StarOffice shines with low-cost apps

Looking at a product such as Star Division's StarOffice productivity suite, there's an elephant in the closet that's pretty hard to ignore. Namely, a particular office suite product from some folks in Redmond, that has enjoyed a bit of success in this market. But, StarOffice 5.0 manages to stand well on its own merits; even those committed to Microsoft Office should take a close look.

If you have users working on diverse platforms, StarOffice is an option for standardising everyone on one office suite. Star Division jumps on cross-platform with both feet, supporting Windows, OS/2, Linux, and Solaris, with Mac OS and Java-based versions coming soon.

StarOffice has all the applications users would expect, such as a word processor, spreadsheet, drawing and presentation software, but they do not exist as separate applications. Rather you launch and access them via a single interface that reminds me of a combination of Windows Explorer and Active Desktop in Windows 98, complete with its own Start button. This means that StarOffice on a GUI-less Linux system will still be friendly to the most command-line-phobic user.

Besides the productivity tools you expect, Star Division has tightly integrated Internet functionality with the suite. You can browse the Web, edit and publish HTML, and write and send e-mail straight from StarOffice with no intermediary.

In addition, StarOffice throws in an address book, calendar, and to-do list, all of which can synchronise with Microsoft Outlook or a Palm handheld.

The features in StarOffice are quite good. For example, I found the thesaurus in StarWriter to be superlative, optimal, and unsurpassed. It wasn't simply coded at the last minute to meet the specifications drawn up by the marketing department. I'm a word person, though, so that's a feature I appreciate. Of course, as a word person, there were a couple features I missed, such as the ability to have revisions automatically appear in another colour, and the handy cursor highlighting tool.

Opening some book chapters in StarOffice that I have been editing in Microsoft Word nearly stopped my heart, as all the annotations had disappeared. There are workarounds for this problem, but they were inconvenient. As a rule, you will find most of the basic features in StarOffice, but you would be well advised to do an inventory of the critical features users need, just to make sure.

Many office suites are criticised for their bloat, incorporating too many features at the expense of disk space and performance. StarOffice is not a waif -- with a 150MB install on Windows -- but that's not so bad considering how many applications are squeezed into the product. It really boils down to this: any feature you use is critical, while any feature you do not use is bloat.

Bringing in documents from Microsoft Office -- for the most part a smooth process -- had a few hiccups. For instance, StarCalc, the spreadsheet program, handled my Excel expense and budget reports with no calculation errors, but the formatting was off. Formatting errors turned a one-page document into two pages, and I lost my check boxes. Also, when I opened Word documents, I was invariably chided that I had Fast Saved those files and needed to go back and resave them.

The ambitious IT manager considering a migration to StarOffice also needs to consider issues such as training users. StarOffice is similar enough to other office suites that users should adjust, given a little time. Certainly, it's not much different than upgrading to the new version of an office suite. Invariably, features change and users struggle for a while. Migrating documents might prove more problematic, because there are some formatting troubles.

But all these caveats are balanced by the compelling bottom-line issue. StarOffice costs less than half the price of many competing products, with discounts for large installations. Overall, StarOffice proves to be a viable option for those looking for an office suite at an attractive price. Before you upgrade users to the next version of your current office suite, download a free copy of StarOffice. You just might find an Internet-ready suite that won't break your budget.

Stars in the Office

StarOffice includes the following applications.

-- StarWriter, StarWriter/Web (word processing, Web editing and browsing)-- StarCalc (spreadsheet)-- StarImpress, StarDraw (presentation and drawing)-- StarBase (database)-- StarMail (e-mail)-- StarSchedule (calendar)-- StarDesktop (desktop interface)THE BOTTOM LINE: GOODStarOffice 5.0This office suite serves up cross-platform productivity applications that make good use of Internet technologies at an eye-popping price. Though there are issues to consider in migrating from another suite, StarOffice is worth considering as an alternative during your next office-suite upgrade.

Pros: Competitive pricing strategy; nicely integrated suite of applications; good cross-platform support; good Internet functionality.

Cons: Conversion of other file formats less than perfect; lacks some useful features.

Star Division: www.stardivision.com.

Price: $US50 -- Available for download. The package is expected to be available for sale in Australia soon.

Check with Cetus Technology www.cetustech.com.au Platforms: Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT, OS/2, Linux, Solaris.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Sean Dugan

PC World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?