INLS 183 Project 9: StarOffice 5.2 (so-5_2-ga-bin-linux-en.bin)

Brief History of StarOffice

StarOffice is an office suite, like Microsoft Office, created by Star Division, a software company originally located in Hamburg, Germany. Even though Microsoft has been able to dominate the office suite market, it still forces users to choose between two platforms: Windows and MacOS. StarOffice, on the other hand, runs on Windows 95/98, NT, Solaris, Linux, O/S 2, and Java! At the end of 1998, Star Division made news by deciding to offer its version 5.0 office suite free to end users. Almost a year later in August of 1999, Sun Microsystems, bought Star Division for $73.5 million, thus acquiring StarOffice. The motivation for this purchase was said to bolster Sun’s competition with Microsoft’s Office while supporting its own very profitable server division by pursuing a flavor of StarOffice (StarPortal) that runs centrally on server and is accessible by multiple users over a network. Another year later, in October 2000, Sun decided to release StarOffice version 5.2’s source--free to anyone any over the internet via the Gnu Public License or GPL.

StarOffice 5.2 can be downloaded at
StarOffice’s source can be obtained here:

StarOffice’s Features

StarOffice offers a full featured and integrated office suite complete with word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics and image editing, databases, as well as HTML editing, web-browsing, email, etc. If that wasn’t enough, StarOffice is fully interoperable with Microsoft Office 97/2000. That means StarOffice can open and save Office documents (as well as a number of other file formats)! StarOffice’s individual components are described briefly below:
Writer-word processing application, like Word
Calc-spreadsheet application, like Excel
Impress-presentation application, like PowerPoint
Draw-drawing tools, including 3D modeling, vector graphics, bitmaps, animated GIFs
Image-create, transform, and edit images, in a number of formats including (BMP, JPG, TIF, PNG, EPS)
Schedule-task management application
Mail and Discussion-email and newsgroup reader
Base-data management tool
StarOffice also include various mini-programs that perform specific tasks: Chart, Math, Fontwork, Gallery, Player, Address Book, and Basic

More detailed information (in PDF format) on StarOffice’s features can be found here

Installing StarOffice

StarOffice can be installed and run locally, however, I decided to attempt installing it on Purple ( from my dorm room. To do so, I needed to download and install an X-server for Windows on my home computer. UNC has a site license for StarNet X-Win32 4.1.4 which I obtained here: I installed it and started it running.

Next I worked to download StarOffice from Sun They offer it in a number of languages and for a number of platforms (Windows, Solaris-Intel, Linux, Solaris-Sparc). First I downloaded the Windows version just to see what it looked like. After registering my life away with Sun, I began to download the 80MB package (that later expanded to some 300MB!). Next I poked my way through the Sun site with lynx on Purple and began to download the 97MB package for Linux.

Though I did not expect this to be a complicated install, I did not anticipate the several problems I did run into. First of all, the program downloaded with a .bin extension. I didn’t know what to do with it, so I tried to gunzip and detar it, but it clearly was not a gzip or a tar file. After doing a little looking online, and coming up blank, I decided to peruse Barry’s installation of StarOffice: I found out that he just executed the .bin file, so I tried the same, but Linux seemed to think it was a text file. “Wait!” I thought. I decided to change the file attributes using chmod:

# chmod 774 so-5_2-ga-bin-linux-en.bin
# ls
-rwxrwxr--    1 root     root     97621364 Nov 27 22:13 so-5_2-ga-bin-linux-en.bin

Of course it made the file excutable, but would it excute? On my first try, no.:

# export DISPLAY=
# ./so-5_2-ga-bin-linux-en.bin
bash: ./so-5_2-ga-bin-linux-en.bin: Text file busy
[jwatt@purple jwatt]$ users

Again, I did some searching for the "Text file busy" error online, however most of the pages I found dealt with CGI programs that people had just saved and tried to run immediately, before the file had finished being saved. Of course the advice to them was just to wait a moment or two for the system to catch up. Since my file wasn’t a small CGI program---it was a 97MB binary file---I intuited that I needed to let it cool. In the meantime I sent a message to the 183 list and did other things. Of course when I came back, it started up without a problem:

# ./so-5_2-ga-bin-linux-en.bin
glibc version: 2.1.3

Since the rest of the installation occurred in X server windows, I took screen shots to capture the process:

Installation Program’s Introductory Screen

Configuring the StarOffice Packages

(at this point StarOffice displayed a number of screens self-promoting its components while the packages were installed and configured)

Adabas warning
I remember from the Sun download site that I could download and install the separate Adabas component, for StarOffice Base. I figured I would do that later.

Installation Completion

At this point I decided to run StarOffice:
$ /usr/local/staroffice52/soffice

Trying and Failing to Run StarOffice for the first time
I ran into yet another problem with the sofficerc file. I looked at it, in the directory given by the error message, and it looked ok, so I figured I should run soffice as root. This solved the problem. For future reference, in case I (or anyone else) wants to set up StarOffice for multiple users, I found this information in the README file:

If you wish to run a network installation (multi-user installation), start (as root) the setup with the option /net. After the network installation has been completed,  each StarOffice user needs to call up the setup from the office directory of the network installation (WITHOUT /net) under their user ID. They will then be able to install the workstation installation. This will install about 2MB of data into the corresponding Home directory of each user.
Successfully Running StarOffice for the first time, splash screen

First Look at StarOffice: the StarOffice Desktop (surrounded by my desktop)

A Quick Look at StarOffice Writer

A StarOffice Testdrive and Conclusion

I really wanted to see if StarOffice lived up to its claims of complete interoperability with MS Office 2000. First I created a simple Word document and opened it with StarOffice. It opened without issue. I made some text and formatting changes, resaved it as an Office document, and then opened with Word again, and the changes came through wonderfully. I think that though StarOffice may find it difficult to erode Microsoft’s market dominance, it does has some wonderful attributes that give it a competitive edge, including compatibility/interoperability with various file formats, versions for Linux, Windows, and Solaris, as well as its source being open--to promote community involvement in the project.

INLS 183 Project 9: StarOffice 5.2 (so-5_2-ga-bin-linux-en.bin) script file