SuSE Linux Office Desktop

By Pete | @kingpetey | 23 Jan 2003

One of the main quests of SuSE Linux is to try to make it as easy to use for the end user and especially the inexperienced Linux user. The idea behind SuSE Office Desktop is to provide a simple, easy and cost effective Windows alternative for businesses. One of the key features of the Office Desktop is compatibility between existing documents a firm may have when switching from Windows to Linux. There seems no point in a company switching from Windows to Linux if non of there previous work is usable.

The system requirements are pretty standard as far as operating systems go and you will find that the Office Desktop will install on most of the computers in your Office. SuSE requires a Pentium compatible PC with at least 64mb of ram and about 3gig of hard drive space for installation, this doesn't include space for the large MP3 collection that you may have at work!

The Office Desktop is based on SuSE 8.1 so has many of the features such as the installation process, installed software and YaST configuration tool, there are also some new programs and features more specific to the needs of the office.

One of these features is a installed copy of StarOffice 6 which normally retails at about ?30 per license. StarOffice is a commercial product unlike OpenOffice.org which is still under development so for the business user StarOffice is the better option for not only stability but better support provided by Sun Microsystems.

SuSE Office Desktop also comes with the latest version of Cross Over Office, which is a Windows emulator based on CodeWeavers Wine project. The idea behind Cross Over Office is that you can run Microsoft Office programs such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint in Linux. You may think that this may seem stupid as the Office Desktop has StarOffice installed already but many people do like MS Office so adding the option in to be able to use it is quite an important factor in attracting people to use the Office Desktop.

I managed to get my copy of Office 2000 to install with out any problems, it even installed me a copy of Internet Explorer 5 though I'm not sure if it was welcome. CodeWeavers do say that MS Access is not fully supported however after spending about an hour making a little database and a few forms I could see no sign of any problems (this isn't a Guarantee though).

Not only have SuSE been adding in external applications to try to make the Office Desktop as easy to use as possible they have also added their own little features to try to make things more simplistic. One of these is the ?Assistant? it doesn't have a big purpose to be honest but provides a few short links to make things a bit easier to setup. Its the sort of thing that once you know where things are you will probably want to delete it off your desktop.

I tried to setup file sharing between my SuSE Office Desktop PC and my Windows ME machine however after spending a while working it out I couldn't get the shared files to work, I'm not sure if this was because of network problems or workgroup problems (though I could ping each machine so there was some network activity).

A feature I liked a lot was the desktop, from installation I had access to all my partitions and devices which was very handy for accessing my documents on my fat32 partition. I also had 3 other icons called ?My Pictures? ?My Presentations? and ?My Text Documents? these were all folders within the /home directory in my account. It made it a lot easier to organise and store work especially when you have lots of images and text documents.

I noticed the file system had also changes, all my Windows file systems were now in /windows and all my CD drives were in /media leaving /mnt empty. A couple of things really annoyed me, such as when your in your own account (not root) and you have to access a feature in YaST that requires root access, you enter the root details then there is a box to tick to remember details yet it never remembers them, I ended up having to put them in every time I wanted to enter YaST.

I also found that the Office Desktop didn't seem to concentrate much on financial software, and some web design software, whether SuSE didn't think these types of software were necessary or that they aren't available for Linux yet I'm not sure.

Overall I thought that the Office Desktop was a step in the right direction, and one that hasn't been viewed by many other Linux distributions yet, I would certainly expect more distributions to look into this sort of market in the future. I did find the desktop easy to install and use and its fine if your business mainly uses computers for word processing, spreadsheets and presentations however if more specialist software is needed then perhaps now is the time that software companies start to bring out Linux versions to get a head start in the market against their competitors, because I can see Linux being used a lot more on desktops in business over the next few years.

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[Last edited on January 23, 2003 at 11:33:35pm by pwhite]