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Java and Education: hacking StarOffice

Posted by rstephe on June 12, 2003 at 7:44 PM PDT

On their excellent presentation Tuesday afternoon, Jurgen Schmidt and Colm Smyth revealed (to me at least) that StarOffice has a Java programming API. How cool is
that! This open up a number of intriguing possibilities.

  • Controlling StarOffice
    programmatically(this could take care of writing “I will not
    talk in class” 100 times very nicely).

  • Embedding StarOffice in a Java
    application as an engine to view and edit rich text.

  • Integrating live services (LDAP,
    database queries, Web service, addressbook) into documents.

  • Using the StarOffice bean as a
    formatting gateway. Besides it's native XML format, StarOffice can
    output HTML, PDF, RTF, Flash, SVG and a variety of Microsoft Word
    formats.

Of course, to be fair, the Other Guys'
office suite has been programmable for a long time, as the
proliferation of Word macro viruses attests. For that matter
StarOffice, too, has a StarBasic scripting language. But as someone
who has done a bit of VBA programming, I can tell you it isn't
pretty. Programming an office suite in a real, robust language like
Java is a refreshing change.

In the present version of StarOffice,
ver.6, the API is complete but undocumented. To use it, go to
http://api.openoffice.org/ and download the SDK, which contains the
Developer's Guide and JavaDocs for the API. The Developer's Guide
has a number of useful examples. The next version of StarOffice will
come with the SDK on a separate CD.

All of this is possible in OpenOffice
as well. StarOffice's open source twin is virtually identical except
for a few features that contain third-party proprietary code (such as
the phonetic spell checker). And, my MacFriends tell me, StarOffice
1.01 runs very nicely on the Mac in Apple's X11 beta, so it is truly
cross-platform.