Migrating to OpenOffice.org

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What is OpenOffice.org?

OpenOffice.org (OOo) is a freely-available, full-featured office suite. It includes the following components.

Writer (word processor)

Documentation writer icon.png
Writer is a feature-rich tool for creating letters, books, reports, newsletters, brochures, and other documents. You can insert graphics and objects from other components into Writer documents. Writer can export files to HTML, XHTML, XML, Adobe’s Portable Document Format (PDF), and several versions of Microsoft Word files. It also connects to your email client.

Calc (spreadsheet)

Documentation calc icon.png
Calc has all of the advanced analysis, charting and decision-making features expected from a high-end spreadsheet. It includes over 300 functions for financial, statistical and mathematical operations among others. The Scenario Manager provides “what if” analyses. Calc generates 2-D and 3-D charts, which can be integrated into other OOo documents. You can also open and work with Microsoft Excel workbooks and save them in Excel format. Calc can export spreadsheets to Adobe’s Portable Document Format (PDF) and to HTML.

Impress (presentation graphics)

Documentation impress icon.png
Impress provides all the common multi-media presentation tools, such as special effects, animation, and drawing tools. It is integrated with the advanced graphics capabilities of the Draw and Math components. Slideshows can be further enhanced with Fontwork’s special effects text, as well as sound and video clips. Impress is compatible with Microsoft’s PowerPoint file format, and can save your work in numerous graphics formats including Macromedia Flash (SWF).

Draw (vector graphics)

Documentation draw icon.png
Draw is a vector drawing tool that can produce everything from simple diagrams or flowcharts to 3-D artwork. Its Smart Connectors feature allows you to define your own connection points. You can use Draw to create drawings for use in any of OOo’s other components, and you can create your own clipart and add it to the Gallery. Draw can import graphics from many common formats and save them in over 20 formats including PNG, HTML, PDF and Flash.

Base (database)

Documentation base icon.png
Base offers tools for day-to-day database work within a simple interface. It can create and edit forms, reports, queries, tables, views and relations, so managing a connected database is much the same as in other popular database applications. Base provides many new features, such as the ability to analyze and edit relationships from a diagram view. Base incorporates HSQLDB as its default relational database engine. It can also use dBASE, Microsoft Access, MySQL or Oracle, or any ODBC or JDBC compliant database. Base also provides support for a subset of ANSI-92 SQL.

Math (formula editor)

Documentation math icon.png
Math is OOo’s formula or equation editor. You can use it to create complex equations that include symbols or characters not available in standard font sets. While it is most commonly used to create formulas in other documents, such as Writer and Impress files, Math can also work as a stand-alone tool. You can save formulas in the standard Mathematical Markup Language (MathML) format for inclusion in web pages and other documents not created by OOo.

What are the advantages of OpenOffice.org?

Here are some of the advantages of OpenOffice.org over other office suites:

  • No licensing fees. OOo is free for anyone to use and distribute at no cost. Many features that are available as extra cost add-ins in other office suites (like PDF export) are free with OOo. There are no hidden charges now or in the future.
  • Open source. You can distribute, copy, and modify the software as much as you wish, in accordance with either of OOo's Open Source licenses.
  • Cross-platform. OOo 2.0 runs on several hardware architectures and under multiple operating systems, such as Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, and Sun Solaris.
  • Extensive language support. OOo’s user interface is available in over 40 languages and the OOo project provides spelling, hyphenation and thesuarus dictionaries in over 70 languages and dialects. OOo also provides support for both Complex Text Layout (CTL) and Right to Left (RTL) layout languages (such as Hindi, Hebrew and Arabic).
  • Consistent user interface. All the components have a similar “look and feel”, making them easy to use and master.
  • Integration. The components of OpenOffice.org are well integrated with one another.
    • All the components share a common spelling checker and other tools, which are used consistently across the suite. For example, the drawing tools available in Writer are also found in Calc, with similar but enhanced versions in Impress and Draw.
    • You do not need to know which application was used to create a particular file (for example, you can open a Draw file from Writer).
  • Granularity. Usually, if you change an option, it affects all components. However, options can be set at a component level or even document level.
  • File compatibility. OOo includes PDF and Flash export capabilities, as well as support for opening and saving files in many common formats including Microsoft Office, HTML, XML, WordPerfect and Lotus 123 formats.
  • No vendor lock-in. OOo 2.0 uses OpenDocument, an XML (eXtensible Markup Language) file format developed as an industry standard by OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards). These files can easily be unzipped and read by any text editor, and their framework is open and published.
  • You have a voice. Enhancements, software fixes and release dates are community-driven. You can join the community and affect the course of the product you use.

You can read more about OpenOffice.org, its mission, history, licensing and other organizational information here: http://www.openoffice.org/about.html

How does OpenOffice.org compare?

OpenOffice.org can match and exceed the feature set of competing office suites. The following table lists the main components of OOo and compares them with their equivalents in two leading office suites, Microsoft Office 2003 (MSO) and WordPerfect Office X3 (WP).


Function
OpenOffice.org
Microsoft Office
WordPerfect Office
Word processor Writer Word® WordPerfect® X3
Spreadsheet Calc Excel® Quattro Pro® X3
Vector Graphics Draw no no
Presentation Graphics Impress PowerPoint® Presentations™ X3
Database Base Access® 1 Paradox® 2
Math or Formula Editor Math yes no

1 Professional version only.

2 Professional and Student and Teacher editions only.

Features

The following tables list some important features of OpenOffice.org and compare them with two leading office suites, Microsoft Office 2003 (MSO) and WordPerfect X3 (WP).

Styles and formatting

Feature
OpenOffice.org
Microsoft Office
WordPerfect Office
Navigator
yes
limited1
no
Styles and Formatting window
yes
yes
no
Keyboard support for paragraph styles
yes
yes
no
Support for page, frame, and list styles
yes
no
no
Word completion
yes
Excel only
no
Spelling and language proofing modules
70+
50+2
25
Formula or equation tools
yes
yes
no

1 “Outline View” in Word offers a subset of the features of OOo’s Navigator.

2 Requires an additional license for the the Multilingual User Interface Pack.

Interoperability

Feature
OpenOffice.org
Microsoft Office
WordPerfect Office
PDF export capability
yes
yes1
yes
Flash export capability
yes
no
yes
XML export capability
yes
yes
yes
OpenDocument XML format
yes
no
no
Import/Export Microsoft Office files
yes
yes
yes
Import WordPerfect files
yes
yes
yes
Import Lotus 123 files
yes
yes
yes
Connect to external databases (MySQL, Oracle, Access, etc.)
yes
yes
yes
Languages available (localizations)
40+
35+
30
Supported operating systems
Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Solaris
Windows only2
Windows only
Unicode language support
yes
yes
no

1 Requires additional third-party software, such as PDF Writer or PDF Converter.2 Microsoft Office: Mac is not feature compatible with Microsoft Office 2003.

Programmability

Macros are programs which automate tasks and can be embedded in a document. The following table lists the languages available for macro development in each office suite.


Language
OpenOffice.org
Microsoft Office
WordPerfect Office
Basic-derived language
OpenBasic
VBA
VBA
Beanshell
yes
no
no
Java
yes
no
no
JavaScript
yes
no
no
Python
yes
no
no

Beyond simple macros, some office suites can be extended to include new features. This capability usually takes the form of plug-ins. In the case of OpenOffice.org, it can also be done through changes to the source code.


Feature
OpenOffice.org
Microsoft Office
WordPerfect Office


C and C++
yes
yes
yes
Java
yes
no
no
Python
yes
no
no
Source code available!
yes
no
no

Security

Feature
OpenOffice.org
Microsoft Office
WordPerfect Office
Digital signatures
yes
yes
yes
Strong encryption
yes
yes
yes
Secure paths for macro execution
yes
yes
no

New features in version 2

OpenOffice.org 2.0 delivers hundreds of improvements and new features. Here are some of the major enhancements.

  • Simplified installation. Installations are now performed by platform-native installers with no need to use command-line switches (or flags) for multi-user installations. You can also specify which version of Java (if any) is to be used by OOo from the installation interface.
  • New database component. In the new stand-alone database component, you can create forms, reports, queries, tables, views and relations. OOo now includes HSQLDB, a small, fast, relational database engine that supports a subset of ANSI-92 SQL, along with an easy to use interface. Additionally, it is now easier than ever to use other databases (dBASE, MySQL, Oracle, among others).
  • New file format. OOo 2.0 uses the new OpenDocument standard XML file format (standardized by OASIS, http://www.oasis-open.org/home/index.php) as its default file format. This new file format is also used in StarOffice, IBM Workspace and KOffice, and will be used by other products in the future. OOo 2.0 can still read and save files in formats previously supported by OOo 1.x, including Microsoft Office formats.
  • Native system theme integration. To further integrate OpenOffice.org with the underlying operating system, all user interface elements (such as buttons and scrollbars) have the same look as those used in other native applications for each platform.
  • Digital signatures. Digital signatures provide authentication of the true author or editor of a document. This feature provides further security with running macros.
  • Enhanced encryption. Implementation of the new XML (eXtensible Markup Language) encryption algorithm offers additional document security.
  • Usability improvements. Redesigned toolbars are more usable, and display only selected default tools and related options. The usability of the Menus tab of the Tools > Customize dialog has been improved. Several features have been renamed to conform with common office suite terminology (for example, “AutoPilot” is now a “Wizard”).
  • Thumbnails. The new plug-in for the the native file explorer provides a thumbnail preview of an OOo file. Some of the more common file system explorers that can use this new feature are Nautilus (Gnome), Konqueror (KDE), and Microsoft Windows Explorer.
  • Import and export filters
    • Improved PDF export filter now includes PDF bookmarks, PDF notes, and more.
    • Import and export of Microsoft Office 95 and Office 97 spin buttons and scrollbars have been added to the Word filters.
    • The import filter for Microsoft PowerPoint documents now creates text objects having font-independent line spacing enabled.
    • Enhanced export to HTML produces valid “XHTML 1.0 Strict” documents. XHTML export has been enabled for Calc, Draw and Impress.
    • You can now open Microsoft Office password-protected documents.
    • New import filters for WordPerfect and Lotus 123.
  • Send document as e-mail. OOo 2.0 makes it easier to use your email client to send the active document as an attachment.
  • Enhanced mail merge feature. Enhancements include better management of databases and saving into one single file.
  • Drag and drop selections to create styles. Drag and drop a text selection into the Styles and Formatting window to create a new paragraph style or character style.
  • Form controls. Form controls can be embedded in all OOo documents that support a form layer.
  • New keyboard shortcuts. You can now use the keyboard to perform the actions found under Edit > Paste Special. Multiple selected sheets in a spreadsheet can be deselected using the keyboard. Paragraph and other styles can be assigned to key combinations.
  • Auto recovery of files and the workspace environment. The OOo Error Reporting tool and the document recovery features have been combined. Now if OOo crashes, the active documents are saved. You can recover the documents, and send an error report.
  • Enhanced features in Calc. These enhancements include improved number recognition, an improved Hyperlink function, conditional arrays, a greater selection of predefined headers and footers, more options for defining how to print sheets, new options for the DataPilot feature, and support for right-to-left languages.
  • Calc row limit increased. The number of spreadsheet rows has been increased to 65536, the same number of rows as Microsoft Excel.
  • Enhanced multimedia. The multimedia presentation model uses the W3C’s Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL) standard. Now Impress can render nearly all of the Microsoft PowerPoint animation effects. Two new task panels provide access to shape and slide transition effects.
  • Programmatic control of menu and toolbar items. Third-party developers can write plugins to manipulate menu bar and toolbar layouts to their needs. Developers can now insert, remove, and modify menu items, context menus, and toolbar items at runtime.
  • Scripting framework. The scripting framework allows you to write macros in a number of languages other than OOo Basic. You can assign these macros to menu items, keyboard combinations, application and document events, form controls within documents, and various objects within documents.

For a complete, detailed listing, go to the OpenOffice.org 2.0 Office Suite, Guide to New Features located at http://marketing.openoffice.org/2.0/featureguide.html#enduser

What are the minimum requirements?

OpenOffice.org 2.0 requires one of the following operating systems:

  • Microsoft Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows 2000 (Service Pack 2 or higher), Windows XP or Windows 2003
  • GNU/Linux Kernel version 2.2.13 and glibc 2.2.0 or newer
  • Mac OS X 10.3.x (10.3.5 recommended), Mac OS X 10.4.x, plus X11
  • Solaris version 8 or higher

More operating systems will be supported in the future.

Some OpenOffice.org features (wizards and the database component) require that the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) be installed on your computer. Although OOo will work fine without Java support, some features will not be available. You can download the latest version from http://www.java.com.

For a more detailed (and up-to-date) listing of requirements, see: http://www.openoffice.org/about.htmlhttp://www.openoffice.org/dev_docs/source/sys_reqs_20.html

How do I get the software?

You can get the OpenOffice.org installation package in any of these ways:

How do I install OpenOffice.org?

Information on installing and setting up OpenOffice.org on the various supported operating systems is given here: http://download.openoffice.org/common/instructions.html

You can also download the more detailed Setup Guide (in several languages) from http://documentation.openoffice.org/setup_guide2/index.html

How do I get support?

OOo comes with an extensive Help system. This is your first line of support for using OOo.

To display the full Help system, press F1 or select OpenOffice.org Help from the Help menu. In addition, you can choose whether to activate tooltips, extended tips, and the Help Agent (using Tools > Options > General).

If tooltips are enabled, place the mouse pointer over any of the icons to see a small box (“tooltip”) with a brief explanation of the icon’s function. For a more detailed explanation, select Help > What's This? and hold the pointer over the icon.

The Help menu

Free online support

The OpenOffice.org community not only develops software, but provides free, volunteer-based support. Users of OOo can get comprehensive online support from community venues such as newsgroups, forums or mailing lists. There are also numerous websites run by users that offer free tips and tutorials.


Free OpenOffice.org support
User FAQ Frequently Asked Questions for Users
Users Mailing List Free community support provided by a network of hundreds of experienced users. You must be subscribed to post messages. To subscribe, send a blank email to sympa@openoffice.org

List archives are here: http://www.openoffice.org/servlets/SummarizeList? listName=users

Documentation Project Templates, user guides, how-tos, and other documentation. http://documentation.openoffice.org/
Native Language Project Information, resources, and mail lists in your language. http://projects.openoffice.org/native-lang.html
Mac Support Support for installing and using the Mac OS X (X11 based) port. http://porting.openoffice.org/mac/support.html
The OpenOffice.org Forum Extensive discussion forum for OpenOffice.org issues from setup to advanced programming features. http://www.oooforum.org/
OOo KnowledgeBase A collection of questions and answers that users can query. http://mindmeld.cybersite.com.au/

Read more about the support options for OpenOffice.org at:http://support.openoffice.org/index.html

Alternatively, you can pay for support services. Service contracts can be purchased from a vendor or consulting firm specializing in OpenOffice.org.

OOo is supported by Sun Microsystems, Inc. under the Sun Software Support program, which includes two levels of support that cover extended business hours or around-the-clock service for mission-critical deployments. http://www.sun.com/service/support/software/openoffice/index.html

A list of independent consultants and the services they offer, listed alphabetically by region and then by country, is provided on the OpenOffice.org website. http://bizdev.openoffice.org/consultants.html

Other resources and addons

Several websites provide additional free resources and addons to enhance OpenOffice.org. The following table lists a few of these websites.


Free OOo templates, artwork and other addons
OOExtras Provides templates, samples and macros in several languages. http://ooextras.sourceforge.net/
OOoMacros A repository for OOo macros and addons, and documentation about writing macros and/or extending OOo. http://www.ooomacros.org/
Open Clip Art Library An archive of clip art that can be used for free for any use. http://www.openclipart.org/
OpenOffice.org Macro Information Andrew Pitonyak, the author of OpenOffice.org Macros Explained, maintains this site which provides extensive documentation on OOo's macro capability. Many good referral links are also provided at: http://www.pitonyak.org/oo.php

What is involved in the initial migration?

Sharing files

See Sharing Files with Microsoft Office Users in this guide for information about opening and saving files of various formats.

How do I import other files used in Microsoft Office?

See Importing other Microsoft Office Files in this guide for information about importing custom dictionaries, AutoCorrect entries and AutoText entries into OpenOffice.org.

What changes do I need to make in the way that I work?

While the interfaces of OpenOffice.org and Microsoft Office are sufficiently similar to allow immediate productivity, they are not identical. Some functions are based on different underlying concepts. The chapters in this guide will to help you with these differences.

In general what is different in use between Microsoft Office and OpenOffice.org?

See General Differences in Use between OpenOffice.org and Microsoft Office in this guide first, as it gives an overall view of differences; the other chapters build on the information presented in that chapter.

What are the specific differences in use between Word and Writer?

See Differences in Use between Writer and Word in this guide for specific information related to text documents.

What are the specific differences in use between Excel and Calc?

See Differences in Use between Calc and Excel in this guide for specific information related to spreadsheets.

What are the specific differences in use between PowerPoint and Impress?

See Differences in Use between Impress and PowerPoint in this guide for specific information related to presentations.

How can I change OpenOffice.org to make it work even more like the way I have worked in Microsoft Office?

See Customizing OpenOffice.org in this guide for information about changing OpenOffice.org to make it work your way. That chapter includes links to macros that were written to help ease the transition.

How do I use the Math Object editor (OpenOffice.org’s equivalent to Equation Editor)?

See Math Objects in the Writer Guide.

What about that database functionality?

See Getting Started with Base in the Getting Started Guide, and the Database Guide for details on the new Base component of OpenOffice.org.

Is there an equivalent to WordArt?

Yes. See Chapter 15 “Using Fontwork” in the Getting Started guide.

What are the issues when migrating from WordPerfect to Writer?

Can I open WordPerfect files in OOo?

Yes, a WordPerfect filter is now available in the standard OpenOffice.org installation.

What macros are available to make Writer work more like WordPerfect?

Reveal codes

OpenOffice.org’s Writer does not have underlying codes in the same way that WordPerfect does. But a macro is being written that will allow you to work in a similar way to WordPerfect’s reveal codes. See RevealCodes3.sxw available at http://homepages.paradise.net.nz/hillview/OOo/ for more information.

Hanging indents

The hanging indent concept in Writer is quite different from the concept used in WordPerfect. The best approach in OpenOffice.org is to use styles, but to ease the transition, see either AltKeyHandler.sxw or Indents.sxw available from http://homepages.paradise.net.nz/hillview/OOo/ for a macro that approximates WordPerfect’s way of implementing hanging indents.

How is OpenOffice.org licensed?

OpenOffice.org is distributed under the Open Source Initiative (OSI) approved Lesser General Public License (LGPL). The LGPL can be viewed on the OOo website at: http://www.openoffice.org/licenses/lgpl_license.html

For more general information on OOo’s licensing, please refer to: http://www.openoffice.org/license.html.

What is “open source”?

The ideals of open-source software can be explained by the four essential rights, which are embodied within the Free Software Foundation’s General Public License (GPL):

  • The right to use the software for any purpose.
  • Freedom to redistribute the software for free or for a fee.
  • Access to the complete source code of the program (that is, the “blueprints”).
  • The right to modify any part of the source, or use portions of it in other programs.

Another view of this philosophy comes from the Open Source Definition:

“The basic idea behind open source is very simple: When programmers can read, redistribute, and modify the source code for a piece of software, the software evolves. People improve it, people adapt it, people fix bugs. And this can happen at a speed that, if one is used to the slow pace of conventional software development, seems astonishing.”

For more information on Free and Open Source software, visit these websites:

Open Source Initiative (OSI): http://www.opensource.org

Free Software Foundation (FSF): http://www.gnu.org

Content on this page is licensed under the Creative Common Attribution 3.0 license (CC-BY).



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