, and put your vote on it.

If the issue is not mentioned, open a new Bug and state how you think AbiWord could become better (remember to use clear language; be specific and verbose in you description - we have a hard time reading minds). Please read this guide on writing good Bugs.

And please remember: a Bug helps us make AbiWord better (over time, not necessarily tomorrow!). Strongly languaged complaints and moaning on mailing lists, home pages, news groups, and other places does not (it does zap our enthusiasm though). The first and only place to file a complaint or feature request is in BugZilla. Do it anywhere else, and it will not reach the precious few who are willing to do anything about it!


You can join both the user and developer mailing lists and ask questions there. You can also ask for help on IRC, and you can file bug reports and feature requests in BugZilla. However, since support is also provided on a volunteer basis, you must be careful not to have unreasonable expectations: you cannot demand your questions to be answered or bugs to be fixed. There are few things more annoying than some yahoo telling you to address this or that issue before noon tomorrow (or he'll stop using AbiWord - what a loss!). No, we're like most other people: we prefer to please those who appreciate our efforts! In short: the people volunteering time to AbiWord only have so much time available, and they alone decide how to spend it. Please respect their choice.

When that is said, you should know that the mailing list and the IRC channel are friendly places - few requests go without reply. And we also do our best to fix all bugs reported, just as we strive to implement requested features. But as should be evident from the number of open bugs in BugZilla, there's not enough hours in the day to allow us to address all issues in a timely manner.

Due to the massive public interest in this text, I've decided to add this copyright footer. Everyone should feel free to use the text for their own project, with suitable changes. Thanks, Jesper.

This page is Copyright (c)  2001 Jesper Skov
   Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document
   under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1
   or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation;
   with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts and with
   no Back-Cover Texts.
   A copy of the license is available at http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html.