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StarOffice 8: Office Killer? - page 9

Alternatives to Microsoft Office

  • March 6, 2006
  • By Martin C. Brown

StarOffice is a complete alternative to Microsoft Office and I wouldn't have any worries about suggesting StarOffice as an alternative to Office for me, my clients, or indeed anybody. The fact that I can also use StarOffice on multiple platforms with a consistent interface is obviously also appealing.

The pricing alone makes it attractive; the functionality--particularly when you go beyond the standard features of an Office suite--is what really piques the interest. Key highlights include the ease with which we can generate PDFs and XHTML, the improved compatibility with Office documents and the interface to external databases like MySQL.

These features take the product beyond the standard desktop office software. I continually found myself marveling at the 'final step' functionality available within the different applications, such as the ability to export directly to PDF, HTML or Flash. I can easily see myself developing non-web interfaces to a MySQL database using StarOffice and gaining the ability to mail merge or produce reports from the data in the process, for example.

Purists will argue that the lack of a bundled email package or business contact manager limit the effectiveness of an office suite. It would be easy to point the doubter towards capable open source products like Thunderbird or SugarCRM.

Pointing them to such free solutions also helps to crystallize the idea of open formats and applications. The OpenDocument format support by StarOffice, and the free OpenOffice.org on which it is based, are just more examples of why you should use this software. In a few years time I find it likely that many different applications will be offering OpenDocument support, and even if OpenOffice.org and StarOffice fail, the use of a standard document format means that new applications and developers can step into the market without having to redevelop the wheel that is Office file compatibility.

If I have one criticism of StarOffice it is that the application is so like Microsoft Office that many will fail to see the difference. While file compatibility is one thing, virtually duplicating the look and feel of an application is another. I am not entirely sure it is the right approach, but I appreciate that to compete with Office we should have an application that is as simple and easy to use as the suite we are replacing.

Even with this minor complaint, I cannot really fault StarOffice 8 as an effective Office Suite. StarOffice 8 is available on a 30-day evaluation basis and is certainly worth investigating.

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