Download OpenOffice.org 2.0.3 here.
Download OpenOffice.org 2.0.3 here.
(Originally posted March 2006)
Remember that commercial for Compass bank, that shows the woman at an ATM in her closet? The ATM told her, "I'm sorry, there will be $2 fee to access your tube top."
(Honest, there is a commercial like that. I'm not just using blatant sexy illustrations for shock value to draw attention to the benefits of ODF.)
That's what the Open Document Format, or ODF, is all about. Lots of people and organizations want all documents to be in .odf rather than .doc or .xls format.
Most software you use creates documents in a propriety format. That means that the way the software creates the files is exclusive to the people who wrote that software. You can't use another program to open your own files, or at least your choices are very narrow. That means you need to buy software to continue to open files with those formats--if you want to be able to continue to access your own documents. Your thoughts, your meeting minutes, your personal budget spreadsheets, etc.--all need to be rented from the people who wrote the software.
Doesn't it seem kind of odd to have to keep paying for the right to get at documents you created?. It's like paying to rent a house you own. It's like having to pay a fee to get into your own closet for your own tube top.
OpenOffice.org, Sun, and other folks think everyone, including Microsoft, should write programs that output documents in Open Document Format. The instructions for creating programs that make ODF documents are available for anybody to use. That way, when all programs create documents in the same format, then you don't have to pay to open your documents. You can pick the application you want to use, there will be zillions of them, and some of them are free. You aren't dependent on one software program to get at your documents. OpenOffice.org uses ODF format.
Here's an article on what's going on with a group that was formed to promote ODF, and Microsoft.
Here's the web site of the fine folks of the Open Document Format.
And here's the web site of Scott Johnson who just sums things up quite nicely regarding open source, and open document format. See the item at the end of his list.
Alexander Kjerulf (http://www.positivesharing.com ) wrote to me with an excellent question.
How do you get a spreadsheet into a Writer document?
The question is interesting, since it's not really that it's hard—there are just so many ways and many possible results. It's kind of like asking “How do you make a really great vinaigrette?” or “What is the best episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer?” There is no one right answer
Here are some answers, then. My birthday is coming up, so let's say that I'm planning my ideal birthday weekend and I did it in a spreadsheet first.
However, let's say that I've had the brilliant thought that I should leave it lying around where my boyfriend is sure to see it, so that he can help facilitate some of these items. In this case, I would like it to be in a regular document, with a nice heading across the top.
In short, I want to take some content from a spreadsheet, and turn it into a table. I'm going to paste. But which of the many pasting approaches is best?
Just Pasting the Spreadsheet Normally
Copy the cells from the spreadsheet that you want, switch to a Writer document, and paste.
You get a thingamajig that is kind of a table. Note the table icons in the toolbar. However, you can't really use them except to do things like wrap text around the table or apply other properties to the table object.
Pasting normally gives you kind of a table object with a table look
Double-click in any of the cells so that you can select the text and the cells and basically do normal things to it. But when you do this, iit magiliciously turns into a spreadsheet, with spreadsheet icons. You don't have the table icons anymore.
Double-clicking a pasted spreadsheet gives you spreadsheet tools and a temporary spreadsheet look
This could be quite useful if the spreadsheet were chock full of numbers. However, since it's just full of Wonderful Birthday Ideas, I don't really need it to act like a spreadsheet.
The quest for the perfect way to paste this into a Writer document continues.
Exploring the Paste Special Options
When you choose Edit > Paste Special, or click and hold down on the Paste icon in the main toolbar, you get extra pasting options.
You probably won't use the metafile or bitmap that much, since they create graphics. And the calc8 option just does exactly the same thing as normal pasting. However, the rest are quite useful.
Using the HTML (HyperText Markup Language) Paste Special Option
As you might guess, using this option pastes an HTML table version of your spreadsheet. This is pretty slick if you are, for instance, creating a web page. And it's a table, so of course you get the table tools. Not just when you click on the table but when you click in the cells or select the text.
Using the DDE Link Paste Special Option
This is a very slick pasting option—it's one of the two I recommend. You get a Writer table version of the spreadsheet content, but it's linked to the original spreadsheet. When the original spreadsheet changes, this copy of it changes, too. Of course, you have full use of the table icons.
Consider this option even if you don't want the link because you retain any border formatting or background shading.
This is also nice since, as you might have noticed, the alignment was corrected. In the spreadsheet the alignment by default was at the bottom of the cell. Now, it's at the top. If this isn't what you want then it's a disadvantage, but it's what I want in this instance.
Using the Unformatted Text Paste Special Option
However, what you can do with this, if you want, is to re-convert it to a table using the instructions here.
It's a bit of extra work since you can also use the DDE Link or Formatted Text options to get a regular table.
Using the Formatted Text (RTF) Paste Special Option
This is the other one I recommend. You get a plain old table, in normal Writer format, that's not linked to the original spreadsheet. With the table icons. However, you do lose any formatting associated with the borders or background shading that you might have had in the spreadsheet.
A table of ten or so rows is easy to find information in.
A table of ten pages—that's harder.
To make things easier on yourself, you might want to sort the information. Here's how to do it. (This procedure actually kind of works with regular lists, but not very well. Tables are better.)
Here's the table I'll use as an example. (Imagine it's incredibly long, so that the time we'll save and convenience provided will be immense.)
Select the table, including the headings.
Choose Table > Sort. You'll see this window. It looks really techy and complicated, which it is, but I'll point out the really important stuff.
This part is very important. Be sure that you select Row where indicated. This means that it is the rows of information that will be re-ordered. However, you're sorting by a particular column, like the Name or Postal Code column, and Column will show up elsewhere in the window where you do the actual sorting. It's kinda stupid and complicated, but you'll get used to it.
Now you select the column to sort by. Leave Key1 selected, then specify the column you want to sort by (might be Firstname, but you just select the number). Also select the type of data, Alphanumeric or Numeric. If you're sorting by numbers, you MUST select Numeric. Then select the order: Ascending (A-Z, 1-9) or Descending (Z-A, 9-1).
Click this image to see it a bit bigger.
If you want to sort by two columns, such as by state and then by last name, for instance, then you'll want to use the Key 2 options. For Key 2, select the column to sort by, the type of data, and the order, Ascending or Descending.
There you are, all sorted.
Microsoft today announced the opening of a “test drive” so that people can see what Microsoft Office 2007 might look like when it finally goes on sale.
The OpenOffice.org Community invites potential upgraders to go one better - download the full OpenOffice.org 2 office suite today for a test drive, and if you like it, use it free for as long as you like. It’s the ultimate no-strings-attached test drive - if you enjoy the test drive, keep the car!
As office software becomes a commodity product, Microsoft has been forced to make significant changes to the ‘look and feel’ of MS-Office 2007. Because of this, analysts now agree that migrating to Microsoft Office 2007 will be a major upheaval with a significant cost impact.
Unlike changing to Microsoft Office 2007, changing to OpenOffice.org 2 does not require learning how to use office software all over again. Indeed, reports have shown migration to OpenOffice.org 2 is 90% cheaper than migrating to Microsoft Office 2007.
For more information and references to the reports, please see http://why.openoffice.org
(Originally published December 2005)
Call them carriage returns, line breaks, paragraph marks, whatever, sometimes you want fewer of them. Maybe you've brought in some ASCII text that had a line break or two after every paragraph and now with formatted text you don't need it. Or you're turning a spreadsheet or database into text or vice versa.
At any rate, it would be nice to use the Find and Replace window to quickly find'em and change them to whatever you want: nothing at all, or the phrase "el elegante" or whatever.
Note: If you're a macro kind of person, see this page on the ooo forum.
Searching and Replacing, Step by Step
In your OpenOffice.org document, choose Edit > Find and Replace or press Ctrl F. The Find and Replace window will appear.
In the Find and Replace window, enter the symbol for what you want to search for, in the Find field. Here's a quick reference to the symbols to enter for what you're looking for.
In the Replace field, you typically don't enter anything since you're probably just trying to get rid of whatever you're searching for.
Once your Find and Replace fields contain what they should, click the More Options button. Select the Regular Expressions checkbox. This will make the program look for what those codes represent, rather than literally those characters.
If you're using a mix of regular expressions and normal characters, you might need to use a \ in front of anything you want evaluated normally. For instance, if you really are looking for the symbol $ but you want to replace it with a carriage return \n, then you need to actually search for \$ in the Search field and replace it with \n because $ is a special character.
This illustration shows you're looking for a carriage return (any carriage return), and you're going to replace it with nothing.
Click Find. The first instance (from where the cursor was) of the thing you're looking for will be highlighted.
Click Replace to do the replacing.
And so on. Keep going until you're done. Use Replace All only when you're absolutely positive you'll get the results you want.
This is another story about change, and tangentially a story about Stevie Nicks.
I’ve already mentioned Louis, who when switching to OpenOffice.org from Microsoft Office, simply told his users that there would be a big upgrade. No mention of a different office suite program. ;> I love that story.
Here’s another story from the other side of the country. The school district’s latest levy had failed, so they had to cut a couple hundred thousand dollars from the budget. Naturally, there was a big meeting to talk about how to do this.
The school district IT director, Randy, was taking notes during the meeting, and his notes were being projected for everyone to see.
Randy said, “So, one way we could save a huge amount of money would be to cut Microsoft Office and switch to OpenOffice.org.”
Murmurmurmur…general objections…too hard…too different….it would never work.
"Well,” Randy says, “Here’s a question. What program am I using to take notes?”
There was a rousing chorus of “Microsoft Word, of course.”
"Nope,” replied Randy, with what I can only assume was just a hint of a satisfied smirk. (I would have smirked. Randy might be a better person than me.) “It’s OpenOffice.org Writer.”
Wow! No way! But it’s so much like Word!
Randy continued. “And you know what? For the last two years, you’ve been receiving Word, Excel, and Powerpoint documents from me that I created in OpenOffice.org and saved in Microsoft Office format."
More murmuring, surprise, delight, etc.
And so they voted overwhelmingly to switch to OpenOffice.org and save a pantsload of money.
This is, by the way, took place recently in the Seattle area, in Microsoft’s back yard.
It's yet another story showing that Change itself, uppercase, is often what we primarily fear; not the actual new thing that’s going to happen. As the song goes, I've been afraid of changin' cuz I built my life (and my complex mail merges and spreadsheets) around you.
For those of you out there fighting the good fight and evangelizing OpenOffice.org, I think this story has some great lessons. Don’t try to convince people ahead of time. Just start using it within your IT department, or personally, and expose people to it without telling them what it is. Install it on people’s computers and let them play with it. Let the potential users enjoy sitting in the nice open source hot tub. Let them learn to like it without knowing much about it. Let them come to the conclusion that....hey...you know, this isn't all that different, and we sure could save a lot of money switching to it...hmmm....
Try leading with the product, not with the idea of the product, or with Change.
For those who are encountering resistance transitioning--I know that OpenOffice.org isn’t the same as Microsoft Office. It’s different. The Venn overlap is maybe 70%. But when you have to cut a couple hundred thousand from your budget, do you do it by cutting Microsoft Office, or by cutting salaries and books and benefits and other things that really matter? )
I'm still battling Technorati in my goal to be searchable. I've got lots of posts out there that just don't come up, though posts of people who've linked to the articles do come up.
I've been through the ringer with the embed codes, categories, tags, etc. and the only thing that seems to work is just republishing. So what I'll be doing for the next few months is, in addition to a full set of new content each week, publishing a couple "classic" posts from over the past year or so. I'll put "(Repost)" in the title of each and, at the beginning of each, the original publication month.
So--just a heads up for those of you who are going to be thinking "Hmm, that seems awfully familiar..." I'm not trying to pass off old ones as new ones. ;> Not on readers, anyway; just on Technorati.
Originally published in fall 2005.
Note: See also this article by Bruce Byfield.
OpenOffice.org as a Techwriter's Tool for Making Books
Let's get this out of the way up front. I use Framemaker for all my OpenOffice.org workbooks and books. It's just a better tool for books than both OpenOffice.org and Microsoft Word. Framemaker has conditional text, extraordinary cross-referencing and numbering tools, solid, reliable layout features, conditional text (which I use extensively), and much more.
So if you're using Framemaker now, you like it and understand it, you use a lot of cross-references, and you do books of even moderate complexity, I say to you, don't be an open source hero. Stick with Framemaker.
If you're not sure whether you need Framemaker, read on and see what you think.
If you're on Microsoft Word, the page flow, random application of styles you never created, and cross-reference truncation has got to be driving you crazy, so I invite you to read on, as well.
(If you're interested in a full workbook about these topics, see the Professional Techwriter workbook here. )
OpenOffice.org Professional Book Production Strengths
Styles rock. They have immense power for just all the things you'd expect from styles, as well as the sequence in which page styles (master pages in Frame) are used.
Styles in general. Styles are really well implemented in OpenOffice.org. You choose Format > Styles and Formatting, you pick what kind of style to create, and you go nuts. Use styles in a standard, consistent manner and you won't go wrong.
Page styles: To specify the layout such as type of headers and footers, margins, backgrounds, etc., you use page styles. You create them the same way you'd create a paragraph or character style. Page styles are pretty solid. You apply them by double-clicking the page style in the stylist, then switching from one page style to another with a manual break or one of two automatic approaches. You can also restart page numbering with all three ways.
Switching page styles: As mentioned, you can switch from one page style to another by inserting a manual break, or automatically. One way is to set up a paragraph style like Heading1 to always start at the top of a new page, with a particular page style. (Framemaker doesn't have this.) For instance, if you always start a new section with the paragraph style Heading1 and use the page style FirstPage, then you can make that happen automatically and never think about applying page styles.
You can also set up a page style to be applied once, then automatically switch to another page style. Just as you might set up Heading1 to automatically switch to BodyText as the next paragraph style, you can set up FirstPage to automatically switch to LeftRight as the next page style.
Automatic PDF: If your department is on a budget, don't worry about purchasing high-priced copies of Adobe Distiller. You can make PDFs of your documents automatically. Just choose File > Export as PDF, name the file, and set your options.
Master documents: Master documents are the equivalent of master files and book files. They work. They're not slick and powerful, but they work. They also don't crash and corrupt the subdocuments. They're just a bit tricky; you have to do them the right way. You have to insert a Text Item component between each subdocument in order to be able to apply formatting to the subdocuments, but it's not hard to do. To create a master document, just choose File > New > Master Document and use the tools in the window to add files, TOCs, text items, etc.
Automatic captions: You can set up OpenOffice.org to automatically insert captions for all your graphics, tables, etc. They're numbered separately and you can have whatever word you want in front of the caption: Table, Object, Item, Illustration, etc. Choose Tools > Options > Writer > AutoCaption.
Tables of contents: Tables of contents are in generally pretty good. They're linked to the headings you set up in outline numbering (see Weaknesses) and tabs are included by default. I would say they're just as powerful as Frame but easier to set up. You have a lot of formatting power through styles.
Better drawing tools: It's not hard to beat the drawing tools in Framemaker, but OpenOffice.org does it by a mile. Use a frame (Insert > Frame) to group the items, or else just choose File > New > Drawing and make a separate diagram. Then copy and paste into a frame in Writer or export the drawing to a JPG or other format. If you do flow charts or diagrams, the connector line tools alone might be worth using Writer as your book production tool. (Or alternately use Draw to create diagrams that you export to GIF and import into Framemaker.)
OpenOffice.org Professional Book Production Weaknesses
Cross references: Generally, they're solid if not all that slick to implement. However, two issues. One, there's no way, as in Framemaker, to search for broken cross-references, though the cross reference does show up as an empty gray box. Sometimes it's not even an empty gray box, it looks fine. So that's a big issue.
Also, if you want to do cross-references between subdocuments in a master document, you can't select them from a list—you have to keep track of what they are and type the name of the reference in manually. AND the cross-reference doesn't show up correctly in the individual document, it's just a blank gray box. You can see it correctly only from the master document, which is read-only. Grr.
Outline numbering: Outline numbering is actually kind of a powerful tool, and not that tough to implement. Outline numbering is how you tell the program that ChapterTitle is your top-level paragraph heading style, Heading1 is the next level down, and so on. From that you get running headers and footers, automatic chapter numbering, etc. You can also have only one paragraph style at each level, so there goes the idea of having two paragraph styles, Heading1NewPage and Heading1.
Indexes: Indexes work, but they're a little weird and it takes a while to get used to how they work.
Chapter-page numbering: You can set up chapter-page numbering, such as 1-1, 1-2, 1-3, 2-1, and so on. You can apply chapter-page numbering to captions. You can have the chapter number in headers and footers. (Once you've set up outline numbering.) However, you can't have it show up correctly in the table of contents for the second level heading on down. Thus, you can either forego tables of contents, forego detailed tables of contents, or forego chapter-page numbering.
Running headers and footers: Running headers are easy, once you've set up outline numbering. Just go to the header or footer and choose Insert > Fields > Other, select the Document tab, select Type column, select the Chapter item, and choose what kind of information you want to insert. “Chapter” just means section, and you can specify what level section with the Layer field in the lower right corner.
There's just one problem. The running header or footer reflects the most recent heading. If you're writing about French Bread on page 1, and have a section title about Rye Bread halfway down the page on page 2, then the running header at the top of page 2 will be French Bread. It doesn't see anything on the current page, only what has already appeared in the document. If you had a running footer on page 2, it would show Rye Bread because by then Rye Bread would have appeared in the document.
This is an issue only with heading level 2 on down, since usually your top level heading will start at the top of a new page or document so quick switches aren't an issue. Therefore you can use only running headers for your top-level heading; you can use them for any levels but only in the footer, or you can use a separate page style for every chapter and type in all your headers and footers manually. The first and second are the best options.
Variables: Let's say you're putting together a huge document for a proposal, and the value like Contractor and Price and ContractorIDNumber appear several places throughout the book. Or you're doing a book for three different products and you want to be able to easily change the product name from BadgersRUs to MarmotMania. In Framemaker and in OpenOffice.org you can create variables to handle this. However, you can't share them across documents in OpenOffice.org, even if they're part of the same master document. You can't import them from one doc to another or from one doc to all other docs in a master document. You can do that in Framemaker.
Use styles. Use page styles. Take advantage of automatic page style application/switching. Set up outline numbering. Be flexible with your formatting requirements (notably with running headers and footers, and chapter-page numbering). Be very structured with the titles of your cross-references. Don't expect Framemaker. Do some test documents.
If all that sounds good, then OpenOffice.org could be a good tool for you and your group.
One of the great principles of information production is:
Separation of Content and Presentation
The more separate they are, the more you can change one without affecting the other. And the more you can make changes fast.
You already know how to do this. Styles are one example. Another is the automatic number formatting you can apply in spreadsheets. Typically this is for numbers that express dates, dollars, percentages, etc. Here's the spreadsheet with no formatting, and below with automatic currency formatting.
You might not know yet, however, that you have the same abilities with numbers in Writer tables. Here's the same information in a table.
To quickly apply or change the number formatting, select the cell or cells, right-click, and choose Number Format.
In the window that appears, select the format you want. First select the Category, then the Format. You can fiddle around with the options below the lists, including number of decimal places.
Click OK, and you've got the formatting. If you change your mind later and want different formatting, it's easy to change; just repeat this procedure and pick different options.
Office suite software isn't really all that important.
What's important is pretty much anything else. What your organization is doing: research, services, saving lives, preserving order, education. Preserving the rain forest. Rebuilding New Orleans. Job retraining. Heck, you could argue that a good pumpkin pie is essentially more important than software.
OK, the office suite software helps you do all those things I listed and a million more. But I want to point out that our goal in our eight hours a day is not to use software. It's everything else.
All right. So now think about this.
OpenOffice.org is free.
Other office suites are not.
You switch to OpenOffice.org, and you or your organization is suddenly not spending $500, or $50,000, or $5 million on your office suite licenses.
Add up all the other people or organizations who are no longer spending that money on an office suite, and suddenly we're into some serious cash.
Think about how much your city police force spends on office suite software, and about how that money could probably do some good if it were spent on, say, salaries for additional police.
Think about what that research facility down the road spends on software. Compared to the money they spend for their equipment, maybe not much, but it's money probably better spent on upping the salaries for a few poor post-docs than on office suite software.
Think about how much money the federal government spends on office suite software. Now fantasize about how you would redirect that money if you were in charge.
(Almost makes $4,000 toilet seats pale in comparison, doesn't it? OK, toilet seats are already white, but you know what I mean.)
Amazon saved $17 million when they switched to Linux. Same principle--pay less for something that's not part of your core business.
Think about how much your state spends on office suite software for schools, and how many more teachers and books that money could buy.
Education is one of the most important places to think about OpenOffice.org. Education is, to put it mildly, important. Plus, third graders aren't likely to complain that they're used to how Word does styles and they don't want to switch. They're open to anything new. And education isn't exactly overfunded. I live in Colorado which is either 49th or 47th in the nation in funding for education.
For educators, here's an interesting article on trends this year, including OpenOffice.org.
For anyone thinking about upgrading to Vista, here's an important blog. Dave Rosenberg states that Vista gives you an opportunity to really compare the actual cost and the actual benefits, and he quotes Jon Oltsik from Enterprise Strategy Group."
So just think about the value. Think about how much money you're spending on your office suite, and what you could do with that money that would be more important.
So did anyone else get this email?
Dear Amazon.com Customer,
We've noticed that customers who have purchased books by Solveig Haugland
often purchased books by Michael Koch. For this reason you might like to
know that Michael Koch's newest book, "Animal Models of Neuropsychiatric
Diseases", will be released soon. You can pre-order your copy by following
the link below.
Animal Models of Neuropsychiatric Diseases
List Price : $68.00
Price : $68.00
As fun as it is to think that there is a big overlap in the Venn diagram of my readers and those interested in animal neuropsychiatric diseases, there is actually a logical explanation for this. Michael Koch, a different Michael Koch I assume, wrote a book on StarOffice several years ago.
I guess this tells us a lot about what Amazon does--and doesn't--check when putting together these emails. ;>
Tables are a good way to arrange data. Nice, structured, borders between each cell, etc.
The only question is, how do you get the data into a table format?
You can type from scratch, of course. You can painfully copy and paste.
Or if your data is set up right, with a tab or comma or other item separating the data into columns, you can just convert the text to a table.
Let's say you've got this. The arrows are tabs separating the "columns" of data. (And let's say that it's actually about ten pages long, since this feature is a big timesaver but only if you've got a bunch of data to convert.) The blue is just artistic license.
Select it all.
Choose Table > Convert > Text to Table.
You'll see this window, where you can specify exactly what separates each column of data. It might be a tab, a comma, etc. Also set the options for headings, in the bottom part of the window. The example text here has headings, but yours might not.
If, through some sort of search-and-replace procedure, or for whatever reason, the % or & character separates each column, then you can specify that. As long as it's a keyboard character, you can specify it.
Click OK, and you've got your table.
Check'em out! Very pretty stuff.
"Open Source Templates was mainly created to support non-profit organizations.
If you run a non profit org, and are needing to cut down on the costs associated with website development than you have come to the right place. We offer a wide range of free for personal use or non profit use website templates that are easy to modify and add content to.
We will be offering a wide range of tutorials dedicated to helping your organization easily download and create your own great looking site in a matter of hours."
See also this web site, http://www.oswd.org/
About this site:
"To put it simply, Open Source Web Design is a collection of web designs submitted by the community that anyone can download free of charge!
The Open Source Web Design project was founded in September, 2000 by Francis J. Skettino. The goal was to provide the Open Source community with quality web designs to help get people's projects on the web in a way that is both organized and good looking. From personal blogs to content managements systems to full fledged businesses, OSWD has been providing free web designs to those who need them for years. With your help, we will continue to do this for years to come. "
I've written an article for TechTarget on the new Google spreadsheets. Here's part of it.
"My first reaction was, "Oh, cute," and "Looks like a good design." It seems like the GUI designers stood up inside the box and looked at what was outside. The design is not revolutionary, but it avoids, at the least, a retread of the client-based spreadsheet GUI. The designers used different types of widgets to provide the navigation and options. There are three tabs for different types of functions: drop down buttons for key features like Saving, buttons for standard toolbar features (Cut, Copy and Paste) and a few plain old links for common features like New and Open."
Essentially, I think it's great for some, and others will never take a second look. Click here to read the whole review.
A group of grassroots activists in the OpenOffice.org community have just announced they are going to undertake a similar media campaign to Spread Firefox, starting with a free (as in beer) New York City daily newspaper called "The Metro," published by Metro International. Most penguinistas know what a huge success the grassroots Spread Firefox ad campaign was. Through ads in the New York Times and the Frankfurt General Newspaper, and the hilarious Firefox videos on the FunnyFox website (video link here), Firefox has probably gained greater popular name brand recognition in the general public than any other free open source software (FOSS) project.
Here's the Digg reference.
Ben and Christian are doing great stuff to promote OpenOffice. Next stop, Oprah? (I see a show with a digital divide theme where she gives away a thousand totally open source laptops to screaming audience members.)
"Open source software development, to a degree unmatched by any other modern profession, offers apprentices the opportunity to watch journeymen and masters at work, to interact with them, and to learn how they think, work, succeed, and fail. Transparency and accountability govern not only the production of source code but also the companion processes of design, specification, testing, maintenance, and evaluation."
I'm so glad Jon wrote this, since it raises a great point about open source that's entirely unrelated to the topic of how and when and why to use the programs. It's a point I've carried around in my mental model for years. Open source projects are a wonderful place for anyone to get experience about what they like to do; get experience so that potential employers will give them a second glance; and get experience so that they will actually learn to do those tasks well.
Experience is really important.
I listen to the This I Believe series on NPR, and if I were ever asked to do an essay on something that I believe very strongly, it would be this point about experience. Theory is squat until you try it out. Like the people on What Not to Wear say, try it on! Or like your mom says, eat one bite of your Brussels sprouts. Your roommate says, just go to the party for an hour. Just, as the Nike folks, do it, and see what happens. Doing is an entirely different thing than thinking about stuff.
So that's the first point. How do you know what you want to do with your life? You really don't know how good you are at something, or what a career is really all about, or whether you like something, or anything else important, until you do it. Not study it, not watch it, but do it. Internships are how I learned in college that I really disliked anything and everything to do with my business major, though the theory was cool enough. (What I enjoyed was the act of learning about interesting theories about how society works--which often has very little to do with what you do with a business degree.)
Another angle on experience is its role in getting hired. Let's say you know you love project management. That is an absolute certainty. How do you get a job doing project management, on the strength of your business and communications double major and your role as a counselor at Camp Kickamonga?
And then there's the third item, actually learning to do something well. The reason that people look for experience when they hire. How do you find your Obi-Wan who will teach you how to herd cats, or have your horrible but incredibly valuable disastrous learning experience? How do you learn to do basic stuff like write courteous, direct, concise emails?
The answer is experience.
OK...how the heck do you get experience?
Or there's open source projects, which are always ready for more hands and have a huge variety of tasks. It's not just for programmers. Writers, project managers, fundraising, advertising and marketing, web design, maybe even accounting--that's just off the top of my head.
So for anyone out there who's read What Should I Do With My Life and wants to try out a few things, any parent who's got a 23-year-old college graduate slacker in the basement, or anyone of any age who wants to get experience and the advantages it brings, find an open source project.
I won't even try to list them all, but OpenOffice.org is a wonderful product with a great bunch of volunteers.
It's time for autoformats. Autoformats are going to save you SO much time, if you do tables with even vaguely complex formatting. Autoformats are like styles for tables -- they capture all the complicated border and shade formatting, "freeze" it under a name like Gray and Red Table, and can be applied easily to new tables.
This is part 3 of the Table series ( here's the first post and here's the second post). Last time, we talked about how, while there are many formatting options for tables and a lot of control, it's a lot of work to do that formatting. And in a large document with 20 or even 2000 tables, that turns into a ginormous amount of work.
Let's say you've got this table, and you need it formatted this way. And you need the other 147 tables in the document formatted this way, too.
All you have to do is:
1. Get the table formatted how you want—including fonts, number formatting (right-click on a number in a cell and choose Number Format), etc. AutoFormats preserve not just formatting characteristics but also fonts.
2. Turn it into an Autoformat
3. Apply that Autoformat to other tables
I've already done step 1, formatting the table.
Let's do step 2. Here's how to make an Autoformat.
Select the formatted table and choose Table > Autoformat.
In the window that appears, click Add. (You might see more autoformats than this.)
In that window, type the name of the autoformat, as descriptively as possible. Click OK.
The autoformat appears. Click OK.
Now we're on step 3. You have another table that you need to apply the formatting to.
Select it and choose Table > Autoformat.
Select the autoformat you want.
Click More – you can choose whether to include the other formatting shown, when you apply the autoformat.
You'll see the autoformat applied—I'm showing the original and the newly autoformatted tables together. Click to see the illustration larger.
Note that the outer border format is applied to the inside of one column here, since this table has one more column than the table the autoformat was based on. It's a good idea to test and tweak a little bit. If you want to do outer and inner borders differently, make your first table with three or more columns, so that the formatting applies correctly to all tables.
See how simple that was, though, overall? Reapplying the formatting is SO much faster with Autoformats. You can spend vast amounts of time applying formatting to tables manually; autoformats get rid of all that work. Also, unlike styles, autoformats aren't just available by default in the document where you created them. They're available in any document you create.
This is part 2 of the Table series (here's the first post). In this post, I'll show you how to make your tables look exactly the way you want them with border colors, border styles, border placement, and shading. (The first post covered how to control column width; other posts will cover more complex items like vertical spacing, headings, captions, and other advanced table stuff.)
Let's say you've got this fabulous table full of very important information.
It's nice content, but this is, after all, for a glossy brochure on the candidates for mayor, so you want to make it look a little fancier. The candidates, especially that snob Stephanie, would be insulted if you sent this out as is.
So you'll need to make the borders and shading fancier. Bring up the Tables toolbar (View > Toolbars > Table). Dock it and drag it to the top of the work area to dock it.
Click and hold down on the downward-facing black triangle at the far right end of the toolbar and make sure you've got all four of the formatting icons: Line style, line color, borders, and backgrounds. If no check mark appears next to one of them, select it and it'll be added to the toolbar.
The first thing you do is to specify where the borders should be. You can put the borders on just horizontal lines, on horizontal and vertical (as is), on just the top and bottom of the table, etc. You do this first because if you do the formatting, then change where the borders go, all your previous formatting might go away. (Later I'll talk about AutoFormats which will solve that problem, but that's a topic for another blog.)
So select the table. Let's say that you want to put the borders only on the horizontal lines, not vertically You'd think that you'd click and hold down on the Borders icon and choose horizontal, as shown.
That's logical but that's not quite the way it works. You need to clear the border positions first by saying you don't want any borders anywhere. You can't just switch from one to another directly. So first, click on the No Borders At All icon in the upper right corner, as shown.
Now select the horizontal-only borders icon, or whatever icon you like in order to apply the border placement you want. The formatting will be applied.
Now, format up a storm. In addition to border placement, you can change:
Select the table, select the border style icon, and pick something.
Select the table, select the border color icon, and pick something.
Select the table, select the background shading icon, and pick something.
Removing a Color
To remove border color or background shading formatting, choose the No Fill option.
Here's your table. (It's pretty horrible in color, of course, but it shows some of the effects.)
Now, you might also want to just apply formatting to one row. For instance, you can select the heading row, apply a heavier border style and different border color and shading color. Maybe you just have shading on the heading row and nowwhere else. The basic message here is, select the column or row to apply formatting to; you don't have to apply the same formatting to the entire table.
Here's the big cahuna, which I'm just going to touch on lightly since it's really just about whatever you want to do with it. Let's say you want some really specific formatting in different parts of the table. Select the table, choose Table > Table Properties, and click the Borders tab.
As when you used the toolbar icons, you first select WHERE you want the formatting. Use the prefab icons or click on a line in the User-Defined area. To deselect a line, click on it again or click somewhere else.
Then specify the formatting such as line style, color, etc.
Set other options such as distance from text, shadow, etc.
All That Work to Format Just One Table?????
This was a lot of work, wasn't it?
Doing it once is a lot of work. Doing it 40 times is hard labor.
Wouldn't it be nice if there were something like styles, but for tables, that would preserve the formatting for a table and allow you to reapply it to any other table?
Tune in next time.
A reader wrote to me with some questions about moving tables, and I realized I hadn't done much about tables in this blog. It's high time, of course. Writer tables are a bit different than in MS Word, so it's definitely worth explaining those key differences.
Here's a basic table in Writer. Nothing surprising--you have a header row (optional) with different formatting (by default), and borders on every column and row (by default).
This is the first post, on creating them, moving them, changing width, etc. All the table blogs will be in the new Tables category.
Creating tables is pretty simple. Just choose Insert > Table, or Table > Insert > Table. When you get the following window, just mark your choices. Keep in mind that the number of rows includes the heading row (which you usually want, but not always).
Another approach is to click and hold down on the Table icon shown, in the toolbar at the top of your work area, and just select the layout you want.
Turn On Nonprinting Characters
It's much easier to tell what's going on in text documents, and in tables, if you have nonprinting characters showing. These are mainly the carriage returns, but also spaces (little dots) and tabs (arrows). Choose View > Nonprinting Characters and select it to put a checkmark by it.
The nonprinting characters will appear.
Make Sure You've Got the Table Toolbar
The Table toolbar has a host of goodies to use. Choose View > Toolbars > Table if you don't see it.
Drag it up to be with the rest of the toolbars and release, to dock it, so that it will stay around rather than appearing and disappearing as you click in and out of the table.
What If You Want a Space Above Your Table?
Here's something that happens a lot. You've inserted a table at the top of the document, but now you need text above the table.
All you have to do is click in the upper left corner and press Return.
If you just select a table and its content and press Delete, only the content is deleted. Now, if you just want to delete the content, that's great. But to delete the table, you need to do one of the following:
Select the blank line above the table, as well as the table, and press Delete.
Or select the table, right-click, choose Row > Delete or Column > Delete.
Or select the table, and click the Delete Row or Delete Column icon on the Table toolbar.
Adding Rows or Columns
You can add rows or columns with the icons on the toolbar. Click in the row or column next to where you want to add the row or column, and click the appropriate green icon.
You can also click in the lower right cell of a table and press Tab. You'll get a new row.
If you want to move a table, just cut and paste. Select the whole table, plus the blank line above it. Cut (Ctrl X), then go to where you want the table and paste (Ctrl V).
Changing Column Width Manually
You can drag the column widths to change them, or use the big properties window.
Here's how to drag:
Click in the column that you want to change. You'll see markers on the ruler for the columns.
Move your mouse over the column marker. You'll see the mouse pointer change as shown.
Click and hold down on the column marker and drag it right or left to change width.
Release and the column will have a new width.
To change the right and left margins of the tables, move your mouse over the part of the ruler where it changes from white to gray, and drag as you did to change the column width.
To do this in a window instead, select the table and choose Table > Table Properties. Click the Column tab and type the width values for each column. Click OK.
When this blog continues....more on things like borders and shading, autoformats, automatic column width adjustments, and much more!
The post also spells out exactly what the laptop is for.
Getting across the distinction that this is a children’s laptop, not just a cheap laptop, is a surprisingly difficult task. When I last wrote about the laptop on Worldchanging, a number of commenters mentioned that they’d like one of the computers as a backup or travel computer - I suspect they might feel differently after playing with one of the current prototypes. They’re really small. This is a good thing - I wouldn’t want a kindergarden student carrying around my 12″ PowerBook - it’s too heavy and too fragile. The current prototype is little, orange, and very, very cute. It has a molded plastic handle and looks remarkably like a Speak and Spell.
I always recommend that those considering switching to OpenOffice.org find those who have already done it. Take them out to lunch, chat, learn someone else's experience with the actual implementation.
The City of Largo has been running OpenOffice.org and Linux for several years; their big cahuna IT guy Dave Richards has a new blog where he talks about cool techy OpenOffice.org and Linux stuff. He says, "Instead of focusing on the development process, I can speak of deployment issues."
I'm getting tense about the book delay so thought I'd just share what the poop is.
The problem is that this is yet ANOTHER delay. Circa 2003, I was going to do a 1.x book and that got posted on Amazon. Then we decided against it, but Amazon wouldn't take it off their page no matter how many times I wrote to them. So my apologies to those of you who ordered the book three years ago.
Now, what's up with the 2.0 book? I am proud to say I am done with my part except for the index, which is not in any way critical path. It's my publisher who needs to get the book on the schedule to be proofed and put through the production process, and hasn't done so yet. Apparently there's the perception that OpenOffice.org books don't sell that well, and so my book is getting pushed down the schedule after other books from the same publisher.
We of course know it's going to ROCKET off the shelves. ;> (Fingers crossed, at least.)
I've also sent my editor many title possibilities, based on your suggestions, and the Open Road/Route 66 theme. He's working on that.
So--that's the deal. I'm badgering my editor frequently but that it's kind of out of my hands.
On the bright side, there is some progress on making PDFs of the book available for purchase--$5 here, $10 there, etc. I'll announce that as soon as it's available, but I don't want to give a date. It'll probably be before the paper book.
If you want to post a comment about how you and 384 of your closest friends and family members will be buying several copies each of the paper book, then of course feel free. ;> I'll see if that will make the 'powers that be" budge on the proofing/production schedule. But I'm not making this post to try to manufacture a public horde of checkbook-wielding supporters, though; really just wanted to explain.
Remember the cool Sun tshirts from the contest they had?
I don't know when it happened, but the promised tshirts are out now at Cafepress. The store name is sunopensource. Not quite as cool looking since the colors aren't there but still pretty good.
And just because I can, here's the link to my tshirts. ;> Among others: "OpenOffice.org: Great office software. No Bills to pay."
The new drawing objects in OpenOffice.org 2.0 are a lot of fun, and very useful, as well. (I've just shown some fun ones here.)
If you don't see them in Draw, Impress, or other programs, choose View > Toolbars > Drawing.
One nice feature they come with is a little yellow handle that lets you change their proportions.
All objects don't have this, but many do. Just grab the yellow handle and drag it.
Release, and the proportions change.
Here's how it looks with some other shapes.
This is what scenarios look like.
Here's the intro, i.e. what scenarios are and why you'd use them. They're pretty slick.
I've been there. We've all been there. You're sitting there in the third hour of a boring meeting, nibbling on the last doughnut and trying to figure out what your income and expenses would have to be to move to a small island in British Columbia and support yourself with your macrame skills. Or you're giving a presentation to the director and a couple veeps and one of them just asked you, "OK, I like those numbers, but what if we sold the routers for $20,000 and outsourced all the work to Budapest?"
The common thread here is multiple scenarios. You want to see the effect of different values for the items that affect your bottom line: gross income, expenses, macrame yarn costs (buying in bulk saves you a lot of money), etc.
You can copy and paste, retyping the values each time, or you can tell your director that you'll, um, get back to her this afternoon. But the clever, slick, timesaving approach is to use the OpenOffice.org Calc scenarios feature.
Check it out!
I haven't tried it yet since I'm trying to fit in a workout in the mornings and really have to hit the gym RIGHT now. But it seems verrrrrry interesting.
You have many ways to add up figures in spreadsheets. The Quick Sum feature on the toolbar, for instance. Click below or to the right of a column or row of numbers, and click the Quick Sum icon.
Then the proposed total appears, and you can just press Enter or click the green checkmark icon if you want it.
However, sometimes things are a little more complicated? What if you had something like this, with groups of figures you want to subtotal? You'd want subtotals as well as a total. If you put in the subtotals with the Quick Sum feature, then you'd have to make sure that your Total figure included only the original cells, not the subtotal amounts, as well.
A situation like this is when you'd use the Subtotal feature.
Choose Data > Subtotals.
In the Subtotals window, in the first tab, select the columns you want to add up, and be sure that Sum is marked as shown.
If you don't want to add, but do averages or something, you can do that, as well. Select the function you want in the Use Function list.
Click the Options button and be sure that the Pre-Sort Area According to Groups option is unmarked. Marking it will reorganize the data, and not in a good way.
The subtotals will appear; here are the results with Sum as the function.
Look at the left-hand border of the spreadsheet; you'll see little + signs and brackets. Click each to determine which of the data you see; you can display everything for each group of data, or just the total.
I've written a TechTarget article about how to create forms from scratch.
The point is that, whilst training some folks in Kentucky (the Dr. Hobo gang ;> ), I realized that the commonly used input field forms (see example in the article) are OK in their way but not as helpful as they could be to the people using them. Certainly not as helpful as the XML forms that can contain dropdown lists, formatted date and time fields, checkboxes, etc. Thus, I think folks who use a lot of input field forms should seriously consider ditching those in favor of XML forms. The switch can result in increased speed when entering data, reduced errors, and reduced training time for people starting to use the forms.
This isn't about forms that are hooked up to database forms. This is specifically addressed at all those forms that you or someone else fills in on the computer, then prints or saves with the information in the form. You can of course use this info for forms hooked up to databases; that's just not the focus.