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Sun plans July release for StarOffice 8

The company touts the software's "dramatically improved" compatibility with Microsoft Office, its chief competitor.

Sun Microsystems plans to release its next version of StarOffice in July, bringing new compatibility with its chief competitor, Microsoft Office.

The StarOffice software, which shares the same code base as the open-source OpenOffice, is used for tasks such as word processing and spreadsheet calculations. OpenOffice ships with Linux versions from Red Hat and Novell, the top sellers of the open-source operating system, and is widely used in the Linux realm.

Sun's new version of StarOffice, called StarOffice 8, will include "dramatically improved Microsoft Office compatibility," the company said on its Web site. StarOffice will support new features such as password protection for Word and Excel documents and spreadsheets; tables, paragraphs, page breaks and column breaks in Word documents; large Excel spreadsheets; Excel spreadsheet formulas; and PowerPoint AutoShapes.

Sun has said it is working to improve StarOffice's compatibility with Office through a partnership signed with Microsoft in April 2004. However, the compatibility improvements in StarOffice 8 predate that partnership.

Most of the improvements will be included in OpenOffice as well, Sun said in a statement Monday.

StarOffice 8 also has interface changes. The overall suite has streamlined, detachable and context-sensitive toolbars. Impress presentation software has multiple panes intended to facilitate creation of slide shows. And the Base database software has new wizards to automate several tasks.

StarOffice costs $59.95 to download, though per-user fees drop as low as $25 for purchases of 10,000 licenses or more. There will be a "nominal" increase in the cost of StarOffice 8, Sun said.

As with the current version, StarOffice 8 will run on Windows, Linux and Solaris operating systems for computers with x86 processors such as Intel's Pentium or Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron. It also runs on Solaris on Sparc processors. It will be available in 11 languages, Sun said.

Sun bought StarOffice in 1999 for $74 million and released the software as an open-source project in 2000.