Sun Microsystems Inc. plans to preview the beta of its upcoming StarOffice 8 desktop productivity suite, currently slated for release by midyear, as well as Release 3 of its Java Desktop System, due next quarter, at the LinuxWorld Conference in Boston this week.
Herb Hinstorff, a director at Sun, told eWEEK that the Santa Clara, Calif., company, will be highlighting the expanded device support in the third release of JDS, which is based on the Linux 2.6 kernel.
“We will be reminding people that the JDS provides a true alternative desktop with some security and affordability advantages over the legacy alternatives and how Release 3 advances that,” Hinstorff said.
On the interoperability front, a big focus will be on improvements, including better interoperability with Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft file formats (Samba 3.0 is included to provide better file format interoperability) as well as improved Internet Explorer compatibility in Mozilla.
“Linux and other alternatives have to fit really well into legacy environments; they have to be able to coexist easily in these environments, and we have concentrated on providing that,” he said.
Among the key enhancements to StarOffice 8, which moves to a public beta this week and will stay open for the next six weeks, is better interoperability with Microsoft Office. “We have made significant usability enhancements so that when users download and use it they will see the changes we have made to the look and feel of the product,” Manish Punjabi, Suns group manager for StarOffice/OpenOffice.org, told eWEEK.
StarOffice 8 will also have better import/export filters. Sun is also trying to reduce the migration cost from an enterprise standpoint as well as lower the risk of migration through better migration support. “We will now support the conversion of Visual Basic-based macros to StarOffice-based macros,” Punjabi said. “We also made significant enhancements to the database functionality, which is now more like Microsoft Access.”
In addition, StarOffice 8 will provide, for the first time, an automated way for users to migrate their macros. The StarOffice spreadsheet application will now support 65,536 rows, the same as number supported by Microsoft Excel. “This is a document format compatibility kind of attribute,” he said.
With regard to presentations, StarOffice 8 enables users to import and export their animations developed in PowerPoint, which will convert over to StarOffice, Punjabi said.
On the thorny issue of compatibility with Microsoft Office and the products in that suite, Hinstorff said StarOffice 8 took “another big step forward.” The product development team spent a lot of time addressing more basic user issues, like providing the ability to take a document, read it, write it and have everything preserved.
“Across the board our message is going to be interoperability, a compatible, easy-to-use user experience and a bigger set of devices supported. We will also focus our discussions at LinuxWorld on our contributions to open source. All of this is based on open source and things that we have contributed in addition to community products,” he said.
Sun will also be focusing on the positioning of the products in the market. “For those mainstream core features used by the majority of users, the interoperability with other legacy software is very strong,” Hinstorff said.
“We want the public beta to expose any of the corner cases that we may have missed. The feedback we have got so far shows that compatibility is very good,” he said.
Punjabi said Openoffice.org will also benefit from the majority of the changes in StarOffice. “But the commercial quality spell checker and some other features are not included in Openoffice.org,” he said.