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StarOffice 8: Office Killer? - page 3

Alternatives to Microsoft Office

  • March 6, 2006
  • By Martin C. Brown

Whether you download StarOffice or obtain it on CD you will need to run the installer to setup the software. There are a few issues with the installer on Linux, not least of which that the installer relies on RedHat Package Manager format packages. For those of us not using an RPM based distribution (I use Gentoo) the installer fails with no particularly helpful error messages. Although I can install an RPM utility for Gentoo it took me a while to determine that this was the underlying problem even after examining the detailed log file produced during the failed installation attempt. It is unfortunate that there is not a quick check by the installer to determine whether an RPM utility is available.

The installer is Java-based, and exists as a wrapper around the underlying RPMs. Some users may also experience problems depending on the exact version of the Java Runtime Environment they have installed. Without Java you can install from the RPMs directly, providing you have an RPM tool installed.

One final issue for Linux is the installation itself; the files seem somewhat spread about the filesystem. The entire installation is placed into /opt/soffice8 and then symbolic links are placed in /usr/bin for the applications and from /etc/staroffice back to /opt/soffice8. Confusingly, /usr/bin/soffice is actually a symbolic link to /etc/staroffice8/program/soffice, which is in turn really a symbolic link back to the original /opt/soffice8 directory. While I don't have an issue with this kind distribution (StarOffice does come with an uninstaller to remove these files) it seems odd to create symbolic link in /etc/staroffice when the application already has a standard directory. As for the symbolic links in /usr/bin why not link directly to the file in /opt/soffice8 rather than through /etc/staroffice?

The inclusion of an installer will make the removal of the software easier, but it is not removal that worries me. I'm more concerned about the mass spread of files across the system and a heavy reliance on links. It wouldn't take much for the accidental deletion of a directory or link to make the application unusable.

Once installed my experiences have been mixed. On some machines I can continue to use StarOffice 8 without any problems. On others, StarOffice will run immediately after installation, but then never run again. The program just terminates--no errors or problems are reported in any log file that I can find. On some machines the Java tool javaldx which determines Java library locations required by StarOffice simply freezes, preventing StarOffice from running at all.


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