Toolbars in OpenOffice.org 2.0, part 2

OpenOffice.org expert Solveig Haugland recommend how to customize and configure toolbars to for the best fit possible.

You are going to want to customize your OpenOffice.org 2.0 toolbars sooner, rather than later. Fortunately, that process is easy to learn and use in the new release. That's true of making your own toolbars and using the "Draw" toolbar. Here are my experiences with these processes, as well as a disappointing discovery about toolbar locations and my final thoughts on the new toolbar features.

Customizing toolbars

The "Visible Buttons" feature from OpenOffice.org 1.x is still around. Click on the black triangle for any toolbar, though, instead of right-clicking on the toolbar somewhere. That's nice. It's much more logical to think that a visual cue on the toolbar will give you some features than to randomly guess, "Hmm, nothing here indicates anything about customization but I think I'll right-click and see what happens." (Hence one of my five training rules for OpenOffice.org 1.x, "When in doubt, right-click.")

Clicking on the black triangle, then on Visible Buttons, gives you the option to select or deselect icons. The ones without checkmarks don't appear on the toolbar. This is nice because you can remove those icons you don't use like superscript or 1.5 line spacing and have a cleaner toolbar with just the icons you use.

The 1.x features "Configure" and "Customize" have been combined into one option, "Customize." Click on the black triangle again and choose "Customize Toolbar," and you'll see a very powerful window where you can re-order the icons, change the icon used for a feature, hide and show the default icons as you did with the "Visible Buttons" feature, or click Add to find additional icons to add to a toolbar.

Making your own toolbar

These features work pretty much the same way as they did in OpenOffice.org 1.x. However, I do want to put in one plug for the "New Toolbar" feature. This is very useful if you have a few unrelated features, for instance, such as a couple drawing tools, the "Insert Index Entry" tool and a few table-related tools that you use all the time.

In the "Customize" window, just click "New."

Then click "Add," and in the "Add Commands" window, scroll through and find the features you want. Your new toolbar will show up when you choose "View > Toolbars," and it has the same docking, customization and positioning features as all the other toolbars.

The Drawing toolbar

One variant on what I've shown you, I discovered, is the "Drawing" toolbar. Choose "View > Toolbars > Drawing" to see it, since it's turned off by default. Many of the features on it are new, including some fun drawing shapes. Most of the icons have their own palettes, so click on the arrow by each and drag the palette that you want into the work area.

The toolbar appears by default at the bottom of the work area. By default, also, I didn't see a handle on it at first so that I could move it, but I clicked on the black triangle and found the "Lock Toolbar Position" option. I selected it -- which removed the checkmark -- and the handle appeared, so I could drag the toolbar somewhere else.

By the way, I am positive that we're all going to be seeing the puzzle shape all over the place in Impress presentations as people switch to OpenOffice.org 2.0. Mark my words.

Toolbars don't stay in the same place for new documents

One thing I found surprising and a little disappointing is that the viewing and positioning features don't carry over from one document to another. I positioned the toolbars as you saw in this article, then created a new text document and only saw the two default toolbars, in their normal positions.

I looked around for a feature that would make my changes stick, including trying the "Lock Toolbar Position" feature, but couldn't find anything. I'm hoping that I've missed something, or that this feature will somehow make it into the final release version. The changes under "Visible Buttons" and "Customization" do stay, of course. The same toolbar positioning options also stick around for a "Save As."

An overall assessment of the new toolbars

I'm quite pleased with the new toolbar system. I think it'll be easier to teach and to learn. It's more similar to Microsoft Office, as well, so will be easier for people coming from Microsoft Word.

I also really want to encourage anyone using OpenOffice.org to using the "Visible Buttons" and "Customization" options to tailor the program to show icons how and where you want them. These are powerful tools that can make using OpenOffice.org simpler and more efficient.


This was first published in October 2005
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