by September 6, 2001 0 comments

StarOffice is perhaps the
most well known office suite for Linux. What is not equally well known is that there is a
Windows version as well. The suite is free for download and individual use, but cannot be
redistributed. That is why you have not seen it on the PCQ CD. Currently in its fifth
version, StarOffice includes the StarDesktop, StarWriter, StarCalc,
StarImpress, StarDraw, StarMail, StarBase, StarDiscussion, StarImage,
StarMath, and StarSchedule. Whew!
That’s quite a bunch. All the packages have been integrated into one application and
have a similar interface. The different applications open up as different windows within
StarOffice.

StarOffice has a more professional look and feel than WordPerfect,
probably attributable to the longer time that it has been around. It also has an amazing
amount of settings and customization options that you can play around with.

The application starts with a desktop of its own. In fact, if you
want you can maximize it and use it as your regular desktop. All that you want–word
processor, spreadsheet, database, e-mail, drawing app, scheduler, address book,
presentation package, and browser–are available from here.

Given that it has so many applications built into it, StarOffice can
handle a number of file formats. Version 5 reads all files created in Office 97 also. But
on the flip side, it takes ages to load or to open a file. Currently open files show up on
the start bar at the bottom. Clicking on the start button brings up a start menu, much
like Windows and KDE. And if you have KDE already installed, the KDE start menu becomes
available to you as a submenu from the program files menu item.

For most of us, making presentations have become part and parcel of
our daily routine. Any office suite would not be worth its name if it didn’t come
with a decent presentation package. How does StarOffice stack up here? Pretty decently, I
must admit. StarOffice has a full-fledged presentation module, complete with slides,
effects, animations, and more. You can rehearse your timings, set interactivity options
and any other thing you can do with commercial presentation packages. As can be expected,
it imports PPT files with ease. But with PPT files with a large number of elements in a
slide, some of the elements tend to get slightly out of place. Also, you don’t have a
save or export to PPT option. So, if you want to share your presentation with Office users
you do have a problem. Word processor files can be saved as RTF and shared. You have no
such problems with spreadsheets though. Star can save in Excel file formats.

Should StarOffice crash, as it once did on me, it will save all your
work till then, tell you that it has saved, and exits gracefully. Next time you start up
the package, it will prompt whether you want to recover the file. Neat!

In fact, StarOffice is one of the most complete office suites I have
seen. Star Division has done a good job with this package. It’s only remaining sore
spot is the loading time. But then, if your machine is one of the later day speed
monsters, this should not worry you. Still, some more work on that and you have a killer
package here.

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