Business-like, isn't he?


Using - Introduction is an open source office suite that includes a powerful word processor, spreadsheet, presentation program, and more. As an open source project, it can be freely (and legally) downloaded, installed on multiple systems, and copied and shared with others. Unlike too many so-called free programs, it does not install unwanted adware or spyware onto your computer. (For more on spyware, see my Security tutorial). is related to Sun's Star Office-- the two programs share a lot of common programming code. Star Office is not free, though with prices starting at US$60 for a single system, and going down for multiple installations, it is more affordable than many competitive products. (Star Office is available for free for schools and non-profits; I prefer to use at my school; this way, students, teachers, and parents can also download and install the same product that is being used at school). Star Office includes some different (and higher quality) fonts than, and includes technical support from Sun; because of the tech support, it may be a better choice for businesses and other organizations.

Note: Sun's StarOffice suite, which is now being distributed as part of  Google's Google Pack- regardless of what your version is called, these instructions should work. (which I'll often refer to as OO.o) is very compatible with Microsoft Office;'s word processor can open Microsoft Word files, and can save work in Microsoft Word format. Similarly, spreadsheet and presentation program are compatible with Microsoft Excel and Powerpoint. can be configured to save its files in Microsoft Office format by default, making it even easier to share files with Microsoft Office users.

It's not 100% however; documents created in Microsoft Office that use macros built with MS Office's Visual Basic for Applications will not work properly if opened in Few individual users make use of VBA, however, so this should not be a major concern. Documents created using fonts installed with MS Office will appear somewhat differently viewed on a system that lacks those fonts. Some Powerpoint special effects may appear different when running the presentation in is available in virtually-identical versions for a wide range of operating systems; these include: MS Windows (Win 95 and up, unlike current MS Office versions which will only run on Windows 2000 and XP), Linux, Sun Solaris, Free BSD, and Mac OS X.

(Mac OS X users should download the related NeoOffice/J)

As of this writing, the current official release of is version 1.1.4. A major update, version 2.0 is expected soon; a 1.9 beta release is available for download; I am using that 1.9 beta as the basis for this tutorial, though I will try to make reference to differences from the 1.1.x versions where appropriate.

Setup and configuration
Word Processor
Other features

April 10, 2005


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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at  E-mail Alan