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Getting started with StarOffice under Linux

Learn how to install both the single-user and multiuser configurations

From downloading to installing to configuring, find out how to make StarOffice work for you on the desktop or across the network. (1,800 words.)
By Steven Gould and Shari L. Jones

The word free always catches the consumer's eye. As it has with Java and Solaris, Sun announced that it would also make the cross-platform StarOffice suite available for free as a Microsoft alternative. Sun recognized the potential success of and demand for StarOffice late last summer when it acquired Star Division, the German software company that created the office suite.

On August 31, 1999, Sun announced that StarOffice would be free to download; By early March of this year, over 1.6 million people had downloaded StarOffice. It was reviewed in LinuxWorld's October 1999 issue in an article titled "Star Wars: Will office from any other vendor smell as suite?" (See Resources.) That article took a look at what StarOffice could mean to you and your organization. Here we focus on the actual installation of StarOffice and getting it up and running for both single-user and multiuser installations.

Minimum hardware and software requirements
Before going to the trouble of downloading the StarOffice software or purchasing the CD, you should make sure you have the minimum hardware and software setup for StarOffice.

StarOffice is available for the following platforms:

  • Intel Pentium (or higher) running Windows 95, Windows 98, or Windows NT

  • Intel Pentium (or higher) running OS/2

  • Intel Pentium (or higher) running Linux

  • Intel Pentium (or higher) and SPARC running the Solaris 2.5.1, 2.6, or 7 operating environments

To take advantage of some of StarOffice's more advanced features, you'll need to have the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) already installed and the environment variable JAVA_HOME set to point to the JRE directory. (See Resources for the Linux port of Java). You don't need this to use StarOffice; however, it will provide access to some additional features and make Java applications available directly from the StarOffice desktop. If the JAVA_HOME variable is set, the StarOffice setup interprets it automatically.

For the Linux version of StarOffice, you'll need approximately 160 MB of hard disk space, 2 MB per user for a multiuser installation, and 32 MB of RAM, though 64 MB is recommended.

Our testing setup consisted of a Pentium Pro 200 MHz machine, as well as a Compaq Presario 1260 notebook, both running Slackware 4.0 Linux (which includes the 2.2.6 kernel, and XFree86

Obtaining StarOffice
There are two ways to get StarOffice:

  • By downloading it from Sun's Website (see Resources). This is a free download; however, you must register to access it. Other Websites from which you can download StarOffice include and

  • By ordering on CD (see Resources). When Sun purchased StarOffice, it offered a promotion whereby you could order the StarOffice CD with no printed manuals and pay only the shipping and handling costs. That promotion appears to have ended, however, and the StarOffice CD can only be obtained by purchasing the StarOffice full media kit, which includes user documentation, for $39.95 plus shipping and handling.
The advantage of purchasing the CD is that, in addition to the Linux version of StarOffice, the CD also includes versions for Windows 9x/NT, OS/2, Solaris (SPARC), and Solaris (Intel).

Getting started
StarOffice uses both the new glibc2 (libc6) and the Linux-Kernel-Threads libraries. According to the installation documentation on the CD, Sun tested StarOffice with the versions and (glibc-2.0.7-7-7.i386.rpm). Before beginning the installation, check that the corresponding libraries are set up in your system. To see whether your Linux system contains the appropriate libraries, type:

ls -l /lib/
ls -l /lib/libc-2.*.so

If these files exist, you probably already have the required libraries, though you should still check the version numbers. If in doubt, go ahead and try to install StarOffice. If these libraries are not installed on your system, you will simply experience a segmentation fault when you run the setup program. At least that was the case with Slackware 4.0.

The table below shows some of the more common Linux distributions, the libraries they're based on, and whether glibc needs to be installed.

Linux Distribution Based on Installation of
Glibc required
'gldrinst force'
Red Hat 6.0 glibc No No
Red Hat 5.1 glibc No No
Red Hat 5.2 glibc No No
Delix DLD 6.0 glibc No No
Debian 2.0 glibc No No
Debian 1.3 libc5 Yes Yes
Caldera 2.2 glibc No No
Caldera 1.2 libc5 Yes Yes
SuSE 6.1 glibc No No
SuSE 6.0 glibc No No
SuSE 5.3 libc5 Yes Yes
SuSE 5.1 libc5 Yes Yes
Slackware 3.5 libc5 Yes Yes
Slackware 4.0 glibc Yes No

Installing glibc
Although you can upgrade your entire Linux installation to include the required libraries, you can also install the libraries in a way that minimizes any changes to the rest of your system. That is useful if you just want to try out StarOffice on a given machine and uninstall it at a later date. Below we describe how to install the libraries to minimize changes to the rest of your Linux installation.

To install glibc from the StarOffice CD:

  • Change directory into the directory containing the glibc2 libraries:

    cd /cdrom/linux/misc/glibc2

    If you downloaded StarOffice rather than purchasing the CD, you also will need to download the glibc libraries from the StarOffice FTP server (see Resources). For the English language version, download the file: glibc2_01.tar.

  • Start a Bourne shell by typing:


  • Run the executable soprep in the current shell, using:

    . ./soprep

  • When prompted for the glibc2 installation directory, note that the default attempts to install to /opt/Office50/lib, while the default installation directory for StarOffice (5.1) library files is /opt/Office51/lib. Therefore, be sure to change this default to /opt/Office51/lib.

    If you do not have write permission to the directory, you could perform a single-user installation of StarOffice. In that case, type in the path to the lib directory in the intended installation directory. If the directory does not already exist, it will be created for you.

  • Important: In spite of any messages that soprep displays, only run gldrinst force if required by the table above. This may damage your system even if glibc-2.0.7 already exists, since the existing glibc-2.0.7 may be incompatible with the version on the CD.

  • Modify LD_LIBRARY_PATH to point to the new libraries:

    export LD_LIBRARY_PATH=/opt/Office51/lib

You are now ready to begin the installation. However, ensure that you continue the installation in the same terminal shell as the one you just set up.

Multiuser installation
Even if you are installing StarOffice primarily for use by a single user on a single machine, performing a multiuser installation is probably worthwhile -- and cleaner from an administrative standpoint. A multiuser installation requires approximately 150 MB of disk space (162.5 MB during installation), plus 2 MB per user.

To perform a multiuser installation:

  • Change to the directory containing the installation files. On the CD version of StarOffice, this is /cdrom/linux/office51. Run the setup program using the /net command line option:

    cd /cdrom/linux/office51
    ./setup /net

    If you get a segmentation fault at this point, your environment is probably not set up correctly. Refer to the earlier section, titled "Getting Started," for details on setting up your environment.

  • The setup program is much like the familiar InstallShield type of installations. It will create the necessary directories, copy and extract program files, create local settings, and compile the help files.

If you use KDE as your desktop environment, you can install StarOffice with KDE. The installation program will be able to detect that you are running KDE and automatically update the KDE program menu with three new icons for running StarOffice. KDE will prompt you to restart the KDE Panel to make the new icons appear.

Users then will need to run setup to install their user files. This can be done by selecting the setup icon from the StarOffice program group under KDE. Alternatively, each user can execute the setup program from the /opt/Office51/bin directory.

Single-user installation
You may want to perform a single-user installation of StarOffice if you just want to try it out and don't have the required write permissions to install into /opt. A single-user installation also requires approximately 150 MB disk space (162.5 MB during installation).

You should ensure that you have set up your environment -- with respect to required libraries -- as described in the "Getting Started" section.

To perform a single-user installation:

  • Change to the directory containing the installation files (on the CD version of StarOffice, that is /cdrom/linux/office51) and run the setup program:

    cd /cdrom/linux/office51

    Again, if you get a segmentation fault at this point, your environment is probably not set up correctly. Refer to the earlier section titled "Getting Started" for details on setting up your environment.

  • The setup program is similar to the familiar InstallShield software. It will create the necessary directories, copy and extract program files, create local settings, and compile the help files.

StarOffice delivers another commercial-quality office suite to Linux, as well as to Solaris, Windows, and OS/2 desktops. The current version, 5.1, has clearly been designed with a multiuser environment in mind, and it works well in that scenario. With a little planning, the single- or multiuser installation is fairly straightforward.

A future version will enable the office suite to work through a Web browser from anywhere in the world.

About the author
Shari Jones is a freelance journalist and a technical writer for epicRealm, a Dallas-based start-up company. She has more than ten years experience writing technical articles and documentation covering all areas of the high-tech industry, and is a former consultant.

Steven Gould currently works as a Senior Consultant for a large international consulting company. Based in Dallas, he develops primarily in C++ and Java under Slackware Linux (and KDE), various other Unix platforms and Windows NT. He is a Sun Certified Java Developer and Microsoft Certified Professional.


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