As alternatives to Microsoft's Office 2003, the free OpenOffice.org suite and low-cost StarOffice both have a lot to offer.
When eWEEK Labs recently reviewed StarOffice 8, we were impressed by its broad platform support and low costtwo measures by which the Sun Microsystems Inc. office productivity suite edges out Microsoft Corp.s market-leading Office 2003 but falls short compared with its open-source sibling, OpenOffice.org 2.0.
OpenOffice.org is freely available and redistributable, and supports seven platforms: Windows, Linux x86 and PowerPC, Solaris x86 and SPARC, Mac OS X and FreeBSD. StarOffice 8, in contrast, costs between $35 and $100, and supports only Windows, Linux x86, and Solaris x86 and SPARC.
eWEEK Labs tests of OpenOffice.org 2.0 show that it is an excellent office productivity suite option, particularly in the case of Linux distributions, which typically come bundled with a well-integrated version of the suite.
Click here to read about the powerful new database in OpenOffice.org 2.0.
OpenOffice.org 2.0 and StarOffice 8 share the same code base and are nearly identical. The primary differences are in packaging and certain non-free software components that come bundled with Suns suite.
The purchase price of StarOffice 8 also includes support from Sun, where OpenOffice.org 2.0 support comes at an additional cost.
OpenOffice.org 2.0 and StarOffice 8 use the same native file format, OpenDocument, and the same macro language.
Organizations that mix the two suites, therefore, can expect complete compatibility. (The OpenOffice.org Project recently made available an update to its earlier OpenOffice.org version, 1.1.5, that includes the capability to open, but not to create, OpenDocument-formatted files.)
Read more here about why StarOffice 8 rivals Microsoft Office.
We tested OpenOffice.org 2.0 on Ubuntu Linux 5.10, SuSE Linux 10 and Windows XP, and the suite performed similarly on all three systems. One difference we noted while testing OpenOffice on SuSE 10 was the way that the suite took on the appearance and functional qualities of the GNOME and KDE desktop environments, depending on which we were using.
Unlike StarOffice 8, OpenOffice.org adopted environment-specific dialogs for opening and saving documents, a nice integration touch.
Another benefit that OpenOffice 2.0 offers on Linux systems is better integration with the various packaging systems with which different Linux distributions ship. Sun ships StarOffice 8 as a set of RPM packages.
Senior Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at Jason_brooks@ziffdavis.com.
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