Tips and tricks for working in OpenOffice

Here are some handy OpenOffice 2.0 tips from site expert Solveig Haugland. Discover ways to draw and share files in and migrate to OpenOffice 2.0.

The open source office suite, OpenOffice 2.0, has flex appeal. Besides running on both Linux and Microsoft (MS)

Windows, for example, OpenOffice 2.0 can share files with and run alongside MS Office on the same desktop. Taking advantage of OpenOffice doesn't require a big stretch, and Solveig Haugland's mini how-tos, offered here, can show you how easy it is to get started. Haugland, an OpenOffice trainer and consultant, is SearchOpenSource.com's resident office suites expert. These tips on drawing and sharing files in and migrating to OpenOffice 2.0 are gleaned from her answers to our readers' questions.

Download here for the latest version of OpenOffice.

Migrating files with OpenOffice

For concerned users who receive OpenOffice documents but only use MS Outlook and Word, Haugland states that the easiest way to open those documents is to download OpenOffice.org. She also points out that there are no compatibility issues with having OpenOffice.org and Microsoft Office installed on the same computer.

In an expert answer, Haugland describes how to create MS versions of OpenOffice files. First, open the file in OpenOffice, click on the "File" option and choose to "Save As" an Excel, Word, PowerPoint or whatever file format is appropriate. To create .pdf files, just click the .pdf icon at the top of the work area in OpenOffice.org and name the file. Just to be certain that no data was lost; include the original MS version of the file.

A user recently described problems with opening Excel macros and MS Word documents containing graphics, such as charts or graphs in OpenOffice 1.x and wondered if these issues would be remedied with the release of OpenOffice 2.0. Haugland replied, "Unfortunately, OpenOffice.org 2.0 still will not automatically convert Microsoft macros. However, based on my classroom experience, some of the features that people use Microsoft macros for can be accomplished in OpenOffice.org without macros. So while one aproach is to keep a few licenses of Excel around to run documents containing macros, another option is to evaluate whether some or all of the macros are necessary."

Drawing in OpenOffice

Besides offering variability in file formats, OpenOffice also contains a feature called Draw, a tool that may be used for drafting in .jpg or TIFF files.

For those who want to sketch in OpenOffice, Haugland gives the following instructions.

For instance, to draw a circle or an ellipse:

  1. In OpenOffice.org, choose "File">"New">"Drawing."
  2. Choose "Insert">"Picture">"From File" and bring in the graphic you want.
  3. Click the "circle/ellipse" tool and draw the shape you want. Hold down the "Shift" button to keep the circle proportionate.
  4. To see the measurements of the entire ellipse, right-click on it and choose "Position and Size." From here you can rotate precisely, see and change dimensions and size, and change the pivot point of the object.
  5. If you want to measure the circle or ellipse to get information not displayed in the "Position and Size" window, you can use a dimension line. Use the "Lines and Arrows" icon in the "Drawing" toolbar at the bottom. Use the "Dimension Line" icon to draw the line over the part of the circle or ellipse you want to measure. Choose "View">"Zoom" to zoom in for more precision.

There is also a tool for drawing diagrams via the "Connector Lines" icon on the "Drawing" toolbar.

Making the switch

So you've had a chance to play around with OpenOffice, and you find it comfortable. Great. How do you make the transition from the world of MS Office to the freedom of OpenOffice?

Haugland states, "I'm not a change management expert, but I think that much of the attitude of employees or members of the organization can be influenced by the people who present the change. It can be shown as something challenging but good. It may be offered as an alternative that will save money for other important projects, yet must be introduced slowly and will require training. Overall, it may be demonstrated as something that will require effort but exhibit an improvement at the end."

First and foremost, after proper preparations is the safety of the data. How much work must be made in order for information to be preserved? How can losses be prevented? Haugland recommends making updates and constant testing. Once it has fallen into the blue nowhere, there's no turning back.

This was first published in November 2005

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