OpenOffice.org and Sun Microsystems announced beta releases of upcoming versions of the OpenOffice.org 1.1 and StarOffice 6.1 office productivity suites, respectively, which the organizations hope will provide enterprises with the features they need to drop Microsoft Office. OpenOffice.org is the open-source--and free--version of the suite and the version on which the commercial StarOffice is built. Both suites include Microsoft Office-compatible word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and drawing applications; StarOffice adds a database application and other unique features.

Both products include support for a variety of new data formats, including the increasingly ubiquitous Adobe Acrobat PDF, Macromedia Flash, DocBook, several PDA Office file formats, flat XML and XHTML, and support for more than 10 new languages. Other features, including a new macro recorder, seem to be lifted straight from the Microsoft Office playbook. And both suites will offer full compatibility with all the native data formats that Microsoft Office 2003 supports, Sun says, although those features aren't complete in the current beta releases.

The StarOffice beta also includes a new software development kit (SDK) to help businesses create custom solutions. Sun says that the SDK will help position StarOffice as a better alternative to Microsoft Office and the recently reenergized Corel WordPerfect Office. Until now, Sun and OpenOffice.org have seen little uptake with PC makers, who are the leading delivery vehicles for office productivity suites. However, both suites have proven popular with governments and educational institutions, especially in markets such as Europe and developing nations such as China.

Both beta releases are available for free (see the links below). The OpenOffice.org 1.1 beta release is a 59MB download; the StarOffice beta includes a core download (106MB), an optional Adabas database download (21MB), and PDF-based installation instructions. Note that the StarOffice 6.1 beta expires in September.

Links:
OpenOffice.org 1.1 beta

Sun StarOffice 6.1 beta