Sun is releasing version eight of StarOffice, claiming improved compatibility with Microsoft Office - one of the chief areas of complaint among users of Sun's office productivity suite.

StarOffice 8.0 includes a macro converter that automatically converts Microsoft Office macros to work in StarOffice. The product also enables easier conversion from Microsoft Office of features such as tables and password-protected files.

Additionally, Sun has improved the look and feel of the product to be more familiar to Microsoft Office users.

StarOffice 8.0 is also the first office productivity suite to support Open Document Format for Office Applications, or OpenDocument, as the standard for office files.

Developed by the standards body OASIS (Organisation for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards), OpenDocument is an XML-based file format that covers the features required by text, spreadsheets, charts and graphical documents.

According to Sun there have been more than 53 million downloads of StarOffice and OpenOffice, the open-source version of the software on which Sun's suite is built.

StarOffice 8.0 is the first new version of Sun's office productivity suite in a year and a half. The latest version was originally scheduled to be available in July, but was delayed as made significant changes to its version of its software.

The suggested list price for the packaged software product is £62. For enterprise customers, StarOffice 8.0 is priced on a tiered, per-user basis, starting at £15.50 per user for upgrades. Schools and colleges can continue to obtain StarOffice 8.0 at no charge.

StarOffice 8 downloads are immediately available from