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StarOffice Suite
If you still haven't gotten around to upgrading to Microsoft Office 2000 you may want to wait a little longer before you run off to the software store and fork over your hard-earned cash.

There's good reason to pause. With StarOffice Suite, Sun MicroSystems has come up with an excellent alternative to Microsoft Office.

Overview
StarOffice is a complete package that incorporates all the features you need in Office productivity software.
This is an impressive collection of tools - ranging from a basic HTML editor to an easy to use Database program. You'll also get a powerful word processor, an integrated web browser, an email program, image editing software, a spreadsheet program, and presentation software.

And the really interesting part?

It's absolutely free. And you can download the program from the Sun Web Site right now.

Sound good? It does to a lot of people. Sun has already logged nearly two million downloads in the four months since putting the software on the market.

Origins of StarOffice
In August of last year, Sun acquired StarOffice with the takeover of German software manufacturer StarDivision, setting the stage for the announcement that the company would distribute the software free of charge over the Internet.

Integration
The most useful aspect of StarOffice is the way in which the StarOffice web browser is neatly integrated into the overall scheme of the program.

Type in the URL of a web site you need to visit while you're working on a text document or editing a spreadsheet and the page loads swiftly, without you having to go to the trouble of launching a new application.

Workflow
This is a real advantage, given the way most people work these days - bouncing back and forth between office applications and browser. StarOffice saves you time - and in the long run will probably save you money as well.

The program integrates file managment in a similar way. You'll have convenient sidebar access to important tools like Windows Explorer and your Web bookmarks even while you're working on documents in StarOffice.

Annexing your Desktop
It's worth noting that some critics complain about the way Star takes over the desktop. Once you've launched the program the interface itself can't be minimized, in order to launch other applications you'll need to use the program's built-in navigation system, a fairly easy task once you get the lay of the land, but perhaps not the wisest design decision on the part of the program's creators. And although this feature may irritate some people, it's easy to work around.

Adjusting
Launching StarOffice for the first time can be a disorienting experience. If you're used to using an application like Word or Wordperfect you may want to close your eyes for a second as the program launches.

At first glance, nothing is where it is supposed to be. The familiar toolbars and icons are all gone. No reassuring animated Microsoft cartoon character pops up to welcome you to the system. No, not even a single dancing paperclip...

Don't panic. Once you get a feel for how the system works StarOffice is very easy to use. It'll take a little while to master the system. But once you have the basics down, you'll be able to pick up even advanced tasks fairly quickly.

Overview
StarOffice does have it's weaknesses.

The spreadsheet program is not Excell. The HTML Editor is not DreamWeaver. StarWriter ain't WordPerfect - but it's well on the way.

The interface could definately use a makeover, but on the whole, this program's price and easy availability over the web make it an obvious choice for people looking to watch the company bottom line, or concerned about annual licensing fees...

ftp from Sun MicroSystems (65MB)

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