Sun Microsystems on Monday plans to announce several key enhancements to its StarOffice and OpenOffice.org office productivity software suites.
StarOffice 8 and the corresponding open version, OpenOffice.org 2.3, have both been updated with a variety of new features, including the ability to edit for blog servers along with enhanced charting capabilities and tools to reduce the size of presentations, Mark Herring, senior director of Network.com for Sun Microsystems, told LinuxInsider. The new server version of StarOffice, meanwhile, now includes the ability to convert documents in bulk into the Acrobat PDF file format.
“These new capabilities further affirm StarOffice 8 as an alternative to Microsoft Office, offering a full-featured office productivity suite that is affordable, flexible and compatible with Microsoft Office,” Sun said. “These updates also enhance OpenOffice.org, the open source project building the world’s most widely distributed open source multiplatform and multilingual productivity suite.”
110 Million Downloads
OpenOffice.org is a free, open source platform designed to be interoperable with every major commercial office suite and compatible with the internationally standardized OpenDocument Format. It runs natively on Windows, GNU/Linux, Sun Solaris, Mac OS X and several other platforms, and is backed by the OpenOffice.org Project, an international community of volunteers and sponsors, including Sun.
Modules in OpenOffice.org include word processor, spreadsheet, presentation manager, drawing, math and database manipulation.
“This year OpenOffice.org is really coming into its own,” Herring said.
Roughly 1 million copies of OpenOffice.org are downloaded per week, not including distributions through vendors such as Google, Herring said. To date, about 110 million copies of the software have been downloaded.
“What that signifies is that it’s not just developers using the product anymore,” Herring noted. “We’re seeing more of the student population and people that can’t afford the commercial products” turning to OpenOffice.org, he added. “It’s going gangbusters.”
StarOffice, meanwhile, is essentially the same product as OpenOffice.org but with the addition of support and indemnification for enterprise and government users, Herring explained.
Version 2.3 of OpenOffice.org was quietly released to users this fall with several enhancements, including new charting features and the ability to export word-processing files directly into sites like Wikipedia, Herring explained.
OpenOffice.org has also developed a raft of extensions with additional functionality, and the most popular by far is a report builder, he noted.
“This extension allows you to go and access through OpenOffice.org any SQL database out there and build complex reports straight from the database,” Herring explained.
Also new is a presentation minimizer that goes through a presentation, asks the user questions about what’s safe to delete, and thereby reduces the size of the presentation by about 55 percent on average, Herring said. The minimizer works not just with StarOffice and OpenOffice.org but also Microsoft’s PowerPoint, he noted.
Help for Microsoft Users
Other extensions recently developed include one for direct faxing capabilities and another that allows users to export word-processing files in blogging format, he said. One for users of Microsoft Office allows them to save files in OpenDocument Format.
For the first time, Sun is also announcing the availability of back-line support for OpenOffice.org enterprise users and distributors, Herring added. Pricing will be set at about US$20 per user supported.
Finally, StarOffice 8 Server has been upgraded to allow the automatic conversion of documents in any of 40 different formats, including Microsoft Excel and Word, into Adobe PDF or OpenDocument Format. Conversion can be done at a rate of about 100 documents per minute, Herring said.
The manufacturer’s suggested retail price for StarOffice is $69; pricing for StarOffice 8 Server starts at about $10,000.
“I’m quite impressed with the features of OpenOffice,” Lee Felsenstein, a spokesperson for the Fonly Institute, told LinuxInsider. “The only reason I don’t standardize on it is out of fear about whether it will play well at the other end when I send a document to someone.”
Having a free suite to compete with Microsoft’s high-priced offerings is critical, and the standardization that the offering makes possible “in effect returns us to the days of the growth of the PC industry,” he noted.
Back in the industry’s early days, growth was possible through the standardization on various file formats, he explained — before the formats were “captured by Microsoft” and transformed into barriers to growth.
“Being able to say one is not required to go along with the Microsoft way of doing things is really very important,” he said. “Linux has always been derided for having deficient applications, and this is an answer to that problem.”
I have been an ‘Open Office’ user since before Sun bought it. I have always felt it was at least as good as MS-Office and, frequently, better.
That said (here’s the ‘other shoe’), I can’t say the same for the blogging extension in Star Office. Much as I love FOSS, Windows Live Writer is the better blog editor.
I need to make it plain that I bought the extension from Sun … whereas Live Writer is free from Microsoft. I am scraping by financially, but I thought I’d at least toss a little something down the well to keep the FOSS code level up.
Odd that, for each company, their better product is their free one.