How-to: Working wonders with OpenOffice 2.0's Web Wizard

The OpenOffice 2.0 Web Wizard wowed this reviewer. Find out how to use it to open a whole new world of Web publishing without having to mess with DreamWeaver.

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Solveig Haugland, Site expert

I can't believe nobody told me about the Web Wizard in OpenOffice.org 2.0. Why haven't I been reading about it on all the blogs? It's one of the coolest new features in 2.0.

I feel like my boyfriend of two years just casually mentioned for the first time that he has a condo in Aspen. that I've discovered an old savings account I had totally forgotten about.

With Web Wizard in OpenOffice.org (OO.o) 2.0, you just choose File > Wizard > Web Page to open a whole new world of Web publishing, batch conversion to HTML and PDF, and automatic formatting.

Put this together with the fact that links in OO.o Writer documents, including linked tables of contents, retain their properties when you convert to PDF, and the potential increases exponentially.

The name of the navigation to the Web Wizard is the same as the previous versions of the software. However, back then, the Web Wizard was nothing but a quick way to get some prefab column layouts and color schemes. In 2.0, it's so much bigger.

About the Web Wizard

Here's what the Web Wizard can do:

  • Create a Web page that links to OpenOffice.org documents, Microsoft Office documents, HTML files, or graphics files you specify. The Web page can have multiple layouts, including a left-hand navigation frame and a right-hand document display frame.
  • Batch convert OpenOffice.org documents to PDF or HTML. This means that your main HTML index page can link to documents in the original format, to converted versions in HTML or converted versions in PDF. (Note that you can't convert graphics files to PDF, and you can't put all the OpenOffice.org files together in one PDF.)

So, here's what these capabilities allow you to do:

  • You can use the wizard to create a web site from existing documents, rather than designing a new site, copying and pasting into HTML, reformatting, etc.
  • You can use the wizard simply as a batch converter to HTML.
  • You can use the wizard simply as a batch converter to PDF. Got 200 documents you want to change to PDF? Set up the wizard, run it, and go to lunch.
  • You can use the wizard as a poor-user's version of the Photoshop Web's page batch convert feature that lets you take a bunch of pictures and put them together in a convenient form for people to view in a browser.
  • You can do lots of other things that I haven't thought of yet, but that you will come up with when you fiddle with this great feature.

Using the Web Wizard

Here's how you use the wizard:

  1. Get together the files you want to use. You don't have to, but you'll find it's a bit easier when you're choosing the files and if you have to run the wizard again. In addition, create an output directory for the results of the Web Wizard.
  2. Choose File > Wizard > Web Wizard. This is just the intro screen. If you were doing this for a second time, if you were going to repeat a previous conversion, you would pick the conversion options from the dropdown list at the bottom. The first time, though, you just need to click Next.
  3. This is the main window. Click the Add button and find the files you want in your Web page, or that you want to batch convert. You can select all the files in the dialog box; hold down CTRL, and select the first and last. Then use the up and down arrow buttons in this window to arrange the files in the right order.
  4. In the same window, fill out the other fields, such as title. If you're creating a web page for internal training, put something like Internal Training in the Title field.
  5. Now you specify the output format for each file. Select the first file in your list, and in the Export to File Format dropdown list, select the format you want. Do this for each file. For graphics, you can only choose the original file format. PDF Press Optimized is better quality and a larger file than PDF Print Optimized.
  6. Click Next. If you're just batch converting PDFs and don't care about what the index page looks like, skip this and go to the step where you specify the output directory. Otherwise, pick the layout of the page where you'll navigate through all the files you just specified. I like the left-side frameset, the first in the second row.
  7. Click Next. You can select the information that will be displayed by the link to each file in the index page. Just put a checkmark next to the information you want.
  8. Click Next. You can pick the color scheme for the index page but not for the converted HTML pages, if you're converting documents to HTML. They're all a little on the overkill side, though Light Gray is reasonably subtle.
  9. Click Next. Enter the information about the Web pages that you want displayed in the converted Web page.
  10. Click Next. If you're just doing a PDF batch convert, here's where you come in again. Specify the directory where you want the files created. You'll also want to name the options you chose very specifically, so you can do this easily another time.
  11. Click Finish. Once the processing is done, go to the output directory; these are the files you'll see (they vary depending on if your main index page uses frames). Content is where the main files are.

  12. Find the index.html file. Double-click it and you'll see your navigation page, and links to all the converted files.
  13. If all you care about is the converted PDF files, open the content directory and you'll see the PDFs. Double-click to open them.

Looking at output From the Web Wizard

Let's look at what a few of the possible outputs look like. We'll start with OpenOffice.org Writer files, with a frameset navigation index page, converted to HTML.

Now, let's look at OpenOffice.org Writer files, with a frameset navigation index page, converted to PDF.

Graphics files (JPGs), with a frameset navigation index page, left in their original format.

Excited yet? I hope so. The Web Wizard is a good, flexible system with implications for reducing workload by a huge amount.

OpenOffice.org isn't really known for its killer Web page development features, and, of course, Web Wizard doesn't turn it into DreamWeaver. But if you need quick conversion of existing documents, rather than delicately nuanced Web design, this Web Wizard feature is definitely for you.

More on this topic:

How to get reports on OpenOffice 2.0 Base

OpenOffice 2.0's new mail merge tools

Just one final note

On some Windows systems, this feature will work one time but not additional times. A message will prompt you to run Repair. You can try, but it probably won't work. If this is your situation, the bug has already been filed with the OpenOffice.org project team, so the best you can try is to install it on another machine, or wait until the next update version comes out.

Solveig Haugland has worked as an instructor, course developer, author and technical writer in the high-tech industry for 15 years, for employers including Microsoft Great Plains, Sun Microsystems,and BEA. Currently, Solveig is a StarOffice and OpenOffice.org instructor, author, and freelance technical writer. She is also co-author, with Floyd Jones, of three books: Staroffice 5.2 Companion, Staroffice 6.0 Office Suite Companion and OpenOffice.Org 1.0 Resource Kit, published by Prentice Hall PTR. Her fourth book, on OpenOffice.org 2.0, is coming this summer. For more tips on working in OpenOffice, visit Solveig's OpenOffice blog.

This was first published in February 2006

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