StarOffice 8 Ships With Boost From OpenDocument Format

Sun Microsystems on Tuesday shipped StarOffice 8, the latest version of its desktop productivity suite. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company said the product is the first commercial office suite to support the OpenDocument format, which is designed to ease data flow among applications and upgrades.

OpenDocument has been at the center of an ongoing dispute between Microsoft and Massachusetts. The state has threatened to move its agencies from Microsoft Office to other applications if Microsoft does not support the OpenDocument format.

StarOffice 8 is based on OpenOffice 2.0 but adds new enterprise management perks and a Visual Basic Applications (VBA) macro converter, said Iyer Venkatesan, product line manager at Sun. The Macro Migration Wizard helps convert macros written in VBA code, a key feature given that many businesses virtually run on Excel macros. Word macros also are common.

Sun also has improved the export side of StarOffice's compatibility with Microsoft Office. "For some time, you could open a Word or Excel document in StarOffice. But if you made changes and sent it back, that could be a problem. That roundtrip is now improved substantially," Venkatesan said.

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StarOffice 8, which includes word processing spreadsheet, database and graphics applications, hit the Web on Tuesday. The suite runs on Windows, Linux and Solaris and comes with a commercial spell check, an Adabas D database, clip art and templates, Sun said.

The product's Enterprise Edition include management tools to ease deployment across organizations. For example, the Java Desktop Configuration Manager tool gives IT staff finer-grained control, Venkatesan said. "You can study and set policies and security settings and control which components users can access," he said.

Pricing for StarOffice 8 starts at $35 per user for new customers and $25 per user for upgrades, Sun said.

Though Microsoft remains the undisputed heavyweight of desktop applications, industry observers say the actual implementation of Office 2003 remains disappointing nearly two years since its release. Microsoft executives have said their biggest competitor to the current Office is older versions of the suite. As a result, the company is building an array of Office 12 server-based capabilities and services to make its desktop applications more attractive.

Meanwhile, Ottawa-based Corel is banking on its WordPerfect Office suite to attract cost-conscious white-box makers and customers, along with the solution providers supporting them, which might not want to be tied into the increasingly thick and often expensive Microsoft applications stack.

Microsoft on Tuesday made available Office 2003 Service Pack 2.

The download includes Outlook anti-phishing and antispam enhancements, application fixes, and updates to InfoPath 2003 and Windows SharePoint Services adding support for soon-to-ship SQL Server 2005 and Visual Studio 2005.

This story was updated Tuesday afternoon with information on Office 2003, SP 2.