Consumers and small businesses seeking a desktop word processing program that looks and works much like Microsoft's Word but costs only a fraction as much can take a peek at the Beta 2 version of TextMaker for Linux.The software, which runs on the open-source Linux operating system, is available through May 31 as a free beta download on the Web site of its developer, SoftMaker Software GmbH in Nuremburg, Germany, said managing director Martin Kotulla Wednesday.TextMaker for Linux will start shipping worldwide on June 1 for \u20ac49.95 ($53.22), Kotulla said. Users can purchase the product directly from the company's Web site.The user interface is available in two language versions: German and English, according to Kotulla. Language tools featured in the software, such as a spellchecker, are available in 16 languages.TextMaker reads and writes in numerous formats, such as Word for Windows (in Versions 6.0, 95, 97, 2000 and XP), RTF and HTML, according to SoftMaker's Web site. The software requires no conversion and ensures no loss of formatting.System requirements include any Linux product incorporating glibc (the GNU C library), support for X86 processors, and X Window with any Window Manager, according to the company's Web site.SoftMaker also aims to have a beta version of its PlanMaker software, resembling Microsoft's Excel spreadsheet program, available for downloading in May, Kotulla said. The product is scheduled to ship around June and cost \u20ac49.95.DataMaker, resembling Microsoft's Access database software, will be available in a beta version around June or July, according to Kotulla. The product, to ship later in the year, will carry a price tag of \u20ac49.95.Also in the second half of this year, SoftMaker hopes to have a beta version of a software product providing the same e-mail, address book and calendar functions of Microsoft's Outlook program, Kotulla said. The product, which has yet to be named, will also cost \u20ac49.95.By year-end, the plan is to offer this suite of products as SoftMaker Office for around \u20ac100, he said.Asked how SoftMaker can afford to offer software for a fraction of the price demanded by rival Microsoft, Kotulla said the German company, consisting of 15 people, works on thin margins. SoftMaker has been operating since 1987.