Regular readers of my blog entries will be aware that grammar is not my strong point. I’ve been toying with the idea of seeking machine assistance in this area for some time, and during a quiet moment at a trade show last year, I quizzed the people from Sun about the capabilities of StarOffice (the commercial, supported version of OpenOffice.org). They assured me that it had a grammar checker that was better than the one with in Microsoft Word (in retrospect, that should have been a warning flag).
So one of my New Years’ resolutions was to start using a grammar checker, mainly for the sake of my coworkers, who are forced to read my writing.
I had some difficulty finding the free download for educational users (http://www.sun.com/products-n-solutions/edu/solutions/staroffice.html), but found it eventually with the help of our in-house software licensing guru. I actually installed StarSuite 8 (because it appears to have better support far-eastern languages and I have an interest in Go), even though it wasn’t really clear to me what features the different downloads offered. I was pleasantly surprised that the generic “linux” downloads played nicely with my Ubuntu Dapper desktop, the application icons appearing in menus like they should.
Starting up Writer for the first time, I was unable to find the grammar checker (I even looked in the help system, which is a faithful clone of the completely useless ones so common in Microsoft Windows), so I downloaded instead the StarOffice 8 for English rather that the far east. Unfortunately, the install failed, badly. It seems that while the Sun’s installers cope very well with relatively virgin installs, they don’t like it when other Sun software is installed. After uninstalling both and reinstalling the English version, still no dice.
So I look on the web, and find a review of StarOffice 8 which makes it clear that there is no grammar checker.
StarOffice 8/StarSuite 8 is seems marginally faster and slicker than OpenOffice.org 2.0, which is not what I expected, since the OpenOffice I’m using is the Ubuntu one, which should give it an edge on both counts. In the end I switched back to StarSuite 8, even though I couldn’t tell the difference, because of it’s promise of better support for far-eastern languages (presumably better fonts and kerning).
Both StarOffice 8/StarSuite 8 and OpenOffice.org 2.0 give me the error message “afs: byte-range lock/unlock ignored; make sure no one else is running this program.” in my kernel logs because I’m mounting my home directory over openafs, and they use an arcane file locking mechanism. Simple documents (which is all I really use) seem to pass between StarSuite and OpenOffice (which I still use on my laptop) just fine, and in both directions.
I’m guessing the moral of this story is not to believe salespeople.