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Softpanorama MS Office Bulletin,2001

BetaNews Sun Details StarOffice 6 -- contains a nice discussion.

This week at LinuxWorld, Sun Microsytems is demonstrating the latest incarnation of its popular StarOffice Suite several weeks after placing a teaser on its Web site to gauge public interest. While details have not yet publicly emerged, BetaNews was able to catch up with Sun to get the scoop on version 6.0.

...performance has been enhanced through componentization. The entire suite will not load when users simply wish to perform a routine task - leading to quicker load times and a lower utilization of system resources. According to Sun, an assortment of bugs and code optimizations were taken on by the open source community -- contributing to the overall quality of the product.

In an effort to make StarOffice more intuitive and easy to use, usability is bolstered by extras such as: templates, clipart, buttons and icons modeled to be consistent with industry norms, pivot tables, and revamped dialog boxes. Due to the feedback provided by focus groups, help has also been re-worked.

A Sun representative remarked that the suite would be similar in appearance to Office 2000. Some of the templates include business plans, and others are designed with educators in mind. With convenience in mind, charting tools have also been integrated into all StarOffice components.

As always, popular formats such as binary and files saved with Microsoft Office are supported. However, Sun is banking on XML to provide universal compatibility to its product all while side stepping proprietary formats. With XML, the recipient of a file will not be required to have StarOffice installed in order to view it.

Not only will XML provide for smaller file sizes, it also opens the door to interactivity. Once technology progresses, users will be able to edit files through a Web browser. Continuing its push toward the Web applications, Sun is banking on Sun One Webtop to bring its productivity suite to the masses. As far as Sun is concerned, the adoption XML, combined with its open source business model is laying the groundwork for the future.

Rather than solely target Enterprise customers for a complete conversion from MS Office, Sun is turning toward educators, small businesses, governments, end users, and enterprises with mixed platforms to provide its niche. Sun concedes that many corporations have included Microsoft Office into their infrastructure, investing significant sums of money into developing custom middleware.

Given that fact, the company is eying tight school budgets, and is touting StarOffice as a solution that can support all commonly accepted file formats while eliminating the steep price tag. The same pitch is being offered to small business owners, particularly startups who are seeking viable desktop software.

Sun claims that openings are also present in government and corporation environments were mixed platforms are commonly used – offering up StarOffice as an economic method to achieve interoperability. It also sees itself as a secondary vendor to replace aging government information systems. However, Sun is simply not settling to coexist with the competition.

A company representative illustrated the example of an engineering manager using a Windows machine for presentations and documents while performing actual design work on another. Sun's solution is to eliminate the need for an additional machine with StarOffice.

One intention of developing StarOffice is to increase sales for Sun Desktop machines in lieu of those sold by mainstream OEMS. Offering a fully compatible office suite makes the sale easier, providing customers with incentive to buy without feeling that they are missing out on mission critical software. Sun also profits from OEM bundling and service and support.

Although no comprehensive study has been conducted recently on market share, Sun points to an unscientific Windows 2000 Magazine poll that reveals nearly a 15% stake in the market. According to Sun, Gartner Inc. has not commissioned a study since 1998.

Retail versions of StarOffice will be sold through a network of retailers such as Best Buy, Circuit City, and Staples. Sun is debating the addition of another CD and improved manual into its boxed edition, and therefore has not announced pricing. Previous releases, such as 5.2, sold at roughly $40 USD per copy. Select OEM partners will also ship the suite with new PCs. Versions will be available for Windows, Solaris, and Linux.

Product requirements will remain consistent with version 5.2

To sign up for early notification of the beta release, visit the StarOffice 6 Homepage.

BSD Today: Using LyX to create a book

(Oct 14, 2001, 21:08 UTC) (3687 reads) (7 talkbacks) (Posted by mhall)
"In my earlier article, I introduced LyX and provided a brief explanation of how it worked. In this article I'll present examples on using LyX to create a document containing chapters, a table of contents, a bibliography, and footnotes."

[Oct 2, 2001] Desktop & Webtop, StarOffice 6.0 Beta, Get the Software

[Jul 19, 2001] [ Solaris Developer Connection Chat Sessions

LizA: Hello, and welcome to Solaris Live! Our guest today is Max Lanfranconi, Senior Product Manager for OpenOffice.org at Sun Microsystems. Max is reponsible for providing technical expertise to the Sun and CollabNet teams as well as the OpenOffice.org community in building the Open Source office suite. Max, let me start by asking, "What is OpenOffice.org?"

Max: OpenOffice.org is the Open Source project for StarOffice[tm]. Sun Microsystems put the StarOffice code on the website http://www.openoffice.org on October 13th 2000, so it's just above 9 months old now. The job was not easy at all. You have to consider that, before open sourcing a code that has been on the market for some time, Sun had to "clean it" and get rid of all the third-party intellectual property code. The code also needed to have the comments translated from German into English, to allow a greater number of developers to participate.

LizA: So, what are the differences between StarOffice and OpenOffice.org?

Max: Well, this happens to be one, if not *the*, most frequently asked question on our site. The initial release of the code to OpenOffice.org was the code of what will become the next version of StarOffice.

Max: Then of course there are some major differences between the current version of StarOffice (5.2) and OpenOffice.org The first difference is that the desktop is "gone away". That has been one of the most NOT wanted features.

Max: Then of course, because of the fact that we could not open source third-party code, in the initial release we did not have printing or spellchecking.

Max: Luckily enough, the Open Source model is working really well and, in less than a year both a printing engine and a spellchecker have been contributed by our community.

LizA: How big is the OpenOffice.org community?

Max: Well, we are still growing, but the last figures are more than 3,000 community members and more that 250,000 downloads of the code. Also interesting is that we had about 70,000 downloads of the source code.

Herbert: Will the help system and documentation be open sourced?

[Jun 21, 2001] Linux Orbit - Features When the Going Gets Weird Getting Help in StarOffice

...This HOWTO will give you the steps to follow to resolve many of your Linux desktop problems. Because StarOffice, Sun Microsystems' open-source office suite, is a program that just about every Linux desktop user will encounter, we'll use it as an example. You should find that following these steps will help for many other programs as well.

Step One: Contact Sun

... click "SupportForum" (supportforum.sun.com) from the main StarOffice window. You'll see the primary page for Sun's support setup, not just for StarOffice, but all its other products. The StarOffice section might be a little hard to find, if you don't know the Butterfly logo that represents StarOffice.

But to start with, click on the Technical FAQ link to see if your problem is addressed there. You may not actually find anything there, but a Frequently Asked Questions list is always the place to find solutions to the most obvious and extensively reported problems.

The next step is hitting Sun's free discussion forums. Divided into sections for each application inside StarOffice (StarWriter, StarCalc, StarMail, etc.), along with installation issues and assorted other topics, here's a place for you to post your problem. Other users and Sun staffers monitor the forums, and should have answers for you. There are also forums in German and French!

If you need an answer quick, and are willing to pay a small amount for that speed, Sun also has LiveExpertsNow! Post your question and folks from ExpertCity will bid to give you the answer. Sun says the average cost ranges from $5 to $25. You can also get pay-per-incident support via e-mail or phone.

Step Two: Check with your Linux distributor

...Most distributions also have e-mail user-to-user support lists that you can sign up for at their site. Beware, though: these lists can be fairly high-traffic, so you may want to search the list archives before signing up.

Step Three: Locate your LUG

...User groups are the under-praised saviors of the computer world. These volunteers gather regularly (usually monthly) for presentations on various topics of interest, then open the floor to questions and problems from anyone in the room. ... Groups of Linux Users Everywhere, a website with a searchable database of LUGs.

Always check the LUG website. You should find some additional resources that may help you solve your problem, in addition to reports on recent meeting topics and announcement of upcoming meetings. LUGs often run mailing lists where you can get help between meetings as well. Subscription information should be on the site.

...

Step Four: The Web as Safety Net

...LinuxNewbie offers Newbie-ized Help Files (NHFs) to translate some of the more techie-oriented Linux HOWTOs and reasonably active forums to get questions answered. StarOffice.com(not sponsored by Sun) seeks to be a full portal site, with free e-mail accounts, 20MB of online file storage and separate help forums for each StarOffice component.

Of course, there are also the Linux Orbit forums. Get a variety of StarOffice and other Linux desktop questions answered. Don't forget to drop me a line!

Since StarOffice began life in Germany, there are a number of tips-and-tricks sites in German. The best are the TEAM StarOffice site and Werner Roth's site. Don't know German that well? Search for "StarOffice" in Google and ask them to translate these sites for you!

Step Five: Usenet and other forums

...The only StarOffice-specific newsgroup is based in Germany, and is still mostly in German: de.comp.office-pakete.staroffice. Check through the comp.os.linux.* and linux.* hierarchies as well. Don't forget to search the DejaNews archive, now housed at groups.google.com for answers to a specific problem.

XML Editors

 [Apr. 10, 2001] A new OpenOffice.org snapshot (625) has been released. New and exciting features in it include:

As per usual, there is full support for compiling on Linux/x86, Linux/PPC, Solaris (sparc and x86) and Win32 platforms.

Full description of changes/enhancements is available in the release notes.

[Apr. 08, 2001] MozillaQuest Magazine - AbiWord - A Free, Decent, MS Word Clone for Linux, MS Windows, & Other Platforms Page 1

AbiWord has its own file format, .abw. However, it can import plain text, HTML, RTF, Word 97 (.doc), XHTML, and other formatted document files too. Export-wise, you can save your AbiWord documents as plain text, ABW, HTML, LaTeX, RTF, and other file types.

AbiWord does not have the rich set of language tools that MS Word has. However, it does have a decent spell-checker and also a word-count tool.

MS Word has lots more tool bars and is much more-fully featured than is AbiWord. On the other hand AbiWord is leaner than MS Word and mean enough for many word processing tasks. The AbiWord download binaries run about 3.5-MB (MS Windows) to about 5-MB (Linux tar.gz).

Installed, AbiWord sucked up less than 6-MB of hard drive space in Windows 98 SE. MS Word eats up 22.9-MB of Windows Memory compared to 5.37-MB of Windows memory for AbiWord.

The Windows version of AbiWord installs easily and in a snap. AbiWord seems to behave nicely when running in MS Windows.

(Note: in Linux, it's generally not a good idea to change libs or other system files or packages merely to accommodate an application -- unless you are a very experienced Linux user. Even if you are an experienced Linux user, you should proceed with caution before changing system critical files. Those changes could negatively affect other applications that are working nicely on your Linux system, or your Linux system itself. So, if you find that you do need to change libs or other system files or packages merely to accommodate an application, forget the application.)

On the other hand, we encountered (mostly lib) problems when trying to install, to upgrade, or to run the Linux version of AbiWord on Caldera OpenLinux eDesktop 2.4 and Red Hat Linux 7. Those are the only Linux distributions on which we tried AbiWord.

For more information about the status of features already implemented in AbiWord, please check the AbiWord Feature Matrix and the AbiWord User Interface Matrix. If you want to sneak a look at what features are planned for AbiWord but not yet included, check the AbiWord Roadmap. (Links in the Resources section below.)

You can customize AbiWord to your keyboard-picking heart's content. It's open source. That means you can change the widgets, modify features, or even add your own features. If you are into creating themes and skins for programs, you can use the AbiWord customizability to make your own AbiWord theme.

For more information about building your own customized version, check AbiWord Personal in the Resources section at the end of this article.

Conclusion

AbiWord is off to a darn good start. Even though it is still in the pre-release, beta stages, AbiWord is worth downloading, installing, and using. However, it's a preview release not a final shipping version. So expect to find that all AbiWord's features are not fully implemented -- or in some instances not implemented at all, yet.

It is not nearly as heavy duty as its commercial counterparts such as Microsoft's Word, Sun's StarOffice, or VistaSource's Anywhere Desktop (formerly Applixware). However, AbiWord's lighter features-package also makes it lighter-weight resources-wise. It takes less hard-drive space and less RAM.

Although AbiWord is a darn good MS Word clone, it is not MS Word. It is doubtful that MS Word users are going to part with their MS Word and flock to AbiWord. However, where resources or budgets are tight, AbiWord can be a nice supplement or alternative to MS Word on MS Windows PCs.

On platforms such as Linux and the other *NIXs where MS Word is not available, AbiWord has the makings of a very nice substitute for MS Word. As development continues and more features are added to AbiWord it might well become as good as the heavy-duty word processors -- perhaps better.

Of course the heavier word processors are getting better all the time too. Moreover they are becoming available for more platforms also. The bottom line here is that all this means even more choices for software consumers and users.

[Feb. 07, 2001]XML.com Adventures with OpenOffice and XML [Feb. 07, 2001] -- Sun plans for XML to become the default save format in v .6.0 of Star office. This is not the case presently in build 605. I have to select "Save As" to export to XML, but when OpenOffice 6.0 is finally released expect it to be the default save format. OpenOffice documents can be compound -- that is, they can contain multiple documents of different formats. Sun's examined the different ways of packaging up compound documents using XML. It picked the ZIP format. Initially this choice surprised me since I've always thought the most standard way to store binary data in XML was base64 encoding. However this decision is fully explained in detail on the OpenOffice site.

At the Open Source conference in Monterey last year, Sun announced their plans to release the current source code for Star Office, renamed OpenOffice. In October they followed up on their plans, releasing both the source code and binaries for OpenOffice build 605. One of the features added since Star Office 5.2 was the ability to save files as XML.

In addition to being open source, saving as XML makes OpenOffice truly open. Aside from being open source, XML's self-documenting nature allows us to dive into the document format without having to dive into C++. And more significantly, XML allows us to use simple, free tools to manipulate the documents themselves.

In this article we will examine the structure of the format. We will not go into great detail, as Sun has already done so in a 400 page specification. Instead we will focus on using the XML to generate something of potential interest to web developers and content editors.

It's important to note that OpenOffice isn't ready to be an every day word processor. Components like printing and spell checking were removed in the migration to open source because Sun didn't own them. I expect they will be added back by the open source community as time goes by. When Sun releases Star Office 6 I expect they will include the proprietary spell checker and print engine again. Also worth noting is that OpenOffice is relatively unstable at the moment. I experienced several crashes and other serious problems while working on this article. Thanks to Daniel Vogelheim of Sun for helping me through those troubles.


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The Last but not Least Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage and those who manage what they do not understand ~Archibald Putt. Ph.D


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