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adriantry's blog

You Tried OpenOffice.org. Where do we go from here?

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Over the last four days, we have been taking a tour of OpenOffice.org Writer. We have explored some of its features which may feel familiar to you, as well as looking at some features which may give you a whole new way of working.

How did you find the journey? If you haven’t taken time to sit down in front of your computer and actually follow the tutorials step by step, consider doing that now. Most people learn much better by doing rather than just reading.

The main thing to remember is to stick with it. Even if certain procedures feel awkward or foreign to begin with, they will become much more natural over time. For anything more complicated than a simple letter, I encourage you to start using styles. Styles will unlock the power of OpenOffice.org like nothing else will. Start with paragraph styles, and go from there.

Try OpenOffice.org. Exploring the Difference.

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Having looked at ways in which OpenOffice.org will be familiar to you, we now turn to explore some of its differences.

Screen Layout

In the following screenshot, we identify four important tools – dockable floating windows - that can be used very powerfully in OpenOffice.org.

The Styles and Formatting window, which we looked at earlier, is useful for quick formatting. I tend to keep it open most of the time, though it can be quickly shown and hidden by clicking F11.

From the Styles and Formatting pane, you have access to all paragraph, character, frame, page and list styles. A drop down control at the bottom of the pane allows you to display more or less styles.

For example, if you select “Applied Styles”, you will only see the list of styles you have used in the current document.

The Navigator shows you an overview of your document – like a table of contents – and allows you to quickly move around the document.

If you have used heading styles for all of your headings, you see a handy outline of your document under “Headings”. You can also see lists of all of your tables, text frames, graphics and other objects throughout the document.

You jump quickly to a certain point in your document by double clicking on the item in the list. By pressing F5, you can easily display or hide this panel.

I'm Trying OpenOffice.org. How do I learn more?

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Yesterday we looked at the similarities between OpenOffice.org Writer and the word processor you are already familiar with - whether that is Microsoft Word or something else. It’s reassuring to know that some things feel familiar.

But it’s also nice to get below the surface and learn something new. You might be a fiddler, and feel your way through the program by trial and error. Or you might like to use some of the many resources available on the Internet.

If you’ve already had a look around the program, you might also be wondering where all of the clipart, templates and other resources are.

OpenOffice.org has a very strong and supportive community made up of users, developers, organisations and companies. There is a huge amount of support and resources available for OpenOffice.org on the Net. But finding these resources can be quite a challenge. Here is a brief introduction to some of the most important and useful OpenOffice.org projects and support sites.

Try OpenOffice.org. It's the Same But It's Different

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Part 2 of a 5 part series.

At the beginning of our journey, I’d like to reassure you. While OpenOffice.org is different in many ways – in look, function and philosophy – it will also be very familiar to you in other ways.In fact, if you download quick reference cards for OpenOffice.org Writer and Microsoft Word, you may be surprised at the similarities.

Let’s start our journey by exploring some of the features that are common to other word processors.

Try OpenOffice.org. I dare you!

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So, you’ve installed OpenOffice.org, and opened the Writer module. As you sit staring at the empty page, thoughts of writers’ block waft through your mind. Where do I start? This looks different. Let me introduce two people - real people - who have just started the same journey.

Expanding Your Office Suite

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Both OpenOffice.org and Google Docs contain a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation program. OpenOffice.org adds to the trio a drawing program and database, while Google offer email (with contacts), a calendar, and a host of other services. A fantastic selection of software, but certainly not everything you need to run an office.

On the OpenOffice.org mailing lists, we are often asked, “Where is your Outlook?” Those users have normally identified the equivalents to Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Access, but wonder how they are going to handle their email, contacts and calendar. They often express their desire to “get completely free from Microsoft”, and are concerned they may need to continue using Outlook. They are looking for a replacement office suite from a single replacement company.

But open-source projects (with the exception of Koffice) rarely try to do that. They prefer to do one thing well, and allow others to focus on what they don’t do. This is in stark contrast with Microsoft, who prefer that every piece of software you use has their logo on it.

Free Software: Do you get what you pay for?

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“You get what you pay for” is a familiar maxim. I know people who live by it. If you want quality, you have to pay for it. Invest to get the best.

When it comes to computer programs, Linus Torvalds would disagree. “Software is like sex: it’s better when it’s free.”

I started to explore the range of computer that is free of cost in the year 2000. We had moved nearly 1000 kilometres from the Blue Mountains to Queensland’s Gold Coast, and I was playing Mr. Mum for three years while my wife Sonya completed her university degree.

Using a Different Office

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A new office

In February we purchased our first home. It’s beautiful, with wooden cathedral ceilings and slate floors. The yards are filled with lush gardens overlooked by a spacious undercover outdoor area. A generous extension houses a spacious living area with a fireplace.

But it’s small. Much smaller than we’re used to. And much smaller than our previous home which we called “The Mansion”. It is the first house I have lived in for a very long time that doesn’t have a room I can call my office.

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