Category Archives: Review

Articles that describe my experiences with a certain product. Usually giving details on the functionalities of the product and things I liked or disliked about the product.

StarOffice as Desktop

This is a repost of an article I had on my old homepage. Consider this a historic document.


I know I should write about the newly released StarOffice 5.1, but since I still don’t have it (downloading it with a 28800 bps modem is a little bit too much…) I’ll just have to stick to 5.0. This is not really a review of all the possibilities of StarOffice, but a review of a possibility that gives sense to the StarDesktop. What I have done is disabling the Workplace Shell and loading StarOffice as the OS/2 Shell.


To install StarOffice as your shell you should first install it like usual. A good thing is to test it first in order to make sure all works fine. Then it is only a simple step to install StarOffice as your shell. After you have made a backup of your config.sys you should change:



SET RUNWORKPLACE=E:\Apps\Office\StarOffice\soffice.exe

where of course you should adjust the path to reflect your installation of StarOffice. After a reboot OS/2 will start with StarOffice as shell.

As a side note: I know that at least Linux too allows a similar setup, but since my computer is OS/2 only I haven’t tried myself, and therefore I can’t give direction on how to accomplish this.

The benefits

The benefits of using StarOffice as your desktop are limited, but in certain situation could be worth it. First of all it does allow you to deploy the same desktop on several different Operating Systems, which in a corporate environment can be a huge advantage since it can increase productivity since people have their tools always on the same place whatever system they use. Also do you get rid of the confusion of two desktops. But maybe the major advantage is the fact that you get a tremendous speed gain especially on computers without a lot of memory. (On my computer with 32 MB OS/2 Warp 3.0 starts with StarOffice as shell as fast as with the WPS, but the difference is that you can be productive immediately, because upon opening a document the application doesn’t need to be loaded anymore. Also I noticed that StarOffice itself was a lot more responsive this way.

The disadvantages

Since you don’t load the WPS anymore there must be disadvantages too. Of course obviously you lose all the power and the flexibility of the WPS, but with that also all applications that are implemented as Workplace Shell Objects can’t be used anymore. So say goodbye to Object Desktop, to Vispro Rexx and many other applications. However most applications are only WPS aware and can still run. Major functions of OS/2 don’t seem to be affected, but it can be cumbersome to configure them, because most of them are configured through WPS Objects. You can however always start the Workplace Shell by starting PMSHELL.EXE manually, but that was not the point of removing it from CONFIG.SYS. However for someone who usually only uses his computer for Office applications and who needs the WPS functionality only occasionally it can be enough to know it is still possible to access the WPS this way. I had to think a while before I knew how to shutdown OS/2 in an orderly way. At first I thought I would need to start the WPS, but that’s not necessary. OS/2 ships with a small program shutdown the system, it is appropriately called shutdown.exe. Type this on a command line shuts down OS/2 nicely. If you want to reboot you can opt for setboot instead.


Replacing the WPS with the StarDesktop is a trade-off I can’t decide for you. For some people it might be reasonable, for others not. Running StarOffice on top of the WPS gives you the best options, but at the costs of a much huger memory footprint. However falling memory prices seem more and more to make this irrelevant. Therefore it is more a consideration for people with a limited budget and older computers. I think even for a computer like mine (Pentium 133 with 32 MB RAM) the favour goes to running StarOffice on top of the WPS, but I can understand if people decided differently. Also businesses can benefit from this option, especially if they have an heterogeneous computer environment. Personally I know a place where it would fit wonderfully: The copy & print shop for which I work occasionally. I would love to replace their Windows 95 and Word 97 with OS/2 Warp 3 and StarOffice 5.0 (or 5.1). Since StarOffice is so much a Microsoft look-alike (but under the hood a completely different person) nobody would notice, or would they?