Open Office (officially titled OpenOffice.org) is a free, open source Office Suite – similar to the not-at-all-free Microsoft Office. Open Office includes a word processor (think MS Word), spreadsheet application (think MS Excel), presentation tool (think MS PowerPoint) and more. This tutorial will guide you in downloading, installing and using Open Office – and answer a number of commonly asked questions at the same time…
Open Office allows you to do everything you’d expect of an Office Suite. You can view and edit documents created in Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. You can create your own documents, spreadsheets and presentation files. You can even save your work in the popular PDF format.
Personal recommendation – I’ve switched and haven’t looked back. It’s the office suite I now use in both Windows and OS X.
The big difference is obviously cost. Microsoft Office is several hundred dollars, Open Office is free. You may download OpenOffice.org (v2) completely free of any license fees, use it for any purpose: private, educational, commercial, government and public administration – and pass on copies free of charge to family, friends, students, employees, etc.
Another unique difference – from OpenOffice.org:
Beginning with version 2.0 OpenOffice.org uses the open standard OASIS OpenDocument XML format as the default file format. The OASIS OpenDocument format is a vendor and implementation independent file format, and thus guarantees freedom and independence.
What does that mean to you? Your documents, by default, will end in “.odt” instead of “.doc” :) Actually it’s a very good thing – it means that other office suites, even competitors, can all share a common format, allowing for the end user (you) to easily work with documents created in different programs.
Keep in mind, even though Open Office will save documents as .odt’s by default, you can still save any document as a .doc, and your Microsoft Word friends will have no problem reading and/or editing it.
Installing Open Office is a snap, and doesn’t take very long at all. There are a couple of things you need to check first before you begin the installation, and they are:
- Make sure you have Java installed. If you’re not sure if you have Java installed already, go to the Control Panel, then select Add/Remove Programs and look for JS2E Runtime Environment X.x (or similar).
If you need to install Java, visit http://java.sun.com/javase/downloads/index.jsp and look for the download that says “The J2SE Runtime Environment (JRE) allows end-users to run Java applications”. You don’t need the “developers kit” (JDK, which is a larger download and will include unnecessary software).
- Make sure your PC meets the minimum system requirements, which are (for Windows):
-Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows 2000 (Service Pack 2 or higher), Windows XP, Windows 2003
-128 Mbytes RAM
-200 Mbytes available disk space
-800 x 600 or higher resolution with at least 256 colours
The full system requirements (for other operating systems etc) can be found here.
- Make sure you’re logged in to Windows as a user with administrative privileges
To download open office please visit http://download.openoffice.org/index.html and look for the stable version
The installation process is very straight forward, and will not require you to reboot when finished.
After you’ve installed Open Office, you’ll notice an OpenOffice.org entry in your Programs list.
From here you can launch each of the applications included in Open Office.
|OO Writer – lets you create both basic documents, such as memos, faxes, letters, and resumes, as well as long and complex or multi-part documents, complete with bibliographies, reference tables and indexes. OO Writer also includes such useful features as a spellchecker, a thesaurus, and AutoCorrect as well as a variety of templates for almost every purpose. You can also create your own templates using the Wizards.|
|OO Calc – is a spreadsheet application that you can use to calculate, analyze, and manage your data. You can also import and modify Microsoft Excel spreadsheets.|
|OO Impress – lets you create professional slide shows that can include charts, drawing objects, text, multimedia and a variety of other items. If you want, you can even import and modify Microsoft PowerPoint presentations.|
|OO Draw – lets you create simple and complex drawings and export them in a number of common image formats. You can also insert tables, charts, formulas and other items created in OpenOffice.org programs into your drawings.|
|OO Math – provides numerous operators, functions and formatting assistants to help you create formulas. These are all listed in a selection window, in which you can click the required element with the mouse to insert the object into your work. There is an exhaustive reference list and numerous samples contained in the Help.|
|OO Base – access data that is stored in a wide variety of database file formats. OpenOffice.org Base natively supports some flat file database formats, such as the dBase format. You can also use OpenOffice.org Base to connect to external relational databases, such as databases from MySQL or Oracle.|
If you send most of your documents to friends and co-workers who use Microsoft Word, you may want to consider changing the default “save as” file type to .doc, rather than .odt. To do this, follow the steps outlined below.
- Open OO Writer and select Tools from the menu, and then Options… from the drop-down list
- Expand Load/Save from the left menu by clicking the + (plus sign) and then select General
- In the area labeled Default file format make sure that Text Document is selected, change the Always save as format to Microsoft Word 97/2000/XP and then click OK
- Now each time you save a document, the default format will be .doc
If you’re like me, and don’t use an Open Office program that often, you can disable the OpenOffice.org Quickstarter from launching each time windows starts. The OpenOffice.org Quickstarter is a program that resides in your system tray allowing you to quickly launch any of the Open Office programs. Because it runs automatically when your PC starts and stays in memory whether you’re using an Open Office program or not, it’s not a bad idea to disable this feature. The drawback is that when you do want to open one of the Open Office programs, it will take a little bit longer to start (but really, not much longer at all).
To disable the OpenOffice.org Quickstarter, right-click on its icon in your system tray and remove the check next to Load OpenOffice.org During System Start-Up.
This will speed up your PC’s boot (start-up) time and also free up some system resources (because OpenOffice.org Quickstarter will no longer run in the background all the time).