Sun StarOffice 8 Makes Its Debut

Sun Microsystems last week shipped StarOffice 8, the latest version of its desktop productivity suite. The Santa Clara, Calif., company said the product is the first commercial office suite to support the OpenDocument format, 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 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.

>> StarOffice 8 is based on OpenOffice 2.0 but adds new enterprise management perks.

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 round trip is now improved substantially,” Venkatesan said.

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The StarOffice 8 suite, which includes word pro-cessing, spreadsheet, database and graphics applications, runs on Windows, Linux and Solaris, Sun said.

The product&s Enterprise Edition includes management tools to ease deployment across organizations. For example, the Java Desktop Configuration Manager tool gives IT staff finer-grained control, Venkatesan said.

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

Though Microsoft, Redmond, Wash., remains the undisputed champ of desktop applications, industry observers say the actual implementation of Office 2003 remains disappointing nearly two years since its release. Microsoft executives have said the 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.