Applixware and StarOffice
Manufacturer: Applix, Inc.
Price: $49.95 US with Red Hat 5.1
Manufacturer: Star Division, GmbH
Price: $199 US with Caldera OpenLinux 2.1
Reviewer: Fred Butzen
Linux has proved itself to be enormously successful among computer cognoscenti—those who make software and run networks. However, it has proved less successful among ordinary computer users—those who buy software and pay for networks. Whenever I describe Linux to ordinary users, I inevitably receive two reactions:
They are delighted to hear there is another operating system available for their PC, particularly one as powerful and as inexpensive as Linux.
They wonder what they “can do” with Linux. In particular, they wonder which Microsoft Office applications they can run under Linux. When I answer “None,” the light fades from their eyes as their interest dies.
As much as Linux enthusiasts may deplore this attitude, it is certainly natural. Ordinary users, after all, care little about the technical features of an operating system, and even less about the politics of it. What matters to them is whether they'll be able to use the computer to do their work; and whether we like it or not, the Microsoft Office suite of applications has been established in most workplaces as the standard suite of tools by which work gets done.
Fortunately, two packages will let me change my “No” to a tentative “Yes”. Applixware and StarOffice are two robust, integrated office packages that offer reasonable compatibility with the Microsoft Office suite of tools.
In this review, I'll discuss and give my impressions of each package.
Applixware is manufactured by Applix, Inc., of Westboro, Massachusetts. I used release 4.3, in the version designed for use with Red Hat Linux 5.0. The package comes with the base release of Red Hat 5.0; however, all executables are statically linked and should work with any release of Linux using kernel 2.0 or higher.
Applixware includes the following modules:
Applix Words, a word processor
Applix HTML Author
Applix Graphics, a tool for creating and editing graphical presentations (slide shows and the like)
Applix OpenMail, a mailer
Applix Presents, a tool for creating slide presentations
Filter packs to convert data from and into a variety of popular formats
The utilities use a common object format, so that objects built with one tool can be integrated into another. For example, a spreadsheet built with Applix Spreadsheets can be integrated into an Applix Words document, or sent as a mail message via Applix OpenMail.
An optional utility, Applix Builder, gives a user lower-level access to the objects built with any of the utilities. The user can integrate these objects with custom code to construct new customized applications.
Finally, the package comes with a printed manual that introduces Applixware and gives the basics of how to work with the package as a whole.
StarOffice is an office package that is manufactured by Star Division GmbH, of Hamburg, Germany. I used release 3.4, in the version bundled with Caldera's OpenLinux. This edition of StarOffice is usable on most Linux systems with kernel 2.0 or later and libc 5.4.4 or later.
StarOffice includes the following modules:
StarCalc (scalc3), a spreadsheet
StarChart (schart3), a program for creating charts and graphs
StarDraw (sdraw3), a tool for assembling slides and presentations
StarImage (simage3), a tool for working with images
StarMath (smath3), a mathematics tool
StarWriter (swriter3), a word processor
Also included are two daemons:
svdaemon manages on-line help
svportmap manages communication among the modules
StarOffice does not come with a printed manual, at least in the edition I tested. Given that Star Division GmbH is a German company, the native language of the package is German; as a result, the documentation and notes are worded a bit oddly at times.