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StarOffice provides an alternative to Microsoft Office.

StarOffice, one of the premier alternative office suites, has not hit version 6. Billed as an almost drop-in replacement for Microsoft Office, StarOffice from Sun runs on Linux, Microsoft Windows, and Sun’s Solaris operating systems.

The new 6 release adds a new set of XML-based file formats, making for easier conversion to other application formats.

The main feature, though, lies in the ability to read and write Microsoft Office files, such as Word documents and Excel spreadsheets. This allows corporations to avoid the expensive fees for Microsoft Office, since StarOffice is cheaper, and it allows Linux users to participate in the Windows-dominated world of business computing. With StarOffice, a company can install Linux on user desktops.

This provides hard-pressed corporations some ammunition when dealing with the giant behemoth Microsoft, and with Microsoft’s ever-worsening licensing policies and prices. Your company might even gain something in the transition, in addition to saving costs. Sun’s Web site has a comparison of Microsoft Office and StarOffice features.

StarOffice can also act as a gateway to Linux. Companies can transition their Windows users to StarOffice today and then start installing Linux in place of Windows later on. This strategy saves on expensive Windows upgrade costs. Furthermore, Linux runs better on older Intel hardware than Windows does. By switching to Linux, you can defer many hardware upgrades. If your firm is still at Windows NT, this is an attractive option.

Most Windows NT systems should run Linux just fine, since Linux has fewer hardware requirements than Windows.

StarOffice is available from Sun. Prices go from $75.95 list down to $50 per user for 150 users and further down to $25 per user for 10,000 users.

Unlike earlier free versions, Sun has a whole support system set up for StarOffice customers. This is very important for corporate adoption.

Sun has been making a big push to present StarOffice as a viable alternative to Microsoft Office. Improved support is just one factor.

But you can still see some of the old-time Linuxisms in the StarOffice suite, such as the number one new feature for StarOffice–Calc. The spreadsheet module offers the ability to format values as Roman numerals. While the bragging rights are great (Linux can even do long division with Roman numerals), the practical usage lags somewhat. All in all, StarOffice is well worth a look.

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