Suites for the Sweet: StarOffice 5.2 - page 2
The First in Our Series of Reviews
StarOffice is available as either a free download or a $39.95 media kit, available from the Sun Web site. The download weighs in at almost 80 MB, but is available as split files. Purchasing the media kit nets a CD-ROM and some documentation. Unlike past licensing arrangements, StarOffice is now available for no charge to any person or organization if only the downloaded version is sought.
One of the early complaints about StarOffice 5 and 5.1 was the difficulty in registering a copy of the product with StarDivision: failure to do so correctly kept customers from using the product. The registration process has since been streamlined and is relatively simple. Sun recommends users register their copy regardless of whether they purchase the media kit or download the product, but registration is not required to use it, as was the case previously.
Once downloaded, installation is a simple and streamlined process. Users may choose between a "network" installation (a little misleadingly titled, since this is also the necessary method to support multiple users on a single machine) and the basic installation, which creates a single directory in which StarOffice resides.
Installation options are simple and straightforward, and serve to intimate the high feature count of this product. Users can select between numerous languages (which can coexist in a single installation) and a few add-ons that enhance the spreadsheet. In addition, the installation allows for integration with the KDE desktop environment and use of Palm Pilot integration features (which must be selected at install time).
Over the course of several installations on several machines, we had no problems of any sort with installation. The process is fast and painless.
Upon starting StarOffice, we were greeted with the StarDesktop: StarOffice's user interface. Unlike other office suites, which tend to operate as individual units within the user's desktop environment, the StarDesktop serves as the environment in which everything in StarOffice takes place.
Users have the option to allow StarOffice to take over their entire desktop, at which point it provides a taskbar that integrates any other programs the user may be running. We experienced some stability problems while using this option and also couldn't discover the exact combination of window-manager settings that would allow for smooth integration (or suppression, for that matter) of our existing window manager. We chose to use StarOffice as a window within our existing desktop, which made for a slightly cluttered feeling as it brings along its own taskbar, file browser, and other desktop features.
StarOffice's internal environment is easy enough to use, and reasonably intuitive. It allows for some basic "skins" in the form of Windows 95/98, Macintosh, and UNIX (Motif window manager, or mwm) lookalike window frames. Its basic icon scheme is all Windows, though. Users coming from a Windows environment will have little trouble adapting to the StarOffice.