Articles and Tips:
01 Oct 2005
Because OpenOffice.org isn't exactly like other office suites, treating it like other office suites can't unleash its full potential. Unless you have a lot of time to explore OpenOffice.org's features, you probably won't discover all of them on your own. So we've compiled some OpenOffice.org tips and tricks that will help you move past the manual functions you're used to and launch you into the full publishing potential of OpenOffice.org.
Overall Tips for all OpenOffice.org
Applications Like the common interfaces and functions in other office suites, the OpenOffice.org suite also has common interfaces and functions. Many of these functions make OpenOffice.org applications different from other office programs, but unless you know how to use them, chances are you won't use them. Here's how to take advantage of some of OpenOffice.org's common features.
You can get by manually formatting every aspect of your OpenOffice.org creation, but if you often compose the same type of documents, you should take advantage of templates. OpenOffice.org templates don't function exactly like other office suite templates. OpenOffice.org protects the default template so you can't make changes to the default accidentally like you can in other office programs. You can use OpenOffice.org's pre-programmed Auto Pilot templates to take advantage of common forms already programmed, or follow these steps to create a custom template:
Format a document you wish to use as a template, or open a document you've already saved.
Assign character, paragraph, page and frame styles using the Stylist. (See Open the Stylist below for more information on styles.)
Delete any text you don't want to appear in every document based on your template. (The styles you create remain even after deleting the text.)
Select File | Templates | Save. (See Figure 1.) Don't use File | Save As because this saves the template incorrectly and makes it hard to use in the future.
Click the Organizer button.
Select any folder but the Default folder.
Right click and select New.
Place your cursor in the Untitled folder name and change it to "My Templates."
In the Categories box, select My Templates.
Type a name for your template in the New Template field.
Figure 1: To use templates properly in all the OpenOffice.org applications, you must save the template correctly by using File | Templates | Save. Don't use file type Save As.
When you want to use your custom template, follow these steps:
Select File | New | Templates and Documents.
Double click the category to which you assigned your template (My Templates).
Select your template name, and click Open.
Begin creating your new document using the predefined styles and format in your custom template.
Save the new document with a new name in the folder of your choice.
Creating a custom template might take a little more time the first time you create a new document, spreadsheet or presentation. But, you'll quickly make up that time with the time you save on subsequent creations.
Open the Stylist
Another common feature among OpenOffice applications is the Stylist. (See Figure 2.) The Stylist is a floating window that can help you easily apply styles to every aspect of your document. You can manually format each aspect of your document, spreadsheet or presentation, but without using styles, you're missing many of OpenOffice.org's unique functions. When you apply styles, the OpenOffice.org Word Processor becomes more than a typewriter, OpenOffice.org Spreadsheet becomes more than just a calculator, and OpenOffice.org Presentation becomes more than just a slideshow. Follow these tips to open and use the Stylist:
Figure 2: The Stylist is a common feature among all OpenOffice.org programs. It gives you quick access to apply and modify all the styles available in your program, including paragraph, character, page, frame, numbering, cell and slide styles.
To open the Stylist window, select Format | Stylist, click the icon on the main toolbar, or press F11.
Once the Stylist is open, you can use it to apply or modify already set styles, create your own custom styles or quickly fill in formatting. The Stylist not only helps you format paragraphs, characters, cells and slides like the style settings in other office suites, but it also helps you create custom page and frame styles. By creating custom page and frame styles, you can be sure the formats of your pages are consistent and that your objects (usually graphics or text boxes that sit in a frame) are also consistent.
Follow these steps to easily create your own custom styles:
Create a paragraph, cell, set of characters, slide, frame, page or ordered list manually formatted the way you want it to always appear.
Select your formatted item.
Click the New Style from Selection button in the Stylist window.
Type a unique style name based on the description of the style. (For example, if you are creating a page style for the first page of a letter, name the page style "Letter Page1.")
Once you've created your style, you can use the Stylist to go back and modify or add formatting aspects to your style. To modify a set style, right click the selected style in the Stylist and select Modify. The window that appears gives you several options for modifying aspects of your style. (See Figure 3.) Some of the formatting tabs are not available when you manually format an item using the Format menu. Explore the options in this window to make your styles behave exactly as you want.
Figure 3: This dialog appears when you create or modify a style using the Stylist. It has formatting tabs with options not available when you manually format an item using the Format menu.
OpenOffice.org Word Processor Tips and Tricks
After you learn to use OpenOffice.org's templates and styles, a new world of formatting possibilities opens, especially in the Word Processor. Below are a few littleknown tips and tricks to make your documents immediately publishable.
Automatically Update Headers
This trick only applies to longer documents that use headers and have several sections or chapters. But it will also help you learn how to add other important aspects to smaller documents. First, create a document that includes headers, is divided in sections with headings that you want to automatically update as a header, and you must have already applied a custom heading style to these section headings. Think of this tip as helping you create running heads for a long document.
Select Tools | Outline Numbering. (See Figure 4.)
Click the Numbering tab.
In the Paragraph Style pulldown menu, select the paragraph style you have applied to the headings you want to automatically appear as headers. (If your headings are set as "Chapter Title," select "Chapter Title.")
Place your cursor in the heading area of a page with the page style that will include these headers.
Select Insert | Fields | Other.
Click the Document tab.
In the Type box, select Chapter.
In the Format box, select Chapter name.
The text of your most recent heading will appear in the gray field. (See Figure 5.)
As you continue to create the document, anything assigned that heading style in the main body of your document will appear in the header field.
Figure 4: Setting up Outline Numbering according to the custom heading styles you've created lets you automatically update document headers, create a Table of Contents and use the Navigator window to organize your document.
Figure 5: When you insert a field to display the Chapter name, the most recent heading with the style applied displays in the field. If you change the content of that heading, the field automatically changes as well.
When you set your own Outline Numbering by following the first four steps of this tip, you have also set up your document to automaticallly create Tables of Contents, to display heading levels in the OpenOffice.org Navigator, and to create other automatic fields such as bookmarks and cross references.
Turn Off AutoCompletion and other AutoCorrect and AutoFormat Features
Some features of OpenOffice.org's Word Processor that are highly customizable are the default word completion, AutoCorrect and AutoFormat. Unfortunately, you can't simply toggle a button or uncheck a menu command to turn off some of these features, such as word completion. Follow the steps below to customize these features:
Select Tools | AutoCorrect/AutoFormat.
Click the Word Completion tab. (See Figure 6.)
Uncheck the Enable word completion box to turn off word completion, or change any of the other settings available, such as the keystroke used to accept word completion suggestions.
Once you've discovered this dialog, you can explore the different tabs to change your AutoCorrect and AutoFormat preferences. If you ever want to go back to the default settings, click the Reset button. To quickly stop all AutoFormatting that occurs while you type, select Format | Auto Format | While Typing and make sure the check beside the menu option disappears.
Figure 6: To turn off the OpenOffice.org word completion feature, while still keeping other AutoCorrect options, select Tools | AutoCorrect/AutoFormat, click the Word Completion tab and uncheck the Enable word completion box.
Make Sure the Correct Bullets Transfer to Your MS Word Documents
One of the most appealing features of OpenOffice.org is its ability to export documents in several formats, including Microsoft Word, with little or no formatting lost. This makes OpenOffice.org a compatible word processor when you trade documents with colleagues that don't use OpenOffice.org; however, some formatting, such as bullets, don't transfer as well to Microsoft Word. This lack of continuity is simply because Microsoft uses MS Symbol for its bullets and OpenOffice.org uses StarSymbol. Instead of getting frustrated when you export a document with bullets into MS Word format, follow these steps to change your bullet format before you export.
Open the Stylist window by selecting Format | Stylist or pressing F11.
Click the Character Styles button to display all character styles.
Right click Bullets and select Modify.
Click the Font tab.
Select a font in the Font field that you know both OpenOffice.org and Microsoft Word use, such as New Century Schoolbook. (See Figure 7.)
Place your cursor anywhere within the bulleted list.
Right click and select Numbering/Bullets.
Click the Options tab.
Click the button next to Character.
Scroll to select a font that you know both OpenOffice.org and Microsoft Word use, such as New Century Schoolbook.
Click the bullet in the special characters dialog and click OK.
Click OK again.
Repeat steps 7 to 13 for all bulleted lists in your document.
Your bulleted lists will now export with the same format in Microsoft Word.
Figure 7: Simply changing the default font used for bullets to one commonly available in both OpenOffice.org and Microsoft Word, such as New Century Schoolbook, can make bulleted lists created in OpenOffice.org transfer easily and completely to Microsoft Word format.
Note: Create a template containing your commonly used bullet lists by following these steps so you don't have to change your bullet format each time you want to export your document to MS Word. Just use the bullet template you've created and the formatting changes are intact.
OpenOffice.Org Spreadsheet Tips and Tricks
Because OpenOffice.org Spreadsheet follows many of the same conventions as other spreadsheet programs, such as Microsoft Excel, there are fewer tips and tricks for Spreadsheet functions. In addition to taking advantage of the Stylist and templates, the following tips might be helpful:
Wrap Text in Cells
You can wrap text OpenOffice.org Spreadsheet cells once you know where to find the option. Follow the steps below to learn the trick to wrapping text within a spreadsheet cell:
Select the cell or cells with the text you want to wrap.
Right click and select Format Cells.
Click the Alignment tab. (See Figure 8.)
In the Properties area, check the Automatic line break box.
Figure 8: Instead of trying to look for a Wrap Text option in OpenOffice.org Spreadsheet, check the Automatic line break box in the Alignment tab of the Format Cells dialog.
Print What You Want to Print
Like other spreadsheet progams that give you the option to choose to print a selection or just the active spreadsheet, OpenOffice.org Spreadsheet gives you the same options; they're just found in a different dialog. To make your spreadsheets print the way you want, here are a few steps to help you set these options:
To print only the active sheet:
Select Tools | Options.
In the left navigation tree, click the small "+" next to Spreadsheet to expand it.
Check Print only selected sheet. (See Figure 9.)
Figure 9: Because OpenOffice.org Spreadsheet's print dialog does not give you the option to print only the active spreadsheet, you must activate the Print only selected sheet option by selecting Tools | Options, and then Spreadsheet | Print.
To define the cells you want to print in a specific sheet:
Select the cells you want to print.
Select Format | Print Range | Define.
You can also select Format | Print Range | Edit to manually set other options for the print range.
OpenOffice.org Presentation Tips and Tricks
OpenOffice.org Presentation includes many of the same functions of other presentation slideshow programs. But some of these functions are found on different dialogs in OpenOffice.org. Follow the steps below to perform some common Presentation functions:
Enter the Same Information on Every Presentation Slide
Many presentations need to have a consistent element, such as a logo or page number on every slide. Inserting information on each slide is easy once you understand the following trick:
In the lower left-hand corner of your Presentations window are three buttons. Click the middle Master View button.
Use the Drawing toolbar to enter text boxes, other objects or fields, such as page numbers.
When you're done entering the items that should appear on every page, click the Slide View button to the left of the Master View button.
Each slide should contain the text or objects you just inserted in the Master view.
Loop a Slideshow
To set a slideshow to loop, or repeat itself, until you press escape in OpenOffice.org Presentation, take the following steps:
Switch to Slide View by clicking the third button from the top on the righthand side of the Presentations window.
Select all the slides in your presentation.
Choose Automatic from the Transition field in the dynamic toolbar that appears at the top of the Slide View screen.
Set the time between each slide using the time spinner next to the Transition field.
Select Slideshow | Slideshow Settings.
Under Type in the dialog that appears, choose Auto. (See Figure 10.)
Set the time spinner to 0 for continuous viewing.
Start the slideshow by clicking the Start Slideshow button, the bottom button on the right-hand side of the Presentation window.
The slideshow will loop continuously.
Press Esc to stop the slideshow.
Figure 10: To finish setting up the looping slideshow, set the type of slideshow to Auto and the time spinner to 0 for continuous viewing.
Once you know many of the tips and tricks that make the OpenOffice.org applications behave similarly to (and in many cases better than) other office suites, you can begin truly using OpenOffice.org to replace your other office programs. It's then that you'll discover you are finally free to create your own office documents.
* Originally published in Novell Connection Magazine
The origin of this information may be internal or external to Novell. While Novell makes all reasonable efforts to verify this information, Novell does not make explicit or implied claims to its validity.