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Mossberg: "StarOffice 6.0 has a long way to go"

In this week's Personal Technology column in the Wall Street Journal, Walter Mossberg reviews the latest version of StarOffice-- the office suite that Sun Microsystems sells to compete with Microsoft Office. He is a stickler for ease-of-use, which means that his reviews are often an important reality check when a new version of a software product or a new electronic gadget is shipped. Therefore, no one should be surprised that Mossberg doesn't like StarOffice 6.0 very much.

Mossberg says that although StarOffice is much improved over previous versions, it costs 80 percent less than Microsoft Office, and its registration processes are less intrusive, it doesn't do so well with Microsoft Office compatibity. He says, "StarOffice 6.0 is fair. It's usable, but it's definitely inferior to Microsoft Office. It's harder to use, less intuitive and sometimes unable to render properly certain documents in Microsoft's formats."

This is a tough review, but not as bad as some reviews that Mossberg has given to long-awaited technology products in the past. Considering the substantial changes that Sun has made to StarOffice since it acquired it, we suggest that people keep an eye on the product to see if it continues to improve at its current pace.

It's hard to know whether StarOffice will ever achieve total Microsoft Office file compatibility, unless the judge presiding over the Microsoft anti-trust case orders the company to document its file formats. Yet, many of the issues Mossberg has with StarOffice have to do with idiosyncracies of its user interface, and these are fixable. On the other hand, we would be lying if we didn't admit that we're praying every day for a viable competitor to Microsoft Office. So, perhaps we are a little guilty of wishful thinking.

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