by July 6, 2001 0 comments

StarOffice is perhaps the best-known office suite for Linux.
Previous versions of StarOffice have been free for download and personal use,
but had restrictions on redistribution. The download was also pretty hefty, so
it wasn’t viable for Indians to download and try it out. This month’s CD
includes StarOffice 5.2 for Linux.

Installation is straightforward. To install it, mount this
month’s CD with the commands:

mount /mnt/cdrom

cd /mnt/cdrom/cdrom/linux/staroffice/

If you intend to run StarOffice as a single user, just run
the installer with the command: ./so5.2x86linux.bin

If you want the same installation to be used by multiple
users, you’ll need to do a network installation. Login as root, and then run
the command

./so5.2.x86linux.bin /net

Be sure to change the installation directory to /opt/office52
when asked during installation.

After the installation is complete, you can run the program


This will set up StarOffice for that user.

Since typing the full path can be bothersome and prone to
mistakes, run these commands as root:

cd /usr/bin

ln -sf /opt/office52/program/soffice soffice

Since /usr/bin is in the path, a user can just run “soffice”
to start the program.

StarOffice automatically adds itself to your KDE panel, but
if you use another window manager, you may have to start it manually.

StarOffice loads up with a desktop of its own, and even comes
with a Start button. This will help long-time Windows users feel at ease with
the system. The interface is professional and neat–it’s been made to look
similar to Windows–and all the applications are seamlessly integrated.

The applications include:

  • StarOffice Desktop, which is the main interface to all
    the other applications

  • StarOffice Writer, the Word processor

  • StarOffice Calc, the spreadsheet application

  • StarOffice Impress, the presentation program

  • StarOffice Draw for creating drawings

  • StarOffice Schedule for managing appointments and events

  • StarOffice Base, the database module, which uses Adabas D
    as the back-end instead of the Oterro database used previously. The Adabas
    database was not available to us at the time of creating the CD, so we’ll
    have to ship it later.

  • StarOffice Mail, which is a POP3/IMAP client

  • StarOffice Discussion for reading newsgroups

  • StarOffice Basic for creating macros

  • StarOffice Chart, StarOffice Image, and StarOffice Math

There’s also a browser integrated into StarOffice, which
renders pages neatly, and also supports Java and JavaScript if you have a Java
Runtime Environment or JDK installed. Just type in a URL into the location bar
on top, and hit “Enter” to load a Web page.

The help system is good, and context-sensitive help is
provided in the form of the Help Agent. There are many wizards available to
create documents, and this feature is called AutoPilot. You can access it via
File>AutoPilot. Lots of configurability is provided through Tools>

StarOffice comes with import and export filters for Word
97/2000, Excel 97/2000 and PowerPoint 97/2000. This means that you can share
your data with MS Office users, and import all your old data into StarOffice.
The import option was less than perfect in earlier versions of StarOffice, but
Sun claims to have improved the compatibility in this version. However, we didn’t
have much time to test out the compatibility fully.

The downside to all this, is that StarOffice takes ages to
load and needs a fast system with oodles of RAM to get good performance out of
it. The stability was also slightly suspect–it did crash on me a couple times
during the tests.

All in all, it’s a feature-rich office suite, and should
see a lot of improvement and maturity in future releases. Products like this
would definitely go a long way in making Linux a viable alternative to Windows
on the home or corporate desktop.

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