Suite users get new options from free downloads and ASPs

Suite users get new options from free downloads and ASPs <@VM>Many suite products offer Microsoft compatibility

By Mark Kellner

Special to GCN

With prices ranging from nothing for a download to nearly $1,000 for a retail copy of a fully-equipped office applications suite, buyers may well wonder why they should have to spend money when equivalent software is available gratis. It's a question worth more than idle speculation.

Sun Microsystems' StarOffice is free to download at and can be ordered on CD-ROM for a nominal shipping charge.

Tony Hempell, a marketing director at Sun, said 'StarOffice is being offered free of charge to anybody who wishes to use it or try it, and it's important because it's actually a bridge to a future product called StarPortal. What StarPortal will be is the ability to run productivity applications via the Web.'

StarPortal, which also will be free to users, is designed to promote file storage on servers sold by Sun.

'We believe local data file storage is expensive and a waste of an organization's resources. It's much better to have those data files held on local servers and therefore accessible from anywhere in an organization or through mobile computing such as telephones, palm pilots or laptops,' Hempell said.

Free launching

Others want to make office suites available on the Web.

Silicon Valley start-up Corp. of Mountain View, Calif., in February launched the ThinkFree office suite, consisting of a word processor, a spreadsheet and a presentation graphics program, all available for free. The products have file compatibility and interfaces similar to those of Microsoft Office applications, company founder and president Ken Rhie said.

Browser users can download the 10M office suite for Microsoft Windows and Linux environments at Rhie promised versions for Unix and Mac operating systems once the company has found compatible Java Virtual Machines for those environments.

Rhie also said plans to offer site licensing for agency users inside a firewall for users desiring additional security.

Another company, of Fountain Valley, Calif., is renting applications such as Microsoft Office 2000 via Web browsers to users.

The company said Macintosh users could now use Office without installing cumbersome software emulation packages.

The products also work with Windows and Linux and Unix browsers. Software application rentals range from $19.95 a month to $36.95 per month.

Such innovations haven't been lost on Microsoft Corp., which last year announced Office Online, a program to bring the suite to application service providers.

'We are moving into the next wave of the Web, where software and services are delivered together,' said Steven Sinofsky, vice president of Microsoft for Office products.

The suite life
' Compatibility. Can an office suite open and save files in earlier versions of the same product line? Can it read and write files from other mainstream programs? How does it handle file exchanges with systems running Mac OS or the Linux operating system? For some situations, a separate file conversion program may be needed.

' Graphics. At a minimum, you should have tools to place, size and crop images on a page, in a spreadsheet or on a database form. Optimally, a suite should have more advanced graphics and photo editing tools for you to use, something found in full editions of Microsoft Office and WordPerfect Office.

' Hypertext Markup Language. Whether you're working with a word processor, spreadsheet, database or with presentation graphics, a suite should be able to handle HTML input and output, so documents can be Web-ready.

Additional Web authoring and publishing tools such as Microsoft FrontPage, Trellix or Netscape Communicator, are a plus.

' Linux. Finding a Linux version of an office suite seems to be of interest to many enterprise users. So far, there are at least three entrants in the Linux sphere: Corel, Sun Microsystems and VistaSource.

' E-mail. An office suite should easily integrate an e-mail client and allow you to send documents. Collaborative features for groupware are a plus, as is support for a variety of e-mail protocols.

' Personal information manager integration. Suites should include or access a PIM to make letter writing and mail merges easier. Synchronization with Palm OS is a particular plus and is found in products as diverse as Sun Microsystem's StarOffice and Corel WordPerfect Office 2000.

VendorProductFunctionsPlatform compatibilityWeb outputHTML editingFeaturesPrice
Corel Corp.
WordPerfect Office 2000 ProfessionalWord processing, spreadsheets, presentations, e-mail, HTML, PIM, database, app builderWin9x, NTYesYesIncludes Trellix for Web site creation and management, Dragon NaturallySpeaking for voice recognition and its own PIM that can sync with Palm OS$209
WordPerfect Office 2000 for LinuxWord processing, spreadsheets, presentations, Netscape Communicator, PIM, Paradox 9 databaseLinux 2.2 or higher with functional X Window equivalentYesYesIncludes version of Corel Linux$159
WordPerfect Suite for DOS Legal EditionWord processing, spreadsheets, presentations, databaseMS-DOSNoNoIncludes minimal applications for MS-DOS users and enhancements for legal use$449
Lotus Development Corp.
Cambridge, Mass.
SmartSuite Millennium EditionWord processing, spreadsheets, presentations, database, intranet publisher, PIM, ScreenCam E-mailWin9x, NTYesYesHas a full range of office applications, including Lotus 1-2-3, WordPro and FastSite publisher; IBM ViaVoice recognition software integrated throughout suite applications$472
Microsoft Corp.
Redmond, Wash.
Microsoft Office 2000Word processing,spreadsheets, presentations, database, Internet publisher, PIM, e-mailWin9x, NTYesYesUpdates Microsoft core productivity applications by including tools for HTML editing and publishing of all document formats; includes Internet Explorer 5 and Outlook 2000 PIM; high-end versions add FrontPage 2000 and Publisher2000$999 (top version price)
Microsoft Office 98 for MacintoshWord processing, spreadsheets, presentations, database, Internet publisher, PIM, e-mailMacintoshYesYesHas full range of office applications for Mac, including Outlook Express PIM and e-mail and updated core productivity applications$499
Sun Microsystems Inc.
StarOffice Version 5.1Word processing, graphics, HTML, e-mail, chartingWin9x, NT, Solaris,YesYesWide range of platform supportFree
VistaSource Inc.
McLean, Va.
Applixware for LinuxWord processing, graphics, spreadsheets, presentations, HTML, e-mail, database, app builderLinuxYesYesIncludes desktop publishing capabilities for word processing module, linking to live documents in spreadsheet and database, HTML output and a custom applications builder$99

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