I was recently hired to train a company on their office suite package. Because most of my customers have Microsoft Office, Corel WordPerfect, or Lotus Smart Suite, I was surprised to find that their brand-new computer came with StarOffice preinstalled. As I was unfamiliar with this integrated suite of software products, I researched the package and was pleased to discover that it offers plenty of features, some of which are unique to the product.

In this article, I highlight what StarOffice has to offer the enterprise. I’ll share the details of each individual component in future articles.

Fully integrated office suite
Sun Microsystems acquired StarOffice in the summer of 1999. StarOffice runs on the Windows, Linux, Solaris, OS/2, and SPARC/Intel Platforms. It is a fully integrated suite of office software products that includes:

  • StarOffice Writer: a word processing program
  • StarOffice Calc: a spreadsheet program
  • StarOffice Impress: a program for creating presentations similar to those created in PowerPoint
  • StarOffice Draw: a program for creating graphics
  • StarOffice Schedule: for managing appointments, calendars, and to-do lists
  • StarOffice Mail and StarOffice Discussion: for handling e-mail and newsgroup needs
  • StarOffice Base: a program that allows access to databases and data management

I found StarOffice to be quite a nice office application. The good news for the enterprise is that the 5.2 Personal Edition is available free as a 79-105 MB download. StarOffice can also be purchased on CD in the 5.2 Regular Edition for around $9.95. The 5.2 Deluxe Edition with written documentation runs for $39.95.

Sun has agreements with Everex, eMachines, Sony, and Gateway to have its office suite preinstalled in new computers, and contracts are also in the works with other computer companies.

Easy to navigate
StarOffice takes over the desktop of your computer and acts as its own PC desktop. Many of its toolbar elements mimic other office suites, such as font, bold, italic, cursor, and other general toolbar facets. One of the unique things about StarOffice is the Explorer. Yes, it does operate like Windows Explorer, allowing you to access anything in your file folders, but StarOffice’s Explorer also has a task folder, an e-mail and news folder, a work folder, and a bookmark folder. You can also add and subtract group elements as you please in this Explorer package. To open and close the Explorer, just click on the arrow at the top of its right border (see Figure A).

Figure A

Right-clicking on the window you have opened in the Explorer provides you with many options to choose from. Explorer really can keep your work at your fingertips, making it easy to change between applications.

More control over your desktop
StarOffice is unique in that you can set up the desktop with fully integrated toolbars that change as you work on different application types or have the desktop function like a traditional office suite toolbar, where you switch back and forth completely between applications. The [Shift][Ctrl]I key combination allows you to move between views.

One of the things I liked best is that the window for viewing documents or Web pages is quite large, at least 25 percent larger than other office suites and Web browsers, which was a definite plus for me.

Works well alone or with other office suites
StarOffice is easily integrated with other office suites. Just select File | New and then use the button at the bottom to choose what type of file you want to open. Next, select the name of the file and follow the instructions. Files made in StarOffice can also be saved in Microsoft Office, Corel WordPerfect, or other office suite applications, as well as StarOffice’s own file type. When I opened a Microsoft form in StarOffice, little if any formatting was lost. This feature is a definite plus for those offices that install StarOffice but are concerned about compatibility.

StarOffice’s desktop also provides options that some office suites don’t. Click on the clock in the corner, and the Scheduler pops up, enabling you to insert an appointment or reminder quickly. If you need to confirm information contained in, for example, a database, spreadsheet, or Web page, simply go to Explorer and click on the source for a quick reference. And you can save applications easily by dragging them to the Explorer.

All in all, this office suite packs a real punch when it comes to office-production software. Stay tuned for future articles, in which I’ll discuss additional desktop applications, such as the Navigator and the Beamer, as well as tips for navigating within StarOffice.