posted by Adam S on Mon 26th Sep 2005 20:31 UTC
IconToday, I had the opportunity to speak with Iyer Venkatesan, Product line manager for StarOffice at Sun Microsystems. He spoke to me at length about StarOffice 8, which will be released tomorrow. Read on for a summary of the interview, and be sure to check out the review at Newsforge as well.

Note: Due to technology complications, I was unable to record this conversation for verbatim transcription. As such, all answers are paraphrased and should not be quoted in external sources.

Iyer was very eager to share the news about tomorrow's release of StarOffice 8. Based on the OpenOffice.org 2.0 codebase, StarOffice provides 5 major points of note.

Firstly, StarOffice 8 is a signficant upgrade, especially with MS Office compatibility and usability side. StarOffice can now read write Office formats much more readbily than in previous versions. Usability-wise, there is a greater familiarity for users migrating from Microsoft Office. There is a low cost of "retraining" and and a higher "ease of learning" due to a dramatically changed interface. Unlike OpenOffice.org, StarOffice can now convert most Office macros, tables, headers, and footers. Macro conversion, it appears, was one of the most requested features by current StarOffice users. The majority of macros can now be converted and are supported. In addition, StarOffice can now open Microsoft Office 2003 password protected files, which until now, has only been supported in Office itself.

Iyer pointed out that research showed that the import filter in StarOffice seemed to be good enough, but that when a document was opened, edited, and then returned, what the Sun team refers to as a "roundtrip," more compatbility issues came to the surface. Extra detail was paid to this process this time around.

Secondly, The user interface has been majorly revamped. Users of the beta versions of OpenOffice.org will now be very familiar with the new interface, however, since the previous version of StarOffice was built on OpenOffice.org 1.x, the UI presentation is very different and allows users to be much productive. Impress, for example, is now very similar to Powerpoint in it's pane-like view. Menus are context sensitive, and the floating toolbars geared at providing task-specific help appear to assist in document creation.

The third major bullet point we highlighted was StarOffice 8 beung the 1st commercial to be compliant with the new OASIS standard. OpenOffice.org and KOffice are two other suites that do already, or will soon, ship with OpenDocument XML as the default file format. With the OpenDocument standard, users can now store content that can "outlast" any program. Because it is a standard, it's guaranteed to be manipulable without restriction or impeding license at any point in the future.

Fourth, we focused on differences from OpenOffice.org 2.0. Of course, macro migration is an important commercial features. There is a configuration manager which assists administrators in managing users and setups. As in previous versions, there is a spell check library, additional clipart, additional fonts, and more. StarOffice also comes with 60 days support.

Another interesting point is Sun's new distribution model for StarOffice. New distribution methods will push boxed StarOffice into retail stores and a greater number of online channels. All of this suggests that the push for StarOffice 8 is much larger than previous ventures, as the product has now matured into a much more robust suite.

Table of contents
  1. "StarOffice 8, Page 1"
  2. "StarOffice 8, Page 2"
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