Archive for October, 2007

So, you want to be a writer? You’ve just finished writing your first short story. Then you submit it to a book publisher , who surprisingly gives it back to you for revisions. Some time ago, editors were more lenient. They are more open to polishing rough, but brilliant works of literature and fixing grammatical errors. These days, that’s not how it works. Editors are so consumed with meetings with art directors, marketing people and agents, that often, they can’t afford to spend hours editing a single manuscript that’s plagued with errors.

Suppose the editor recieves two manuscripts : one that is very creative but has an average of five misspelled words per page, a consistently recurring wrong use of the word “ prognostic “ and a series of noun -verb disagreements, and another one that is neatly typed, and polished to a T , with some compelling narrations in French: “Le dragon rouge a mangé le soleil et les cieux sont morts”. (The red dragon ate the sun and the skies died). The author even has multiple versions of the file in different formats. Both are written by new writers. Overall, yours is a little more creative but requires a lot of work. However, the other one is decent , but requires no work from the editor. Which do you think would the editor endorse for publishing? An overworked, underpaid , unmotivated editor has an easy choice to make.

Unless your work is absolutely brilliant that it’s worth all the man hours spent on editing it , it’s never going to get past that weary editor.

Learn to spell. Learn grammar. Master your language. If you can’t do all that, use good tools. How about Writer’s Tools?

In OpenOffice.org, what you see is not what you get. Although it already offers tools to check spelling and grammar, as well as a thesaurus to help you infuse impressive words with that dream novel, there are more tools out there that you can add. OpenOffice.org’s functionality can be enhanced with extensions. These extra features can be distributed inside OOo files or packaged in their own, cross-platform format. The repository of OpenOffice.org extensions can be found at: http://wiki.services.openoffice.org/wiki/Extensions_repository

Writer’s Tools
One extension you might find fascinating is Writer’s Tools. It includes the following tools: Lookup Tool, Google Translate, Show on the Map, Email Backup, Multi-format backup, Remote Backup, Convert to Wiki, Start/ Stop Timers, Games , and others.

How to install Writer’s Tools
Download the latest release, version from http://nothickmanuals.info/doku.php/writertools then unzip the downloaded file. Launch OpenOffice.org, and choose Tools > Extension Manager (Package Manager in older versions of OpenOffice.org). Select the //My Extensions// section, and press the Add button. Select the WriterTools.oxt package , and press OK. Restart OpenOffice.org, and you will find the Writer’s Tools menu in the main toolbar.

The Writer’s Tools extension uses the Firefox browser by default. If you are using a different browser, you have to update the default browser path. To do this, launch OpenOffice.org and choose Tools > Macros > Organize Macros > OpenOffice.org Basic. Select the LookupTool macro and press the Edit button. Replace all occurrences of the “C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe” string with the correct path, for example,”C:\Program Files\Internet Explorer\iexplore.exe” if you use Internet Explorer. Then save the changes.

More on the Tools
The Lookup Tool lets you “lookup” definitions for words entered in OpenOffice.org from online references. I tried to include Tagalog-dictionary.com in the list of references. To do this, launch OpenOffice.org and choose Tools -> Macros -> Organize Macros -> OpenOffice.org Basic. Select then the LookupTool macro and press the Edit button. Locate the following code and add the last line:


When you type the word, “kababayan”, you can select it and click on the Lookup Tool. The Tagalog Dictionary website opens with the definition of the word. Cool, isn’t it? You can add other dictionaries using this syntax:

Next, add “Tagalog dictionary” to the drop-down list in the Lookup dialog. To do this, go to Tools>Macros>Organize Macros>OpenOffice.org Basic. Double click on Writer Tools. From the list, select Tools. In the Existing Macros in : Tools box, select LookUp Tool. Then click Edit.

Click on the LookupDialog tab at the bottom of the OpenOffice.org Basic IDE, then double-click on the drop-down list. In the Properties window, add the Dictionary.com item in the List entries drop-down list (use Shift+Enter to add new line). Save the changes. You can start using the Lookup Tool.

Another tool, Google Translate , generates language translations for selected words using the Google Translate service. Using this tool in Writer, this feature can not translate phrases or sentences. Oddly , when you type the sentence, “You have beautiful eyes” in Writer, and click on Google Translate, it only translates the first word (you). However, when you access the Google translate website , you can translate entire sentences.

The Show on the Map tool accesses Multimap service. It shows the location of a city, a street name, or a postal code in a map . I typed Quezon City on Writer and selected it. Then I selected Show on the Map. The location of Quezon City appears on a map . However, it can not find Ayala Avenue, or the post code, 1127. This is not a problem found in Writer’s Tools but rather a limitation of Multimap.

The Email Backup tool sends a backup copy of the current document to a specified email address. Multi-format Backup macro creates several versions of the same file (Word, RTF, and TXT formats). Remote Backup saves the current document on a FTP server. Convert to DokuWiki converts the current document into DokuWiki format. Start/Stop Timer tool is useful for the writer who bills by the hour or those who want to keep tabs of the amount of time spent on a piece of work, like an article, a novel or a textbook . There are other tools and extensions worth exploring. However, I should warn you that some gave me a large amount of disappointment as well. Download them and judge for yourself.

“Books aren’t written, they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it. “ – Michael Crichton


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I’m not buying, I’m sharing. This is one of Open Office.org’s promotional “giving is good” taglines. Evidently, the philosophy of sharing has done much to boost market shares for Open Office.org.

As of Feb 2007, there have been a total of 82,000,000 downloads of OpenOffice.org from its website. It was off to a good start , with more than 87,000 downloads of Open Office.org version 1 for the first 3 months of its release in year 2000. Seven years later , downloads totalled 10,000 times that number.

These figures only partially represent the total number of users of OpenOffice.org. This is because the applilcation can be acquired through Linux distributions, such as Red Hat, Fedora, Debian, Mandrakesoft, Linspire, Novell, or as a derived product, by Sun (Star Office), Red Office, Magyar Office, SOT Office and Workplace. In addition, there are CD distributions, which can be passed on to many users and installed on multiple computers.

In 2004, more conservative measurements were implemented in determining the overall downloads from the OpenOffice.org website. This accounts for the drop in figures for that year. The huge increase in downloads for 2005 (20,000,000 downloads) coincided with the release of OpenOffice.org 2.0 on October, 2005.


MS Office is the dominant player in the office suite market. Based on Business Week, there are 400 million copies of Microsoft Office in use in 2006. (http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_27/b3991412.htm). There are also minor competitors to consider- WordPerfect Office, Lotus Smart Suite and other office suites.

Online office suites like ajaxWrite, GoogleDocs and Zoho take the essential functions of Office to the online world. These sites clearly target younger users who are familiar with the online world and are willing to try out new things. These online applications have received all the attention but has not delivered a significant dent in the office suite market. The major setback of such online applications is that they do not provide the convenience, functionality or compatibility that other “offline” office suites offer. Perhaps the evolution of rich client Web 2.0 technology could meet this shortcoming in the future.

OpenOffice.org’s market share
OpenOffice.org had roughly achieved a 17% market share in 2006. That figure is higher than the target for that year. This percentage could have been larger if Linux distributions were considered. It must be said, however , that one limitation of using downloads as basis for market share is the fact that these may not have translated into actual installations.

The target market shares for OpenOffice.org from 2003-2010 is summarized below: (http://wiki.services.openoffice.org/wiki/Strategic_Marketing_Plan#Microsoft_Office)

Year Rate
2003 1%
2004 2%
2005 5%
2006 10%
2007 20%
2008 30%
2009 35%
2010 50%

OpenOffice.org targets a market share of over 40% by the end of 2010. This is equivalent to 400 million installations. Considering present growth rates , this will not be hard to achieve.

Based on online polls by researcher Freeform Dynamics and The Register (http://www.itdirector.com/business/change/content.php?cid=9453) , twenty percent (20%) of its 5,000 respondents use OpenOffice.org at work, sixty percent (60%) use MS Office 2003 or earlier versions while ten percent (10%) use MS Office 2007. It is interesting to note that there are two users of OpenOffice.org for every one user of MS Office 2007 among respondents. This is despite the fact that OpenOffice.org relies on word of mouth marketing and its website to market its product while MS Office relies on more aggressive , more expensive marketing campaigns.

It seems that Microsoft is beginning to feel the pressure from open source office suites. They tried to up their game when they released MS Office 2007 and Microsoft Vista. The user interface of MS Office 2007 had been rehashed. It contains a number of new features, the most notable of which is the Ribbon, which replaced the menus and toolbars that have been the cornerstone of MS Office since its inception. While some critics say that the new look is “a breath of fresh air”, innovative, and exciting, others criticize that this is a step in the wrong direction. The Linux community sees it as a huge opportunity for open source , particularly Linux and OpenOffice.org, to penetrate the market even further.

According to the president of Linux Australia, Jonathan Oxer, the launch of Vista provides Linux vendors with an opportunity to grab market shares in the corporate desktop market . “People will have the choice — they are going to get a major disruption and have to learn a whole new interface and way of working to switch from a previous version of Windows to Vista…. It’s just as much disruption — or as little disruption — to move to a version of Linux … So what we will probably see is that a lot of companies now are going to very seriously consider, when they do their next refresh cycle, not switching to Vista but switching to a Linux-based platform instead.”

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Open Up your Office

Open Office.org is already being used in a number of government offices , businesses and academic institutions in the country. This requires users to undergo a transition from old ways of doing things to new ones. Installing OpenOffice.org is probably the easiest part of the process. The greatest hurdle is getting officemates to embrace the new application. Whether you’re the self proclaimed OpenOffice.org evangelist or the IT support officer tasked to integrate OpenOffice.org into the work environment amidst irate or anxious MS Office-using officemates, here are some tips and resources that could make that transition much easier.

1) Top management should be your ally. If you argue compatibility, open documents or open source code to top management, you might never get that “go ahead” to drop MS Office for OpenOffice.org. But they do appreciate and understand the bottomline figures. Make a proposal that includes cost savings potentials that just might convert into greater net profits, and performance bonuses for everyone or investments in something else (like a new company car for the boss). One concern that top managers could have is that the training costs of such a move could be time-consuming and costly. But what if training costs absolutely nothing? There are lots of free training resources onlline. OpenOffice.org Support page lists links to free community support, commercial support and training. It can be accessed at: http://support.openoffice.org/index.html

The website, NewsForge offers 11 OpenOffice.org training videos for anyone to use. It uses video segments that demonstrate installation procedures as well as usage of OpenOffice.org. Even without your help, your officemates can learn OpenOffice.org easily, visually. The video clips will play on any browser on any operating system as long as Flash is available. One important tool that middle managers might be interested in first is the topic, ‘making a slide presentation in a hurry.'”

The LearnOpenOffice.org website also offers free easy-to-comprehend video clips . It can be accessed at: http://www.learnopenoffice.org/tutorials.htm

2) “Keep Your Mind Wide Open”. After Leslie tells Jesse to keep his mind wide open, in the movie, “Bridge to Terrabithia”, Jesse’s view of the dull forest turns into a magical canvas with sparkling rivers and a castle far away. As the office’s Open Office advocate , you are likely to be an experienced computer user. You have probably played with a lot of software applictions in the past, and know that underneath the glitzy user interface, they more or less work the same way. As an experienced computer user, you can easily transfer your existing knowledge to any new office suite without much of a problem. As a result, you just might find it inconceivable that many of your officemates have never used applications other than MS Office in their lives. Assuming that they have the skill sets necessary for a smooth transition to Open Office.org might be the biggest mistake you make.

3) Listen- but more importantly, find out. Evaluate your officemates’ skill sets, then formulate a plan that will to address their “transition” issues. While your officemates wouldn’t have a problem asking you some pertinent question, they wouldn’t dare to ask you the simplest , but more relevant questions that they fear could make them look like idiots . In this case , it’s best to do the asking. You can do this using a questionnaire that asks about their basic computing skills, or concerns about transitioning. You can converse with them casually at lunch time, or after work. If their pride becomes such a barrier that that doesn’t work, send out the troops! Ask some of your more personable IT staff to get out of their cubicles and observe your officemates using the computer. If your officemates are comfortable having you around, then get out there yourself! This way, you will discover which skills your officemates are missing. This lack of skills should not hinder you from completing a successful transition to OpenOffice.org .

4) Show them. People have a fear of the unk nown. They could express their fear by ratting it out with their mouths, complaining to bosses or fellow officemates, or by refusing to participate. What must you do? Show your officemates how the new software looks like. Emphasize its learnability due to its similarity to MS Office. Show the similar commands, icons and toolbars. You must also assure them that their old files are still accessible with OpenOffice.org. For people who remain angry and resistant rather than fearful and dodge all opportunities to learn OO, then that’s not a transition issue. It’s more likely to be a management one.

5) Be there for your officemates. Dont just throw OpenOffice.org into their computers and figure your job is done. The less experienced computer users would resent that. The end result: increased tech support calls , angry voicemail and complaints to your immediate superior about your “attitude”. Once the transition damages employee morale and eventually work productivity, top management begins to question whether the transition is worth the disruption.

6) Concentrate on immediate needs. People who do repetitive tasks all day, like write memos, faxes, or mail merge documents, can be your ally. Help them first, and do it well. Teach them how to do these specific tasks using templates and documents that come with OpenOffice.org. Make sure you also leave them documentation for how to do those tasks. Then when they have mastered the skills, they will brag to officemates and supervisors how easy it is. Their supervisors would be ashamed not to master OpenOffice.org themselves.

7)Show them the cool stuff. OpenOffice.org has many hidden treasures. They’re so cool that it’s not constrained into any of those Open Office.org users manuals but are cool enough to be the subject of discussion on the Web. Here are some of the OO features everyone’s blogging about.

● You can use Writer to browse theWeb. To do this, open a Writer document containing text. Select View – Toolbars – Hyperlink Bar from the Main menu. Select text or set of text that are adjacent to each other. The selected text appears in the left text box of the Hyperlink Bar. Click the rightmost icon on the Hyperlink Bar. A dropdown list of Internet search sites appears. Select a search site. The default Web browser opens and displays the search results. You can also search text is not found in the document. Simply type the text in the text box beside the Hyperlink bar. Then clilck the icon to the right of the Hyperlink Bar.

● You can use OpenOffice,org Calc to open a game. The Star Wars game is a perk is hidden inside Open Office.org Calc. To access the game, open a new Calc file.

1.Enter this formula in a cell : =game()
2.Then press the Enter key. The cell will display “say what?”
3.Enter this formula: =GAME(“StarWars”)
4.The Star Wars game window opens. The first window is in German.The succeeding windows are in English.
5.If you closed the game, then decide to open it again by typing the using the same commands, the cell will return the display “oh no, not again!”
To be able to play again, exit Openoffice.org and then launch it again.
Note that this game only works with openoffice.org, v1.9.109 (2 beta version) and later versions. It will also work with the Portable apps version of open office for for U3 Smart jumpdrives.

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A few years ago , I was developing elementary-level textbooks which included tutorials on MS Office applications – MS Word, MS Excel, MS Powerpoint, and MS Access . I run these applications on a Windows emulator called Virtual PC on my Macintosh computer, for the purpose of capturing screen shots. I used an Apple Mac utility called Grab to capture the screenshots , and Open Office.org Writer ver 1.x to write the textbook . Running these two applications at the same time gave me the opportunity to compare MS Office 2003 and Open Office.org 1.x. At that time, I had the impression that MS Office 2003 was superior to Open Office.org 1.x in terms of features and performance.

My stern deadlines had consistently pushed me to find better, more efficient software. I experimented with several kinds of software- both proprietary and open source- for wordprocessing, drawing, flowcharts, spreadsheets, presentations, and many others. A few years on, I tried using the newly released version of Open Office.org 2.2 . Originally designed to compete against Microsoft Office – emulating its interface and capabilities, it had similarities with MS Office 2003 but it also had some unique features.

A very important Open Office.org 2.2 feature for me as a writer is the Navigator, which let me jump from “Chapter 3: Wordprocessing” to “Chapter 9: Computer Ethics” in a single click. It also lets me transfer an entire chapter from one location to another without having to use cut and paste. All I had to do was click on the name of the chapter in the Navigator box, then click on an up arrow to go up a chapter ahead or the down arrow to go down a chapter below. It saved me a lot of time . Open Office.org 2.2 also has a Styles and Formatting box , which let me format and modify page, frame and list styles. MS Office 2003 has neither, and is limited to providing an outline view of the document.

I needed lots of cliparts to complete my textbook. OOo’s Gallery does not have a search feature and contains very few cliparts . Due to my pressing need , I purchased cliparts on CD’s, which turned out to be a pitiful waste of my P3,000. It was a few months later when I learned that there were hundreds of free public domain clip-arts from http://www.openclipart.org/ . Openclipart.org let me search and download as much cliparts as I needed. I just downloaded the whole night away !

In terms of capabilities, MS Office 2003’s Media Gallery was much better than Open Office.org 2.2’s Gallery. MSO 2003’s Media Gallery is tied to the Web , contains a search facility, and the cliparts are organized by Themes. The downside is that Microsoft does not give away free cliparts.

I always include my name and the name of the document in the Properties dialog . To do this, go to File > Properties > General. The Apply user data checkbox includes or removes information .

OOo 2.2 also includes some features that MSO 2003 does not , such as the built-in Export to PDF option and the word completion feature. In MS Office, word completion is available in MS Excel, and not in MS Word.

An interesting feature of Open Office.org 2.2 is version control. I can save more than one version of a file under one file name and each version that is saved is complete. Then I can select the version I want to open in read-only mode using the version drop-down . To access this option , use File > Versions . In MSO 2003, only the current version can be opened because each version contains all of the changes that have been made to the document.
It is a good idea to set the default locations for file storage . When the file autosaves, it is stored in the default location. This serves as a backup of your file. In Open Office.org 2.2, it can be specified by accessing Use Tools > Options > OpenOffice.org > Paths. In MSO 2003, the default location is in My Documents.
Both software have support for digital signatures, strong encryption, and have secure paths for macro execution. The languages available in Open Office.org 2.2 for macro development are OpenBasic, Beanshell, Java, JavaScript, and Python. However, MSO 2003 only suppports VBA . Aside from macros, some office suites can have extended features with plug-ins. In the case of OpenOffice.org, the source code could be modified using C and C++, Java and Pyton . MSO 2003 only uses C and C++.

One last feature to discuss: price. To get Open Office.org, simply download it from http://www.openoffice.org/ or ask a friend to download it for you. You can burn as many copies to CD legally and give it away to friends. One copy of Microsoft Office 2003 Basic Editon will cost you at least P11,000. (The Microsoft Office 2007 Home and Student OEM costs P7,000 plus).

MS Office vs. Open Office.org – which would you choose?

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Would you rather have some software capitalist decide what you can do with your computer, how you do it, and when you do it? Is the idea of software emancipation so terrifying that you would rather suffer the ordeal of having your hands tied behind your back, and your eyes blindfolded, not knowing what capabilities your sofware vendor would bestow upon your software applications or operating system, and wait miserably for that time when it develops the functions you need, if it ever does at all?

When you purchase and use proprietary software such as MS Office, you are giving the software vendor a certain degree of control over your computer. Proprietary software is closed source, thus you really do not know what lies beneath it. Proprietary file format specifications tend to restrict data longevity and data interchange with software developed by other vendors. When the software vendors that own these file formats are gone and decide to take their file format specifications to their grave, so is your data – every single bit of it. Data unrecovered is as final as death itself. Remember those documents you saved in WordStar in the 1980’s? Can you still open them today?

I am not saying that proprietary software is not a worthy investment. When free software is not available to meet my needs, I still patronize proprietary software myself. It’s just a matter of distinguishing which ones are worth your hard-earned money and which ones are merely out to rip you off.

As a student, I was a heavy user of proprietary software. MS-DOS , WordStar, Lotus 123, Win 95, Win 98, Windows XP, MS Office – I used many of them. I had not encountered much problems except for the occassional crashing and the inability to edit documents using previous versions of the same application.

The world changed drastically a decade hence. The most significant change was that unlike then, I now have to start paying for stuff. Free home cooked meals, free electricity, free clothes – all a thing of the past.

I had become a teacher at UP Diliman. Being on a very low salary scale, I found it incredibly ridiculous to pay at least P8,000 for a copy of MS Office…a CD containing a few lines of code doesn’t even cost half that price to mass produce! Nonetheless, I wasn’t the least interested in buying pirated software either. No self-respecting teacher would be caught dead with pirated software on her hands! Thus, I bid that P8,000 adieu.

Free software came to me like rain on an unbelievably hot summer day. It was free in terms of costs, yet it was incredibly useful . The refreshing fact is that Open Office.org was the product of collaboration between people who contributed their time, experience, and money to develop a product that they can share to the world. It includes the same applications as its major proprietary software counterparts, but is perceived to be superior in terms of performance. Because of Open Office.org, I did not need to empty my miserable pockets to purchase software licenses or yearly upgrades that fall short of its promise anyway.

Open Office.org was free in many more ways. It was free from viruses, free from those ridiculous “bells and whistles” found in proprietary software that no one really needs, but are placed there anyway. It is also free from payments to tech support, who more often than not, offer that single ultimate solution: “reinstall windows”, or “reformat your hard drive” .

An important aspect of Open Office.org is its file format . Open Office.org 2.0 and later versions use the OASIS Open Document XML format as the default file format. The OASIS Open Document format is a vendor and implementation independent file format. Proprietary software such as MS Office use a proprietary document file format (e.g. .doc, .ppt, .xls , etc) that restrict data flow to software from other vendors. Open document formats , however, are easily interchangeable. An important yet often disregarded aspect of proprietary file formats is that documents saved under proprietary file formats are at risk of becoming unusable once the software that uses it is no longer supported by any vendor. Open standard format specifications , however, are public and guarantees freedom and independence.

Open Office.org 2.2 is compatible with MS Office. Open Office.org Writer could open .doc files that I saved in MS Word. Files could be saved with the same .doc format or using open document text (.odt) format, used by Open Office.org. Its spreadsheet application, Calc, and presentation program, Impress , can also read and write to .xls files , used with MS Excel and .ppt files, used with MS Powerpoint, respectively.

The greatest freedom that open source software like Open Office.org offers is personal in nature. It offers me the freedom as a computer junkie to do with my computer , what I want , when I want it, and how I want it. I am able to manage my own computer – not let a software corporation manage it for me.

I have used Open Office.org on Windows and Linux operating systems . I have used it to teach a course called Introduction to Information Technology at UP. Currently , I am typing this article using Open Office.org 2.2 on a Macintosh computer. I use the same application to develop course modules and write lengthy textbooks. Not once did it crash , catch a virus, or stop me from opening documents saved on other file formats. The current version, OpenOffice.org 2.2, is a huge improvement over previous versions. If I decide to use it on other platforms such as Solaris and Free BSD, it’s supposed to work there , too. Based on my experience, OpenOffice.org is indeed a product worth downloading and installing onto your computer .

It is not difficult to migrate from MS Office to Open Office.org. The user interface is similar. There are many common functions. Thus, learning it is simply intuitive.

OpenOffice.org 2.2 will run on Microsoft Windows versions 98 and above , Linux kernel version 2.2.13 or higher, glibc2 version 2.2.0 or higher, Power Mac G3 400Mhz or higher, Mac OS X 10.3.x (10.3.5 recommended), Mac OS X 10.4.x. It requires at least 128 Mbytes RAM on all operating systems, (except for MacOS, which requires 256 Mbytes RAM) and a resolution of 800 x 600 or higher with at least 256 colours . The available disk space required is 800 Mbytes for a default install on Windows, 200 Mbytes on Linux, and 400Mbytes on a Macintosh.

The best way to get Open Office.org is to download it via Download Central at:
You can also download it via Peer to Peer networks, which require that you have a bit torrent client .

It is a good idea to use a download manager to protect your download from unreliable connections . A download manager lets you resume the download when such an interruption occurs.

For more installation information , download the SetUp Guide (.pdf format) from:

Since discovering OpenOffice.org , I have explored a variety of free , open source sofware to help me develop course modules. There’s Edubuntu, Gcompris, the KDE Edutainment Suite, Tux4Kids, and many others. You might find some of these useful too.

There could possibly be a number of reasons why some of you would choose not migrate to OpenOffice.org 2.2 right away:
1.Learning a new application that looks very similar to the one you are using right now is just too difficult.
2.Your boss had been using MS Office for a very long time and would hate to know that you know something he/she doesn’t.
3.You hate your money and like giving it away to large corporations like Microsoft.
4.You’d rather be dead than get free software.
For more information about Open Office.org, visit http://www.openoffice.org

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You’ve made the switch to Open Office.org . You downloaded the software, installed it, and started using Open Office.org Writer. Then your boss sends you a report that you’re supposed to study, update and format. It’s in MS Word ( .doc ) format. Since OOo can open .doc files, there shouldn’t be any problem. (Writer can open, import , and save files in multiple formats.(.doc, .dot , .wpd, .xml, .wps, sdw, .sgl, .vor , .jtd, .jtt, .pdb, .hwp, .psw, .rtf, .txt, .csv, .htm and .html).

However, you notice that the text formatting and paragraph styes are very much different from the boss’ original document. The objects and images have gone missing. What do you do? First , don’t panic! Put the mouse down and read on. Second, be prepared. With a few mouse clicks , you can rid yourself of the troubles that come with sharing files with users of proprietary software . Here are some steps you can follow:

Step 1: Adjust the conversion settings within OpenOffice.org itself.
On the menu bar, select Tools > Options > Load/Save > Microsoft Office. Select all the options. When you open a Word document that contains an embedded object, this step ensures that OLE objects can be loaded , converted and saved from MS Office format to OOo formats and vice versa. This allows converted Microsoft Office OLE objects to be edited in Open Office.org. For example, when opening a Word document that contains an embedded equation editor object, selecting the [L] checkbox for MathType to OpenOffice.org Math/OpenOffice.org Math to MathType in the Tools > Options > Load/Save > Microsoft Office box automatically converts the MathType object into to an OpenOffice.org Math object.
This step improves the way OLE objects are handled. However, this only works if you are using OpenOffice.org in an operating system that supports OLE Objects, such as Windows . OLE objects that are saved on a Windows application but are not in MS Office format will not be editable in OpenOffice.org on a Linux machine. although the object will still be displayed correctly and can still be resized.

Step 2: Adjust the VBA Properties
On the menu bar, select Tools > Options > Load/Save >VBA Properties). Check all the options in this box. The option, “Load Basic code to edit ” loads and saves the Basic code from a Microsoft document as a special Open Office.org Basic module with the document. OpenOffice.org doesn’t run Visual Basic scripts. However, it saves them anyway so that they are still there when you send the document to MS Office users. When you open an MS Office file in OO format, the MS Basic Code is not saved unless the Save original Basic code again option is selected.

Step 3: Adjust the compatibility settings for the document.
Launch Open Office.org Writer. Then choose File>New> Text Document. Once the document is open, select Tools > Options > OpenOffice.org Writer > Compatibility. Check all the available options . These options make OpenOffice.org Writer work a little more like Microsoft Office Word.

Step 4: Set the default file format
OpenOffice.org saves files in the OpenDocument format by default . To change the default settings for the file format , go to Tools > Options > Load/Save > General. In the Standard File Format section of this page, choose a document type (for example, “Text document”) and a file format from the Always save as list.
If you save text files using the .rtf format , you are likely to experience loss of formatting and images when the file is opened by Microsoft Office. The best way to transfer a file created in Open Office.org Writer to a Microsoft Word user is to save it as Microsoft Word 97/2000/XP (.doc).

Step 5: Apply good practices for wordprocessing
Once the settings have been fixed, you can start importing files. Now the only problems that could possibly occur are concerned with the text itself. To avoid these problems, apply some good practices for wordprocessing.
• Use character and paragraph styles instead of direct formatting.
• Use paragraph formatting for space before and after instead of hard returns. This is specially important when using numbered or bulleted lists.
• Use paragraph text flow properties (for example, keep with next) rather than using
manual page breaks.
• Set specific tab stops or use a table instead of pressing the space key multiple times at the start of paragraphs.
• Use common font styles. However, you must be aware that even if font names in different applications may be similar, it may actually render different font styles. Thus, it is better to select common font styles rather than font names.

Exporting to PDF
One way to make files easily transferable to non-OpenOffice.org users is by exporting the file to Portable Document Format (PDF) and XHTML. Files using the PDF format are compressed and can be read across different platforms using Acrobat Reader . To export directly to PDF , click on the “export to PDF” button on the standard toolbar or select file > Export as PDF, which allows you to select some detailed options. To export as XHTML, use File > Export and for File format choose XHTML In the dropdown box.

There are some features in OOo that are not supported, or partly supported in Microsoft Office. When a file is converted into .doc format and MS Office opens the file, it simply drops these features .

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Open source software is ideal for use in the education sector. It teaches the value of sharing, a sense of community, citizenship and collaboration. It typifies what learning should be about – the free exchange of ideas and the discovery of new ones.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Our best thought come from others”. Educators have long recognized the importance of the open exchange of ideas and information within the classroom. This process opens the mind, ignites creative thoughts, sparks curiosity over things undiscovered, which ultimately leads to the advancement of human knowledge. It is thus the responsibility of the educator to ensure that information exchange is free, open and uncensored across verbal and non-verbal communication channels. Open source software makes this easier across varied platforms and applications due to open file formats.

Open source software shows users what lies beneath. Students can discover the technological principles of the software through analysis of its structure, function and operation. It’s reverse engineering made easy. Learning is not only concerned with acquiring a skill for use today. It requires acquiring the fundamental skills that will benefit students in the long term. Thus, skills taught should be generic rather than tied to one vendor’s product.
Because Open Office.org is free, the student can even take a copy home , thus allowing the student to continue learning after school. This ripples to other member of the family, who get the value of a computer education without the need to spend money on software.

Open source software is ideal for use in education because of the values that it teaches the children. We are often told, “It is better to give than to receive”. The very existence of open source software is based on this idea- – giving something away to total strangers and not expecting anything in return.

The OpenOffice.org Education Project embodies this ideal. This education initiative aims to help teachers , students or anybody involved in education to enter the OpenOffice.org project .

One particular school , Wilmslow High School , located in the United Kingdom, took up the task. As part of this project, 11 students were challenged to create and distribute 50 copies of OpenOffice.org 1.1 CDs to schools and students in countries where commercial software is considered too expensive and/or where Internet access is limited. One group of students downloaded the OpenOffice.org ISO from a mirror site. Another group of students created customised CD labels and wallets using the resources from the OpenOffice.org website.

Based on the teacher, students learned more than just how to download, copy , label and distribute open source software. They learned about citizenship, co-operation and time management skills.

Because OpenOffice.org is an international community which encourages user participation in marketing, documentation, programming, and other aspects of the software, students are able to build co-operative skills across the internet .

Steal or share?

Would you rather steal or share? Open source software eradicates the ethical dilemma faced by students who are forced to buy pirated software because their teacher requires them to use MS Office for reports, projects, etc. Five to nine thousand pesos (P5T-P9T) for a genuine copy of MS Office vs. a bootlegged copy for P50- the temptation is great to go for the pirated copy. But why steal when you can share? Educators should be open as well. Open Office.org can save to .doc, .xls, .ppt formats so students can use Open Office.org at home and continue working on the document elsewhere using MS Office . Educators who have existing files in MS Office file formats can still open their files in OpenOffice.org.
Even support is shared . Support for OpenOffice.org is provided by the OpenOffice.org community for free. Comprehensive online support is provided through newsgroups, forums or mailing lists that consist of hundreds of experienced users.

The OOo Help Outline contains FAQ’s, HowTo’s and per-application help documentation. It can be accessed at http://wiki.services.openoffice.org/wiki/OOoHelpOutline
User Help – FAQ Project FAQs are accessible at http://user-faq.openoffice.org/new-faq/index.html

Free training materials can be accessed from Bytebot.net (http://training.bytebot.net/). These materials are free to download and use. However, permission is required if the material will be used commercially .

The OpenOffice.org website (http://www.openoffice.org) shows a list of websites that offer free cliparts, templates, samples and macros

In Good Company

Many schools all over the world are already using open source software. Since 2003, the University of the Philippines advocates employees and faculty to use open source software, Linux and OpenOffice.org. The University of the Philippines Open University is currently using Moodle, a free, open source software package course management system popularly used by educators to create effective online learning communities. A large number of open universities worldwide are already using Moodle.

To see the list of schools and government agencies using OpenOffice.org , visit the OOo Market Share Analysis website, (http://wiki.services.openoffice.org/wiki/Market_Share_Analysis)

Your school can use it too. On top of the non-monetary benefits of using open source software, there’s also one enticing aspect-its cost. Zero. As school budgets become tighter and tighter , inevitably, the education sector will look towards adopting OpenOffice.org to meet its software needs.

A preacher once said: “There is no greater crime than to stand between a man and his development; to take any law or institution and put it around him like a collar, and fasten it there, so that as he grows and enlarges, he presses against it till he suffocates and dies”

Send your email to: openofficetips@feria.name

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