Sun unveils kinder, gentler StarOffice

Office software masochists, rejoice!

Office software masochists, rejoice! Hot on the heels of Office XP, Sun has made a beta of StarOffice 6.0 available for download. It's the first major update in the suite for eighteen months, and in the intervening period there's been a drastic change of license: the code's slipped away from the lease of Sun's Community License, into the OpenOffice project, although Sun sponsors OpenOffice and retains the rights to package the code as StarOffice.

The new version does away with the much-hated integrated desktop, saves files as XML, and has improved language support.

But what would be just another software release, has found itself a mainstream business IT issue du jour. With Microsoft intent on driving its customers onto an annual subscription model, which in many cases involves significant price rises, there's a financial incentive to look at alternatives. Whether the free (as in beer) StarOffice saves money depends on how extensively corporate users need to be retrained, but in many smaller outfits this need not necessarily be an issue.

Sun's download page is here, and the beta is available in English and German for Windows, Solaris and Linux.

If StarOffice is simply too much bloat, there are plenty of alternatives. Joe Barr has a positive review of Hancom, a new lightweight suite here, while the official software libre KDE project, KOffice was updated to 1.1 in August. Purely the best software libre word processor we've found is AbiWord, which improves continually, and makes for a nice ride. A dark horse - and it won't be open source, but it will be available for Linux - will be Gobe's Productive Suite, from the authors of the original ClarisWorks. Gobe debuted on BeOS, but no date's set for the Linux version. ®

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