MandrakeSoft adds office software to Linux

The French distributor upgrades its Linux offering, including new Microsoft Office and Outlook clones

MandrakeSoft released a new version of its Linux operating system distribution for servers and workstations on Thursday, with improvements to make the software more stable and flexible, as well as easier to install and use.

The company is one of several companies looking to extend Linux's presence in large organisations like government agencies and enterprises, while also pushing to make it a viable alternative to Microsoft's Windows operating system on the desktops of consumers. Mandrake 8.1, launched last autumn, was considered a major step in the right direction for Linux ease-of-use.

The new version 8.2 is a relatively minor step forward, but adds enterprise features such as encrypted file system support and a new remote desktop utility, as well as smoothing the way for end users with redesigned system configuration tools and updated applications. A new wizard called MandrakeFirstTime is aimed at simplifying the process of setting up a desktop and entering email settings.

When the boxed product ships in April, version 8.2 will be the first Mandrake Linux version to include the office suite StarOffice 6.0 and the Outlook clone Evolution 1.02, both of which are considered to be significantly improved over earlier editions.

"The features and unparalleled ease of use make 8.2 an incredibly efficient and affordable alternative to UNIX and Windows 2000," said Jacques Le Marois, chief executive of MandrakeSoft, in a statement.

The Mandrake release arrives as the company says it is struggling with short-term financial difficulties. MandrakeSoft recently announced the Mandrake Users Club and Corporate Club, accepting subscriptions to contribute toward the company's bottom line, a step taken by many Web sites that have found it impossible to exist on advertising alone. MandrakeSoft said in a statement last week that its troubles are the result of "the 'sins' of previous management", but insisted, "we firmly believe that if the entire community of users is mobilised we can easily get past this current situation."

Other key features include a "minimal installation mode" that fits the core operating system into 65MB of hard disk space, a new "rescue mode" that remounts an earlier version of the system in the event of a catastrophic failure, and the latest stable versions of the KDE and Gnome graphical environments. Release Candidate 2 of KDE 3.0 is also included; Mandrake competitor SuSE is planning to include the full version of KDE 3.0 in its own Linux distribution, arriving next month. The Mandrake Control Centre, a graphical interface for changing system settings, has also been retooled, MandrakeSoft said.

Mandrake 8.2 uses version 2.4.18 of the Linux kernel, with improved FireWire support, and support for USB 2, ATA133 and Geforce3. XFree86 4.2 expands graphics card support. Version 2.2.4 of the GNU C library (glibc) is included.

Under the terms of the open-source licence on which Linux is based, MandrakeSoft is offering the core software for free download from its Web site, and is taking preorders for the boxed version, which includes proprietary drivers, additional software and manuals.

The ProSuite Edition will cost $149 (about £104) plus $15 shipping, while the PowerPack Edition will cost $69 plus $15 shipping. MandrakeSoft offers discounts for subscribers.


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