Tuesday, January 10, 2006

StarOffice 8 - Installation and first impressions begin

Installation (and registration) went smooth as silk. Unlike typical MS applications, StarOffice8 offered (but didn't default) to be my choice for opening MS Word, PowerPoint, and Excel.

Jumped right into the Writer, created a table, and tried right away to do a couple of things that always bugged me in MS Word:
1) Using the style painter to copy cell background from one cell to another... worked like a charm.
2) Joined cells horizontally and vertically... worked fine.

#2 is something that WordPerfect for DOS in the early 90s could do, but MS Word hasn't mastered it yet (fakes the vertical join, but doesn't really do it).

Bonus surprise: I could save the table in native Writer or many other formats... including DocBook. Fantastic!

How to Eat the Review Elephant?

Well the StarOffice8 CD arrived yesterday, along with lots of reviewer hints and overviews. How to go about assessing this office suite? What criteria that I can also apply to Office 12? Here are SOME of the review dimensions that I will be considering the following criteria; can you suggest anything to add?:

Overall Package Considerations


Licensing options, including List price/ street price, support options, ease of installation, disk space consumed, memory required. Overall value.

Ease of Use
Intuitiveness of screens, HELP, click efficiency, importing/exporting others formats?

Accuracy, robustness (e.g., styles included?), complexity to perform. Interoperability with MS Office. Evaluate:

Automates the analysis of documents to identify potential migration risks?
Calculates the cost of migration
Compare migration options in different Office Package editions (Migration Partner, Enterprise Edition in StarOffice 8)
How well does it migrate Macros?


Ease of use, ability to uninstall.


How long does it take to perform simple and complex procedures (such as updating a TOC or index, inserting a graphic).

Data Management

OLE? Live data from databases? DB queries as source (which ones)? XML Sources?

XML Support
Schema and DTD?
Format versus meaning?

Tags for formatting only?
Support for external XML models?

Forms Support?
Which forms schema? XForms.

Extensibility? Allow use of "alien attributes"?


How robust is the office package? What does it contain? Consider these modules:

Word Processing (emphasized here)
Drawing packages (vector/raster)
Others – Chart, Math, integrated tools

Word Processing Capabilities

Supported in presentation tool? Robustness in WP?

Robustness of table model

Technical document Support

Desktop Publishing (layout intensive) Support


Tables Of Contents, Indexes, Hyperlinks, Cross References

Writer Support

Spell Check, Thesaurus, Word Count, Reading Level

PDF Support
Which Acrobat version compatibility?