Other Commercial Productivity Suites

Lotus SmartSuite has no official plans to make a Linux version, although I wouldn't be surprised if Lotus decides to port SmartSuite to Linux, since they have already ported Notes and Domino to Linux. Also, Lotus' parent company IBM is throwing large amounts of resources into Linux-related development.

6.3.1 Star Office

Sun's Star Office has very good support for Microsoft Office files. It offers equivalent programs for word processing (Writer), spreadsheets (Calc), presentations (Impress), graphics (Draw), email (Mail), calendaring (Schedule), and a database (Base). It also has an integrated Web browser. While it is not as feature-rich as Microsoft Office, it offers all its major functions such as fonts, headers, footers, and template style sheets. Star Office isn't for everyone, though. Probably the biggest drawbacks are its size and speed. Star Office requires 160MB of disk space and at least 32MB of RAM, although 64MB is required to get decent performance. It also takes a long time to load, even on a fast system. Low-end machines that are often used for Linux boxes are definitely out of the question.

Star Office does have a nifty HotSync feature that is not included with the other office suites for Linux. If synchronizing a PDA with your office suite is important, Star Office has the best support for it under Linux.

Star Office also has its own built-in desktop. On a Windows machine, it will replace the default Windows desktop with its own desktop. While many users are not bothered by this, it can be frustrating to many other users. Star Office can be downloaded for free from Sun's Web site or CDs can be ordered for about $40 (http://www.sun.com/staroffice/).

Sun is releasing Star Office under the GPL open source license. This is good news since it means that Star Office will stay around even if Sun decides not to actively support it. It also means that Star Office can enjoy the benefits of other open source applications (http://www.openoffice.org/).

Sun is also beating Microsoft to the punch by offering XML support in Star Office. Microsoft doesn't plan on offering XML support until 2002. The battle for the office suite could get very interesting.

6.3.2 Applixware

While it doesn't support MS Office formats as well as Star Office, many people prefer Applixware's interface and cleaner-looking screen fonts. Instead of taking over the desktop, Applixware loads each application in a separate window.

Applix is also a good choice for low-end systems, since it will run on a 486/66 with 32MB of RAM and about 250MB of free disk space.

Many Linux distributions contain a demo copy of Applix. You can also download it from Applix's Web site. The program is not free, however. A registered copy costs from $40 for an upgrade to $190 for the developer's edition (http://www.applix.com).

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