Archive for the ‘October 2007’ Category

OpenOffice.org and MS Excel are similar in many ways. For starters, the user interface, which includes the icons, menus and toolbars are very much alike in appearance and purpose (except for MS Excel 2007) .

The list-making , sorting and filtering capabilities are comparable . Rows and columns can be shown , hidden or grouped in both. Excel has the advantage of having advanced filters, which allows cells to be arranged according to its format, color , or by some other criteria.

Almost 80% of the functions are identical. This includes basic arithmetic and simple statistics such as averages, medians, and means. Charts, diagrams, graphics, and text art can be inserted into both. The page formats for printing are similar and both programs offer themes for formatting whole sheets.

There are , however, some important differences.

1. The terminology
The entire file is called a “workbook” in Excel, but is referred to as a “spreadsheet ” in Calc. One tabbed sheet in a Calc spreadsheet is a “sheet” . One tabbed sheet in an Excel workbook is a “worksheet “. Callouts which appear when the mouse pointer is positioned over the cell are called” comments” in Excel but are referred to as “notes” in Calc.

2. The User interface
In Calc , when you open several spreadsheets , each spreadsheet opens in its own window. This is called a Single Document Interface (SDI). In Excel , when you open several workbooks, each is displayed within one parent window. This is called a Multiple Document Interface (MDI). When you close the parent window, all files are also closed. This a strong point for Calc because it gives greater accessibility to information about the active document and it is easier to navigate within an SDI. Each Calc window provides menus, toolbars and other features that directly relate to the document in that window. You can even view several spreadsheets at the same time.

3. Functions and arguments
Both programs have a function bar at the top of the editing window that opens on a list of functions. Excel users search for the proper function by using natural language queries. After the search, Excel opens the Functions Argument dialog. Calc , however, opens its function wizard directly when the user clicks on the Function Wizard icon. Like Excel, Calc users can use a search field. However Calc’s advantage is that it lists the required fields and errors before you insert a function into a cell. It also displays a tree view of the formula structure which is helpful when composing complex formulas. More advanced Calc users can go directly to a more stripped-down Function List.

The arguments in Excel uses semicolons to separate parameters in a function. The Calc equivalnet, called parameters , uses semicolons. Calc will generate a “#NAME?” error if you use a comma in place of a semi-colon.

4. Styles
The styles in the Styles and Formatting floating window in Calc are consistent with other OpenOffice.org programs. Excel does not have a similar feature that unifies formatting options with other programs in the MS Office suite.

5. Interpreting cell contents
Calc strictly follows the cell format you specified. A cell that is defined as text is treated as text, even when a number is entered into it. For example, if cell B2 contains the number 6, the formula =B2+1 returns the value, 1. In Excel, this returns a value of 7.

6. Relative addressing of sheets
In Calc, it is possible to have a relative addressing of sheets using the dollar sign . Thus, =$Sheet2!$A$1 always refers to the first cell on sheet 2 because the sheet is absolute. On the other hand, =Sheet2!$A$1 when on sheet one and copied to another sheet will refer to the first cell of the next sheet because the sheet is relative. This is not possible in Excel.

7. Dragging and Dropping
In Excel, you select the cell or range of cells and simply drag and drop its contents to the new location. In Calc, select the cell, drag to select a cell adjacent to it, then drag back so that only the desired cell is selected. Then the cell can be dragged and dropped.

8. Shortcut Keys
To change from relative to absolute references , press Shift+F4 in Calc but press F4 in Excel. To edit cell comments, press Shift+F2 in Excel, but press Ctrl+F1 in Calc to edit notes. To fill right or fill down in Excel, press Ctrl+R or Ctrl+D. This has no equivalent in Calc. When you press F5 in Excel, you can go to a specific cell. WHen you press F5 in Calc, it opens the Navigator. To insert a function in Calc,press Ctrl+F2. There is no equivalent to this in Excel.

9. Deleting cell contents
When pressing the Delete button in Excel, the contents are automatically deleted. To delete contents automatically in Calc, press the Backspace key. When pressing Delete in Calc, a dialog opens up , where you can choose specifically whether to delete strings, numbers, formulas, notes , formats or objects.

10. Limitations
In Calc , you can use up to 256 sheets. In Excel, the number of sheets according to the Microsoft web site ( http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/excel/HP100738491033.aspx) is “Limited by available memory and system resources”.

The above are only a few of the differences between Excel and Calc. To find out more on this topic, access the OpenOffice.org 2.0 Migration Guide from the OpenOffice.org documentation page at http://documentation.openoffice.org/manuals/oooauthors2/

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Proud as we Filipinos are over Manny Pacquiao’s victory last Sunday, someone else delivered that much expected knockout punch in the boxing arena. Kyla , beautifully dressed in a white terno, with not a single hair out of place, did a perfect rendition of the national anthem, giving Mexican and American counterparts the total knockout. She was one of two Filipinos that made the country proud that night. Likewise, Ms. Geneva Cruz did a splendid performance before the Pacquiao-Solis boxing event last April. My 6 year old son was so awed at Kyla’s performance that he sang the national anthem over and over last Sunday. Gheez.

Truly, Filipinos are blessed with bountiful musical talent. I’d like to do my share in supporting Filipino musical geniuses inside and outside the country by suggesting a macro for OpenOffice.org that could integrate music notation into a wordprocessor, drawing or presentation. It’s called OOoLilyPond .

A few decades ago, sheet music was engraved into plates by cutting and stamping the music into a zinc or pewter plate in mirror image . The art of music typography relied on highly skilled craftsman who used their hands and a few manual tools to document music. It was a highly esteemed profession, with the title of master engraver earned only by a craftsman with five years of training plus an additional five years of experience.

Nowadays, computers made it possible for music sheets to be printed out on paper. While comptuer printuots are easier and cheaper to make, it had also decreased the graphical quality of scores , which are not comparable to those made by hand decades earlier.

Individuals with no musical talents nor inclinations like me probably wouldn’t notice the difference. However, to professional musicians, this could be a source of frustration. For example, the distribution of space between notes should reflect the durations between notes. However, computer generated music sheets adhere to the durations with mathematical precision, which leads to less satisfactory results. It’s like reciting poetry without the proper rhythm.

The importance of a perfectly laid out musical piece can not be overestimated. During a performance, a musical performer should be able to take a glimpse of his sheet music and then focus on playing the music without having to stop and think if there are any errors. Simply said, better typography leads to better performances. However, music typography is a subtle and complex art, which not all musicians are skilled at.

Thankfully, musicians can now have the skills of the master engraver in a very short time. LilyPond “brings the graphical excellence of hand-engraved music to the computer age, and makes it available to normal musicians. We have tuned our algorithms, font-designs, and program settings to produce prints that match the quality of the old editions we love to see and love to play from.”, according to LilyPond creators.

Lilypond is not just for musical composers. It can also be used by writers of musical books, music critics who would like to add pieces of text to portions of musical scores, or music teachers who wish to write down exercises for music instruments or voices .

The user enters the music expression as text code in the LilyPond editor. Then , LilyPond renders the text into an image. There is a steep learning curve , but once a user becomes familar with the LilyPond language, small pieces of music are entered much faster.

The latest version, OOo Lily version 0.3.2 , released on July 2007, will run on Linux/Unix Windows XP, Windows 2000 and Mac OS X. You have to install OpenOffice.org first, then install OOoLilyPond from there.

The LilyPond macro can be downloaded from :

OpenOffice.org can be downloaded from:

To install Lilypond , just follow the instructions found on the LilyPond website:


To activate LilyPond within an OOo document, click Ctrl M. LilyPond is not a drag and drop kind of program. Music should be entered in text files with .ly as the extension (preferably in UTF-8 encoding), and then compiled into sheet music (pdf, ps, dvi, tex, midi, etc). Beginners can work their way around Lilypond with a little help from the LilyPond tutorial found at:

Other users can also be an invaluable resource. There’s a mailing list, which is displayed on a Nabble forum, where you can get help.


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OpenOffice.org 2.3 released

OpenOffice.org 2.3 has “an extensive array of new features and enhancements to all its core components, and protects users from newly discovered security vulnerabilities. It is a major release and all users should download it”, according to the OpenOffice.org website. The look and feel of OpenOffice.org is similar to previous versions but the functionalities have indeed improved. Among the applications, Calc had the most changes, particularly with the introduction of the improved chart wizard. OpenOffice.org 2.3 was released last September 17, 2007 and can be downloaded from:


It runs on Linux, Mac, Solaris and MS Windows. It is very easy to install. After downloading, simply click on the downloaded file then follow the instructions. If previous versions of OpenOffice.org are already installed, you can overwrite it using the wizard. If you are an MS Office user and are not yet ready to commit to using OpenOffice.org, you can select MS Office as the default application for opening your files.

What are the new features?
1. There are major changes to the charts in Calc. The new chart wizard for chart creation is much more simple and more logical. The appearance of the 3D charts have been enhanced. Some of the interesting new charts are the ‘3D exploded pies’ and ‘exploded donuts’ (see screenshot).
2. Inline matrix/array constants in formulas are now supported and summation has been made more powerful. It is now even more compatible with Microsoft Excel , with workarounds for cotangent functions , which is missing from Microsoft Excel.
3. Writer documents are now centered. There is also a new filter for exporting documents to MediaWiki (“Wikipedia”) format.
4. The Report Builder extension for Base (available as extension on http://extensions.services.openoffice.org) had been updated . There are also new keyboard shortcuts for more efficient database navigation.
5. In Impress, the ‘move along curve’ animation feature was added back in.
6. Writer, Calc, Draw, and Impress can be previewed within a browser before exporting it to .html format. The default security level for Macro Security has been changed to High, to make it difficult for users to run possibly malicious macros ‘without thinking’.
7. An improved password system is introduced for data protection.

Try it out. It’s definitely worth the download .

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