April 17, 2014

StarOffice 8: Office Killer? - page 5

Alternatives to Microsoft Office

  • March 6, 2006
  • By Martin C. Brown

The spreadsheet is one of the oldest applications for a computer and many saw the development of the computer spreadsheet as the first 'killer app' for computing. Excel has already won the spreadsheet war against CA's Supercalc and Lotus 1-2-3. There may be a new war brewing.

StarOffice Calc is yet another good spreadsheet program. I opened a number of my Excel spreadsheets, including all my accounts and did not experience any problems with the documents I opened. These documents include sheets that use Pivot Tables (called Data Pilot in StarOffice) and complex lookup and calculation functions.

Calc incorporates a new design that more closely resembles Excel. They have also improved the interface in terms of data management. There are new tools for reducing the screen real-estate used by certain data groups, for example you can collapse a group of rows or columns, or both to help you focus on the information you really need.

The redesign also extends to an improved charting system and chart wizard. These charts can be dynamically updated and embedded into sheets (instead of operating as separate components), which works particularly well if you are using the built-in interface to the database system or through the database interface to an external database. For working with and aggregating tabular data in this way it is hard to beat the row/column approach of a spreadsheet and it is a great way to give users the ability to manipulate raw data within an environment they are familiar with.

Finally, a 'What if' system enables you to try different factors within a spreadsheet to arrive at appropriate results. For example, you can run a business planning model based on different profit or growth curves and summarize the results to show the effects. Similar functionality is available within Excel, but Calc feels less fussy in its approach and I found it much easier to develop a scenario using StarOffice Calc.

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