StarOffice: Freeing a desktop near you?

by Brian Jepson

According to a recent NY Times article (free registration required), StarOffice is the
standard office suite at Sun:

A spokeswoman for Sun Microsystems, Elizabeth McNichols,
confirmed that the company did not use any products made
by its competitor, Microsoft, including Microsoft's
popular Office suite. Instead, workers at Sun use the
company's StarOffice system, which Ms. McNichols said was
capable of translating documents created with the more
common Microsoft programs.

Even though it's Sun, this still surprises me a bit. I would
have guessed they'd be running MS Office using a SunPCi card or
something. The article goes on to mention a gripe about this

But an executive at a software company that does business
with Sun said his experience was plagued by
incompatibilities. "Anything we sent to them involved some
kind of trauma," he said. "And the onus was on us to
somehow prepare a file they could read."

I suspect the incompatibilities are overstated - I've used
StarOffice a bit on Windows, Linux, and Solaris, though not as much as I've used MS Office. However, I've found
that it does a good job of reading documents that were created in MS
Office. It does a fine job of writing MS Office documents. I imagine that a lot of the incompatibilities can be
avoided by asking people to save in an earlier Office format (such as rtf or Office 95) without too much pain and suffering. I
have to admit that most of my StarOffice experience has been
with the word processor, though, and perhaps some of the other components are not as compatible.