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Archive for the ‘May 2007’ Category

Your boss just sent you a crucial document with a .docx extension (Microsoft Open XML Format ) rather than the traditional .doc extension. It seems your boss had just upgraded to MS Office 2007. You need to open and print the file , but you dont know how. OpenOffice.org does not support .docx formats. Neither do earlier version of MS Word or alternative operating systems like Linux. Not even GMail Word viewer or Google Docs & Spreadsheets support the .docx file format. Here are a few new tools you can use to convert that file.

The Docx converter

The Docx-converter can convert a Microsoft Office Word 2007( .docx ) file into a simple html file. Mac users can download the docx converter dashboard widget from http://docx-converter.com/widget/ . Once downloaded ,unzip docx-converter.wdgt.zip, click on the extracted file, and the widget is automatically installed onto your dashboard. To convert your docx file, drag the file to the document converter widget. To do this, first select the file in Finder and single click. Without releasing your finger, press F12 to open the dashboard , then drag the file to the widget. A new file is automatically saved on the same folder as the .docx file. Double click on the new file (the name is similar to this: homework.docx.htm). The file opens on Firefox or Safari. Your document could be stripped of its formatting, except for a few character styles- bold, underline, italics, alignments, and other basic formatting. If you need the text more than you care about the formatting, it’s actually quite useful.

The docx converter can also be used on Windows. To convert .docx files into .doc format, upload the .docx file , enter your email adress then click on “Upload it”. The online location of the converted document will be sent to you via email. You can save the page onto your computer or cut and paste the content into your wordprocessor.

Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack

Users of earlier versions of Microsoft Office can download the free Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack from the Microsoft.com Download Center. The pack will make it possble for users to open, print, edit and save .docx files in Office 2000, Office XP, or Office 2003. Note that .docx and .docm formats can be opened using previous versions of Word , but Office Word 2007 template files saved in .dotx or .dotm format could not. Some formatting losses could also occur. For example, Office Word 2007 themes are converted into styles when it is opened in previous versions of Word. When the file is opened again in Office Word 2007, the styles are not modifiable using theme effects.

OpenXML/ODF Translator Add-in for Office

The OpenXML/ ODF Translator converts Open XML documents into the ISO-standard OpenDocument format / ODF files (.odt, .ods and .odp) and vice versa. It is available for free at Source Forge : (http://sourceforge.net/projects/odf-converter )

This add-in can be installed on top of Microsoft Office Word , Excel and PowerPoint applications. It also provides command line translator utilities for batch conversions, which can also be run on the server side. However, the translator only works one way. It doesn’t currently allow users of OpenOffice to open documents formatted using Microsoft’s Open XML.

Sun ODF Plugin for MS Office

The Sun ODF Plugin for Microsoft Office makes it possible for MS Office users to write documents using the Open Document Format (ODF). This version supports MS Office 2003 (Word, Excel and Powerpoint) and earlier versions . Unlike the Open XML Add-In, which requires the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack , with the Sun Plugin, you just download and install.

Neo-Office

NeoOffice is a full-featured , open source, office suite for Mac OS X. It is similar in many ways to the OpenOffice.org interface. However, it has one distinct advantage. You guessed it! Not only can it open Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) , it can even save the document into that same file format or to numerous other file formats !

Zip It

The .docx files, are essentially a bunch of zipped XML documents. OpenXML uses the ZIP file container to ensure that files are up to 75% smaller than the same documents saved with previous Microsoft Office file formats. Let’s say you don’t care about formatting- just the text. You don’t have to go through all the trouble of uploading your file, or downloading add-ons or plug-ins.

All you have to do is to change the file extension from .docx to .zip (e.g. homework.docx becomes homework.zip). Then extract the contents of the zip file. Inside the folder containg the extracted files, find the file named content.xml or document.xml. Open your web browser. Drag this file to the browser window. The contents of the file is displayed. A word of warning: The XML file may not be recognized by the web browser. Thus, although the content is displayed, the mark up tags are displayed as well. Based in my experience, this occurs using Firefox on Mac or Linux as well as using Internet Explorer on Windows. However, mark up tags do not appear on Safari on a Mac and on the Konqueror file viewer on a Linux environment.

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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:
http://download.openoffice.org/index.html
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:
http://download.openoffice.org/common/instructions.html

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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Run for your files!

RUN FOR YOUR FILES! : Migrating from MS Office to Open Office.org

Charmagne Munoz Feria

Run for your files! It’s time to move on. Microsoft’s proprietary file format had been losing out to the OpenDocument format. It seems a bright “vista” is not in Microsoft’s long term future. Their grand scheme for world domination that involves achieving sole control of file formats is slowly becoming futile. In fact, I would predict that if Microsoft does not embrace open standards soon, their precious MS Office suite will soon join the ranks of washed-up has-beens WordStar, VisiCalc, Lotus 1-2-3, dBase, and other former office leaders. Anything’s possible.

Personally, I think MS Office will die a slow and painful death unless Microsoft reconsiders and accepts that their ship has got a tiny little crack called proprietary file format that’s bound to be fatal one day. Losing the market for office productivity suites would cripple this software giant, since MS Office contributes 40% of their revenue. If MS Office fails, inevitably, Windows will follow. That ship would be very hard to save. There’s a valuable loot on that ship…the Microsoft proprietary file format. Thus, the urgency for the rest of us to get off that sinking ship and take our files with us while we still can.

The OpenDocument format is slowly winning the war. Governments such as the State of Massachusetts and the European Union voiced their preference for open document formats. And people all over the world are all ears. Why this success with the government sector?
Open Document format guarantees the file longevity that governments need. Documents should be readable after several decades or centuries and accessible to citizens , without regard for the kind of software they use now or will use then. MS Office documents become unreadable once new versions of MS Office are released. And that’s about every 3-5 years!
Open Document format is more trustworthy because the source code is open. Would you rather eat mom’s freshly baked pie that was made right in front of your eyes or buy one from the grocery , baked at God knows where?
OpenDocument format is backed by standards groups, ISO and OASIS and not controlled by any company with some form of interest.

Get off that sinking ship! Migrate to open source software like Open Office.org and do it soon! These are the list of things that are involved in the initial migration:

Sharing files with MS Office users
OpenOffice.org can open Microsoft Office files . However, Microsoft Office is not yet capable of opening OpenDocument formats . Thus, if you are sharing a document saved in an OpenOffice.org format with an MS Office user, you have to save it in a Microsoft Office format. To save to Microsoft format:
Choose File-Save As from the OpenOffice.org menu bar then scroll down the file type box to choose the file format.
Note that OpenOffice.org can not open or convert Microsoft Access files (.mdb) files directly but it can access the data in the tables using DAO and ODBC.

Bulk conversion
You can convert large numbers of documents straightaway using the Document Converter. However, you should consider this option thoroughly. Two things you need plenty of are time and disk space. OOo files generally take up less space than Microsoft Office files, so in the end, you still get some extra disk space after conversion. However, conversion takes quite a while. It’s best to be cautious by keeping backup copies of MS Office documents until you are certain that all files were successfully converted.
For Bulk conversion:
Click File > Wizards > Document Converter.

Choosing the default file format
OpenOffice.org saves files in the OpenDocument format by default . However, the default can be changed even to an MS Office format.
To change the default file format:
Select Tools > Options > Load/Save > General

Object Linking and Embedding (OLE)
To change the settings for Microsoft Office OLE objects, use Tools > Options > Load/Save> Microsoft Office. Check all the options so that embedded objects would be converted and thus be editable in both MS Office an OpenOffice.org suites. However, Windows application based OLE objects will not be editable in OpenOffice.org on a Linux machine but can still be displayed and resized.

Linked files
Cells that were copied and pasted from Excel into Word are recognized by OpenOffice.org Writer as a normal table. Thus, links are lost.

WordArt and Fontwork
Microsoft Office’s WordArt objects could look slightly different when imported into OpenOffice.org as Fontwork. Fontwork automatically becomes WordArt objects when the document is saved in a Microsoft Office format .

Macros
OpenOffice.org cannot run Microsoft Office macros. To set whether OpenOffice.org keeps attached macros (so that they are still available for use in Microsoft Office) for Word, Excel and PowerPoint files, use Tools > Options > Load/Save > VBA Properties.
Note that Microsoft Office files that are infected with a macro virus can be safely opened in OpenOffice.org.

Knowing is not enough; we must apply! (Goethe)

Send your email to: openofficetips@feria.name

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