Review: Evermore Integrated Office 2004

EIOffice 2004
$149 with upgrades for 1 year or $398 with upgrades for 5 years
Evermore Software LLC
Wuxi City, China

Yes, there are still people trying to compete with Microsoft Office. Evermore Integrated Office is the result of one such project - a cross-platform Office suite (Windows/Linux) that is broadly Office compatible, written in Java, and priced to beat Microsoft's entry in the market. It's not as programmable or quite as polished as Microsoft Office, but for many users that won't matter a bit.

EIOffice stores documents in "binders" - workspaces that can contain any number of Word/Excel/PowerPoint equivalent documents. You can open your existing Microsoft Office documents and combine them into a binder, or of course you can create new documents. The user interface of EIOffice is for the most part an exact copy of Microsoft Office, down to look and feel and icons. Most users should feel right at home here.

There's no VBA programming, but there is a Java-based macro recorder and editor that serves a similar function. So even power user activities requiring simple programming aren't out of reach, though of course macros won't move back if you open the document in Microsoft Office.

I played with a variety of documents in EIOffice, and they all rendered fine. I also didn't find any difficulty in going the other direction - even embedded charts worked fine. You can also export to other formats including PDF and RTF.

There are various edge cases where EIOffice is a bit lacking in fit and finish. For example, in the document editor automatically converting single quotes to typographic quotes gave me the wrong typographic quotes. In the spreadsheet, hitting the Sum button at the bottom of a column of numbers didn't automatically fill in the range the way that Excel does. But by and large users won't have trouble adapting to these quirks instead of Microsoft's quirks.

The 2004 version adds a bunch of features to what EIOffice had in the box last year. These include a Science Editor with 1000+ insertable symbols, what-if analysis in spreadsheets, and increased compatability with external applications.

Overall, I think Evermore has chosen an uphill battle here; Microsoft is certainly the dominant player in Office suites. But with a willingness to keep pricing low, and some actual innovation (plus cross-platform support), Evermore might well be able to grab enough market share to keep refining their product.



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