On Windows, Linux and Solaris systems you can use Star|OpenOffice. This is a collection of programs very much like Microsoft Office.

Because working with Star|OpenOffice over the network is practically impossible (because of the size of the Star|OpenOffice installation), you must use it on a machine on which it is installed locally. If you want to have it installed on a specific workstation, you should notify the programmeur van week about this.

To check what versions of Star|OpenOffice are available and which one is the default, just execute

    ls -l /usr/local/bin/ooffice* /usr/local/bin/soffice*

An OpenOffice distribution (to install it yourself on your own machine) can be found on http://www.openoffice.org/.

A StarOffice distribution (to install it yourself on your own machine) can be found on http://iwww.cs.kuleuven.be/software/packages/StarOffice/. You can also find some information about the campus license between the K.U.Leuven and Sun Microsystems and where you can get support for using it on the KU Leuven campus license pages. You can of course also find help with the local systems administrators.

Star|OpenOffice uses private (configuration) files in your home directory. Moreover, Star|OpenOffice for Linux uses a different set of files than Star|OpenOffice for Solaris. These private files are installed in the Star|OpenOffice/linux and/or Star|OpenOffice/solaris subdirectories of your home directory. There are subdirectories per version of Star|OpenOffice you use. Because the Solaris version and the Linux version of Star|OpenOffice each use their own set of configuration files, you should be aware that they don't share information. Settings you make in the one are not visible in the other. So you must either make every change to your Star|OpenOffice environment in both versions, or you should use only one of them.

The first time you use a specific version of Star|OpenOffice it asks you if you want to import personal data and configuration settings from a previous version. In that case, choose the Standard Workstation Installation and install the components in the directory that is proposed (/home/<usernaam>/Star|OpenOffice/<platform>/<version>). When asked for, you can/should use a Java Runtime Environment installed in /cw/java or in the Star|OpenOffice installation directory.

If you don't want to use settings from a previous version, a pre-configured environment is copied in your home directory.

One of the first things you should do, is entering your personal data in the configuration window you get from the menu Tools->Options.

To use a different language than the default for spell checking etc., you must enable it first. You can do this in Tools -> Options -> Language Settings -> Writing Aids. Edit the Available language modules, select the language of your choice and enable it for the functions you like. In the Tools -> Options -> Language Settings -> Languages you can then select it as default language for your documents and on the Character and Paragraph Style windows, you can select it for specific characters and/or Paragraphs, thus overriding the default document language.

Star|OpenOffice is much more than a simple word processor/spreadsheet/presentation ... so at first it might be a little impressive to start with, but you soon get the hang of it: all elements are very nicely integrated with each other. But of course, you don't need to use every function it provides; there is no reason why you cannot use it to just read Microsoft Word documents and use all other tools you are used to for the rest ;-)

There can be problems, when documents were saved in Microsoft Office using the Fast Save option. Star|OpenOffice will warn you about this. If this is the case, you should ask the author of the document to save it without this option, since there is a possibility you are not seeing what or how he intended it to be seen.
These problems with the Fast Save option also occur when using different versions of Microsoft Office on Windows or Mac (even with Office 95 and 97 on the same platform), so it is always best not to use that option, not just for Star|OpenOffice.

Besides the Fast Save option, you always have to take into account that no 2 office suites are 100% compatible with each other. There will always be details or elements that are not translated perfectly. Because this also is the case between different versions of the same office suite, this is something that cannot be avoided and thus you should be aware of.

For more information about Star|OpenOffice, consult :

http://www.openoffice.org/

http://www.sun.com/staroffice

http://www.wernerroth.de/en/staroffice/

news://starnews.sun.com