Toolbars in OpenOffice.org 2.0, Part 1

I must admit that I had mixed feelings when I saw the new toolbar metaphor for OpenOffice.org 2.0.

On the one hand, the 1.x system for seeing different toolbars was a bit complicated and weird. I would do a whole section every morning in my basics class about the "Three Triangles" before I got into topics like lists, tables and font colors where the triangles reared their pointy heads.

On the other hand, the huge list of toolbars under the "View" menu of the OpenOffice.org 2.0 (release candidate) seemed potentially overwhelming. And I did like the convenience of the Big Blue Triangle, which lets you get to the currently relevant specialized toolbar based on what you've clicked in: a table, a list, etc.

I must admit, though, that I am a happy convert to the new system in OpenOffice.org 2.0. There's one feature missing that I would like, but the whole new system itself is really well designed and easy to use. You get a similar amount of help from the system, which pops up the specialized object bar you need, just like the old system. The customization features have been reorganized in a simpler, more logical way as well.

Here's what you see in a new Writer document in OpenOffice.org 2.0's release candidate.

Here's what I'll walk through in this article:

  • How to see all the toolbars in OpenOffice.org, so any new or OpenOffice.org 1.x user will know exactly how to get the tools they want.
  • How to position and customize the

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  • toolbars.

What happens with toolbars when you're just minding your own business

Let's say I'm not even thinking about toolbars. I'm just typing up my shopping list, and I click the normal bullets icon to make the list bulleted.

Automatically, the specialized "Bullets and Numbering" toolbar comes up. In 1.x, you'd either get a blue triangle on the main toolbar or you'd see it on the main toolbar. Here, it pops up by default as a separate floating toolbar.

(Note: I love this toolbar, by the way. If you ever do anything with multi-level lists or any complex formatting whatsoever, use this toolbar religiously to indent your levels and move things up and down in the list. Your lists will work reliably and you'll save yourself a great deal of cursing and hair-pulling.)

I want to keep this toolbar around, but not sitting right there in the middle of the page. I want it to just stay on the object bar along with the other toolbars. The most direct way to do this is to try dragging it to where I want it, so I do that. When the gray fuzzy rectangle appeared, I figured it was going to work.

The toolbar shows up just where I dragged it to.

Now that I got it there, of course I thought: "What if I don't want it there any more?" One approach is of course to just choose "View > Toolbars > Numbering and Bullets;" that made the toolbar disappear. But what if I just want the toolbar floating again? I clicked on the black triangle at the right side of the toolbar, but I didn't find an "Undock" option. (Dock, but not Undock.) I checked the "Help," and found that there is an entirely new visual cue in OpenOffice.org 2.0: The Toolbar Handle.

I moved my mouse over the vertical dotted-line visual cue, dragged it back to the middle of the document, and got the floating toolbar back. Very slick.

Positioning toolbars

Another useful application of the dotted-line handle is that you can drag a toolbar wherever you want it, including horizontally. This is useful if you want two toolbars positioned together on the same line of the object bar. Again, the fuzzy gray rectangle shows that something's happening and where the toolbar will be positioned when you release it.

Just drag one of the toolbars to the right, for instance, to allow room for another object bar, and then drag your other object bar to the position left blank.

1.x users might notice that there's no left-hand toolbar, by default. This is kind of nice, since it means you can add any toolbar you want in that position. As with dragging the toolbar to the top object bar area, I just dragged a toolbar to the left, and the toolbar docked at the left side, as you'd expect. As with the object bar area at the top, you can have multiple toolbars.

By the way, the vertical ruler is on by default. You used to have to turn it on; now it's just there. The vertical and horizontal rulers are nice for quickly changing document margins. Click on the border between the white and gray on the ruler, and drag up or down.

Now, let's move on to part two, where we'll play with customizing OpenOffice.org 2.0 toolbars. I'll also explore making your own toolbars, using the Drawing toolbar and finding a disappointing toolbar feature. Then, I'll sum up my OpenOffice.org's new toolbar experience.

This was first published in October 2005

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