OpenOffice.org is a powerful office suite that includes word processing, spreadsheets, and slides. It has all of the functionality of the best-known office suites, and uses some powerful additional tools to help you easily create professional-looking documents.
One of the benefits of using an open source office suite is the vibrant community of OpenOffice.org users who share their templates, tutorials, and other information on the web. Extensive documentation for the OpenOffice.org suite is available online, both at their website and on various user sites.
This chapter takes a quick look at features that apply to the suite as a whole, and then goes more in-depth to each of the applications within the suite. For more information, you can always take a look at the help menus in OpenOffice.org, which include handbooks and extensive information.
OpenOffice.org is compatible with most common document formats, including:
MS Office, from 6.0 through the present version
RTF (Rich Text Format)
HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language)
PDF (Portable Document Format)
Currently, OpenOffice.org is not compatible with a few formats, including:
In the case of WordPerfect, a filter can be installed that will allow you to work with WordPerfect documents. It is called WriterPerfect and is available at SourceForge: http://libwpd.sourceforge.net/.
The use of styles is one of the most powerful aspects of OpenOffice. A style is a set of formating instructions that are used throughout a document.
Many users format their documents manually, highlighting each block of text individually and selecting formatting options each time a change is made. This practice is reasonable for short documents, but is time-consuming and inconsistent for longer documents.
When consistency in appearance is important, formatting with styles is more efficient. Creating a style that fits your specific needs requires an initial investment of time — but once the style has been created, it saves effort in two ways. First, a style can be applied to any document created in OpenOffice.org, immediately creating identical documents. Second, making a single change in the style creates changes across the entire document.
Use the Stylist to apply styles to text. It can be reached by
clicking on the yellow diamond icon on your toolbar, by going
to Format => Styles, or by pressing
To change a style throughout a document:
Highlight a representative block of text, such as a Heading1 block of text.
Make formatting changes — color, font, etc.
With the text still highlighted, press the Update Style button on the Stylist.
All text that has the same style applied will now have the formatting that you just applied.
For more information, refer to the documentation available at the OpenOffice.org web site: http://documentation.openoffice.org/manuals/oooauthors/IntroStyles.sxw.
A template is essentially a blank form that a user fills with content. A common example of a template is letterhead, which has the sender's postal information at the top and a blank body for the letter text. In OpenOffice.org, templates can contain text, images, and formatting.If you find yourself frequently re-creating a relatively simple document, creating a template can save you time.
To create a template:
Create a normal file containing the text and formatting you would like to use for your template using one of the OpenOffice.org applications.
Save the file as a template by choosing File => Templates => Save.
Enter a name for your new template and click the OK button.
To use a template:
Go to File => New => Templates and Documents
A window will open with three template folders. Your template will most likely be in the folder marked Default.
Open the folder and select the template you wish to use.
Edit the file and add whatever content you choose.
Save normally. You will create a new file instead of over-writing your template.
For more information, refer to OpenOffice.org's documents at: http://documentation.openoffice.org/HOW_TO/word_processing/HowTo_Work_with_Templates.sxw.
OpenOffice.org Writer includes an extensive, customizable dictionary for spell-checking. Also included is the ability to AutoSpellcheck - check spelling as you type. With AutoSpellcheck, a potentially misspelled word will be underlined in red. If you right-click on the word, the best matches for that word are provided. Select the correct word from the list. To spell check an entire document, go to Tools => Spellcheck => Check. To turn off the auto spell checker, go to Tools => Spellcheck => AutoSpellcheck and remove the checkmark there by clicking on it once. To turn it back on, click on it again.
OpenOffice.org also includes a thesaurus. Click on the word to replace or double-click it to highlight the word. Go to Tools => Thesaurus. You will see a list of synonyms in the right pane. Scroll through the list of synonyms. When you find the one you are looking for, either double-click on it or click once to select and then click the OK button to insert it into your text. If the list of words does not include the word you want, you can select a word from the list by clicking once and then clicking the Search button. A new list of related words will be provided.
The AutoCorrect / AutoFormat feature is one that automatically corrects common typing mistakes and applies formatting to certain types of text. Users can determine to what extent this feature assists them by going to Tools => AutoCorrect / AutoFormat. This opens a dialog with tabs that allow you to customize this feature's behavior. The Options tab allows users to select whether certain standard substitutions are made. The Word Completion tab allows users to turn this feature on and off, and to specify additional options. If at any time you make changes to AutoCorrect / AutoFormat and don't feel it has been applied to your text, highlight the area of text and select Format => AutoFormat => Apply.
OpenOffice.org has excellent documentation, including tutorials, FAQs, and setup guides. Try the following helpful links:
http://documentation.openoffice.org/HOW_TO/word_processing/Word-to-OOo.html has information especially helpful to those users who are accustomed to Microsoft Office.
http://documentation.openoffice.org/ has a list of the various documentation projects being maintained. This is where you will find FAQs, tutorials, and more.
Be sure to check out the extensive Help menu. Go to Help => Contents, and choose the Find tab. This allows you to search through the help files for a keyword or phrase. Selecting the Contents tab allows you to search for your topic by browsing through subjects.
Search for a keyword or phrase plus "OpenOffice.org" with your favorite search engine.