September 16, 2003

StarOffice 7 at first glance


- by Joe Barr -
Updated: This is not a review of StarOffice 7. This is a drive-by, first-glance, real quick peek at StarOffice 7. How quick? I installed it less than an hour ago. Still, first impressions count. So far I find it pretty sweet: fast and nice to look at.

It took me roughly five minutes to install StarOffice 7. That's not including Adabas, which took only three more. I'm running Ximian Desktop 2 on Red Hat 9. I expected to find StarOffice 7 under Office in the Program menu, but it wasn't there. Instead it got loaded in Favorites.

I started it up by selecting Text document from the choices (Drawing, Template, HTML,
Presentation, Spreadsheet, and Text). It was ready in less than 6 seconds. My Ximian version of 1.0 takes 15 seconds by comparison. I typed a short letter and didn't notice anything out of the ordinary. I also opened an MS Word document. It looked fine.

Next I tried the Spreadsheet. It couldn't grok a Gnumeric spreadsheet, but it had no trouble with one saved in MS Excel format. When I opened a presentation saved in MS PowerPoint format, however, it did not look like it had been interpreted correctly. Some things looked slightly out of place. Others looked as if they were missing something. (The screenshot below shows the PowerPoint file as it displayed in StarOffice 7.)

Out of curiosity, I decided to try to export the presentation as a PDF file. When I opened the PDF with the Adobe Acrobat Reader, I finally saw what the presentation was supposed to have looked like. It had been missing all the graphics when I viewed it in the StarOffice 7 Presentation program, that's why the text I saw looked disconnected. There were one or two errors in sizing, but the rest of a fairly complex multiple page PDF document looked very sharp. (The screenshot below shows the same PowerPoint file exported as a PDF by StarOffice 7 and viewed with Adobe Acrobat.)

NewsForge readers have pointed that the reason the PowerPoint file did not display properly had to do with user error rather than a problem with StarOffice. The file is being opened in outline mode. To view it properly, all I had to do was view it as a Slide Show. It displays perfectly using the Slide Show tool.

Sun claims that StarOffice has more than 40 million users around the globe and is provided by more than 60 OEMs. No specific price for StarOffice 7 was given in the announcement, but Sun says it's available for about one-fifth the cost of other proprietary office suites.

Joe Barr has been writing about personal computing for 10 years, and about Linux for five. His work has appeared in IBM Personal Systems Journal, LinuxGazette, LinuxWorld, Newsforge, phrack, SecurityFocus,, and He is the founder of The Dweebspeak Primer, home of the official newsletter of the Linux Liberation Army, an organization in which he holds the honorary rank of Corporal-for-life.

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