StarOffice 7 Makes a Run at Office

Can Sun Microsystems' StarOffice 7 supplant Microsoft Office on your desktop?

Can Sun Microsystems StarOffice 7 supplant Microsoft Office on your desktop? With previous versions being slow and buggy, youd probably answer no. But the speed, power, and simplicity of the latest version—combined with its minuscule price ($79.95 direct)—may change your mind. Its certainly worth a look for budget-constrained government or enterprise buyers, as well as small businesses and individual users who need to buy an office suite with their own money. And attention education buyers: Sun will send you the software for just the cost of the media and shipping.

Sun Microsystems application suite comprises the Writer word processor, HTML editor, Calc spreadsheet, Impress presentation program, Draw graphics program, as well as a database component accessed from within the other components. No mail client is provided as an Outlook replacement, however.

Corporations with heavy investments in VBA programming or in Office 2003s XML data manipulation features wont be interested in StarOffice. Also, the suite lacks clever automation features like Microsoft Offices SmarTags. But its StarOffice Basic programming language provides power akin to Microsofts Visual Basic for Applications. Versions for Windows, Linux, and Solaris ship on the same CD (though we tested under Windows XP).

Microsoft Office users who switch to StarOffice will need little or no retraining, because the menus and overall behavior of the two suites are nearly identical. But StarOffice tends to be more intuitive than Microsoft Office. StarOffices AutoPilots resemble Offices Wizards, with plainer graphics but more efficient menus.

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