Going Nova: Sun’s StarOffice shines on the desktop, providing many useful productivity applications.
* Linux kernel 2.0.x or higher
* glibc 2.1.1 or higher
*32 MB (64 MB recommended)
Hard Drive Space
*180 MB minimum install
*240 MB full install
*X-server with 256 colors needed
It has been about a year since Sun acquired Star Division, and their, ahem, star product, StarOffice. StarOffice 5.2 is the first major update of the StarOffice software since Sun took over development of the multi-platform office suite.
StarOffice is a feature-rich office suite with word-processing, spreadsheets, graphics, e-mail, presentations, database and even a built-in Web browser. On the surface, StarOffice 5.2 looks like a feature-for-feature replacement for Microsoft Office. StarOffice does not have all the features of Office, but this is as much a blessing as it is a curse. While there are some features that MS Office users may miss, StarOffice is a lot less of a behemoth than Microsoft Office and is not quite as intimidating to new users. It went GPL on July 19, 2000.
StarOffice does an admirable job of importing Microsoft Office documents with minimal problems. In testing, the only document that StarOffice refused to open was a password-protected Excel workbook. Word docs, spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations offered no major challenges for StarOffice, though the document formatting did suffer a bit in the translation. Unfortunately, StarOffice concentrates almost solely on importing Microsoft Office docs and ignores Applix and Corel formats. This is a glaring omission for Linux users, as quite a few Linux companies do use Applix Office and Corel WordPerfect.
The suite’s interface is fairly intuitive and will seem very familiar to users migrating from Windows and Office. The integrated-desktop design of StarOffice is a bit clumsy, however. It isn’t possible to simply start StarWriter by itself, the entire suite is launched for any task, no matter how trivial. StarOffice is not light on resources, and occasionally bogs things down quite a bit. The desktop “feature” of StarOffice is probably its biggest flaw, being unnecessary and generally annoying.
StarWriter is a decent word-processor. Its auto-correct features will make any fumble-fingered typist very happy, though it can be annoying when it insists on “correcting” a word that is typed correctly. For instance, StarWriter assumes that XFree86 is incorrect and resists attempts to type it correctly. Typing “Ctrl-Z” will fix it, but this can be frustrating. The autocorrect feature can easily be turned off, however.
StarCalc handles basic spreadsheets well, though it does not come close to Excel in terms of features. Linux users may want to stick with GNUmeric instead. StarOffice has pretty good basic graphics capabilities, and can import an impressive number of graphics formats. StarImpress, the presentation program, is easy to use and features wizards similar to PowerPoint to help users put together a presentation quickly. It also syncs with a Palm Pilot if the pilot-link program (not part of StarOffice) is installed — a big plus for Palm users, since there is little Palm software available for Linux.
All in all, StarOffice 5.2 is a good solution for anyone needing basic productivity software under Linux. While not quite a match for Microsoft Office, it should meet the needs of most ordinary users, and the price is certainly right.
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