Why pay for software when you can get it for free? Sun Microsystems is hoping that you'll buy the logic, at least, and choose to download its StarOffice suite for free instead of paying for Microsoft Office.

Sun has released StarOffice 5.2, its first upgrade since the company acquired the office suite with its purchase of Star Division last August and began distributing the software free online.

The initial release, version 5.1, was downloaded more than 1.5 million times, according to figures on Sun's Web site.

StarOffice 5.2 includes Writer, a word processing program; Calc, a spreadsheet; Impress, a presentation program; Base, a database application; Draw, a graphics program; and Schedule, a calendar.

The suite also includes StarOffice Mail, a communications tool that lets you retain StarOffice Writer functions when sending e-mail; and StarOffice Discussion, a newsgroup application.

StarOffice is compatible with Windows 2000, NT, 98, and 95; Linux; and Solaris. It can run on PCs, UNIX workstations, servers, or internal local area networks.

StarOffice Writer also has a new business card template, more column formatting options, and expanded AutoCorrect and AutoCompletion functions.

Impress has a new player for software presentations, so you can make your presentations on a PC by installing only the player, not the entire StarOffice suite.
StarOffice 5.2 offers many similarities to Microsoft Office, but the two have key differences.

Noteworthy is StarOffice's integration: rather than opening each application, you open the entire suite. StarOffice creates a desktop for you, which contains everything you have stored on your PC's desktop. You can access each of StarOffice's individual applications from this central starting point.