Suites for the Sweet: StarOffice 5.2
The First in Our Series of Reviews
Editor's Note: With this review we begin a five-part series on the major office suites in the Linux world: StarOffice, KOffice, WordPerfect Office 9, Applixware Office for Linux, and the GNOME Office Suite. All five are in varying stages of completion: StarOffice, Applixware, and WordPerfect are all fairly mature products with proven track records, while KOffice and GNOME Office Suite are both in relatively early stages of development.
How did we evaluate these packages? On two levels. First, we looked at the individual packages and how well they worked: most people will use their word processor and spreadsheet the most, so we spent the majority of our time focusing on those packages.
The second level is really what distinguishes office suites: how well the components worked together. Anyone could put together a set of applications and call them a suite; the real key is making these disparate applications work together.
All in all, we were pleasantly surprised with how well all five office suites worked--even the two GNOME/KDE suites that are coming late to the party. Linux office suites are now in a mature state, one where Linux applications do not need to take a back seat to their Windows and Macintosh equivalents.
Sun's StarOffice (recently purchased from Germany's StarDivision) is an office suite with a long and respectable history in the Linux community. Version 5.2 builds on StarOffice's solid reputation with enhanced import filters, some minor cosmetic changes, and an overall sense of being slightly more nimble than 5.1. The list of new or changed features in 5.2 numbers over 200 items and can be found on Sun's Web site.
The StarOffice slogan is "Do Everything in One Place," and the number of features packed into this suite indicate StarOffice's engineers expect the user to do just that. The suite comes with a word processor (Writer), a spreadsheet (Calc), a presentation package (Impress), a database (Base), and a vector graphics program (Draw), plus a scheduler, mail agent, net news reader, address book, Palm Pilot interface, and integrated Web browser. On top of all that, StarOffice also comes as an integrated desktop environment. It's conceivable that a user could start a session of StarOffice at the beginning of the day and never once leave the package while accomplishing most of the tasks the average office user might face.