Switching From Microsoft Office

Switching From Microsoft Office

Are you a dissatisfied Microsoft Office user ? Come on in, the software's fine.

Ten good reasons

If you haven't, read Top Ten Reasons to Use OpenOffice.org on page 4.

Take it out for a spin

Dip your toe in the pool. Use the CD with this book to install OpenOffice.org and see how you like it. Note: OpenOffice.org has no WordPerfect import filter at this time, though they're working on it.

Try converting files

Once you've dipped your toe in the pool, try a test import. We're pretty sure it'll go really well. Just open a Microsoft Office file by simply choosing File > Open and choosing the right format in the format dropdown list.


You can also do a mass import using the AutoPilot, shown at right. It's no-risk experimentation since it leaves your Microsoft documents intact, just creating converted copies.

Spend some time with the tutorials

Get to know OpenOffice.org.

  • Chapter 5, Setup and Tips , on page 95

  • Guided Tour of Writer on page 170

  • Guided Tour of Web on page 444

  • Guided Tour of Calc on page 500

  • Guided Tour of Impress on page 636

  • Guided Tour of Draw: Vector and Raster Graphics on page 753

  • Tutorial: Creating a Data Source on page 873

What's New

OpenOffice.org is fairly different from StarOffice 5.2. Key differences are that the unified desktop is gone, Schedule Mail and StarBase are gone, and the focus groups they did on usability were taking good notes. There's more detail on those and other changes in the following sections.

Compatibility and Migration

StarOffice 5.2, StarOffice 6.0, and OpenOffice.org all play nicely togetheryou don't need to uninstall any of them. Just be sure to uninstall StarOffice 6.0 BETA before you install a later version of OpenOffice.org.

You can open 5.2 files in OpenOffice.org 1.0, plus save new files back to 5.2. There's an AutoPilot for mass import from 5.2.

Migration is pretty good; it doesn't do everything but does take care of customization and mail. See Chapter 3, Migrating From StarOffice 5.2 to OpenOffice.org 1.0 , on page 43.

Removed Applications and Features

The new version is leaner and trimmer than the somewhat overburdened 5.2 release. This section gives you a quick overview of what's out, and how to compensate for a few of the removals.

What's Gone or Really Different

They took out:

  • The whole integrated desktop thing, including Explorer and Beamer and some associated features.

  • FTP through Explorer.

  • Image as a separate application, though most of the features are still present. Just click on the raster image once or twice in any of the other applications and the image editing toolbar and menus will appear.

  • Mail, though you can export your mail and address book, and connect to an existing address book like Netscape or Outlook.

  • Schedule, including Palm Pilot.

  • Creating databases (though you can still connect to a variety of databases through ODBC, JDBC, etc.).

  • Support for creating frames in Web.

  • The Pack feature for presentations. It was removed because the files are so small they don't need packing. The Impress Player standalone program was also removed.

Removal of Database Creation Ability, Except Adabas

Instead of creating and maintaining a proprietary StarOffice database format (. sdb ), The current data source connection system works with common database connection standards like JDBC and databases like dBase.

You can still create database tables, queries and forms, though this varies a bit depending on the underlying method of data storage.

New Application-Wide Features

Here's a somewhat detailed list of what's new. Not a lot is new that will affect how you use the specific featuresit's more a case of structure and underpinnings that changed to make the whole experience better.

XML file format

Remember creating Impress and Writer files that were over 2 MB before you even got going? That's over. You can create a Writer file that's a couple kilobytes per page. Formatting'll kick it up, but it's still really impressive. You'll have to really work hard to get even a 1 MB file.


EPS rendering and reading is better, and you can export drawings to SVG, Scalable Vector Graphics, an XML-based format.

Font stuff

There are new "metrically compatible" TrueType Microsoft Windows core fonts. Font substitution is better. You can set up font substitution with a new improved algorithm that makes the matching better, including across platforms.

Asian font support

It's got Unicode support, Ruby text, and double-byte character support.

Image editing features in all applications

Click on any GIF or other raster object and the editing toolbar, formerly only in Image, appears.


The Gallery of pictures and sounds from 5.2 was moved from the Explorer/Beamer area to Tools > Gallery. You can add to the existing themes, which you couldn't before, and make your own new themes of images and sounds.

Password encryption

The XML-based file format also supports password encryption for text documents and spreadsheets. Passwords are stored as encrypted hash values. When saving files to the old binary format, passwords aren't encrypted. However, when you load a document from a former version, the password will be encrypted again.

Standard address book support

You don't have your old 5.2 address book but you can connect to the one you use for mail, or other address books. The AutoPilot steps you through connecting to your address book.

Improved HTML export

You can define the text encoding for the HTML export choosing from a variety of character sets, including Unicode, using the new Character Set dialog box in the HTML Compatibility dialog box.

MathML equation support

Supports exports and imports of the W3 XML format.

Enhanced cut and paste

The Paste button on the Function bar has a drop-down menu where you choose whether you want to paste in the text or object's original format or in a special format. They're the same options you get when you choose Edit > Paste Special.

Better undo/redo

You can undo a lot farther back than before; set up the number of undo steps by choosing Tools > Options > OpenOffice.org > General.

Writer and Web

Better labels

You can modify existing label brands and types and save them as your own label format; includes the latest Avery label specifications.

Section protection enhanced

You can assign different passwords to individual sections. In previous version, you could only use one password for all sections. Choose Insert > Section > Format > Section > Protect Record.

Password protection for recording editing changes

The Records feature is typically used to make changes visible when two or more people collaborate on one document. Choose Edit > Changes > Protect Records.

Improved line numbering

Restart the numbering of lines with every new page. Choose Tools > Line Numbering.

Negative indents

You can set negative (left or right) indents to paragraphs and tables, and specify the first line indent independently from the left indent of a paragraph. Choose Format > Paragraph > Indents & Spacing.

For tables you can also set negative values for the alignment from left. This lets you align tables independently of the page setup margins.


Define the minimal number of characters for hyphenation by choosing Tools > Options > Language Settings > Writing Aids.

Vertical text

Want to write something down the side of your page? You got it. There are now vertical versions of the three Draw text creation tools, available in Writer through the Show Drawing Tools menu.


ROMAN and ARABIC functions

Convert a value between 0 and 3999 to a Roman style, or convert a text that represents a Roman number into a value (between 0 and 3999).

Additional new functions

The new functions are:

  • MIRR : Calculate the modified internal rate of return for a series of cash flows with interest rates for investments and reinvestments.

  • CELL : Provide information about content, formatting or location of a specific cell.

  • ISPMT : Calculate the interest of a credit or investment with constant redemption rates.

  • Analysis Addin : Provide new analysis functionality and improved Excel import.

Import HTML tables into spreadsheets

Insert data from external sources (like linked areas or WebQueries). Choose Insert > External Data.

Sort options

Specify language- and locale-dependent sort options. The default sort option depends on the system language setting and locale. Choose Data > Sort > Options.

Matrix arrays

Improved complex scientific calculations. The number of elements that can be used in a matrix array, has been increased. In former versions this number was limited to 16384 elements per matrix, the new limit is 512k elements.

New print options

Suppress output of empty pages : If this option is active, pages that don't contain cell contents or drawing objects are not printed. Cell attributes (like borders or background color ) are an exception and don't count as content. Print only selected sheets: If this option is active, choosing All in the print dialog prints only selected sheets.

Improved calculation time and use less memory

The maximum string length in formulas has been increased from 255 bytes to 64KB.

Improved operations

Perform multiple operations with greater flexibility. This feature now extends to formulas that contain references to other formulas. A multiple operation is no longer restricted to act only on the formula selected in the dialog box. Instead, cell addresses that are indirectly referred to are replaced in every formula encountered during the calculation of a multiple operation.

Improved percentage calculations

The percent sign operator is recognized in formulas and the result is displayed formatted as a percent value if appropriate. The percent sign operator divides the preceding subexpression by 100. This helps with Excel conversion.

Improved recognition of English date formats

This is in addition to the default formats set by the system language, when importing a text file into Calc. This enables you to import formats such as 12-Mar-01 independent of the format used by system language. Choose File > Open > Text filter.

Improved Import and export of 16-bit Unicode text files

Choose File > Open or File > Save As. and select the Text CSV format.

Improved display of line breaks

Solve the problem of having different line breaks appear on print and on screen when you select the line break alignment option for cells . Using this option shows line breaks as they appear in print on-screen.

Hyphenate text in cells

This option is when used with the Line Break wrap option.

Database Access and Data Source Creation

You can't create new databases anymore, except with Adabas. You can create data sources , just hookups to a stored source of data, that connect to something as simple as an address book, a spreadsheet, or a text file. So yes, you can create new data sources , plus you can connect via JDBC, etc. to industry standard databases like Oracle. See Chapter 35, Creating and Modifying Data Sources , on page 871.

Connect to data sources instead of making them

Instead of creating and maintaining a proprietary StarOffice database format (.sdb), OpenOffice.org can connect and administer a wide variety of data sources and provide data access to all components .


You can also copy tables and queries between data sources, and copy a query as a table.

Import your StarOffice 5.2 (or earlier) databases

The Database Import AutoPilot will store your existing StarOffice queries, forms, and reports in the new DataAccess.xml configuration file. Form documents will be stored as regular documents.

Assign a database table to a combo or list box

Pick up data through a field.

New form events

Before reloading : Called before a reload on the form is executed. Before unloading: Called before the form is unloaded.

Edit table indexes

This component has been completely rewritten. A new Index Design button on the Table Design toolbar gives you one-click access to Indexes dialog box.

UTF-8 character suite support

This support does not extend to ADO data sources (which don't have a character set), and dBase data sources.

Draw, Impress, and Image-Editing Features

Rotate meta files

Used to be, you couldn't rotate metafiles, just bitmaps. Now you can.

Maximum size for caching

Set an upper limit (in KB) for the total graphics cache size, and cache a single graphic object. Choose Tools > Options > OpenOffice.org > General.

Vertical text

There are now vertical versions of the three Draw text creation tools, available in Writer as well through the Show Drawing Tools menu.

Printing options for graphics and gradients

The new options include the following; to get to them, choose Tools > Options > OpenOffice.org > Print.

  • Reduced Transparency : Treat all transparent objects as non-transparent.

  • No transparency : Always reduces transparency completely.

  • Reduce gradients : Decreases the number of gradient steps for easier printing.

  • Reduce bitmaps : Prints transparent bitmaps at the maximum resolution (in dpi).

EPS and SVG export

Create both formats by exporting from Draw.