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Archive for the ‘July 2007’ Category

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 0.8.5.1 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:

URLArray=Array(“http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/”,_
http://dictionary.cambridge.org/results.asp?searchword=”,_
http://www.google.com/search?q=define%3A”,_
http://wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=”,_
http://www.askoxford.com/results/?view=searchresults&freesearch=”,_
http://dict.tu-chemnitz.de/dings.cgi?lang=en&query=”,_
http://www.tagalog-dictionary.com/cgi-bin/search.pl?s=”)

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:
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/SEARCHTERM

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.

Competitors

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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