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Sun Microsystems Businesses Software

Review: Sun StarOffice 7 476

ValourX writes "Here's the Internet's first comprehensive review of Sun's new StarOffice 7 suite. With the ability to export to PDF and SWF and greatly improved conversion filters, Sun's $80 office suite is more than a match for the upcoming ultra-expensive Microsoft Office System 2003."
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Review: Sun StarOffice 7

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  • Other Office Apps (Score:2, Informative)

    by rkz ( 667993 )
    I am suprised that Sun's Star Office recieves so much attention from slashdot [slashdot.org] and the open sauce community.

    Ability Office [ability.com] offers similar functionality in most cases, it can export to PDF, open all MS Office file types and doesn't use a ugly as hell windowing toolkit.

    It can even be run on linux. Star Office is not very similar to Open Office at all, sun kept the best parts to themselves (database app) so why are they seen to be *cooler* to open source zealots then other perfectly good office sweets?

    • 99$ for Ability VS Free for Star

      That would seem to sum it up.

    • by Kedisar ( 705040 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @03:13PM (#7006811) Journal
      But OOo only costs $0.00.

      Seriously, I use Windows and OOo, and there isn't anything I can't do with them as far as I know. I've never been like "Damn! If I only I was using Word!" Now I know there are probably a few features Word has that OOo doesn't, but chances are, Ability and Star Office don't have them either.

      By the way, spell checked with OOo! ;)

      **Prepares for anti-OOo flames**

      • I've never been like "Damn! If I only I was using Word!"

        You'll have to agree that the quirkiness of Word is character building. You don't have that in OO.
      • The only thing that I have found that word does easier is manipulate tables, but I am still learning OOo so I probably just haven't stumbled upon it yet. I'm still trying to get used to new menu structures so I'm sure I'll get it soon.

        Now, OOo's Calc is MUCH better than Excel. Why would Excel choose to put hidden columns and rows in the HTML output?
      • by blixel ( 158224 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @05:26PM (#7008138)
        Seriously, I use Windows and OOo, and there isn't anything I can't do with them as far as I know.

        Same here. I actually find Open Office [openoffice.org] more usable than MS Office. Open a document in MS Word, leave it open and untouched for 15 minutes, then try to close it out. It warns you that your changes have not been saved? Uhh... ok? I find that very annoying. It makes me feel like Word corrupted my document just by being open.

        That fact aside, what do *most people* really need with MS Office that they can't get from some free alternative? Granted *most people* probably just pirated their copy of MS Office anyway so they don't care about the $300-$500 pricetag, but with software gaining online intelligence, those days are going to come to an end soon enough. So many programs check for automatic updates when you start them now. Now that people are good and use to that idea, the next phase is to have said software application verify that it was paid for [securityfocus.com].
      • Does OOo have a grammar checker yet? I know that that is a minor detail, and most people can get past it... But what about Clippy? Last I checked, OOo didn't have that either... My version is getting a little old though. :)
    • Re:Other Office Apps (Score:5, Informative)

      by questionlp ( 58365 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @03:14PM (#7006816) Homepage
      I believe the reason why they keep the database application in StarOffice "to themselves" and not release it with OpenOffice.org is that Adabas is commercial software and Sun had to license it. They can't turn around and open source it or releasing it with OpenOffice.org... at least without paying an ungodly sum to the maker of Adabas.
      • That should be easily fixed someime soon since Sun has chosen [eweek.com] Berkeley DB as their DB of choice for use by their apps.
        • Re:Other Office Apps (Score:5, Informative)

          by RevAaron ( 125240 ) <revaaron@@@hotmail...com> on Friday September 19, 2003 @03:56PM (#7007285) Homepage
          The Adabas database application is not soemthing which can be replaced by BerekelyDB. They are very different things.

          Adabas is a database application. It is like MS Access or Quatro Pro, or theKompany's Rekall app. It includes a database engine, which IIRC is called the same thing. (Adabas D or something) What is being discusse- and what is included with StarOffice- is a GUI-based db app like MS Access. You could replace Adabas in StarOffice with Bereley DB than you could replace Mozilla with wget.

          However, it is possible that Sun could write a whole new database application using BDB as the backend; or, Sun could write a layer for storing word processing, spreadsheet and other kinds of documents in BDB, affording some cool features that we don't get with flat binary files (which suck).

          Read the article. Just so you don't have to do all that work, I'll quote it-

          "The database is incorporated in key components of the Sun Java Enterprise System, formerly known as Project Orion, and the Sun Java Enterprise Desktop System, formerly known as Project Mad Hatter, both launched on Tuesday."

          No mention of StarOffice in that quote of products to use BDB, nor is it mentioned in the rest of the article.

          Sun also uses Oracle, and there are articles which will confirm that. But that has nothing to do with StarOffice does it? (unless Adabas can access other database engines for backends, like how you can use Access as a front end to any ODBC SQL Db, etc etc)
      • Re:Other Office Apps (Score:5, Informative)

        by RealAlaskan ( 576404 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @03:58PM (#7007316) Homepage Journal
        I believe the reason why they keep the database application in StarOffice "to themselves" and not release it with OpenOffice.org is that Adabas is commercial software ...

        I believe that you're right.

        Get it here [softwareag.com]. Free, but not Libre, I think. Read the licence.

      • Re:Other Office Apps (Score:5, Informative)

        by ninejaguar ( 517729 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @05:03PM (#7007941)
        Adabas-D is only commercial if you buy it under that name. Under another guise, it was called SAP-DB [sapdb.org] and Open Sourced in 2001. It is now called MaxDB [mysql.com] and according [sapdb.org] to SAP is being marketed and developed by my MySQL as an enterprise ready Open Source product.

        There's a Slashdot article [slashdot.org]that talks about SAP-DB. And, there's a decent article [robelle.com] by someone who installed it.

        = 9J =

      • Re:Other Office Apps (Score:4, Informative)

        by sniggly ( 216454 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @07:04PM (#7008834) Journal
        OpenOffice does include [openoffice.org] some kind of MS Access like database forms interface that connects to JDBC, ODBC... Probably soon native MySQL support. I haven't dug far into it but it should be good enough to build basic forms visually and actually make them do stuff. Very nice!
    • by CommandNotFound ( 571326 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @03:20PM (#7006888)
      Well, first of all, I've never even heard of Ability Office. While I'm not omniscient, with the years of Slashdot and Freshmeat perusal under my belt I'd wager that if I haven't heard of it, many here have not, as well.

      That's the first hurdle. The second is long-term availability. StarOffice gives me (and more importantly, my wife) a solid office suite whose file formats I can guarantee will be around as long as I can compile its little brother, OpenOffice.org. You can't say that about many other non-MS office suites or word processors. Two years ago I made my wife switch from WordPerfect 8 for Linux to StarOffice for the same reason. Corel pretty much dropped the product after the woeful WP 2000 suite.

      Ability might be the greatest thing ever, but odds are that they will be out of business trying to make money by competing with MS in the the office suite market. I for one do not want to have to migrate my documents again when this happens, when I have to move to another product. SO/OOo gives me some security from that event.
    • "...so why are they seen to be *cooler* to open source zealots then other perfectly good office sweets?"

      Ability Office 2002
      System Requirements:

      Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP
      Processor: Pentium class or higher recommended
      40 MB hard disk space required during download and setup
      Less than 25 MB for full installation after setup
      32MB RAM
      Mouse or other Windows pointer device

      My prefered operating system does not seem to be listed.
    • What irks me is that Corel's stock was beaten down to the point that it would have been a no-brainer for Sun to pick them up in a stock swap deal. The dilution would have been minor and the result would have been a tremendous set of products [corel.com].

      Why Sun didn't buy Corel is boggling. The products would go hand-in-hand with their Mad Hatter distro.

    • Re:Other Office Apps (Score:5, Informative)

      by rifter ( 147452 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @03:43PM (#7007144) Homepage

      I am suprised that Sun's Star Office recieves so much attention from slashdot and the open sauce community.

      Ability Office offers similar functionality in most cases, it can export to PDF, open all MS Office file types and doesn't use a ugly as hell windowing toolkit.

      It can even be run on linux. Star Office is not very similar to Open Office at all, sun kept the best parts to themselves (database app) so why are they seen to be *cooler* to open source zealots then other perfectly good office sweets?

      Also its cheaper than StarOffice, Ability only costs 69.95

      Firstly, Star Office is built on the same base as OpenOffice.org and they do share code. But you are right about proprietary bits. Still this makes Star Office appealing to Open Source Advocates (though it may rankle some in Free Software).

      Secondly, the simple fact you can make Flash presentations with this is one reason I am about to shell out $80 for it. I had been thinking of doing some Flash, but Macromedia wants something like $1000 just to do it and I would have to run Windows. This is $80 to do flash on Linux, plus have a nice office suite. That is a very good value to me.

    • Re:Other Office Apps (Score:4, Informative)

      by ReelOddeeo ( 115880 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @05:14PM (#7008038)
      Is Ability open source? (OOo is, SO is not.)

      OpenOffice.org [openoffice.org] is well known, has third party books available, and third party training. If you want a commercial counterpart, there is StarOffice. Seems to me like the best of both worlds.

      There is one major feature of OpenOffice.org and StarOffice that don't seem to get as much play as they should in a forum like Slashdot. It is programmable in Basic, Java, Python. If you install the scripting framework [openoffice.org] then is is programmable in BeanShell (i.e. interactive Java), JavaScript, and others in the future.

      The OOo document format is well documented [openoffice.org] . XML in a Zip file. The DTD is available. KDE has announced that KOffice will be standardizing on the OpenOffice.org document format. So in theory, a Windows user running SO or OOo could exchange documents with a Linux user running KOffice. (Not that both OOo and SO don't also run on Linux.)

      Developer documentation is readily available, and also a large downloadable SDK. Third parties can develop new components that run within and seemlessly integrate into OOo or SO.

      There are lots of resources for OOo.
      Won [sun.com]
      Too [sun.com]
      Free [oooforum.org]
      Fore [sourceforge.net]
      Phive [ooomacros.org]
      Sicks [kaaredyret.dk]
      Sevin [getopenoffice.org]
      Ate [openofficesupport.com]
      Nighn [start4all.com]
      Tin [ooodocs.org]
      Eleven [pitonyak.org]
      Twelve [datateamsys.com]
      Firteen [mackmoon.com]
      Foreteen [openoffice.org]
      Fifteen [openoffice.org]
      This is by no means an exhaustive list.

      I have personally taken an interest in OOo and written a Java program [datateamsys.com] (and other tools [datateamsys.com]) The java program draws Mazes on a running copy of OOo, but the java program can be run on a different computer, over the net. (Win -> Linux, Linux -> Win, etc.)
  • The next interesting advantage that Calc has is the ability to give a substitute name for columns and rows. In other words, instead of column "G" you can name it "the column formerly known as G" or "sales reports" or whatever is relevant to the data in that column. This makes it a little easier to keep track of what you're doing in your equations.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Jeez, I wish Excel would have that. Oh wait. 1995 called, they want Kurt Cobain back too.
  • Anybody use it yet? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Cat_Byte ( 621676 )
    I'm use an older version of staroffice (back when it was a free download) and there's lots of things such as newer slide shows or documents with macros it won't view. Does this newer version address any of that?
    • by H310iSe ( 249662 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @03:54PM (#7007256)
      I rtfa and it was pretty light - more questions for anyone who's used Star Office in a professional environment - hows the automation (does it have anything equivelant, or, hopefully, better, than useful-but-bugriddled VBA?) How's the interoperability with MSWord documents? Can you go from Word to OOo/StarOffice and back a hundred times in a large document that 20 people have edited in 70 different ways, with embedded graphics, tables, etc. U know, does it WORK?

      I'm as close to an expert in MS Office as anyone (outside Woody of WOPR [wopr.com] and the lovely lady behind slipstick [slipstick.com]), I write VBA (when I have to) and have taught classes in the thing. And I hate it. It's truely a horrible product, MS tried to do too much and failed to get the important things right (like, say, making sure that if you have 1,000 large documents on a network storage device, none of them experience format-wrenching corruption at any point over thier lifespan. With Word, anywhere from 1 - 10 (yea, that's .1 - 1%, which is a lot if you have a half million documents) of them will).

      Have any large, document-oriented shops (like, say a law firm, or pharmeceutical company, or something) ever done a real, hard test, both on the suite and its interoperablity with MS stuff?
  • Flash? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Stonent1 ( 594886 ) <.stonent. .at. .stonent.pointclark.net.> on Friday September 19, 2003 @03:15PM (#7006829) Journal
    Why would I want to export a document to Flash?
    • Re:Flash? (Score:5, Informative)

      by cant_get_a_good_nick ( 172131 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @03:19PM (#7006878)
      Probably for presentations; have a read only, run anywhere presentation format. A lot more people have Shockwave than even the viewer for PowerPoint. a lot fewer still have {Star,Open}Office.
    • AFAIK it is for Impress presentations. So you can make a fancy presentation with all kinds of effects and then play it in a web browser.
    • Why would I want to export a document to Flash?

      One word. "Presentations." Especially if they get those text animations and transitions working in Flash.
      • Ok, now that makes more sense. But aren't we all supposed to hate flash? I mean that's what the Slashdot Collective keeps telling my coritical implant...
    • Re:Flash? (Score:3, Interesting)

      We exported all of our sales documents (pitch sheets, memos, forms, rate cards, posters, etc.) to flash instead of PDF over the summer. The smallest we could compress a PDF of these documents was around 300kb each (from CoredDraw 9). We can export them to Flash, which gets them at perfect quality for under 80kb. That's a hell of a lot of storage savings when you put all your sales docs on a website.
  • Good for them (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doesn't_Comment_Code ( 692510 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @03:16PM (#7006833)
    I wonder if the SWX format will ever really take hold. No doubt it will need something like a very good StarOffice suite to bring it into its own. (And maybe a boost from Microsoft secure documents / forced upgrade)

    I have wanted to bring my company onto the free/cheap opensource software bandwagon for some time now. And I have the authority to do it. But I always have to consider the issue - can non-techsmart people handle it? Will they be able to open the documents they receive and use them.

    In many ways a really good Office suite will help linux/open source just as much as the benefits of the OS itself.
    • by Smallpond ( 221300 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @03:26PM (#7006937) Homepage Journal


      SWX, clean, non-smoking, looking for long term relationship. Willing to accomodate unusal formats. Cheap, but not easy.

    • by Kunta Kinte ( 323399 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @03:51PM (#7007217) Journal
      I have wanted to bring my company onto the free/cheap opensource software bandwagon for some time now. And I have the authority to do it. But I always have to consider the issue - can non-techsmart people handle it? Will they be able to open the documents they receive and use them.

      Install the open source applications side-by-side with the commercial applications that you plan to replace. You can install Staroffice or OpenOffice right along with MS office, and make sure that it is as support or even more so by your IT department. That means, the users don't get "We don't know, you're on your own" answers from Tech for Staroffice, but then get a dissertation when they ask a question about MS Office.

      After you have a installation that is supported ( internally ) and documented as well as ( or better ) than MS Office, ( I know, easier said than done, but do your best ), and the users have had some time to become a little familiar with Staroffice. Start promoting StarOffice as an alternative to MS Office. This could be done easier now. You can direct, for instance, people who need to create simple PDF files to StarOffice for instance. Thats something MS Office can not do without 3rd party software installed.

      I think IT departments should give the user an incentive to move to cheaper, well performing software. Eg. The department could get a cut from the money saved, while IT gets a cut and the company holds the rest. This may be difficult to execute because many IT managers don't like decreasing they budget, even if doing so may, in a roundabout way, leave them more money in they pockets at the end of the day.

    • Re:Good for them (Score:5, Informative)

      by kfg ( 145172 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @04:05PM (#7007377)
      I'm not actually sure I understand the question. It doesn't take any more "tech savvy" to use an .swx file than it does to use a .doc file.

      You open the file with your app, and there ya go. Use is transparent to the user.

      I started using StarOffice in my business ( and use OpenOffice and KOffice now) some years ago and have never looked back.

      Should anything ever "happen" to the .swx file format the more tech savvy among your people will quickly discover that the .swx file format is nothing more than a zipped XML file; and thus easily extracted and converted even without an "app" to do the deed for you.

      In any case you could always take the tack I have. ASCII for all internal documents and RTF where needed for external documents. If nothing else it serves to concentrate the mind on actual content, rather than pretending to work by wasting the afternoon on pointless playing around with graphics and formating.

      Presentation software is for presentations, i.e., sales.

      Internally if anyone tries to show me a pie chart I know that:

      A)They don't actually understand what they're talking about
      B)Think I don't either
      C)They are up to something
      D)They have already wasted a lot of time I'm paying them for

      So go ahead, take the step to StarOffice. You'll find that a few of your people don't even notice, it's that "MSey." The .swx file format is a complete nonissue.

      But also don't be afraid to use even lower level standard formats, like plain ASCII. Doing so will open up a whole world of free and open possibilities.

      Sometimes the technological "advancements" advance to the rear.

    • Re:Good for them (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Malcontent ( 40834 )
      I use openoffice exclusively and have had 99.99% success rate at opening up office files sent by people. The only file I could not open up was an excel file with too many rows in it (don't ask).
  • Match for Office? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jon323456 ( 194737 ) * on Friday September 19, 2003 @03:17PM (#7006844)
    Sun's $80 office suite is more than a match for the upcoming ultra-expensive Microsoft Office System 2003.

    Okay, let me get this straight -

    No PIM (Outlook)

    No document review functions

    Fonts don't look right

    This might rock the casbah for casual home users, but the real money is in the enterprise. Who could reccomend this to their CTO without a PIM? MS might be expensive but the stuff just works.

    • Re:Match for Office? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nojomofo ( 123944 )

      MS might be expensive but the stuff just works.

      Give me a break. I've (unfortunately) been programming in VBA for Excel for a couple of months, and it's buggy as hell. One bug that I had to work around has existed since Excel 95, and they clearly have no intention of ever fixing it. It crashes, it behaves badly, etc. Just works, my ass.

    • Re:Match for Office? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by einstein ( 10761 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @03:27PM (#7006967) Homepage Journal
      why does the PIM need to be part of the office suite? It doesn't make sense.. everything else is managing documents, PIMs are calendaring and email (why those to are shoehorned together is another post entirely..).

      Get your pim elsewhere. There are TONS of options these days.
    • by Sylvius ( 670730 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @03:34PM (#7007047)
      I don't understand why people are so hung up on the no PIM issue. Aside from glaring security issues, Outlook is a very usable PIM, but I rarely (if ever) notice/use/desire its integration with the other MS-Office programs (in fact, it's ridiculously annoying that it wastes the memory to load word as its default editor of e-mail messages). I am perfectly happy using my PIM as a standalone piece of software (eg. Evolution) and not having to tolerate an entire (annoying) office suite just to have a PIM. Besides, so much integration and interoperability is being done on the OS level that it should not be necessary to buy all the programs you need as a suite for them to work well together.

      On the font topic, this has plagued linux in general for a long time and is not exclusive to StarOffice, though it is (slowly) improving.
    • by Le Marteau ( 206396 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @03:39PM (#7007089) Journal
      Who could reccomend this to their CTO without a PIM? MS might be expensive but the stuff just works.

      Yeah, it works alright. Because management's hard for Outlook, our IT department makes us keep our machines running 24/7 with mandated re-boots every night so the continual stream of patches and security fixes.

      It's the height of irresponsibility to include Microsoft's Outlook on any desktop... that thing is the source of most of the headaches in corporate computing than all others put together (a major vector for viruses, trojans, etc.) The only reason it's got such devotion is because the PHB's love the calendar and the scheduling integration. But it's just not worth it, considering the grief.
    • How about telling IT that it doesn't include that virus trap Outlook ?
    • Fonts don't look right

      Haven't we gotten the fonts, fonts and more fonts out of our system yet? If you really need lots of fonts, you are probably publishing and be using a frames based application. Wait, Swriter is frames based.

      Seriously, 90% of the people who use spreadsheet and word processing software can barely use them above the level of a glorfied type writer. The hundreds of dollars you may be spending for these people are probably going to waste.

    • This might rock the casbah for casual home users, but the real money is in the enterprise.

      Why is everyone so hung up on the enterprise? (And there are non-Microsoft alternatives for the PIM believe it or not!)

      Outside the enterprise, there are vast numbers of non-enterprise machines that could use cheap or free office suites.

      Schools? Small business (or not so small). Libraries, Internet cafes, or other public access computers.

      And let's talk about Microsoft Works vs. OpenOffice.org. As someone
  • by watzinaneihm ( 627119 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @03:17PM (#7006853) Journal
    The reviewer accepts when he cant do things (like test how fast it actually starts up compared to earlier verions), looks at the important stuff etc
    My favorite is this one though, the author shows that he looks in places which only the /. crowd would find interesting
    The license agreement is rather odd. A part of Sun's legalese (which also appears in the Solaris license) stipulates that StarOffice 7 is not intended for use in (or by those contracted by) a nuclear facility.
  • call me a moron... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by selderrr ( 523988 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @03:17PM (#7006854) Journal
    When our kids went to school september 1st, I volounteered as computer fixer. First thing I did was throw off ALL (I'll repeat : ALL) office suites of all computers. That included MS Office, Open Office and Appleworks. I replaced them with Wordpad and similar "silly" editors.

    We're september 19, and NOBODY noticed. I got 1 remark from a teacher telling me that this year, the kids seemed to get along better with the computers compared to last year.

    All this just to prove that 90% of current software can be reduced to the max in 90% of all machine instances.
    • Just curious...is this elementary school or something? Because once you get into high school and college, people will start knowing the difference between Word and Wordpad. Word is a very powerful word processor that can do virtually anything you need it to do, whereas Wordpad is basically Notepad with buttons. Wordpad works fine if you're just typing a plain ole paper, double-spaced and indented...and can even do some more advanced stuff too...but if you try to do anything really advanced then you're prett
      • People don't learn Word through doing high school papers. You don't need to track changes, do a mail merge, or code a macro for high school. You will probably never deal with sections, columns, styles, fields, tables of reference, or indicies. You will probably never work on a document that is more than 50 pages.

        I did all my high school and college work on Word. I learned none of the above from that work. I learned Word when I had to start *really* using it, in the workplace.

        Spare me the "I used this feat
    • by cant_get_a_good_nick ( 172131 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @03:27PM (#7006958)
      I had a HCI (human computer interaction, GUI guru) professor that set up his dad's computer once. He set up Word (to date this, it was Word 6) to have a minimal set of menus. File: open, new, save, print. Fonts, font list, Bold, italic. That's it, his dad never had to ask for more.
    • by +trewq000-()-0- ( 675257 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @03:33PM (#7007029)
      Oy, you're the bastard that I had to follow around on September 2, just to re-install all the Office Suites on the school computers.

      I'll get you for that!

    • by hcuar ( 706760 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @03:35PM (#7007057)
      Then next year you could try removing Wordpad and just using notepad. Wouldn't want all the extra features of Wordpad to get in the way. Maybe you could go back to MS-DOS editor. Oh wait... Even better... How about vi?
    • Ok...moron.

      You took off Office Suites and replaced them with WordPad? Since when is WordPad a spreadsheet app? I'm sure you were real popular with the students and teachers when Excel disappeared. I'm also sure that they liked the fact that all their nice tables, columns, tables of content, indexes, etc. disappeared when you went to WordPad from Word.

      Where do your kids go to school? Unless this is a preschool, and a private one at that, I somehow doubt administrators would really let you get away wi

  • Real world features (Score:5, Interesting)

    by +trewq000-()-0- ( 675257 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @03:19PM (#7006876)
    I have just convinced my boss to switch over StarOffice 7, and the features and support were a major factor in putting it into his comfort zone. He was quite reticent before then. I don't think Microsoft will really be hurt by it's release immeadiately, but it will help a lot of companies start to slowly adopt more alternative options.
  • by Gothmolly ( 148874 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @03:20PM (#7006880)
    It's time for us geeks to belly up to the bar and pay for something that we want. Everyone claims to hate MS, and to use OpenSource whenever possible (except for games, and well, MS Word, and Flash, and aww heck, just reinstall Win2K). $80 is peanuts, compared to the price of MS Office, and 50% more than the price of a good video game. Nobody will think twice about paying $50 for Half Life 2 (which runs on Windows), but everyone will flame Sun for the gall of charging for StarOffice. OOo is free, yes, but StarOffice or other commercial Office alternatives (Applix on Linux anyone? Yes, I bought it.)

    People can't write good, free-as-in-beer software forever. People need to eat, breed and pay their taxes. As romantic as it sounds, you can't have coders working for free for the common good w/o ultimate payment. MS can give away IE because they've already been paid for it due to their enslavement of the desktop.

    Support Sun, fight MS, and buy the damn product.
    • As romantic as it sounds, you can't have coders working for free for the common good w/o ultimate payment.

      You heard it here first, folks! Coders of free software are now demanding a reward in the afterlife for their good deeds. Without the promise of eternal happiness in Heaven, or coming back in the next life as something really cool like a dolhpin, free software authors will soon reach the conclusion that it simply ain't worth it. Unless we can assure the free software community that they will, in fact, get to meet Turing after they die, open-source innovation is nearing the end. Barring divine intervention, it's been a good run...
    • Yeah, OK. I just sent an email to our comptroller / CIO to see what he thinks. We've been under some pretty serious budget constraints, and MS Office is really costly. If it passes muster, that'll be a $1500 check to Sun.

      I actually hope it works, because PDF and Flash export options are really killer. We've got one copy of Acrobat for the whole office, which sucks the big one. Don't get me started on how cool I think Flash would be for presentations. Our Prez is kinda fat-fingered during presentatio
  • Macros (Score:4, Insightful)

    by stoolpigeon ( 454276 ) <bittercode@gmail> on Friday September 19, 2003 @03:21PM (#7006892) Homepage Journal
    For those OO/SO users out there. What do these products offer that will do what Visual Basic does in MS Office?

    Can you access Star Office documents from applications in any RAD languages like you can in with MS Office/VB?

    Thought this might be a good place to get some input on that. At my work there are a lot of apps written in VB that generate Excel spreadsheets. I'd love to know that I can replace that functionality with something else.

    This is a serious question and there'll be those who want to flame me for just mentioning VB but the truth of the matter is - there is tons of small office stuff written in VB and VBA, which is where I make my living. I can't move people from office unless I can replace that too

    • Thought this might be a good place to get some input on that. At my work there are a lot of apps written in VB that generate Excel spreadsheets. I'd love to know that I can replace that functionality with something else.

      There are Perl modules that read and write Excel spreadsheets. It would take work, but that combination should be able to replace whatever you have in place now. At most, you should only have to write or find an import/export library once, and use it in every program you write from that
    • by doublem ( 118724 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @03:38PM (#7007087) Homepage Journal
      From the API FAQ [openoffice.org] for OpenOffice.

      "OpenOffice implements the API with UNO (Universal Network Objects). Currently there are language bindings for Java and C++. You can implement your own language binding, and in fact we are actively looking for a volunteer to create a C language binding.

      Additionally UNO allows control from scripting languages and scripting environments (for example debuggers). Currently StarBASIC (VBA syntax compatible) can call on the API and there is a prototype written for Python integration. "

      If OpenOffice can di it, I'd wager StarOffice can too. The StarOffice SDK should have all the details.
      • Have you seen the OO sdk documentation?

        Its the most complex thing I have literally ever seen.

        I was impressed. It is leaps and bounds ahead of vba.

        Also UNO supports briding with com and ole. It might be possible to port alot of windows apps to use Open or staroffice as a front end.

    • Re:Macros (Score:2, Informative)

      by leehwtsohg ( 618675 )
      I haven't tried it, but the following project seems to imply you can: ooo-macro [freshmeat.net]
    • Re:Macros (Score:3, Interesting)

      by neurojab ( 15737 )
      Yes there is a lot of software out there in VB that integrates various office features. I wrote some of it. Naturally I was resistant to the idea. What resulted was a set of interrelated "documents" with bizzare code inside them, linking them all together. It probably took me a week to do everything. In the same amount of time, I could have written a web-based database application that did the same thing, but be infintely more stable and easy to roll out to users. Use the right tool for the job.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ValourX, the author of the review, also has a comprehensive comparison of word processors [thejemreport.com], and here OpenOffice doesn't fare so well. The author seems much more impressed with TextMaker for Linux [thejemreport.com].
  • An excellent product at a low price. Cross platform. Compatible with the leading competitor. Wonderful.

    No advertising so the general public can learn about this great product, regardless of their OS "choice." Not so hot.

  • could be... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Roadkills-R-Us ( 122219 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @03:28PM (#7006984) Homepage
    We were already considering evaluating this as our cross-platform solution, or at least as our Linux/Solaris solution to handle these chores well while playing with the folks who use MS tools.

    OpenOffice has been waaaay too slow. I've been using gnumeric and abiword, with the odd foray into Impress, since there doesn't seem to be an alternatove. My biggest complaint with abiword (besides needing its own fonts, fixed in 2.0) is that it doesn't import HTML - it treats them as plain text. Brain dead! I looked at TexMaker, which has most of what AbiWord is missing, but it's just ugly as can be, and has some braindead GUI issues, like folders on the right, files on the left. Did I get a broken i18nized version?

    Now if only StarOffice included an Outlook-compliant calendar, email and PIM. (We'll still try it, despite not having these.)

    So where is the MS Project clone? As of not long ago, Mr. Project still couldn't read or write Ms. Project files...
  • by panurge ( 573432 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @03:29PM (#7006989)
    I've been telling clients to delay buying Office upgrades till this came out, and I think they'll thank me for it. There are things SO won't do that Office will, but I would stick my neck out and say that in many cases those are things that shouldn't be done with an office package. In particular I have been testing the SO database connectivity heavily. It's solid and I think this is going to form part of my future solutions. Being able to drive SO in Java could lead to some really neat presentation layer work.

    I'm not knocking any of the completely OSS suites, far from it. But I think Sun is doing everybody a service by demonstrating to the PHBs that a major software player can produce credible competition for Office and sell it for peanuts. I want to see people making money out of FOSS - because that will keep it developing - and if Sun's work leads others to produce customised and extended office suites based on other OSS suites, that should get back the pace of development that has been so held back by the MS monopoly.

    Also, although I'm too old to use the terminology without looking sad, the XML output format rocks. People will be able to do some really creative things with this.

    Remember: once upon a time almost all tires were crossply. Then along came radial. No technology has a right to a monopoly for longer than it takes for something better to come along.

  • by NumLk ( 709027 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @03:33PM (#7007032)
    As much as I'd love to use SO (or, insert other non-MS product here), the unfortunate reality is most business applications my company uses (and our clients as well) that sit on the desktop require Office. It simply isn't enough to say "This can open & save Word / Excel / etc. documents." A true replacement needs to support MS plugins, VBA (ugh, but sorry, its needed), and so on before we can even consider it. Unfortunately, as absurd as MS pricing is, its an all-or-nothing battle too, the cost to support each additional Office Suite is just too high for a midsized (500-1000 user) shop. We've tried talking to dozens of vendors just to get a timeline on this sort of thing, and with the occasional exception of a few that are porting apps to Java, most aren't even considering it, simply because of the costs they would incur for what appears to be a small market. Unfortunately, I know its a chicken & egg situation: My company can't switch until a good number of our business apps support non-MS software, but... well, this is slashdot, you know the rest.
    • As much as I'd love to use SO (or, insert other non-MS product here), the unfortunate reality is most business applications my company uses (and our clients as well) that sit on the desktop require Office. It simply isn't enough to say "This can open & save Word / Excel / etc. documents." A true replacement needs to support MS plugins, VBA (ugh, but sorry, its needed), and so on before we can even consider it.

      I don't think it's fair to expect product developers to implement something like "MS plugin

      • I don't think it's fair to expect product developers to implement something like "MS plugins and VBA" compatibility.

        What does fair have to do with it? Does StarOffice want this guy's business or not? If not, that's fine. But what does it have to do with fairness?

        It is not their fault you have effectively vendor-locked yourselves into Microsoft to the point where migration to other products is impossible or extremely prohibitive in terms of cost.

        What does fault have to do with it?

        Anyhow, your sam

  • by x136 ( 513282 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @03:50PM (#7007206) Homepage
    According to a button [microsoft.com] on Microsoft's Office System Beta page, you can attend a Microsoft Office System Launch Event, and watch someone get hanged.

    (hint: look at the character on the right, and the unfortunate placement of the edge of the whiteboard)
  • Not Quite... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Milo Fungus ( 232863 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @03:51PM (#7007221)

    I did an assingment this week for my comparative vertebrate morphology class. It was about scaling and allometry - a very interesting subject. The assignment was to take some measurements from various lagomorph (rabbits and hares) skulls and to plot them against one another to see what sorts of scaling relationships there are between characters in different ages of the same species (ontogenetic allometry) and between different related species (phylogenetic allometry).

    The instructor showed us how to do the plots in Excel. I was planning to do my assignment in OpenOffice Calc, and to let the instructor know that there is a free alternative for impoverished students to use, but Calc doesn't do everything that I needed it to do. Calc will add a trendline using various types of functions, but it will not show the equation or the R squared value on the graph. After digging through OpenOffice Help I found a discussion [oooforum.org] on the OpenOffice forum about it. It's issue #4509 [openoffice.org], and it's not scheduled to be fixed in 1.1. So I grudgingly used Excel and Word to make my report, and lost a good opportunity to spread the word.

    In defense of OpenOffice: I have used it for months now and I dig it. This is the first time I've had any problems with it, and this is actually a pretty minor thing. I especially like OpenOffice's style tools, which have really changed the way I author documents.

  • by Colonel Panic ( 15235 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @03:57PM (#7007302)
    the ability to export to PDF and SWF

    First it was jobs, now it's women.

    If we keep exporting all of the Single White Females, who will geeks date and marry?
  • What is missing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SCHecklerX ( 229973 ) <greg@gksnetworks.com> on Friday September 19, 2003 @04:05PM (#7007372) Homepage
    Is a good project management program. If I had THAT, I wouldn't need to be on a windoze box at all during the day at work.

    Indeed, I'd rather use abiword and gnumeric for those tasks, although star draw and impress are awesome programs for those tasks and I do use them.

    But the thing that would get me to using SO exclusively would definitely be a good project management program.

  • by The Lynxpro ( 657990 ) <lynxpro@gmaTEAil.com minus caffeine> on Friday September 19, 2003 @04:37PM (#7007694)
    How about Star Office for OS X? Plenty of people are buying Macs today, and why should Microsoft get revenue from that platform as well? As it stands, Sun could make money in this endeavor because how many rank-and-file OS X users are actually going to stoop to using Open Office via the X11 Window? And officially, Open Office for OS X is being delayed until 2005! Apple surely cannot assign any of their programming staff to working on the OS X port because Microsoft would then cut out all Mac development in response. So all I can see are $$$'s if Sun would be so inclined to spend a little cash on porting Star Office over to OS X...
    • Look here [openoffice.org]

      Its already stable and done but not with aqua. Look at the screenshots? The MacOSX port uses X from Unix. Uno which is the internal api language of Star/Openoffice is highly complex and the gui's use Windows/X11 calls integrated in.

      As soon as the gui portition is done being aqua-nized my guess is sun will release it for the mac. There are some screnshots that are aqau native but that portition is extremely alpha and buggy.
  • OpenOffice and StarOffice are fine if you want one package with everything in it. But why bother?

    LyX can be used to create professional documents using standard typesetting, which prevents a whole slew of the inconsistencies generated when the user has to define the typesetting. We all know how many database, spreadsheet, and presentation-creation programs there are that you can use for GNU/Linux -- a lot. There's also tons of e-mail programs too.

    The vast majority of users don't use half of the features in various Office Programs. For those that do need that kind of functionality, you can get it in StarOffice or OpenOffice, along with Evolution for e-mail. But I'll tell you, the vast majority of people who use Microsoft Outlook or Evolution use them just to check their e-mail, and not as a central planning point for their lives.
    • It's NOT "one package with everything in it." The last release that was was StarOffice 5.2.

      The article simple explains that the apps use a common "shell" that wraps around the GUI. Instead of each app having its own design, they are framed with the same toolbars. This, in theory, adds consistency and reduces code.

      It sounds to me like you use other applications to get your work done and not StarOffice or OpenOffice.org. Those that do use them, those that are best qualified to comment, generally say tha
  • by dswensen ( 252552 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @04:56PM (#7007876) Homepage
    Sorry if this has already been mentioned, but in trying to find out how much the "ultra-expensive" Office actually is, I went to Microsoft's FAQ page [microsoft.com], which says "Find retail pricing and upgrade information for Microsoft Office System programs, servers, and services at Microsoft Office System Pricing Information [microsoft.com]."

    And when you follow THAT link, you get a 404 error.

    So, it's so expensive that even Microsoft doesn't know how much it is? Or don't want to say?

    Either way, doesn't bode well.
  • by Laven ( 102436 ) * on Friday September 19, 2003 @07:08PM (#7008861)
    I have been using StarOffice 7 for several days now on my home Windows and Linux computers. I am impressed by the speed improvements over OOO-1.0.2 shipped in Red Hat Linux, and the extra features beyond OpenOffice 1.1 are worth the money to me. Overall I feel it is far more polished and enjoyable to use than StarOffice 6, which itself wasn't bad.

    Unfortunately, StarOffice 7 does not solve the single greatest problem, the fact that it does not automatically create a profile when run by a new, instead users need to go through the "Workstation Install" process which is too complicated for end-users.

    At my workplace (medium sized high school in Hawaii) OpenOffice 1.1 and StarOffice 6 was previously judged as "acceptable" for campus wide deployment, but unfortunately due to this problem alone they went with buying Microsoft Office XP for many new desktop machines this year.

    While it is easy to script automatic profile generation using the autoresponse config file method like the ooffice script distributed in Red Hat or Mandrake, I do not understand why Sun does not consider the lack of automatic profile generation in a user account to be a problem. Using it on a new user account is way too complicated compared to Microsoft Office or Abiword on Windows or Linux.

    Only two simple changes are needed to make this situation acceptable:
    1) Like Microsoft Office, the StarOffice menu options should go into the program menu of Windows and Gnome/KDE globally for all users.
    2) When run, it should automatically create the user profile without any prompts.

    Why is this a difficult concept?
  • by The Mayor ( 6048 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @11:52PM (#7010185)
    Here's my experiences working with the latest OpenOffice RC (I believe that is what StarOffice 7 is based upon):

    Writer is pretty good, but has some serious flaws with page numbering. Namely, there is no concept with OO/SO of sections in the same way as MS Word. You have to bend over backwords to make it break a document so that the table of contents, for example, is numbered using lower-case roman numerals while the main body is numbered starting from 1 using Arabic numerals. Creating a document that excludes the page number from the first page but prints it on all other pages is also a pain in the ass. Importing MS Word documents that are set up this way is broken. Changing formats for heading styles half way through a document is also broken. Resetting numbering for outlines half way through a document is also broken. Every complex document I've ever worked on utilizes all of these features. OpenOffice is very nice, but these features are a necessity for me. In my opinion, this makes OpenOffice unusable for complex documents, and makes its use for interoperability somewhat limited (although interoperability is less likely an issue when dealing with complex documents).

    Calc is very good, and I have only noticed a single obscure problem. Excel allows spreadsheets with 65,565 rows, while Calc only allows spreadsheets with 32,767 rows. This is an obscure limit, and I would recommend against creating any spreadsheet that pushes this limit. However, if converting an entire organization to OpenOffice/StarOffice, this may be a problem. A bigger problem for conversion would likely be the lack of Visual Basic support. I don't consider the row size limit to be a show stopper (whereas the Writer limitations are show stoppers, imho). Calc is very good as a whole. However, if your organization relies heavily upon VB macros, then you should consider the effects this will have on any migration.

    I have not stress-tested Impress enough to notice any limitations/bugs. So far, everything I have thrown at Impress comes through fine.

    As for formatting, I have only had minor issues regarding formatting (like a single line being thrown onto the next page with a document). These issues are similar to those encountered when changing printer types under MS Word. They are a nuiscance, but not a show stopper.

    This "comprehensive" review was anything but. If the author had investigated OO/SO's shortcomings even a little bit, the page numbering issues would have been apparent. But, hey, that's what Slashdot is for, no?

Order and simplification are the first steps toward mastery of a subject -- the actual enemy is the unknown. -- Thomas Mann