Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Star Office by Sun Microsystems Part 1

I have already reviewed OpenOffice, an office application package that is both open source and free. I really like the package because it works just like Microsoft Office, but you don't have to sell your first born to use it. Today I want to review a very similar product that is developed primarily under Sun Microsystems called Star Office. It is critical to note that StarOffice costs money while OpenOffice does not. However, StarOffice is not nearly as expensive as Microsoft Office and in a free market economy, it is critical that we have some alternatives. It is even more critical to note that if you don't want to pay for StarOffice, you can still get it for free from Google in their Google Pack. The drawback there is that you won't be able to get it for Linux or Mac OS X, just Windows. So, is StarOffice free? Only through Google. Otherwise you pay Sun to use it.

So you can get the most out of my review I have structured my comments accordingly: Introduction, The Package, Ease-of-Use, Features, Compatibility with Microsoft formats, and Takeaways.


Star Office was originially developed by StarDivision but was purchased by Sun in 1999. OpenOffice (the free one) was actually based upon the source code of Star Office which was released in 2000. StarOffice, in turn, are based upon newer versions of OpenOffice. You can see that open source development was an important method through which Sun developed a product they now sell and profit from. This is a great example of how an open source business model can be a part of corporate strategy and help turn a profit while also developing software that is made by the users of the product. For more information on open source as a business model, click here. Recently, Google has incorporated StarOffice as part of its Google Pack, a software package for Windows containing essential programs like a virus scanner, photo editor, office application package, etc.

The Package

So what does StarOffice include in its array of applications? The interesting thing is that it contains more than the typical package of Microsoft Office. Here is a list of its contents and the file extensions they support:

Star Writer - word processor - .sdw, .sxw, .odt, .ott .doc

Star Calc - spreadsheet - .sdc, .sxc, .ods, .ots, .xls

StarImpress - presentation program - .sdd, .sxi, .odp, .otp, .ppt

StarDraw - drawing tool - .sda, .sxd, .odg, .otg

StarBase - database - .sdb, .odb

StarMath - formula generator - .smf, .sxm, .odf


The focus of this section is really to determine how easy or hard it is to interact with StarOffice. I will try to answer questions like: Are the programs easy to use? Is the interface appealing? StarOffice has the look and feel of Microsoft Office 2003. Is it bad that it doesn't look like Office 2007? No. Office 2007 is merely a glorified, xml-ized version of 2003. StarOffice looks like 2003 and has more programs in the package and better features. Each program is intuitive and as easy to use as any office application you have used previously. The applications are not buggy so the flow of use is good.


There are a host of features that I won't bother with because they are so common to Office Applications. For example, StarOffice (and OpenOffice) does EVERYTHING you would expect from your office applications. Everything. Macros, formulas, graphs, etc. Here are some additional features that make the software package appealing:

Format Changes: StarOffice allows you to save documents in .pdf format. This is extremely useful for anyone that needs to send a document that can't be modified by the next user. .pdf is also a very simple file type that many companies and individuals prefer to work with. Not only that, but you can save your files in formats beyond just .doc or .xls. Most importantly, the software does not limit you to one file format.

Package: The package you get with StarOffice is as complete as any other office apllication package and contains other useful software for editing formulas and a drawing tool.

Lastly, It's free: This is an important concept. You don't pay anything for a professiona

Compatibility- with .doc, .docs, .xls, .xlsx, etc.

You might wonder why I think this section is necessary. If you switch to OpenOffice or StarOffice, your colleuges at work, your friends, family, and everyone else in the world may not. This means that you will undoubtedly need to read the documents they create using your office application and it needs to be compatible. To this important information, there is good news and bad news.

Good News! StarOffice and OpenOffice are completely compatible with anything Microsoft has done pre-2007. That means anything without the -x on the end can be opened no problem and is completely compatible (although you might find a problem withthemes of PowerPoint files but not the data).

Bad News. Right now, OpenOffice and StarOffice don't support the .xml based files of Office 2007. There are converters out there that can help you figure it all out. The funny thing about the bad news here is that Microsoft Office 2003 won't open 2007 documents either unless you download and install the compatibility patch. A lot of people don't do this... so what's the diffferce. Anyway, a reason Microsoft created this file format was to dissuade people from using open office applications. So, if you want to use StarOffice and you want to open .-x extension files, just download the converter and everything will be fine.

Come back tomorrow to read the takeaways from this important application package. It was too long of a post to all hit today. So to learn how this can affect you and the software community favorably, come back and read tomorrow's post.

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